The oldest hotel on Sanibel Island will eventually look like one of the newest.
The Island Inn, built in 1895 and serving as one of the longest-running businesses in Southwest Florida, did not have any of its original buildings left on the property going into Sept. 28 when Hurricane Ian hit. But it did have wood-frame buildings dating back to the 1920s, said Island Inn general manager Chris Davison.
“We had six cottage structures on the property,” Davison said. “Four of them were washed away. The two that are there are just completely blown out. They are a total loss. They just didn’t come off the foundation and disappear.”
Despite the challenges of sorting through the wreckage, the Island Inn reopened with little fanfare on Oct. 28. Only island pass holders, which include residents, construction contractors, insurance adjusters and cleanup crews, can stay there.
Since opening in late October, all 12 suites in the Matthews Lodge Luxury Gulfview Suites have been booked.
“It’s mostly homeowners who are coming down to either work on their property or manage some sort of a game plan to work on their property,” Davison said of the guests.
In 2017-2018, the Island Inn decided to raze the 1960s-era Matthews House and build two new buildings under current construction codes.
One month to the day after Hurricane Ian devastated the western end of Sanibel, the Island Inn had running water, a functioning sewer, electricity, hot water, air conditioning and internet access.
“It’s amazing the contrast between the buildings we built in 2017 and 2018 and everything else,” Davison said. “They had very, very minor damage and were back up and running the day we got back on the island. The buildings like the restaurant, were just completely devastated. The contrast is amazing.”
The Island Inn intends to rebuild the destroyed cottages under the updated construction codes. “They will look more like the things that are standing today,” Davison said. “We have proof of the concept sitting right there.”