The hurricane of October 6, 1873, that sent storm waters over Sanibel hit hard in Punta Rassa, destroying the home of Captain John Smith, a Finnish sailor. Noticing that nearby Pine Island was more protected and had been spared, Captain Smith moved his family to Saint James City, becoming the first permanent settlers.
In 1885, four New England businessmen signified the arrival of developers to the area. The St. James-on-the-Gulf Co. bought extensive tracts of land and had a surveyor map a three square mile town site. Perhaps the beginning of the Pine Island real estate business. While Miami was still a mosquito infested swamp, the luxurious three story San Carlos Hotel hosted such guests as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, William Gillette, Sam Colt and others who came to fish for Tarpon. After the death of the principals, the St. James-on-the-Gulf Co. went bankrupt. The grand San Carlos Hotel was sold and later burned down in 1905.
1911, a large Tampa firm bought the land holdings of the
defunct St. James-on-the-Gulf Co. in order to plant
sisal hemp and build a rope factory. The seemingly
successful company closed it’s doors only a few years
after for no apparent reason.
A succession of boom-bust years followed with the fields of St James City playing host to pineapple, coconut palms, and would-be land developers.
Today, St James City is growing at a slower, more natural pace as people discover our beautiful island. Many canals with excellent access to San Carlos Bay and the Gulf of Mexico provide waterfront home sites in several residential areas.