SANIBEL ISLAND, Fla. — A symbol is broken and battered on Sanibel Island — the Sanibel Lighthouse. Emergency repairs are in place, but the community and leaders with the historical museum are ready for permanent fixes.
"It’s just so quintessential. It’s the first thing you see when you’re crossing the bridge to get here," said Kate Sergeant, who owns On Island On Sanibel. "It's just the perfect symbol of Sanibel."
Hurricane Ian ripped one of the tower's legs off, said Celina Kersh, president of the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village.
"The tower itself is into cement and I think that was its saving grace," she said.
Kersh says the 1884 lighthouse has survived many hurricanes and does not recall any damage to it prior to Hurricane Ian. Belfor Restoration installed a piece of wood in place of the actual leg, right before Tropical Storm Nicole hit southwest Florida.
On Friday, workers told Fox 4 they're in the process of installing stronger wood until they get further guidance from the City of Sanibel.
The president made a request to the Florida Lighthouse Association, and they awarded $60,000 to the Sanibel Lighthouse and two others. Kersh says it'll be split between the three. For Sanibel, they're using it for the emergency repairs and consultation fees.
"As of a week ago there was still no power to the lighthouse," Kersh said. "The next steps in discussions with the City, obviously are to evaluate the full tower, if there’s any other damage inside."
The lighthouse is needed for ship as they navigate the San Carlos Bay. It's also important to the community, too.
"It’s always been the beacon of the community," Kersh said. "The symbol of Sanibel is that tower and that lighthouse."
It's a lighthouse with so much rich history. Kersh says the lighthouse was requested back in 1834, but wasn't built until 1884. During hurricanes, people were able to seek shelter inside the tower.
With the history behind it, the community is hoping to preserve that.
"We have so many signs of hope and rebuilding and it just keeps the optimism going," Sergeant said. "The lighthouse is definitely the symbol of we’re coming back."