We’ll continue now from Eden Gardens State Park to Panama City.
Back on US 98, there are a couple more state parks coming up. First is Camp Helen, which was recently added to the NRHP. Down the road is the Museum Of Man In The Sea, with lots of outdoor displays. Right at SR 79 and you’ll be on Front Beach Road, or Alternate 98. The Palmetto Hotel is just west, and may be the same on listed in AGFHA. If you continue west, you’ll find parts of the road where the beach isn’t completely blocked by hotels and condos. If you look southeast from here, you’ll be seeing where the SS Tarpon sank. Well, it’s about 7 miles off the coast, so honestly, all you’ll see is ocean.
Head east again, and you’ll pass the SeaBreeze Winery. Almost 8 miles further on, you’ll reach St. Andrews State Park. This one’s very popular. Biking, walking, swimming, it’s got a whole variety of options. This is easily one of those parks you could stay at for a day and have a great time.
Somewhere on Lake Powell is the Latimer Cabin. Unlike the Keith Cabin, I couldn’t find it. If it hasn’t been torn down or moved, it looks like it’s part of a members-only housing development. Maybe someday I’ll find out where it is for sure. (see Google map)
- Camp Helen State Park (23937 Panama City Beach Parkway) (NRHP)
- Latimer Cabin (Northeast Powell Lake) (NRHP)
- Museum Of Man In The Sea (17314 Panama City Beach Parkway)
- Palmetto Hotel (17255 Front Beach Road) (maybe) (AGFHA)
- SS Tarpon (7.8 nautical miles offshore Panama City) (NRHP)
- SeaBreeze Winery (13201 Hutchison Blvd (Middle Beach Road))
- St. Andrews State Park
Back to US 98. Head south on Beck Avenue and you’ll reach St. Andrews. It was a separate community when it was originally founded. It eventually got subsumed by Panama City. You’ll pass the old school, then reach downtown about a half mile later. The local history museum is in the old Panama City Publishing Company. I recommend parking near Truesdell Park. Stroll around downtown first, see the old St. Andrews Church, and then check out the park itself. There’s a boardwalk further back from the street that gives you nice views of the bay.
The park also has two interesting botanical specimens. First is the only known four-headed palm tree in the world. It’s not that big (6 or 7 feet tall, maybe), but yep, it’s got four heads. Nearby is the Old Sentry, an oak tree that’s over 250 years old. Rest a spell in the shade before continuing your journey. (see Google map)
- Gulf Coast Community College Art Gallery (5230 W. Highway 98)
- St. Andrew School (3001 West 15th Street) (NRHP)
- Panama City Publishing Company (1134 Beck Ave.) (AGFHA)
- Bank of St. Andrew (1000 Beck Ave.) (AGFHA)
- St. Andrews Church (1004 Chestnut Avenue)
- Four-headed palm tree
- Old Sentry Oak
Now go east on Beach Drive towards downtown Panama City. It’s not a fast drive, since there are houses all along here. But that’s OK, since you’ll have more great views of the bay, as well as some splendid houses.
Like the Payne House. This place initially annoyed me. Only because I visited and photographed everything I could in and around Panama City, then this was added to the NRHP only a few months later. But a while after that, I was introduced to AGFHA. So when I next visited, I had lots more stuff to photograph besides the Payne House. Tricky finding parking nearby. I did my usual, parking on the side of the road. But not on Beach Drive; there’s no room. I parked in the neighborhood behind, off Balboa Avenue. I was in and out quick, so as not to annoy anyone. I’ve kind of developed that into an art.
- A.A. Payne-John Christo, Sr. House (940 West Beach Drive) (NRHP)
Only a mile further, and you’re in historic downtown Panama City. It could easily be a historic district, local, state or national. There’s only 3 NRHPs there, but quite a few more buildings in AGFHA. And others that look old enough to qualify. I often wonder why an obvious concentration of historic buildings isn’t a historic district. It could be property owner objections, or other legal issues.
It’s a very walkable area, so park and see what you can see. One building that’s of significant importance in legal history is the Bay County Courthouse. A 1963 court case there eventually led to the creation of the public defender system, and them becoming an established feature in all US courts. See, I never even considered where the public defender concept came from. I’d just assumed it had been around since the Founding. It’s places like this that make me really appreciate my roadtripping hobby. ‘Cause it’s educational, doncha know. (see Google map)
- United States Courthouse (30 W. Government Street)
- Dyer Building (13 Harrison Ave.) (AGFHA)
- First National Bank (101 Harrison Ave.) (AGFHA)
- Bank of Panama City (100 Harrison Ave.) (AGFHA)
- Wilkerson Building (200 Harrison Ave.) (AGFHA)
- Commercial Bank (227 Harrison Ave.) (AGFHA)
- Sherman Arcade (228 Harrison Avenue) (NRHP)
- Bay Humanities building (19 East 4th Street) (AGFHA) (part of the Visual Arts Center of Northwest Florida)
- Ritz (Martin) Theatre (409 Harrison Ave.) (AGFHA)
- John Hargrove Motor Car Museum (436 Harrison Avenue) (maybe closed)
- Robert L. McKenzie House (17 Third Court) (NRHP)
- Sapp House (224 Third Court) (NRHP)
- Bay County Courthouse (309 East 4th Street)
Time to head northeast to another town that’s become a suburb of Panama City, Lynn Haven. I like it because all the surviving historic stuff is clustered together. Nothing on the NRHP, though I’ve heard that local historians may try to get some stuff listed. The most unusual thing in the neighborhood is a Civil War monument. Unusual in that it’s the only one in the south dedicated to Union soldiers. Yep, only in Florida.
- Junior Museum of Bay County (1731 Jenks Ave)
- City Hall (Ohio Ave and 9th) (AGFHA)
- Lloyd’s Country Store (Florida and 9th SE) (AGFHA)
- Lynn Haven Bank (Florida and 9th SW) (AGFHA)
- First Presbyterian Church (810 Georgia Avenue) (AGFHA)
- Union Soldier monument (Georgia Ave and 8th Street)
- Bob Jones College Ruin (1200 Harvard Boulevard) (AGFHA)
Head southeast now. When you get to SR 22, go east until you get to CR 2297. South and on your right is the Schmidt-Godert Farm. I don’t know if it’ll be open. The owner, a very nice older lady, ran it as a B&B for a while, then stopped when it became too much effort. I visited in November 2010, and I had a feeling that she wasn’t long for this world. But if she’s still there, and you mind your manners, she’ll be happy to tell you the history of the place and show you around. I hope the family doesn’t decide to sell it, as it’d likely be plowed under. I’m glad I got to see it while I could.
- Schmidt-Godert Farm (100 FL 2297) (NRHP)
We’ll leave off here. The next portion of US 98 is really my favorite, maybe because it’s the most like the Pacific Coast Highway. Long stretches where you can see the Gulf of Mexico as you’re driving. The home of the Florida Constitution and the grandfather of air conditioning. The world’s smallest police station. It’ll be a few weeks before I get to it, as I have to complete my next Panhandle-North-Central-South cycle of posts. So stay tuned, and see you on the road!