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Archive for November, 2012

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Well this is it, the last part of US 90 in the Panhandle. We’ll be going through Washington County, Jackson County and Gadsden County Counties. It’s a toss-up, but this is probably my favorite section of US 90.

We left off in Bonifay last time, so let’s start there. Going east, the landscape is pretty much the same as the last 30 miles or so. Trees, and a building here and there. There’s a bridge over Holmes Creek, too. In a few minutes you’ll be in Chipley, the county seat of Washington County.

There are 3 NRHPs in town, a small historic district and two buildings. But there are a plethora of listings from AGFHA. Easily enough to comprise a large historic district. I like the county courthouse, it’s one of those solid imposing ones. You can find out more about the area at the historical museum, when it’s open. It’s also a nice spot to leave your car and walk around downtown to see many of the old buildings.

Chipley is about halfway between Tallahassee and Pensacola, so it’s a good place to stay when you’re exploring this part of the state. My first excursion through the west end of the Panhandle in 2008 started here. Nice and reasonably priced hotels near I- 10, Waffle House if you want to eat inexpensive, Wal-Mart to get supplies and gas, you could do worse. (see Google map) (see Google map)

  • Calleway Building (S. 5th St. and S. Railroad Ave) (AGFHA)
  • Farrior Drug Store (S. 6th St. and S. Railroad Ave) (AGFHA)
  • Old Florida Bank Building (105 S. 5th St.) (AGFHA)
  • Porter Building (1368 North Railroad Avenue) (AGFHA)
  • J.R. McAferty House (100 Church Ave.) (AGFHA)
  • Chipley City Hall (672 Fifth Street) (NRHP)
  • Chipley Presbyterian Church (658 5th Street) (AGFHA)
  • Judge J.J. Jones Residence (644 5th St.) (AGFHA)
  • Woman’s Club of Chipley (607 Fifth Street) (NRHP)

Just south of I-10 is one of my favorite state parks. In fact, three of my favorites are near this stretch of US 90. All of them are unusual, with sights you don’t expect in Florida. Two of them are National Natural Landmarks. Falling Waters isn’t one of them, but it does have the tallest waterfall in the state. It might be the only waterfall in the state. It’s about 100 feet high. Mind you, it starts just above ground level and goes into a deep sinkhole. The source is a creek, too, and if it’s not rained in a while, there’s no waterfall. Contact the park to check out conditions. There’s more to the park than the waterfall, just so you know; walking paths and a picnic area and suchlike. (see Google map)

Further south are a few interesting spots. I like Moss Hill Church, a 100+ year old wooden church. And oh, the Possum monument in Wausau. Yee-ha. (see Google map)

If you’re coming from the north, you might pass the Welcome Center in Campbellton on US 231. I’m not sure why it’s there. Maybe because it’s a main road to get to Panama City? If you’re toodling along US 90, it’s rather out of the way. I’d like to see it, just out of curiosity. It’s the only welcome center left in Florida that’s not on an interstate. Well, there’s the one in the capitol building in Tallahassee. But I hardly count that, since it’s not close to the state line. (see Google map)

  • Welcome Center (5865 U.S. 231)

Cottondale is next on US 90, but I’ve only ever passed through. Nothing of outstanding historical significance there, that I know of.

Which can’t be said of the county seat of Jackson County, Marianna. It’s chockful of history. Also has the best historic district in the state. And we’ll explore that in the next post. See you on the road!

Route length: 35 miles

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There are only two cities in Florida that I know of that are named after cities in Italy; Naples and Venice. This post will be about the former.

Going south on the west coast, Naples is the last large city you’ll encounter. It’s the county seat of Collier County, having supplanted Everglades City decades ago. That happens more often than you’d think, that changing county seats thing.

I’d heard that Naples has lots of golf courses, and according to Discover Naples, it has more per capita than anywhere else. Which also means that Naples has a ritzier population than most cities in the state. It’s one of the best maintained cities I’ve seen in Florida.

I’ll wager another of the attractions is that there are several pockets of nature nearby. Like Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Picayune Strand State Forest. It also has one of the top ten busiest parks in the state, Delnor-Wiggins Pass. I was there on a Monday around noon, and it took half an hour to get in. I’ll bet on weekends it fills up right after it opens.

Plenty of culture, too, with museums and art galleries scattered hither and thither. (see Google map)

But I’m all about the historical, and Naples has that too. I don’t know how much has been lost over the years, but there does seem to be a significant amount of historic structures in the area. The one historic district covers both commercial and residential buildings. Make sure to talk a walk to the end of the 1,000 foot long pier, ’cause you’ll get an amazing view of the Gulf and Naples when you get there. (see Google map)

There are a couple of NRHPs on the outskirts which you may be able to get to, if you have the means. The ruins of the Horr House looks to be in a gated subdivision. Key Marco Estates, I believe. So unless you know someone living there, you’re unlikely to be able to get in. But I think it might be accessible by bicycle. I’d check first, since even with a bicycle, the house is some ways from the entrance. The other site is the remains of the Keewaydin Club. No roads to it; your only option is a boat. I don’t even know if you can land on the island it’s on. You might only be able to see it from offshore. I think there are tour bouts that go there, if this is any indication. Should anyone actually makes it there, tell me how it goes, will you? (see Google map) (see Google map)

Head southeast out of town on US 41, ’cause we’re going into the Everglades. There’s a bit of driving before you get there, though. In the meantime, you’ll be passing through a region I’ve covered previously. That is, the whole Everglades City area. I’m including the sights below, in case this is your first time through, or you want to revisit some of them. There’s also Monroe Station, which I need to get to one of these days. (see Google map)

If you decide to travel the length of the Tamiami Trail to Miami, your last gas stop is at the SR 29 intersection. Make sure you top off your tank, get munchies and avail yourself of the facilities before you get past. It’s about 60 miles of wilderness before you’ll see signs of civilization again.

This is the only large section of the state I’ve not visited. There’s not been enough on the way to entice me. It’s just one very long drive to Miami. I know I’ve said I like to just drive, but even for me, I need a bit of stuff along the way to break up the monotony. The road is kind of historic, since it follows the original route from Miami to Naples. Another thing I’ll get around to eventually, but not high on my priority list.

Should you go this way, you’ll get to Miami in about an hour. Well, Tamiami first, where you can see the Frost Art Museum, I suppose.

So, that’s southwest Florida done. I’ll be getting to the less south part (Sarasota and such) in a while, never fear. Until then, see you on the road!

Route length: 100 miles

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My very first post in this all-around-Florida series was about Fernandina Beach, the east coast end of the old Florida Railroad. Now we’ll get to the west end, Cedar Key.

One of the minor advantages of living in Gainesville was how easy it was to get from there to Cedar Key. Just take SR 24 southwest and an hour or so later, you’ve arrived. No turnoffs, no detours, simple. Living in Ocala now, it’s a bit more complicated, but not terribly. Actually, I like the drive better. More driving through farmland, hills a bit rolly, and a few miles through the Goethe State Forest. Up US 98, then down SR 24. Not even small towns along the way. By the time I get to Cedar Key, I’m so mellowed.

The last time I went, I decided to check out the Henry Beck Park in Gulf Hammock. Well, be fair, I was in need of a pit stop. There’s not a lot there, but it had the facilities I was searching for, a playground, and some open space. Your basic small park, good for a family outing, I’d think. Only open from April through September, though.

So, Cedar Key. The Florida Railroad, as I said many moons ago, was the brainchild of Senator David Levy Yulee in the early 1800s. The remaining tracks are now property of CSX, and most are still in service. Ironically, not part of that is the section from Archer to Cedar Key, which was torn up and sold for scrap decades ago. In June, the Yulee Railroad Days Festival celebrates the history in towns all along the route.

Before you get into Cedar Key, you’ll pass through the Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve. For thems as likes hiking, this is your place. And a detour up CR 347 and over on CR 326 will get you to Shell Mound, in the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge. (see Google map)

Cedar Key originally was on Atsena Otie Key (called Depot Key in the early days). However, the storm surge from the 1896 hurricane wiped out most of what was there. The survivors resettled on Way Key, which is what is called Cedar Key now. Most of that area is a NRHP historic district, not only for the buildings but also the shell middens around downtown that many of the buildings are on. I’d think that Seahorse Key (with its old lighthouse) and Atsena Otie are part of the district, but I’ve not been able to confirm that. Downtown looks very weather-worn, which isn’t surprising. Cedar Key is like a hurricane magnet. Fishing was a prominent source of community income, but that’s died off over the years. Now what big bucks come in are from tourism and clam farming. Just goes to show that people can adapt to anything.

Parking in the downtown area is limited. If you want to get something convenient, visit on a weekday if you can. Be aware that the state park isn’t open in the middle of the week, though. Or get there very early on the weekend. I’ve seen golfcarts available for renting, but not explored that option. If you have a bicycle, this would be a good place to bring it. If you’re a boater or kayaker, the area is great for aquatic activities. The surrounding keys are semi-accessible, by charter boat if you’ve not got your own. You can land on Atsena Otie year-round, but the others are part of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. Thus they’re protected and can only be seen from a distance. Except for Seahorse Key, which is open to the public twice a year, in July and October.

Speaking of that, the Cedar Key Seafood Festival is in October. I’ve never been, because it’s very popular and thus crowded. I can’t imagine what the parking is like. Other busy times are the Arts Festival in April and the Clamerica celebration on July 4th. If that’s your thing, now you now. If not, you know when not to visit.

If you go to Cedar Key, make a day of it. You have to drive over 20 miles off US 98 to get there, and there’s nothing really close. This self-guided walking tour will help you see the highlights. Visit the state museum on the outskirts of town to learn some of the history of the area. And check out the locally run history museum downtown to learn more. It’s right where SR 24 dead-ends. Have a bowl of award-winning clam chowder across the street at Tony’s Seafood Restaurant. (see Google map) (see Google map)

I’ve only ever been there for a few hours, but I’d think Cedar Key would be a great place to spend a relaxing weekend. One of these days I may spend a night there. See you on the road!

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You’re in northeast Volusia County now, and going through North Peninsula State Park. More to it than beach, but that’s probably what attracts most folks here.

There’s a small group of state parks of historic interest to the west. Two contain NRHPs, Bulow Plantation and Tomoka State Park (Nocoroco). Tomoka also has the Fairchild Oak, one of the oldest anywhere. See what happens to an oak tree that’s grown nigh unchecked for over 400 years. (see Google map)

Last stop this go-round is Ormond Beach. I don’t know if it’s considered a suburb of Daytona Beach, but there’s no clear demarcation between the two. My folks would take occasional getaways here. Probably helped that if you take SR 40 east from Ocala, you go straight into Ormond Beach.

Most of the NRHPs are near the beach, including the Casements, where John Rockefeller used to hang out. A sad loss is the Ormond Hotel, which was demolished 20 years ago. Only a cupola is left, which you can find in Fortunato Park, on the east side of the SR 40 bridge. It’s also a good place to leave your car to explore Ormond Beach east of the Halifax River. Particularly the fancy houses on North Anderson Drive, which you can’t park anywhere near. Before you get there, go to Cassen Park on the west side opposite city hall. There’s a boardwalk that goes out into the river and under the bridge. (see Google map) (see Google map)

Hope you liked this slice of Floridiana. Be safe out there, and see you on the road!

Route length: 55 miles (SR 207), 60 miles (US 1), 60 miles (A1A)

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After you’ve crammed in as much sightseeing in St. Augustine proper that you can, cross the Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island. If you’re up for it and it’s sunny, climb the lighthouse to get a spectacular view of the area. See the Alligator Farm, one of the oldest tourist attractions in the state. Anastasia State Park has some great beaches, and inland are a few of the abandoned quarries where the Spanish and others mined coquina, the most prominent building material in St. Augustine.

If you get there on Saturday morning, visit the St. Augustine Amphitheatre parking lot for the weekly farmers’ market. See the Amphitheatre itself, if you can. It was built in one of the old quarries. The way you see the Amphitheatre now is not how it’s always been. It was constructed in 1965 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine. Open air with a wooden stage, it was the home of Cross and Sword, the official state play. Sadly by the 1990s, the play was no longer performed there and the Amphitheatre soon fell into disuse. Without regular maintenance, it really suffered from the elements. In 2002, the county bought the property and closed it. Several years and two million dollars or so later, this is the result. It is pretty, but I kind of miss the old stage. Oh well, the ups and downs of progress. (see Google map)

There are three main roads out of St. Augustine, each with their own attractions. They are SR 207, US 1 and A1A. Let’s look at State Road 207 first.

This is the road I usually take, since it’s the most direct from the middle of Florida, where I’ve mostly lived the last 20 odd years. Whilst researching this post, I totally stumbled across something I knew about but didn’t know happened here.

When I first got the NRHP bug, I learned more about certain chunks of Florida history. Like the 1920s land boom and subsequent bust due to the stock market crash. Which is why you’ll find lots of Mediterranean Revival architecture around the state, as it was a popular style at that time. Another period was the Second Seminole War, which predated the Civil War. I’d see mentions of the Treaty of Moultrie Creek, but never looked into it further. When I was looking at Google Maps recently, though, I noticed a green spot southwest of St. Augustine off SR 207. It was called Treaty Park. That piqued my interest, and I rooted around some more. Lo and behold, it was where the Treaty of Moultrie Creek was signed! Next time I’m in the area, I must visit and take photos of the area and the historical markers in and near the park.

I can remember when SR 207 was mostly two-lane and 55 mph. But it got widened a few years back, with the lanes doubled and speed limit in the rural areas at 65 mph. The only real slow spot is Hastings, and it’s 45 mph. Just north of there is the old Sanchez Homestead. When I first visited, they must have been doing renovations on the entire property. There was no fence at all, so I could get some halfway decent zoom shots from the road. I’ve checked it out more recently, and there’s foliage and no trespassing signs all around, so you can’t see the buildings at all.

Hastings itself has two NRHPs, the old school and the community center. The school is in use and well maintained. The community center, on the other hand, is in ruins. Honestly, there’s not enough of it left worth saving. Further east you can find another surviving bit of the old brick Dixie Highway. It’s several miles long, but not very drivable unless you have a jeep, since there’s deep potholes all along the way. But you can still get a sense of what it was from the initial tenth of a mile or so.

Next road to look at is US 1. There’s Faver-Dykes, a wildernessy state park. Pay attention, though, since the turnoff is easy to miss. You can see the Florida Agricultural Museum, which among other things has some buildings from the Strawn Historic Agricultural District in De Leon Springs. And there’s Cherokee Grove/Princess Place Preserve, an Adirondack style house in a county-run preserve. Further down US 1 you’ll wind up in Bunnell, the Flagler County seat. I’ll get to that in a bit. (see Google map)

Last but far from least is A1A. I mentioned it at the beginning of this series of posts as being very scenical. Which you’ll see once you traverse it. The first few miles south of St. Augustine are built up, but that diminishes as you continue into the more residential stretch. The speed limit is 45 mph for a while, which lets you see some of the semi-palatial homes along the beach. On the west side, though, is mostly grass-covered sand dunes.

Soon you’ll come to the entrance to Florida’s other national monument, Fort Matanzas. You have to take a ferry from the park to get there, but it’s free. Space is limited, though, so I recommend getting there early. The visitor center is a NRHP, very WPA.

Only a few miles south you’ll enter Flagler County and pass Marineland. It’s an old tourist attraction that sank into the doldrums for a while, but has been revitalized. Then there’s a state park I’m really fond of, Washington Oaks Gardens. The gardens are on the west side of A1A, and you can see coquina outcroppings along the beach on the east side.

After that, most of the rest of the way is tree-shaded, with sporadic buildings along the way. In Palm Coast is Bings Landing, a county park that contains the remains of the old Mala Compra Plantation, which has been excavated and is on display.

Further on the trees over the road go away and the hotels and condos replace them. Welcome to Flagler Beach. It’s strange, though, because I kind of like it here. What helps is that all the development is on the west side of A1A, leaving the beach open and the ocean visible until you get to Ormond. There’s a casual feel that you don’t find in, say, Miami Beach.

Fair warning: Beware of biker festivals. There are two biggies, Bike Week in March, and Biketoberfest in October. Which you should be able to figure out when that is. It’s not the bikers, per se, as they’re usually good drivers. But when you get bike caravans, it can make traffic more complicated. Groups of twenty or more choppers are common from here down past Daytona Beach and west to the central counties. Actually, Bike Week is worse, since it partly coincides with the crazy of Spring Break.

If you take SR 100 west, you’ll get to Bunnell. But before that, there’s a bridge over a waterway where you can get a rather splendid view of Flagler Beach. Better seen if you’re coming from the west.

So, Bunnell. It has two NRHPs. One is an easy-to-find old bank building. The other is the Vocational Agriculture Building. It’s on a school campus, so unless you come when school’s in session, you can only see it through a fence. There are several AGFHA listings, though a couple are gone. Another place that could have a historic district. Drive around to look at the AGFHA buildings, do the walking tour, and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Vocational Agriculture Building (1001 East Howe Street) (NRHP)
  • George Moody House (1000 Moody Boulevard) (AGFHA)
  • Hendricks House (802 Moody Boulevard) (AGFHA)
  • Dr. W.H. Deen House (805 Moody Boulevard) (AGFHA)
  • Holden House (across from courthouse) (204 East Moody Street) (AGFHA)
  • Flagler County Courthouse (205 East Moody Street)
  • George Moody House (105 East Lambert Street) (AGFHA)
  • Cochran House (202 North Railroad) (AGFHA)
  • Lambert House (200 North Railroad) (AGFHA)
  • Moody Residence (102 North Railroad) (AGFHA)
  • Old Bunnell State Bank Building (101-107 North Bay Street) (NRHP)
  • Tribune building (106 South Bay Street) (AGFHA)

Back on A1A, and before you leave Flagler County, you’ll go through Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area. It’s another state park that straddles A1A. Not as pretty as Washington Oak Gardens, but it looks to be more popular. I think in part because it’s easier to get to it. (see Google map)

Next up, Volusia County. See you on the road!

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The deeper into the heart of St. Augustine you get, the harder it is to find parking. Which is why the trolley tours (Ripley’s and Old Town) are so great. If you’re there only for a day, as I often am, just park as close to downtown as you can and be prepared for lots of walking. Which you should be anyway, but then St. Augustine is a very walkable city. The newer parking garage behind the visitor’s center is another option, especially in the summer since your car will be out of the sun. If you wind up visiting semi-regularly, you might want to get their ParkNow card. More info about parking possibilities here.

The last time I was in town (April, for the Taste of St. Augustine), I parked at the Nombre de Dios Church lot and spent the next two hours walking. No charge, but I’d recommend making a donation in the box at the bridge that leads to the Nombre de Dios site. You can’t miss it, just look for the 200 foot tall metal cross. It’s the estimated site of the first Spanish landing/settlement.

You’re betwixt two historic districts also, North City Historic District and Abbott Tract Historic District. Now you’ll be zigging and zagging the rest of the way. I’m just going to link to the sights below, because writing any detail about them would make this post go on forever. Plus there’ve been a gajillion books written about St. Augustine, many available in your local library. You can get much more information when you’re in town at the visitor center, which is a NRHP itself. Must-sees are the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, St. George Street, King Street, and the Gonzalez-Alvarez House. Spend a weekend getting acquainted with St. Augustine on your first visit, and I think you’ll find yourself coming back again and again. (see Google map) (see Google map) (see Google map)

Next we’re heading for Anastasia Island. See you on the road!

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I’ve been putting it off too long. Time to go on and on about the bestest and most historical place in the state, St. Augustine. I’m only half-joking when I tell people I’m going to retire there and become a tour guide in my spare time. I’ve been there so many times, and yet there are still lots that I feel I’ve not seen or done there. Also the section of A1A between it and Ormond Beach is nearly as scenical as what’s on Amelia Island.

Some history. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited (by Europeans) city in the continental United States. I have to add that qualifier, since there are settlements in Puerto Rico that are older. The city was founded in 1565, after Pensacola. But as I mentioned previously, Pensacola was struck by a hurricane just after the Spanish landed there, and it didn’t survive long after that. St. Augustine has been hit by various calamities, but somehow managed to continue on. They’ll be celebrating the 450th anniversary of the founding in 2015, and I’m sure the city will feature prominently next year in the celebration of Ponce de León’s landing in 1513. Take that, Jamestown!

St. Augustine, not surprisingly, has the highest concentration of NHLs in the state. There are six of them, including the original town limits as a historic district. Also, Florida’s only two National Monuments are here. Both are forts; one in St. Augustine itself, the other about 15 miles south.

We’ll start some ways north, in Ponte Vedra. There are a couple of the Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places in the area, but they’re both private residences. You mayn’t be able to see much from the road. Going down A1A, you’ll be going through one of the rare undeveloped Atlantic coast stretches, thanks to the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. Very popular with beachgoers, but not quite as much as Daytona Beach and such. Before you get to St. Augustine, you’ll cross the Vilano Beach Bridge. It’s a high one, so you’ll get a great view of the area. The only better one is from the top of the lighthouse on Anastasia Island. We’ll get there in a while. (see Google map)

If you want to see all the NHLs in the area, though, you’ll have to get to US 1 north of the city. Deep Creek State Forest is up there, as is the current county courthouse. Which, unless you’re a courthouse completist, I’d not recommend visiting. It’s a fairly bog-standard modern building.

The NHL is in a state park east of US 1, Fort Mose. If the fort was still standing, it might be a National Monument too. But alas, no such luck, since it was an earthen and wooden fort. It was the first free black settlement in the New World, where escaped slaves from the English colonies lived. The Spanish allowed them to live there in exchange for defending the area against the English. So in a way the place was the ancestor of the Underground Railroad. The area was abandoned and forgotten, then rediscovered about 30 years ago. You can’t get close to the original fort site, but observe it from a distance on a platform. The boardwalk that gets you there is a bit of a walk, but I found going through the woods and over the grasses rather serene. They are endeavoring to build a replica of the fort, but don’t know how far along they are. (see Google map)

St. Augustine has seven historic districts, mostly clustered around downtown. To find the boundaries, check here.

Leaving Fort Mose and heading south, you’ll come to a split in the road. Keep right if you want to circumvent St. Augustine and get to, say, Palatka or Bunnell. But you’re here for the history, eh? So take the left-hand path down San Marco Avenue.

You’ll pass by a couple of the historic districts (Fullerwood Park Residential Historic District and Nelmar Terrace Historic District), then arrive between the city’s two trolley services, Ripley’s Red Train Tours and Old Town Trolleys. If you’re in St. Augustine for more than a day, they’re the best way to see the sights. Each service offers a multi-day pass, which is usually good for about three days. Unfortunately, they don’t have a less expensive one-day price. I’ve only used one, Old Town Trolleys. Partly because they have an NRHP on site, the Old St. Johns County Jail Museum. They also have some other historic buildings that they moved there and preserve, and a history museum. So it’s a good package deal. Old Town Trolleys also does tours in other historic cities, like Key West and Boston and Savannah. If you visit those places, you’ll have some idea of the kind of the tour experience you’ll have. (see Google map)

Further down is where A1A joins San Marco Avenue. Davenport Park is on the corner, and features a carousel built in 1927 that’s still running. See, everywhere you turn, history.

I’m going to stop here. Next time, we’ll venture into downtown St. Augustine. Prepare yourself for more concentrated history than almost anywhere else in the US. See you on the road!

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