HISTORY OF NORTH CAPTIVA ISLAND
“Captiva” got its name from the Pirates.
Originally the Island was populated by the Calusa Indians (5000 B.C.), who valued it for the good fishing. The southeastern corner of North Captiva Island has Indian shell mounds that are as high as 20 feet. You can still see their whelk shells on this site. Ponce de Leon “discovered” Sanibel and Captiva Islands in 1513. Later when more Spaniards arrived most of the native islanders were killed with a remaining few sent to Cuban prison camps where they died.
The Island received the name “Captiva” because swashbuckling pirates like Jose Gaspar repaired battle-torn ships and imprisoned female “captives” while moored in the safety of the Island. Gaspar was captured by the US Navy in 1821.
North Captiva Island was created by a hurricane in 1921 when it came through and cut off the northern part of Captiva Island.
In the early 1900’s the Island was a processing center for a fishing company. One of these historic buildings remain today. The historic Punta Gorda Fish Company Ice House sits offshore like a lone sentinel at the entrance to Safety Harbor . The Ice House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s 50 homes were constructed and it appeared the Island would follow the same path of development as the other Barrier Islands to the north and south. In 1975, the state of Florida stepped in and acquired over 350 acres, almost half the island for a nature preserve. Thanks to this acquisition, this priceless resource was saved from over development. Today there are only 50 to 60 year round residents and about 350 dwellings nestled unobtrusively among the lush tropical canopy of sea grapes and palm trees that cover the island. Extremely large building setbacks from the gulf cause the beaches to remain wide open, mostly secluded and much like they were when the Indians inhabited the Island .
The Island reminds many of the way the Florida Keys used to be in Hemingway days with no traffic or crowds. Many say the island has a Caribbean atmosphere.