Sanibel Family Vacation Tradition: A Historic Guest Story at the Island Inn

In the Fall of 1951 Dr. & Mrs. A. W. Rappole began their written correspondence with the Island Inn regarding their first family vacation to Sanibel Island.  The Rappole’s, with two or possibly three of their children, desired a respite from the cold winters in their hometown of Jamestown, New York to the warm, sunny island of Sanibel, off the Southwest coast of Florida. As noted in one of their early inquires, the Rappole family chose Sanibel and the Island Inn because of their 11-year old son’s interest in growing his ‘extensive shell collection.’ The Inn’s founders, Will & Harriett (Granny) Matthews, were some of Sanibel Island’s first and most famous shell enthusiasts.  In fact, the Matthew’s chose the geographic location of the Island Inn because of its beach’s prime southern exposure, which acts as a natural shovel, scooping up shells that the currents bring from the deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Our eleven-year old boy has already acquired quite an extensive shell collection and it is for this reason we are particularly interested in spending some time at Sanibel.

As it was standard to communicate via post mail in the early 1950’s, Dr. Rappole and the Inn’s manager at the time, Ed Borchers, continued their correspondence over the next 3 months – exchanging dates, rates and other necessary details in an attempt to finalize accommodations for the family’s seashell-inspired vacation. Dr. Rappole’s initial request, full room and board for the last two weeks of February, was unavailable. However, the Inn responded with a winter rate card along with other availability options, helping guide the Rappole’s to ultimately make their first trip to Sanibel Island.

island inn historic rate sheet

This historic rate sheet was mailed to inquiring guests looking to book a vacation in the early 1950’s

Dr. Rappole’s written response was for a 4-bedroom cottage with private bathroom for $260 per week or, as a second choice, two rooms in “the Inn proper” with shared bathroom for $220 per week.  Dr. Rappole elaborated that the family would be traveling via a Constellation plane from Cleveland and landing in Tampa.  Final transportation to Sanibel Island would be made via mail or ferry boat from either Fort Myers or Punta Rassa.

On January 18, 1952, Borchers confirmed the Rappole’s first stay at the Island Inn, a double-room in “The Barracks”.  Borchers further informed Dr. Rappole that their late morning arrival into Fort Myers would not allow them to catch the 8 AM mail boat, but that they should plan on catching the early afternoon ferry. Borchers instructed Dr. Rappole to call the Inn from the Sanibel Island ferry landing and he would then arrange their speedy pick up. Thus the start of multi-generational visits to the Island Inn by the Rappole family.

Mail boat leaves Fort Myers at 8 A.M. daily except Sunday, and therefore your arrival in Fort Myers in the late morning will not allow you to use this boat to get to Sanibel. Suggest that you taxi to Punta Rassa, where the ferry leaves for the Island, and we will meet you on the Sanibel Side.

Five years and various Rappole vacations later, Charlotta Matthews, niece to Granny Matthews, informed Doctor Rappole that the Inn was being sold to some of its longtime guests. While she ensured that their future stays would be equally comfortable, she hinted that becoming a “member of the club” would provide additional benefits. Today, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and even 4th generations of these early Island Inn guests make up the Inn’s Shareholders.

charolette matthews letter to guest

Charoletta Matthews, niece to Inn founder Granny Matthews, was also know as Miss Charolette and famous for her Tea Room

The Rappole’s family vacation visits to the Island Inn continued into the future, returning each year for the children’s spring break. With school schedules having a yearly impact on their desired travel dates, the Island Inn continued its correspondence with the Rappole’s, creating a lasting relationship for generations to come.

Sixty-four years later, families just like the Rappole’s continue to book their annual excursion to the Island Inn, but with much more ease via online reservations or our toll-free phone line.  We invite your family to become part of our history in the making!

Cherished memories, modern comforts.  Enjoy it all at the Island Inn!