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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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    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)