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Film highlights history of the islands’ lodging

By Staff | Apr 2, 2019

The community has a second opportunity to learn about the historic accommodations on Captiva and Sanibel, from rooming homes to resorts, with the screening of a new collaborative documentary.

The Captiva Island Historical Society will host its final event of the season, “Be Our Guest: The History of Lodging on Sanibel & Captiva,” on April 8 at 6 p.m. at the Captiva Civic Center. The doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for attendees, with complimentary refreshments and a cash bar available.

Admission is free, but reservations are requested due to limited seating.

“Our mission is not only to gather and interpret Captiva history, but to share it,” President Tom Libonate said of the CIHS offering the free screening. “This is the best way we know how.”

Co-produced by the CIHS and Sanibel Historical Museum and Village, “The History of Lodging on Sanibel & Captiva” is a full-length film that provides a deeper understanding of the historic accommodations on the islands. Directed by Ken Sneeden & Associates, it taps the archives of both organizations to relay the history, as well as includes live interviews.

Last year, the CIHS and Sanibel museum collaborated on a documentary about Blind Pass. Their newest collaborative effort was first shown in January at The Community House on Sanibel.

“We’re positioning this as the Captiva premier of the documentary,” Libonate said.

“We felt it was important that we did kind of a home game,” he added.

A chronology that goes back to the early days, the film covers accommodations still operational on both the islands, including the ‘Tween Waters Inn and Jensen’s Twin Palms, and the Island Inn and Casa Ybel Resort on Sanibel – plus others no longer around, such as the Fisherman’s Lodge on Captiva.

“It’s an equal representation of the resorts, the inns, the homes, the cottages,” Libonate said.

While not close to today’s rentals on sites like Airbnb, they were a similar precursor.

“I think one of the things that is so relevant about this – much of our lodging started as people opening their homes and cottages,” he said, adding that some places eventually morphed into inns and resorts.

Visitors in the 1920s and 1930s not only roomed at the facilities, they mostly stayed put.

“Before World War II, when you stayed at a place, you ate at the place,” Libonate said, noting that visitors were supplied meals. “The little inns – they provided the social life, the recreation.”

“People didn’t travel,” he added. “Most people came for the entire season and stayed at these places.”

Libonate pointed out that the accommodations also served as gateway to residency.

“Unlike most other places, the inns, the resorts were kind of the first entry for most of the folks who eventually became residents,” he said. “These places were the entry to becoming residents.”

The film also touches on when activities like shelling and sport fishing became island attractions.

As for the live interviews, they consist of people sharing their own early experiences with lodging or they are interviewees who have an understanding or knowledge of the islands’ history of lodging.

It took about nine months from start to finish to produce the documentary.

“There’s a number of ah-has and surprises that I think people will be intrigued by,” Libonate said, explaining that they or Sneeden try to come up with hidden gems. “There’s always surprises.”

The public is encouraged to reserve their seats.

“We’re probably halfway there,” he said on March 28 of the number of reservations.

“Some of our events do sell out,” Libonate added. “And this is a high-interest documentary.”

To reserve a seat, call 239-472-2323 or visit www.captivaislandhistoricalsociety.org.

The Captiva Civic Center is 11550 Chapin Lane.