The Street Names of Sani­bel

Re­flect­ing the is­land am­bi­ence

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With such in­trigu­ing names as Pyrula, Singing Wind, Blue Heron and Sea Grape, the streets of Sani­bel Is­land cap­ture the essence and back­story of the self­pro­claimed Sanc­tu­ary Is­land. With about 70 per­cent of the is­land’s lands in con­ser­va­tion, it’s no sur­prise that more than three times as many street names re­flect on Sani­bel’s nat­u­ral bounty as are named in honor of hu­mans. With about 260 named streets, more than 140 are named af­ter veg­e­ta­tion, shells, birds and bod­ies of wa­ter.

Names of is­land flora pre­dom­i­nate in such street names as But­ton­wood, Man­grove, Stran­gler Fig and Wax Myr­tle, which cap­ture Sani­bel’s in­fat­u­a­tion with na­tive veg­e­ta­tion. Jim Pick­ens, a 65-year res­i­dent of the is­land, re­calls how Sea Grape Lane was named.

“The Kinzies, who ran the ferry line, owned all the land from about the cause­way to the light­house when we got here in 1953,” says Pick­ens. “I remember Ernest Kinzie ask­ing my mom what she wanted to name the street we lived on when they were de­vel­op­ing sub­di­vi­sions, and she said, ‘Sea grape’ be­cause there was a big sea grape there.” Over the years, he re­calls his mother mak­ing sea grape jelly ev­ery year and his dad dis­till­ing sea grape wine.

Pick­ens also re­mem­bers that the main thor­ough­fare, which would later be called Peri­win­kle, didn’t yet have a name when he ar­rived. “We just called it the ‘hard road’ be­cause it was the only road on the is­land that wasn’t a shell road,” he says. “But there’s a story about a county com­mis­sioner who was out on the is­land and looked over and saw Peri­win­kles grow­ing there, and that’s how it got its name.”

With about 70 per­cent of the is­land’s lands in con­ser­va­tion, it’s no sur­prise that more than three times as many street names re­flect on Sani­bel’s nat­u­ral bounty as are named in honor of hu­mans.

Deb Glea­son, who ar­rived on the is­land with her fam­ily in 1958, has heard that one of the is­land’s ear­li­est and most pro­lific real­tors, Priscilla Mur­phy, named the main stretch. Both Pick­ens and Glea­son serve on the Sani­bel His­toric Preser­va­tion Com­mit­tee and are used to facts elud­ing is­land his­to­ri­ans.

“All we have to go on is story a lot of the time,” says Glea­son. Both Glea­son and Pick­ens agree that Peri­win­kle Way was named af­ter the Peri­win­kle flower, not the small shell, but it does seem quite ap­pro­pri­ate that the main drag would bear a name re­flect­ing on both the is­land veg­e­ta­tion and its famed seashells.

Two neigh­bor­hoods cel­e­brate seashells: the Donax area and the Shell Har­bor sub­di­vi­sion. Betty An­holt, is­land au­thor and his­to­rian, says the Bai­ley fam­ily named the streets in the Donax neigh­bor­hood, which was prop­erty they owned be­tween their fam­ily home­stead on Peri­win­kle Way and the Gulf beaches.

“The Bai­leys plat­ted that sub­di­vi­sion in the ’20s and named those streets,” says An­holt, adding that de­vel­op­ers who owned the land were free to give names to the streets they put in. “But, then the De­pres­sion came and they never did build it.”

Those streets—Pyrula, Cardium, Nerita and Donax— rep­re­sent the genus names for fig, cockle, sea snail and clam shells, re­spec­tively. Junonia Street is also in that neigh­bor­hood, named for one of the most cel­e­brated shells of Sani­bel.

“Hugo Lind­gren, who built the cause­way, bought land from the Kinzies and named the streets in Shell Har­bor,” says Pick­ens. Named around the time the cause­way was be­ing built in 1963, those streets bear much more com­mon names of shells: Kings Crown, An­gel Wing, Whelk, Conch and Tulip.

As far as her his­tor­i­cal re­search has shown, An­holt, who has lived on the is­land for 50 years, says many street names re­flect on what peo­ple hap­pened to be look­ing at.

“The street names seemed to grow out of the day-to-day liv­ing in gen­eral,” she says, not­ing that streets in her neigh­bor­hood re­flect upon the is­land am­bi­ence and mi­lieu. “We have Singing Wind, Tur­tle Gait and Twin Ponds, so those are names that struck them at some time about the feel of the is­land.”

In 1986, about 12 years af­ter in­cor­po­ra­tion, the city of Sani­bel passed an or­di­nance es­tab­lish­ing pro­to­col for street nam­ing and re­named or named for the first time more than 30 streets. That’s when streets such as Wild Lime, Joe­wood, Wax Myr­tle and Snow­berry all got their names.

At that time, too, the stretch of Beach Road north from Peri­win­kle to San Car­los Bay was re­named Bai­ley Road, giv­ing the pi­o­neer­ing fam­ily an of­fi­cial street name.

“We al­ways called it Bai­ley Road as long as I can remember,” says Pick­ens. “It must have just still been listed as Beach Road on the county maps.”

Dun­lop, Aleck, Fitzhugh and Kinzie also are named af­ter early is­land fam­i­lies. An­other 30 or so first and last names were given to streets by de­vel­op­ers based on fam­ily and friends.

One street name re­mains a mys­tery to this day. When the home­steading Doane and Dwight fam­i­lies couldn’t come to terms on whose name should go on a main street on the up­per end of the is­land, a postal of­fi­cial took charge and gave it a name.

“That’s how Wulfert got its name. But, no one seems to know why the of­fi­cial from the post of­fice called it that,” says Glea­son.

Based on An­holt’s as­sess­ment that streets were named by what de­vel­op­ers saw, one might as­cer­tain that de­vel­op­ers didn’t do a lot of fish­ing. Sur­pris­ingly, only a cou­ple of streets carry the names of marine life be­yond shells—Starfish and Blue Crab. And, seem­ingly only one street has the name of a fish—Tar­pon Bay.

Hav­ing first va­ca­tioned on Sani­bel in 1974, Bar­bara Linstrom has been writ­ing about the is­lands for more than 25 years. She’s writ­ten for Times of the Is­lands since its in­au­gu­ral is­sue in 1996 and served as ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of tele­vi­sion at WGCU, the re­gion’s PBS sta­tion, for 11 years.

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