4765 Sanders' Drive, on Estero Bay
In 1894, Estero Island was uninhabited except for fishermen, smugglers, and occasional squatters. A group from the Koreshan Unity had just arrived to establish a sawmill on a small portion of land on the south end of the Island.
Men traveled in flatboats to mill the island pine trees within the area to establish homes on the Estero River Unity site inland. While some were building structures, wharves, and docks, others were designing and building boats, as the mail boat delivered to the sawmill once a week.
George Sanders, as an original member of the Koreshan group in Estero, decided in 1897 to break away from the Unity with his family to start the first boatyard and marine ways with a small store in 1905. It was called the "International Trading Co." and built out to the channel on Estero Bay. The "Carlos" post office was part of his company store, and mail was shuttled to and from Punta Rassa three days a week.
In 1914, Sanders purchased an interest in the T.C. Hamilton two-masted schooner, which operated from the San Carlos Matanzas docks. He then supplied goods to Tampa, New Orleans, and Mobile and sold them to homesteaders and coastal people from Sarasota to Key West. The following year, he started the first gas-engined boat freight line, which was run by his two sons. Theirs was a six-hour trip each way, running supplies up and down the Caloosahatchee River to Ft. Myers. Meanwhile, boats were built, repaired, painted, and serviced while hurricanes and storms of the 20s and 30's destroyed many of these structures and docks.
By 1940, son George had taken over the boat building and repairs. The homesite and repair shop on his seven-acre site saw increased supply and demand after WWII. Many larger charter boats and shrimp boats were on the marine ways or in drydock during the 50's and 60's.
By 1969, the Sanders property had been sold to Steve and Carol Terry, as seen here. They cleared the land to build their island home and "Mid Island Marina", offering covered storage, bait, and gas at the boat barn. Soon after, boats were placed along Estero Boulevard. Boat sales were underway with new owners on Sanders Dr., as seen below.
A small restaurant and tiki bar were next proposed on this quiet bayfront residential site. By the 1990s, the Rusty Pelican restaurant, followed by Fernando's, offered bayside dining and boat rentals, as pictured above.
Today, the area that was once Sander's Boat Yard is home to Publix, Snook Bight Marina, Junkanoos, and Fresh Catch Bistro. All are open for business.