Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Day at Snook Haven in Venice, Florida

In times gone by, Snook Haven was known as a fishing camp on the Myakka River, but for a backwoods hideaway, it has quite a colorful history. During Prohibition in the 1920s and 30s, smugglers traveled upstream from the Gulf of Mexico and unloaded contraband liquor for Florida customers in this remote area of the Myakka. At one time, Snook Haven was a stateside location for filming exotic jungle movies and became a staging site for a number of movies.  Later on, a New England entrepreneur used the property as a private fishing camp for his male friends and their female visitors. 

In the decades of the 60s and 70s, the property changed ownership a number of times.  In 1987, The State of Florida designated the Myakka as one of only two “Wild and Scenic Rivers” in the state, a federal designation designed to preserve the Myakka River basin in its natural state. In 1988 Snook Haven finally became open to the public as a fishing camp with a boat ramp and a cook shack, currently the restaurant. Sarasota County purchased the property in 2006 in an effort to further protect this showcase as part of the Parks system. 

Nowadays, the riverfront restaurant has become a true Old Florida landmark. It is known for live entertainment, and on Thursdays from October through May, the restaurant opens at 11 AM for Banjo Thursdays, with the Gulf Coast Banjo Association. Bay Oaks Social Seniors (BOSS) traveled to Venice, Florida, to have lunch and to experience this unique property, but mostly to hear the banjo music.  

Rustic Snook Haven entrance sign

Not-so-rustic Snook Haven entrance sign

This was our first sight of the venue. By the time we arrived, around 11:30, there was already quite a crowd, and the orchestra was in full swing. 

Entrance to the venue

Everything was very casual. We could have taken our seats at one of the picnic tables scattered around the grounds or have lunch inside the restaurant, which is what we did.

Jo-Anne, Butch and Becky at the entrance

Leslie and Roger went looking for an empty picnic table.

The band was quite a large orchestra, with a lot of banjos, but there were also a few other musical instruments in the mix. The band plays from 11:00 AM until 1:30, only on Thursdays.

The audience and Banjo Band seen from another view

The Snook Haven restaurant

BOSS members Carmen, Martha, Antoinette, Jan, Karen, Dora, Kathy and Natalie
in the Snook Haven restaurant

Picnic benches near the river boat dock area 

The restaurant terrace is up the steps on the left.

The Myakka River to the left of the river boat dock. 

It may be designated a “Wild and Scenic River,” but it was pretty calm on the day we were there. “Wild” must refer to the natural state of the land the river flows through.

The Myakka River to the right of the river boat dock

The river tour cutout board with Carmen, Kathy, Becky and Antoinette 

The river boat takes visitors on a one-hour tour of the Myakka River.

River boat tour information

There is one tour schedule for off-season and another during Season, February through May. It would be a great day to come to Snook Haven to hear the banjo music at lunchtime and take the 1:30 river boat tour right afterward. During Season, you’d probably need a reservation to do that.

Jo-Anne and Dan in front of a T-shirt and souvenir shop.

BOSS members Jan, Karen, Dora, Kathy and Antoinette enjoying the music after lunch

The Banjo band and singer

There were several different soloists who performed songs with the band. The songs the band played were mostly Golden Oldies that many people in the audience could sing along to.

Musicians--a lot of banjo players and also a saxophone and an accordion player

Banjo musicians and singer

Banjo musicians concentrating on their music

A lone female banjo player all by herself--a beginner, maybe?

During the finale, everyone stood while the band played patriotic songs.

An exquisite (and very expensive) banjo and its owner

A close-up of the banjo

Natalie, Dora, Jan, Karen, Martha and Senior Coordinator Danielle ready to get on the bus to go home

Dan boarding the bus and Butch standing by

Yes, Snook Haven, we look forward to seeing you again, too.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Sanibel Historical Museum and Village

Members of Bay Oaks Social Seniors went to Sanibel Island on December 10, 2015, to tour the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village. The group toured nine buildings which reflect life on Sanibel as it was from the 1880s through the 1940s. Sanibel was settled by farmers and fishermen, and the buildings of the village are either restorations or replicas of the originals. Among the buildings are a pioneer home from the early 1900s, a general store, a schoolhouse, a tearoom, 2 Sears Roebuck catalog kit homes, a post office rebuilt from hurricane debris, and a packing house. The buildings have a feeling of authenticity because they are furnished with items that belong to an earlier period in the history of Sanibel. After the tour, the group had lunch at Skip One Seafood Restaurant on the way home from Sanibel.

Map of the Historical Village 

Sanibel Historical Museum and Village was founded in 1984 with a mission to preserve and share Sanibel history. The historic buildings were moved from their original island sites to the Historical Village. Each building has been restored to its original state. Sanibel residents donated many of the items that are found in the buildings.

Shore Haven

Shore Haven is one of the more recent additions to the village. It is a 1924 Sears Kit home that was a private residence for many years but now serves as the Welcome Center for the Historical Village. It was donated to the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village in 2012.

Pergola over walkway to Shore Haven. 

The theme is “Celebrating Christmas, 1945” for soldiers returning from WWII. Sarah is with BOSS members Carmen, Leslie, Roger, Jean, Sharon, Ralph, April, Virginia and John.

Leslie is in the picture gallery at Shore Haven
 The artwork is by artists who belong to the local art association.

Carmen & Jean in the Welcome Center of Shore Haven

The Rutland House - 1913

The Rutland House is a typical “cracker” style home. It has eleven-foot ceilings, cross ventilation, a hip roof, a wide porch and is on pilings to let air flow underneath--all features to maximize good air circulation. The "dog trot,” an open hallway from the front to the rear of the house, opening at both ends, also provides much-needed ventilation. The style provided shelter from the Florida sun and made the most of breezes. Today the simplistic style is newly appreciated for its energy efficiency and charm.

(FYI: The term “cracker” is derived from the sound Florida cattlemen made when cracking their whips. After the Civil War, raising cattle was, and still is, one of the biggest businesses in the state.) 

Sharon & Ralph entering the Rutland House

Clarence Rutland came to the island with his parents in 1896 at the age of six and was a jack-of-all-trades. In the 1920s he earned seven cents per crate packing tomatoes and peppers for farmers. Rutland bought the house in 1928 for $2,000. He lived there until his death in 1982, when it was moved to the village and became the first building to house the Sanibel Historical Museum.

A Christmas tree and toys in the Rutland House

Settee draped with patriotic bunting in the Rutland House salon

The salon viewed from the dining room

A view from the salon through the dining room and into the kitchen

The dining room table

The Rutland kitchen

Fireless cook stove

If the soapstone radiators of the Toledo Fireless Cookstove were heated for 20 minutes,  the stove conserved heat so well for so long that it could bake bread and cake and roast meat as well as a kitchen range.  

High chair on wheels

Twin Bedroom with mosquito netting

The Calusa Indians room

Dating as far back as 2,500 years, the native Calusa Indians were the first-known residents of the island. The Calusa used the waterways around the island for food and tools. Whelks, conchs, clams, oysters, and other seafood were used for food, and their empty shells were crafted into tools. 

Mock-up of Calusa Mounds

The Calusa were skilled builders and craftsmen, perching their huts high atop shell mounds to provide protection from storm tides. Some of their shell mounds, which were also used for ceremonial, ritual and burial sites, remain intact today.

Victory Garden with Mike, a volunteer gardener.

Our group viewing the Victory Garden 
(Victory Gardens were planted during the war to supplement the food supply.)

Artists from the local art association working “en plein air” (outside/on location)

The Old Sanibel School House for White Children - 1896

The building has its original school bell. In the 1960s, after a new school house was built, the new school became the first integrated school in Lee County. After the school was vacated, the building became a theater. In December of 2004, the building was moved to the Historical Village and restored to its 1920 appearance. 

The School House is  a classic one-room schoolhouse with a wood stove used to warm the room in winter. In 1932, a second room was added, more windows installed, and the schoolhouse was able to house grades one through eight. 

Burnap Cottage - 1898

Hiram Burnap purchased the cottage and used it as a fishing retreat in the winter. In 1998, the building was donated to the village and restored to its original state. Some say a ghost still haunts the building.

Burnap Cottage

Inside the Burnap Cottage, there are artifacts from the Algiers, a ferry turned into a riverboat mansion, which had Italian terrazzo tiles, French marble countertops and sinks inlaid with gold seahorses, and gold-plated dolphin faucets spitting softened water into bathroom sinks. There was an elevator to take people to the top deck and  a restaurant-equipped kitchen boasting a microwave. The Algiers was ill-fated and never used as a “pleasure palace” by its owners. (The farm boy in the foreground was not part of our group.)

Burnap Cottage

The cottage houses a lens from the Sanibel lighthouse, and the captain’s wheel from the Algiers is in the background.

Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room - 1926

Before the 1926 hurricane, this building was once a gas station and a store. When the Baileys’ new store was completed, the building was given to Charlotta Matthews, the present Bailey brothers’ maiden aunt, who turned it into a tea room across from the ferry landing to welcome ferry patrons.

Entering Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room

Inside Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room

Outside the Post Office - 1926

The Sanibel Post Office was established on April 2, 1900. The front porch of Will Reed’s house on San Carlos Bay served as the post office. After the hurricane of 1926 washed away Reed’s house, there was enough debris found to build this small post office.

Packages and the postmaster inside the post office

Will Reed was postmaster until 1940

Bailey’s General Store - 1927

Bailey’s General Store was the center of activity on the island with telephone and telegraph links, while steamer, ferry and mail boats stopped at the docks. Islanders voted here, sent and received mail and caught up on the latest news.

Ralph and Roger examine a gas pump in front of Bailey’s.

Inside Bailey’s General Store

Staples on the shelves of Bailey’s General Store

A replica of the ferry from the steam ship line in the store

Farm tools in the store.

Agriculture was the main commerce for Sanibel settlers from the 1880s to the 1940s. Eventually tidal surges that washed over the island during several hurricanes rendered the soil useless for large-scale farming. 

Caretakers’ Cottage

This cottage was built after 1925 behind Shore Haven. At one time or another, it served as a guest house, bath house, caretakers’ cottage and annex. It was donated and moved to the village with Shore Haven in 2012.

The cottage features an exhibit of Sanibel’s Black History.

Morning Glories Cottage - 1925

This house, a Sears & Roebuck prefabrication, cost $2211 and was delivered to Sanibel in 1925. The building came to the island in 30,000 pieces on a flatbed truck aboard a barge.  A few years ago, Morning Glories was donated to the Village, and a group of volunteers labored for almost a year to restore the building to its present condition. It is quite charming, and restoring it must have been a labor of love because everything about the cottage is so carefully and thoughtfully done. In addition, it seems eminently livable. It is a typical winter home on Sanibel in the 20s and 30s.

A mantel with artwork in the Morning Glories cottage

The dining room in the cottage

The master bedroom in the cottage

The bathroom in the cottage

A child’s room in the cottage

The breakfast nook and kitchen in the Morning Glories cottage
The home had its own generator to provide electricity

The screened-in  back porch of the Morning Glories cottage

BOSS members ready to have lunch at Skip One Seafood Restaurant