Archive for the ‘National Historic Landmark’ Category

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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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We’re heading into the state capitol. Put on your hiking boots, ’cause you’re gonna be feeling like the von Trapps before you’re done.

We have to cover the inner outskirts. East first. Lincoln High School, founded as an all-black school right after the Civil War. It’s been a pending NRHP for quite a while now. South is the Winterle House, which you can kind of see from the road. (see Google map)

Back east yet further in is the Goodwood Plantation. Very well maintained, it is. Close by it the Los Robles neighborhood, with three NRHPs. Then west to the Woman’s Working Band House, a new NRHP. It’s… I don’t know what to make of it, really. (see Google map)

Further west is an old black cemetery, started in the early 1900s when the city no longer allowed blacks to be buried in the main cemetery. Then there’s Lichgate on High Road. It must have been a residence with a good amount of property. Now it’s a park, with a huge oak that must be at least 200 years old. (see Google map)

After that, you can visit the city’s NHL, Mission San Luis. It’s the site of an old Spanish mission, part of a string that stretched from St. Augustine to Pensacola. Unfortunately it was closed when I was there, so I’ll have to get back to see inside.

Oh, there’s an excuse to visit Tallahassee again. Mmm, Bradley’s Country Store. (see Google map)

Now it’s time to visit the pride of Tallahassee. Well, one of the prides of Tallahassee. Is the state government one of them? Anyway, what I’m talking about is Florida State University.

I’m sure there are a number of historic buildings on campus. Yet no part of FSU is a historic district. FAMU has one. Heck, UF has one. But not FSU.

The FSU historic sites I do know are listed below, along with some that are close by. (see Google map)

I mentioned FAMU, and since it’s close, that’s next. You can’t drive onto campus easily, so you’ll have to park nearby to check out the historic district part. (see Google map)

Over to the southeast. A good place to stop at is the old Governor Martin House. It’s now the home of the B. Calvin Jones Center for Archaeology, part of the state’s Bureau of Archaeological Research. Helpful folks there can get you historical info about the area.

Cascades Park was pretty torn up when last I was there, not much more than a pile of dirt. I don’t know how long before it’s pretty again. (see Google map)

North side of town now. Next door to each other are the old Grove Plantation and the Governor’s Mansion, both NRHPs. I think there are tours of the mansion, but you’d have to make arrangements before you get there. It’s not like you can just walk in. (see Google map)

After that, go south. Everything else is in and around downtown Tallahassee. Park in three or four strategic spots and you can walk to all of them easily. Well, there are some steep hills that take some effort to climb. But that’s another benefit, since you’re exercising your body and your mind while you’re touring.

A unique feature is the linear park system. There are long strips of grass and trees that run east-west through the heart of the city. The Park Avenue Historic District contains one. The closest thing I’ve seen to them are the parks scattered around downtown Savannah. But they’re square, not long and rectangular.

A terrific place to get far more information than I’m providing here is in the old Capitol Building. You can also appreciate the interior design, and if it’s hot outside, the air conditioning. Should you want more general information, you can go to the big building behind it. The new Capitol Building, I think, or a courthouse. One of the five state visitor centers is inside. It’s an important government building, though, so you’ll have to go through security. Not a big deal; it’s quick and the security people were quite nice. (see Google map)

As usual, there’s bunches more places I could have mentioned. You’ll see it as you wander about. Use the resources I’ve mentioned, either when you get there or beforehand. I think you’ll have a swell time rambling through our capitol city. Keep hydrated, and see you on the road!

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I’ll be doing more posts about US 98, but here ends the Pacific Coast Highway-ness of it all. By the time you reach Panacea, you’ll have caught your last glimpse of the Gulf from US 98. After this, you’ll have to veer far off this main drag to see it again. I’ll be directing you to some of those veerages along the way.

We last left off in Carrabelle. Heading east from downtown, it won’t be long before civilization fades away and you’re back to forest (Tate’s Hell and Apalachicola National) and water. You’re also in the middle of the holiest part of the state.

As far as place names go, that is. Previously you went through Port St. Joe, built near the abandoned town of St. Joseph. There’s St. Joseph Peninsula and St. George Island and St. Vincent Island. Ahead are St. Teresa and St. Marks. Ever since I realized this, I’ve wondered about the circumstances that led to so many towns and geographical features here being named for saints. I’ve not found anything on the subject at all, oddly. I can’t have been the only one who noticed, can I?

About 10 miles from Carrabelle you’ll have to make a choice. North on US 319 or stay on US 98? I’ll cover both, but for now we’ll continue on US 98.

Turn right when you get to Alligator Drive and follow the signs to Bald Point State Park when you see them. It’s a bit of jaunt, but you’ll get there. Due to its location, it’s another of the less used parks. Doesn’t even have a ranger station. But it’s worth a look-see, since it has great views of the Gulf, nature trails through the scrub where you’re likely to see all sorts of wild creatures, and splendidly under-utilized beaches.

Back on US 98, and head for Panacea. But before you get there, you’ll cross one of the longer bridges in the state, the Ochlockonee Bay Bridge. It crosses the mouth of the Ochlockonee Bay, which is the end point for the Ochlockonee River. If you’re a bridge aficionado, consider stopping at each end so you can appreciate it more thoroughly. You can get better access to the underside from the south end, though. (see Google map)

You’ll be going through a significant portion of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, though you wouldn’t think so. It’s not Miami Beach, but it’s far from uninhabited. It reminds me of segments of SR 40 through the Ocala National. Little nuggets of humanity surrounded by thousands of acres of non-humanity.

Soon you’ll encounter US 319 re-merging with US 98. Take a left onto it, and in a while you’ll be in another of my favorite oddly named Florida towns, Sopchoppy. I don’t know the etymology, but I think it may be a corrupted Indian name. A lot of places in Florida are.

Two stops here. First in old downtown are some still standing commercial buildings from back in the day. You know they’re old, since they’re covered in ivy. Yeah, not a big draw, but they’re listed in AGFHA, so I’m including them. The other stop is a two-fer, both NRHPs. They’re the old Sopchoppy School and the old Sopchoppy High School Gymnasium across the street. I like the gym more, it’s very WPA. There was a railcar next to it the first time I visited, but it was gone when I returned a few years later. Maybe it’ll be back when you visit.

West of here is a bridge over the Sopchoppy River, but I’ve not seen it, so I don’t know if it’s worth the detour. Me, I’d head south on US 319. There’s bridge over the Ochlockonee River; nowhere as big as the one over the bay. But before you get there, you’ll find the entrance to the Ochlockonee River State Park. Like Bald Point, it doesn’t seem well-visited, though it does have a ranger. I think it’s popular for canoeing, and you can wander around in the woods at your leisure.

It’s only about 7 miles to the southern merge with US 98. The main reason I picked the other option was it’s the only way to get to Bald Point. You could always go there and backtrack and go to Sopchoppy from the south. Or do it in two trips, depending on how much time you want to spend at each spot. (see Google map)

Return whichever way you like to the northern US 319/US 98 merge and head north. There’s another split, and this is where the rest of the trip gets wiggedy-wiggedy-whack. All the interesting stuff is well north or well south of US 98.

North on US 319 and you’ll reach the Wakulla County seat, Crawfordville. You should see one of the brown Florida Heritage signs, which are your friends when you’re looking for the historical sights. On the corner of High Drive, you’ll see the new county courthouse. Take a left here and go about a block. On your left is the old Wakulla County Courthouse. To me, it looks like an old-fashioned one-room schoolhouse writ large. Home to the local historical society, if memory serves, which would be why it’s in such excellent condition. After this, you can check out the Crawfordville Elementary School, which looks to be still in use. If it ain’t broke, why build a new one? (see Google map)

  • Wakulla County Courthouse (3056 Crawfordville Highway)
  • Old Wakulla County Courthouse (Church Street) (NRHP)
  • Crawfordville Elementary School (south of Arran Rd (SR 386) at Towles Rd) (AGFHA)

From here, it’s some to-and-fro-ing to get to the next spot, but it’s a doozie. Wakulla Springs State Park, in the Wakulla State Forest.

Inhabited for centuries by various native tribes, the modern history starts when some rich dude building a resort here. It eventually got donated to the state and became a state park. Later it was designated a National Natural Landmark, probably for the springs. It’s one of the fanciest places to stay in the state park system, but there are occasional deals which make it a real bargain. There are boat tours, and you can see some of the places where Creature from the Black Lagoon and Tarzan the Ape Man filmed. Visit sometime so you can live like a king for a night or two on a squire’s budget. (see Google map)

North of here is another state park that’s popular with the reenactment set, Natural Bridge. Actually, considering how far north it is, I thought about including it when I get into Tallahassee. Though it’s kind of far from there, so either way you’re in for a drive. (see Google map)

Next you should get to the intersection of US 98 and SR 363. Head south on SR 363 and you’ll arrive in St. Marks, an old fishing community. There’s a few like it strewn along this part of the coast.

At the end of SR 363, turn right at Riverside Drive. You’ll pass by the site of Posey’s Oyster Bar, which had been a fixture here for decades. Sadly, hurricane damage in recent years proved too severe, so it got torn down.

A bit further is a small parking area, where you can leave your car and walk or bicycle up the St. Marks Trail. You’re at the southern end, the northern end is 20 miles away in Tallahassee.

A bit further west is the San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park. There was an old fort here, since this was a strategic location at the junction of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers. The fort is gone, but there are remnants of some of the structures near where it used to be. Must have been important, since the place is a National Historic Landmark. (see Google map)

Return to US 98 and head east. Shortly you’ll make a right at Lighthouse Road and be going south again. You’ll soon arrive at one of the proper entrances to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. If you’re lucky, it’ll be one of the free entry days. Check online to see when those are, so you can save yourself a buck or five.

A little further on is a visitor center. After that, it’s a long and gently meandering drive. Well, about 5 or 6 miles. It just seems longer because it’s a 30 mph speed limit. You’ll go through what a wildlife refuge (in Florida, anyway) should look like. Large expanses of scrub and marsh, big stands of trees and lagoonlets. And at the end of the road, the Gulf and the St. Marks Light. It’s one of the non-climbable ones, unfortunately, as the view from the top must be amazing. Still, the ground level panorama ain’t too shabby. (see Google map)

From the lighthouse, it’s ten miles back to US 98. Next post, the long and lonely stretch. See you on the road!

Route length: 125 miles (if you go past Bald Point State Park, cross bridge, then go to Sopchoppy)

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We last left off at the Sugarloaf Key Bat Tower. Now we’ll continue on to Key West. You’ll go by the main part of the Naval Air Station first. In a bit, you’ll reach the A1A/US 1 split. Key West is the only place in the Keys where A1A and US 1 aren’t one and the same. For the purposes of this itinerary, veer left and continue on south A1A, a/k/a Roosevelt Boulevard. Speed limit in the city is 35 mph. But why would you want to go any faster?

Considering how old Key West is, and how small, I expected every inch of the place to be developed to a fair-thee-well. But surprisingly, there are green patches here and there. You’ll pass one going by the airport on your right. Roosevelt Boulevard hugs the edge of Key West, so you’ll see plenty of ocean on the left.

The first historic site along here is the old east Martello Tower, which is now a museum. Past here, Roosevelt Boulevard ends and becomes Bertha Street. Take a left at Atlantic Boulevard and park at the Harvey Rest Beach Park. You’re on the fringes of the historic district, which covers most of the west half of Key West. From here, take a stroll down the White Street Pier and look back the way you came. Key West doesn’t have a skyline, per se, but I’d say what’s in front of you rivals anything you’d see in a metropolitan megalopolis. Walk back on shore and you can see the old west Martello Tower, which is now a garden club. There are two new NRHPs in town. One is right here also, the old African Cemetery.

If you’re willing to walk a mile, you can get to the southernmost point in the United States. On the way you’ll pass by the Casa Marina Hotel, which dates back to the 1920s. The southernmost point, by the way, really isn’t the southernmost point. The actual point is on the naval base past the fence. This is the southernmost point accessible to the general public. I think they put it up to keep people from trying to get on the base. Seems to have worked, as most folks make a beeline to the buoy. (see Google map)

One more stop, then a recommendation on how to see the rest of Key West. That stop, Fort Zachary Taylor, both a state park and an NHL. It’s butt-up against the Naval Station Annex. It’s kind of funky seeing a modern facility like that next to such a historic old structure like the fort. It’s not as big as most of the other forts in the state. I think it’s not the entire original fort. Still, it’s an impressive sight. The fort’s also near the major seaport in town, so you sometimes get the added visual dichotomy of a modern cruise ship sailing by the fort.

So, the rest of the list will take you through most of the historic district. It’s about a 4 mile course, but you could walk down every street and see something interesting. Or bicycle it.

That’s the suggestion. I’ve thought it would have helped in my travels if I’d brought a bike along with me. Would’ve made the historic districts easier. Plus not having to worry so much about where to park. I drive a station wagon, which has plenty of room for bike if I put the back seats down. I could even sleep in it. Not spent a full night in it, but have taken extended naps. ‘Tis very comfy.

Anyway, biking. I thought Key West would be great to see by bike. I checked before I went, and saw there were a few rental places. So when I got there, after visiting the fort, I parked behind the courthouse and started walking. I soon found one of the rental places. I got one for 11 dollars. That’s cheaper than normal, but it was after noon, so I think I got a partial day usage discount. I hadn’t been on a bicycle for years, but after riding around the rental lot a couple of times, I was fine.

Better than fine. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to ride a bicycle. A lock and chain are included in the rental, so as long as you lock up wherever you stop, you’ll be OK. Riding around was a workout, that’s for sure, but I was able to gad about town without any problem. Another advantage of the low speed limit for automobiles. In fact, I’m surprised the locals even have cars.

Biking is the best way to see Key West, if you’re in decent shape. There’s so much to see, that you’re going to make lots of stops anyway, so you won’t be going long distances and wearing yourself out. If you have the wherewithal, and a large enough vehicle, think about buying your own bicycle. Don’t use it only when you travel, bike around your neighborhood or city.

When you’re feeling hungry, I found Blue Heaven to be tasty, casual and friendly. Which is the whole vibe in Key West. I’d be tempted to move there, if it weren’t so far away from the rest of the United States, much less Florida.

The list below are the special spots that I like. NRHPs and AGFHAs and museums and such. But there’s more than this. If something catches your eye whilst you’re zipping around, hey, it’s your vacation. Go where you will is the whole of the law. (see Google map) (see Google map)

There’s one last place to visit, if you can afford it. I can’t yet, but hope too. Though even when I can afford it, I’m not sure whether it’s worth it. I can think of better ways to spend 165 dollars. That’s the cost of the roundtrip ferry ride to and from Fort Jefferson, in the Dry Tortugas. By plane it’s 225 dollars. The fort is 70 miles out from Key West, so the trip each way must be at least an hour, and probably closer to two. There’s a 40 minute tour of the fort, and probably some wandering time included. So half a day gone, to visit one place. If I win the lottery, maybe I’ll go. You can decide whether the fort is worth the time and dinero. (see Google map)

That, boys and girls, is some of the high points of the Florida Keys. When you visit, I don’t doubt you’ll find more that are special for you. As it should be. Enjoy, and see you on the road.

Route length: 105 miles (and another 140 if you go to Fort Jefferson)

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We left off in Fellsmere last time. Back east and further down US 1, you’ll need to cross over the CR 510 bridge.Soon after you’ll hit A1A. Go south until you reach Old Winter Beach Road and take a right. At the end is the start of the old Jungle Trail. Not much jungle there now, but picture it decades ago when citrus trucks still plied the road. Near the north end is part of the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. It’s the definitive article, you might say, being the very first National Wildlife Refuge. Pelican Island itself is only accessible by boat, and I’m not even sure you’re allowed on there. Walk around this area, including the boardwalk with a plank inscribed for each National Wildlife Refuge. Over a century of history in one short stroll, with a nice view at the observation platform at the end. (see Google map)

When you reach A1A again, go north and you’ll find Sebastian Inlet State Park. There’s a museum outside the park, and another one inside. Excellent place to see the Intracoastal and the Atlantic. You’ll see why this is a perfect example of why A1A is such a great road. If you like to drive without a destination in mind, this is your road. The Schaub Residence (one of the 100 coolest buildings in Florida, according to some) is along here too. But it’s in a gated community, so you’re not likely to be able to see it. But maybe you know people. (see Google map)

It’s a very long way north before you can get back on the mainland, about 25 miles. But we’re heading the other way, so cross back on CR 510 until you’re at US 1 again. Ten miles south, and you’ll find yourself in the county seat, Vero Beach, which I’ll cover in the next post. See you on the road!

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