Archive for the ‘National Natural Landmark’ Category

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Down US 19/US 98 from Steinhatchee, you’ll be going through the Nature Coast. There’s not much development in this area, compared to places like Orlando and Miami. Partly it’s because there are several large National Wildlife Refuges and some state forests here. Also there aren’t any beaches. Well, at least not the white sandy beaches that you imagine when you think of Florida. On the west coast, those are found up in the Florida Panhandle and from around Tampa southward. So I doubt there’ll be an explosion of growth here anytime soon. Which is fine by me.

First stop is the subject of one of my early "Where in Florida…" posts, the Putnam Lodge. It’s in Shamrock, which is now only a name on a map. Essentially, it’s in Cross City. (see Google map)

I don’t know of anything historical in Cross City. It is the Dixie County seat, so yeah, there’s a courthouse here. Not impressive, though, ’cause it looks like an aircraft hangar. When returning from the Panhandle, I do look forward to getting to Cross City, though. Because after driving through the forty odd miles of wilderness to Perry, and another forty miles after Perry, I’ve gotten my fix of rurality. Not so bad during the day, but at night, you wouldn’t believe how lonely it is driving along US 98 with no street lights. After this, there’s at least a town every five to ten miles. This is a good section of road to drive if you want to get away from it all without getting awaaaaaaay from it all. When I get to Cross City, I’ll usually grab some food (Hardee’s most of the time), stretch my legs, get some gas if needed, and I’ll feel like I’ll be able to make it back to Ocala.

  • Dixie County Courthouse (214 Northeast CR 351)

East of Cross City is another name on a map, Eugene. According to AGFHA, the school bell for the old Eugene School is here. Supposedly it’s on the grounds of the New Prospect Baptist Church, but I couldn’t find it. There’s what looks like a boarded up well on the property, and the bell could be inside, but that’s just a guess. (see Google map)

  • Old Eugene School Bell (New Prospect Baptist Church now there) (AGFHA)

How old is Old Town, the next city on the way? The first school there was built around 1909, so there’s a clue. There’s some old stuff in it, according to AGFHA. It also has the only NRHP in Dixie County, which is also the only Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserve that’s inland. It’s the City of Hawkinsville, which was sunk in the Suwannee River decades ago. You can see the spot in the river where it lies from the old railroad bridge, which is now part of the Nature Coast State Trail. It’s a long walk to get there, though. And you can’t see the boat itself, or at least I couldn’t. Maybe if the river level was really low. If you’re a diver, you can see it that way. (see Google map)

It’s barely 4 miles until you get to Fanning Springs, on the banks of the Suwannee River. There used to be a military post here, Fort Fanning. The site has been made into a park, on the north side of US 98 right next to the bridge. Just beyond on the right is Fanning Springs State Park. I use a closeup photo I took when I first visited as my desktop wallpaper. It’s in the photo series above. See what I mean? (see Google map)

Chiefland, the last place I’m covering this post, is about 10 miles south. Just before you get there, you’ll pass the Dakotah Winery. If it’s open, stop in for a wine tasting. They’ve got some unusual ones, like blueberry wine, but also the garden variety. It’s not in an area I’d think of as wine country, but they seem to be doing OK. The wine I tried was good, which I’m sure helps.

Off US 98 is the old Hardeetown Hotel, which is now a private residence. West of Chiefland is what I’d guess is a big draw, Manatee Springs State Park, which is also a National Natural Landmarks. When I worked for a boat manufacturing company back in the 1990s, we had a company picnic here. Any employees who wanted could get a ride on one of our boats on the Suwannee River. That was a pretty cool day. And it’s a pretty nice park. (see Google map)

That’s it this go-round. See you on the road!

Route length: 25 miles

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    Last time we left off in Sneads. Next stop, the Apalachicola River, which is the divider between Central and Eastern time. Immediately followed by Chattahoochee and Gadsden County.

    As you approach, though, look for a turnoff on your left for the West Bank Overlook. The overlook will give an excellent vantage point to see Lake Seminole and the Jim Woodruff Dam, which created the lake.

    After that, get back to US 90 and head east. Go as slow as you can without causing a traffic jam, ’cause you’ll be crossing one of the most impressive bridges in the state, over the Apalachicola River. When you can, drive it in the opposite direction. It’s pretty amazing that way too.

    Once you’re across, take a right just after the Hardee’s. The short windy road will bring you to a park on the river. You can also see the remnants of the original bridge across the river, called the Victory Bridge. It’s fenced, so you can’t get on it. But you can get a sense of what it was like, way back when. Also around here, maybe, is another branch of the Apalachicola Maritime Museum. Maybe because I dunno if it’s been finished yet.

    Back on US 90, get to Main Street and the Florida State Hospital on your left. After parking, you’ll have to walk a bit east to find the one NRHP in town, the U.S. Arsenal-Officers Quarters. Yep, before it was a mental hospital, this was a military establishment. I hope they didn’t build it on an ancient Indian burial ground, else there’ll be all sorts of bad ju-ju here. I didn’t pick up any negative vibes whilst I was strolling the grounds, but I tend to be oblivious to that sort of thing. I’m a big lump of non-psychicness, me. (see Google map)

    From here, you can get to my third favorite state park in the area, Torreya. Unlike Falling Waters and Florida Caverns, though, it’s not near US 90. I covered it in my SR 20 post, so check there for more about why the park is such a treat.

    For a few miles east of Chattahoochee, you’ll be very close to Georgia. When I’m so close to another state, I like to cross the state line, just ’cause. Thought I’d let you know.

    Keep open the eyes, so you don’t miss the Joshua Davis House on your left. There should be a brown Florida Heritage sign that’ll help you find it. The house seems to be in use, maybe as a museum. It was closed when I was there, so I couldn’t say for sure. There used to be an old octagon house along here, but it got destroyed years ago.

    Further along and you’ll arrive in Gretna. Turn left onto Church Street and go a few blocks and you’ll find the town’s NRHP, the old Gretna School. The town’s watertower is behind it, which may help in finding it. The school has been semi-preserved, which is nice to see. (see Google map)

    A detour south on SR 12/SR 65 will get you to Greensboro and the Dezell House. It’s a classic example of an NRHP house, as far as usage goes. Most houses on the NRHP fall into a few categories. That being: private residence, B&B, doctor’s office, lawyer’s office, real estate office, history museum or headquarters of the local historical society. The Dezell House falls in the last category.

    Have you noticed that Gadsden County is spotty with NRHPs? One here, one there, another over there. Well, that’s about to change, ’cause it’s time to check out the city that shade tobacco and Coca-Cola built. The county seat of Gadsden county, Quincy.

    But first, a couple of outlyers. Go north on SR 267, then right on CR 272 (a/k/a Old Philadelphia Presbyterian Church Road). You’ll reach the Old Philadelphia Presbyterian Church, which has a historical marker on the road. There’s also a cemetery on the property, but it’s not specifically listed on the NRHP. It’s one of those wooden block churches, like Pisgah United Methodist. (see Google map)

    Back to Quincy and down CR 274. When you get to Krausland Road, go south on it. It’s a dirt road that ends in the parking lot for Imperial Nurseries. It’s also the site of the Willoughby Gregory House, which doesn’t look like it’s being used. It’s in so-so shape, though. (see Google map)

    Return to US 90. Eastward and you’ll be in the Quincy Historic District, which encompasses downtown Quincy and several blocks surrounding it. I remember when I first got to Quincy early on a November morning. The county courthouse is a treasure, rather like the one in Citrus County. The old Marion County courthouse was that style, but it got torn down decades ago.

    I said this was the city that shade tobacco and Coca-Cola built, and so it is. I don’t know much about the former, but the Coke part I do. When the Coca-Cola company initially went public around the late 1800s, a local banker learned about it. He suggested that customers buy shares. Imagine if you’d bought into Microsoft or The Walt Disney Company when they first started. That’s what happened to those customers. Millionaires and then some. They built grand homes, as one is wont to do. Fortunately, most of the old buildings were preserved and are part of the historic district. For me, in the fall, it’s one of the nicest places to walk around. Look for the Coca-Cola sign painted on the side of one of the buildings near the courthouse. (see Google map)

    There’s just a little more of Gadsden to see. East on US 90 and in about 15 miles you’ll be on the edge of Tallahassee. But perhaps the quaintest part can be found by taking SR 12.

    First you’ll pass the old Nicholson Farmhouse. It was run as a restaurant for years, but unfortunately closed in 2006. It’s easy to miss, look for the historic marker on the road.

    Not long after that, you’ll be in Havana. And you’ve not even been on a boat.

    This is Florida, though, so it’s pronounced Hay-vana. Y’all. It’s become an antiquers hangout, like Micanopy and Mount Dora. Downtown would make a nice little historic district. But there’s only one NRHP in town. Of course. It’s the Planter’s Exchange, Inc., a former tobacco warehouse that’s now home to a large antique store. If it keeps a place like this from the wrecking ball, I’m happy. (see Google map)

    Wow, that’s US 90 done, from Pensacola to Jacksonville. OK, I’ve not done Jacksonville yet. But still, 90 percent done. Yeah, me. ‘Til next post, see you on the road!

    Route length: 95 miles (including Torreya), 55 miles (not including Torreya)

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    Last time I said that Marianna has the best historic district in the state. I’ll expand that. It’s the best historic district I’ve seen anywhere.

    Big claim, I know. Let me qualify. It’s not the biggest, or has the oldest buildings. What it is, is the best for knowing what you’re seeing. You can get a walking tour map at the Chamber of Commerce, in the Joseph W. Russ Jr. House. Or get it mailed to you ahead of time, because it’s closed on weekends. After all, doesn’t everyone go on roadtrips on weekdays? Yeah, my one pet peeve. Anyway, the 20+ stops on the walking tour each have numbered signs in front. So you know exactly where you are, what you’re seeing, and how to get to the next place. I’ve seen nearly every historic district in the state, and a few outside, and no other one is like this one. Heck, even Savannah’s!

    The Russ House is a standout, but the place I like the best is the St. Luke Baptist Church. It’s like something out of a horror movie; all brick and gothic and covered in ivy. I’ve thought about getting business cards for a while, and whenever I do, a photo of this church will be on them. I just love this church. (see Google map)

    North of town is the second of my favorite weird state parks, Florida Caverns. Due to Florida’s karst foundation, the state is riddled with sinkholes and underground caves. Most of the caves are underwater, since Florida has such a low elevation. But in the Panhandle, there are a few above ground. One system is in Florida Caverns. Like a number of the state parks, it was built by WPA workers. The caves were expanded to allow tourists to go through. It’s like Carlsbad Caverns (which I visited when I was very young), but much smaller. Great to visit in the summer, since the caves stay cool all year round. There’s also a golf course attached to the park. (see Google map)

    Up the road and over some is the town of Greenwood. There are three NRHPs in town, fairly close together. I think there are some other old houses and such in the area, but I didn’t want to take the time to look around. You, however, may. You can find out more about the town here. (see Google map)

    If you’re a fan of bizarre place names like me, you’ll have to detour over to Two Egg. I think there used to be a general store that sold souvenirs, but I couldn’t find it. There’s not much to see, just a few houses and the signs at the town limits. It was worth it to me just to get photos of one of the signs. Also a pretty drive, so getting there is pleasant.

    Nearby is the town of Cypress, which has an NRHP, the Robert Lee Norton House. It’s the only one in Jackson County (non-restricted) I’ve not gotten pictures of. Because I can’t find the dang place. I’ve driven up and down the entire length of the street it’s supposedly on, but couldn’t find any sign of it. Thanks to Florida Heritage, I have a black-and-white shot of it, so there’s no way I could have missed it. Either the address is wrong, or the house has been moved or torn down. I thought I might have found it in Sneads. But after comparing photos, I realized it was only a superficial resemblance. I can’t find any information about the house, either, so I may never know what happened to it. If anyone else does, drop me a line, will ya?

    Speaking of Sneads, there’s a state park only a few miles north, Three Rivers. It’s not one of the strange ones, but it is a nice one. No one there when I visited, but maybe on the weekends is different. It’s on Lake Seminole, a big lake created by damming the Apalachicola River, so I’d think it would be popular with boaters. (see Google map)

    Next post we’ll be going through Gadsden County. But there’ll be a stopover just before we get there. See you on the road!

    Route length: 45 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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    Finally, the last part of underdeveloped US 1/A1A.

    We left off at Savannas Preserve State Park. Go down South Indian River Drive. At some point it changes to Northeast Indian River Drive, and you’re in Jensen Beach. Look for the Northeast Dixie Highway turnoff on the right. Go down that for half a mile and you’ll see a relic of Florida tourism gone by, the Stuart Welcome Arch.

    When this part of Dixie Highway was well-used, visitors from the north would flock down in their jalopies at breakneck speed. I think they may have exceeded 30 mph! When they got this far, they would see ‘Stuart’ emblazoned on the Arch as they passed through. On their way home, they would see ‘Jensen’. The Arch has been renovated over the years, and the names are still on each side. There’s an abandoned Twistee Treat right next to it. Perfect place to park and walk around to get the whole over-Arching experience.

    Back over on Indian River Drive is Indian Riverside Park, which is part entertainment complex. There are a couple of museums, a long pier out into the Lagoon, and an old house on a Indian Mound. I always like when a lot of cool stuff is close together like this.

    There’s another museum further down the road. Beyond that a ways is the last surviving House of Refuge in the state. There were a series of such houses along the east coast to help shipwrecked sailors. One of the shipwrecks is right off the coast from here, the Georges Valentine. This is also were you’ll start to see the rocky stretch of the east coast, which goes down to Jupiter. I was there on a stormy day, and I can imagine how desolate this area must have been when the Refuge was first built. It reminds me of some parts of California along the Pacific. Without the seals, though.

    I included the Bay Tree Lodge, but you’ll have to park on the roadside if you want to get a closer look. An OK-looking building, but maybe more effort than it’s worth to see it. (see Google map)

    Cross the US 1 bridge to get to the historic buildings in Stuart. Visit the Stuart Heritage Museum if you want to learn more about the area’s history. Some historic sites are close by as well. To see the sites closer to US 1, I suggest parking at Shepard Park. I’m all about the free parking.

    If you want to visit St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park, there’s no easy public access. You can either park and walk for a few miles, or take a boat. (see Google map)

    Head south and you can visit a couple more bits of Stuart history. Then down Dixie Highway will get you to Seabranch Preserve State Park. Look sharp, there’s only a parking lot near the VFW with a small picnic area. Go beyond that if you’re into nature hikes through the sand and scrub.

    To the east is St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park. It’s accessible by boat, or a very long walk. Should you have a kayak, the best access point is at the end of Cove Road. There’s a big dock on the west side of the park that you can probably see from there. If you want to take the land route, head south from Seabranch until you get to Southeast Bridge Road and take a left. When you reach Beach Road, go north by the fancy homes sheltered by palm trees and seagrape bushes. You may go by Beach Road 2, a Florida’s 100 building, since it’s on North Beach Road. It does look pretty cool, but I don’t think you can see it from the street. From what I’ve turned up, the owners prefer it that way, so don’t look hard. At the end is the parking area for the north end of the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, which costs 5 bucks to use. From there, it’s 3 miles up the beach through the refuge to get to the state park. (see Google map)

    Off US 1 further down is Hobe Sound, and the old Olympia School. It was in sad shape when I was there, but it’s been recently renovated, which I’m always happy to find out.

    Further down and A1A and US 1 merge and stay so into Palm Beach County. The next concentration of civilization is miles down, because you’re going through federal and state preserved land until you get to Jupiter. Nothing but sand dunes covered in palmettos and grass. It’s hard to believe that West Palm Beach is so close.

    You’ll go through more of the National Wildlife Refuge first, and there’s a visitor center on the east side of the road. They didn’t know about Reed Wilderness Seashore Sanctuary, the NNL that’s part of the refuge. Surprising. (see Google map)

    Right next to the refuge is Jonathan Dickinson State Park, which contains a hodge-podge of history. The man the park was named for was a Quaker who shipwrecked here in the 17th century. There was a military camp here during World War II, and an eccentric trapper lived on the Loxahatchee River. It’s a big park, with an observation tower that gives you a spectacular view of the area. You can see the Atlanticto the east, and the scrub and trees going on and on in all other directions. Further in is a visitor center, and nearby is a picnic area which is the jump-off point for a boat tour of the Loxahatchee. It goes to the trapper’s former home. Be advised that there are only about 4 tours a day, and they’re dependent on times. Too low and they won’t go. I’ve not managed to get there at the right time yet. I want to take the tour, but definitely need to plan ahead for it when I next get down there.

    After leaving the park environs, you’ll soon be in Jupiter. The city, not the planet. It’s in Palm Beach County, and is the last bit of calm before you enter the maelstrom that is South Florida. Any time I’m going north from Miami, it’s where I feel like I’ve finally escaped from Miami. ‘Cause it’s all urban, urban, urban from North Palm Beach to Homestead. Yeah, since I left, I do not miss it down there.

    OK, upbeat. I’ve fallen in serious like of Jupiter. On the north side of town is an old lighthouse. Blowing Rocks Preserve is not too far away, on Jupiter Island. I keep getting there at the wrong time. I look forward to seeing it, since it’s like the area near the House of Refuge. But with plants growing along the shore, so it’s not so barren. (see Google map)

    Cross the bridge on US 1, and the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum is on the right. It may be permanently closed, though, since when I was last there the grounds looked ill-maintained. There’s a nice park with an old home on a mound in it. It also has the best Italian restaurant in the world.

    Well, maybe I exaggerate. But Casa Mia (on Indiantown Road, west of US 1) has some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had. I stumbled on it when I stayed nearby during the first time I was in Jupiter. When I was there five months later, it was still there and as great as before. I found out later that the father of one of the owners runs a very popular restaurant in London. I like to do Italian for my birthday in November. I’m not saying I’ll go every year; it’s over a three hour drive from Ocala. But maybe I will. Yep, it’s that good. And I’m not the only one who thinks so(see Google map)

    Actually, the insanity doesn’t start until a few miles down. So you can get to Juno Beach without too much fuss and see the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. It’s right on US 1 in Loggerhead Park, so it’s a breeze to find. (see Google map)

    That’s it for the less utilized parts of A1A and US 1. Future posts about the routes will be about the urbanity of them all. See you on the road!

    Route length: 120 miles

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