Archive for the ‘Florida Panhandle’ Category

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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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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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We now come to my least favorite part of the Panhandle, Crestview. I mean, it’s a thriving town, due to state politicians from the area ensuring there were big military bases in the area. Happy that people have jobs and a growing economy and all that. But the place has none of the charm that you find anywhere else in the Panhandle. The courthouse isn’t on US 90, though close. And it’s ugly. The only part that looks older than 20 years is the downtown historic district. Yet that doesn’t help much, since it’s only a few blocks long and fairly blah. Downtown Wildwood is more interesting, and that’s saying something.

So scope out the historic district, and maybe the old depot on the edge that’s closed now. If you’re hungry, you can kill two birds by going to the KFC on SR 85 and visiting the Lundy monument across from it. ‘Cause that’s about all the scenicness the town has to offer. If there’s anything else, I’d love to know about it. (see Google map)

From here, you can continue on US 90 east, or take a radical detour to Alabama, or near enough. It’s going to take at least an hour out of your trip, but I’d include it. Maybe not the first time you’re in this neck of the woods, but some time. You see, you’re only 30 miles from the highest natural point in Florida. All 345 feet of it. Britton Hill.

It’s less than a mile from the Alabama, and the town of Florala. The road to get to Britton Hill (CR 285) is not as well maintained as I’d expect for one leading to such a significant state landmark. Even the signage to get there isn’t that great. A small park has been built on the site, with basic facilities. It’s across from a huge open field, so you can see the landscape rolling away from you. The drive to and from here is pretty and relaxing too, what with the gentle up-and-down of the road and the almost total lack of traffic. This is what I’m talking about when I tell folks how great the Panhandle is, Crestview notwithstanding. (see Google map)

Getting to US 90 again from here, just take US 331 south. Should you be going east on US 90 from Crestview instead, you’ve got another 30 miles stretch of forest to go through. Now, though, the trees are closer and the road curves more. Not radically, just enough so you’re not subject to highway hypnosis. The next town is as opposite as you can get from Crestview. Probably why it’s my favorite town in the Panhandle. That and the name. DeFuniak Springs.

It was named after Frederick R. De Funiak, a VP for the L&N Railroad. For a while it was a social center, home to a southern branch of the Chautauqua. The town was built around Lake DeFuniak. Circle Drive goes around the lake, but only three buildings are on the inner side. They are the First Presbyterian Church, the Walton-DeFuniak Library, and the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood. All the others are on the outside, so it’s like the lake is surrounded by a long circular park. Lake DeFuniak itself is the only round spring-fed lake in the Western Hemisphere. The only other lake like it is near Zurich.

Unlike Crestview, major efforts have been made to preserve DeFuniak Springs’ past. Most of the houses around the lake are historic, the downtown has lots of historic buildings. Unfortunately, this hasn’t helped out their economy as much as it should. I wouldn’t want it to turn into Crestview, but it would be nice if they got more tourism so they’d have more income to help in their preservation efforts. Please visit, walk around the lake and downtown, go to the winery south of town, stay the night, and tell your friends. It’s also a great place to use as a base to explore the area. (see Google map)

Twelve miles to the east of DeFuniak Springs is the subject of my very first post on this blog, Ponce de Leon Springs State Park. That post, and these pictures, say it all. (see Google map)

You’ll be coming to the Choctawhatchee River soon. If you want to get a different perspective, and a better look at the river, take the turnoff on your right (Boat Ramp Road) just after crossing the bridge. It ends in an open area at the river. You can see the underside of the bridge, and see the old railroad bridge next to it up close and personal. There aren’t any tables, but if it’s sunny and you have a blanket and some food, it wouldn’t be a bad place for a picnic.

Time for one more detour almost to Alabama, up CR 179. This one is only 13 miles, though, and the road is fairly level the whole way. It’s another one I’m proud of, since it was hard to find. It happens to be the only NRHP in Holmes County, the Keith Cabin. I tried finding it the first time I was in the area in 2008, but failed. I thought I’d passed it, but after I got home and did more research, I realized I hadn’t gone far enough. I didn’t get back to the area for over 2 and a half years, but when I did, I found it. Made of wood and over a century, yet it looks brand new. Someone, or someones, put a lot of love into it being in that great of condition. (see Google map)

Last is Bonifay. It’s the county seat for Holmes County, but I just passed through until I found there were a few historic bits. Nothing on the NRHP, but there is stuff that’s eligible. I rather like the old houses. (see Google map)

  • Residence (105 Waukasha Street) (AGFHA)
  • Commercial Buildings (Pennsylvania Avenue and Waukasha Street) (AGFHA)
  • Holmes County Courthouse (201 North Oklahoma Street)
  • Old Holmes County Jail (North Oklahoma St and Nebraska Ave)
  • Residence (209 Kansas St. East) (AGFHA)
  • Residence (411 Tracey St. North) (AGFHA)
  • Residence (803 Waukasha Street) (AGFHA)

Nearly done with US 90. In a few weeks I’ll knock out the last bit, between Bonifay and Tallahassee. Oh, except for Jacksonville, but I’m putting that off for a while. Sorry, just not a big fan of that city. Anyway, that’s it for now. See you on the road!

Route length: 85 miles

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We return to the Pensacola vicinity to explore the other major road in and out of town (not including the interstate), US 90. I’ve covered the stretch east of Tallahassee. Now it’s time to cover the west half.

I’ve mentioned before what a pleasant drive most of I-10 is. This is especially true of this section, even zooming through. There are no major cities between Pensacola and Tallahassee. Since the speed limit is 70 mph, that means you can go from one to the other in three hours or less. Should you want to get to any of the county seats along the way, they’re all within about 6 miles of the interstate. So start in Pensacola, or Tallahassee, or anywhere in-between; it’s all easily accessible.

Should you eschew the interstate, I would recommend one stop along it that you might like to check out. It’s the longest entrance to a rest stop in the state. If you’re going west, that is. On the east side of the Apalachicola River is a rest stop on the south side of the interstate. Going west, you have to take an off-ramp and cross a bridge over the interstate to get to it. The medians around here are wide, a quarter of a mile or more. Honestly, you’ll think you’re never going to reach the end.

Once you get there, though, you’ll find a larger rest area than others along the way. It’s probably because it serves eastbound and westbound traffic. Picnic tables, a walking path, and large bathrooms. There may be showers, but I can’t remember for sure. Unfortunately, you can’t see the Apalachicola River from the rest stop, nor get close to it.

Which is another reason to visit the rest stop, since you’ll cross the big bridge that crosses the river. All the bridges that cross the river are impressive, and I’ve seen everyone, so believe you me.

Enough about the interstate; we’re doing US 90. Speed limits in the urban areas are 35-45, but between they’re 55-65. Just the driving between Pensacola and Tallahassee will take you about 4 hours.

We’ll begin in Milton, which though in the next county over, is a suburb of Pensacola. The first spot is on the western fringes of Milton, the Arcadia Sawmill and Arcadia Cotton Mill. This was another one of those that had vague directions. However, some research led me to discover the site was now part of a historic preservation park thing. There are informational displays, and a long boardwalk that takes you through the adjacent semi-swampy areas.

From here you can go next to Bagdad or Milton. I suggest the former, as you’ll be doing less backtracking.

Bagdad is only a couple miles south of Milton. Most of it is a historic district. I’ve walked a bit of it, but mostly drove around. Didn’t see any sort of downtown; it’s all residential. Considering how close they are to Milton, I guess they never really needed a commercial area. I couldn’t find any of the slave houses mentioned in AGFHA, but I didn’t look very hard for them. They could be gone; I’d be amazed if any still survived.  I’m sure the local history folks could help to find out. (see Google map)

  • Bagdad Village Historic District (Roughly bounded by Main, Water, & Oak Streets, Cobb & Woodville Roads, Cemetery, Pooley, & School Streets) (NRHP)
  • Benjamin W. Thompson House (4661 Forsyth Street) (AGFHA)
  • Bagdad Post Office (Thompson Street and Forsythe Street) (AGFHA)
  • Bagdad Methodist Church (Forsyth Street and Overman Street) (AGFHA)
  • Emma Fournier Forcade-Donald Youngblood House (Church and Allen Streets) (AGFHA)
  • McNair House (Allen Street) (AGFHA)
  • Slave House (Limit Street) (AGFHA)

In the US 98 posts for this region, I mentioned Yellow River Marsh State Park. You can get to it from Bagdad as well as US 98. It’s remote either way. (see Google map)

Now go over the small bridge that crosses the creek that separates Bagdad and Milton. You’ll initially encounter the old depot, which now houses a railroad museum. Further on you’ll enter the historic district, which encompasses most of downtown Milton and a block or three north and south. The building where the local historical museum was got damaged by fire back in 2009. They had to close it, but it may have reopened by now. I hope so, ’cause I rather like Milton, and would like to learn more about the area from the folks there. Maybe even a story or two about their most famous son.

I mentioned a while back that US 90 goes by the courthouse of every county it passes through. Across from the history museum is one, for Santa Rosa. I didn’t think it was an old one, but I found out it was built in 1921. There was remodeling done 40 years later, which may have reduced how much of the old architecture you could see and thrown me off. But I did like it when I first saw it, even thinking it was modern.

The local historic society has put out a walking tour, which you can find here. (see Google map)

When I was doing Wellborn, I talked about the bit of Florida State Road No. 1 that was still there. Now you can see a much longer section, that’s also on the NRHP. It goes several miles west of Milton, just to the north of US 90. I’ve seen at least one car parked on it, so you can drive it (very slowly) for old time’s sake. Or just park nearby and walk along it. Very much like the old brick Dixie Highway, a part of which is east of Hastings, but a better-kept portion is in Maitland. (see Google map)

Once you get past the end of old Florida State Road 1, you’ll be going through some of the Blackwater River State Forest. That’s about all you’ll see for the next 25 miles. Do look for the turnoff to get to the Blackwater River State Forest. It’s very popular with canoers. Even though out of the way, there were a goodly amount of folks picnicking and such both times I was there.

By the by, the photo at the top of the blog is of the Blackwater River, in the park. In case you needed some additional encouragement to check it out.

Just before you get into Crestview, there’s another turnoff that will take you to the Baker Block Museum. Which is in the town of Baker, and is a living history museum. I’m not sure what the ‘Block’ part is all about. The building isn’t a block long. (see Google map)

We’ll stop here. Next time, my least and most favorite towns in the Panhandle. See you on the road!

Route length: 35 miles

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