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Posts Tagged ‘A Guide to Florida’s Historic Architecture’

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Though finished with West Palm Beach, you may still traverse some of it later, depending on how you leave Palm Beach after being done there.

Yes, it’s Palm Beach, not East Palm Beach. Palm Beach came first, built by Henry Flagler as a resort area. West Palm Beach, across the Intracoastal, was where most of the support staff lived.

There are three bridges that will get you to Palm Beach. Of course we’ll pick the northmost, the Flagler Memorial Bridge. This is also where US 1 and A1A split again. They don’t rejoin for another 45 miles, well into Broward County. I recommend going to the next city on the itinerary, Lake Worth, via A1A. It’s way prettier than US 1, which is a very utilitarian road until you get to the Keys.

Here’s another area that would make an ideal historic district. There are buckets of old well-kept buildings all over the place. There do tend to be restrictions on construction in historic districts, though, so maybe the residents don’t feel like dealing with that.

There’s a real assortment here. NRHPs, AGFHA and Florida 100 listings, even two NHLs. Which coincide with the two clusters of historic buildings. You’ve got the north part, where
Flagler’s former mansion is, as well as most of the fancy hotels. Then there’s the southern part, where’ll you’ll find Mar-A-Lago, now one of the Donald’s homes. The old town hall is here as well, so this was likely the governmental end. You can also get back to the mainland here over the US 98 bridge. (see Google map)

There are two more NRHP delisted sites here, both houses demolished years ago. Both properties are fenced and gated, so you’ll not be able to see what’s left, or what’s been built in their place. A Florida 100 house is around here, but it’s a private residence and likely the owners don’t want people gawking at it, so I haven’t attempted to find or give even approximate directions.

Finished with Palm Beach. ‘Til next time, see you on the road!

Route length: miles

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Now we get to the final major stop on this trip, the DeSoto County seat, Arcadia.

I’d been looking forward to visiting Arcadia for years, ever since I first learned about the place. It sounded so rustic and it was in an area of the state I’d never been, though I’d been near-ish to it a number of times. It’s about 30 miles west of Lake Placid, so every time I went to or from Miami on US 27, I could have easily gotten there. The first time I visited, though, was unintentional. and Mom’s fault.

We were on our last trip south together in February 2010. Didn’t know that at the time, since Mom was feeling good, as she had for most of the year and a half since the diagnosis. Thank you, Hospice. It wasn’t until over a week later that she finally took a turn for the worse and had to go into a Hospice House, where she passed a month later. No, not a clue the end was so close. So we thoroughly enjoyed this trip.

My original plan was to get to Bartow around dawn, drive down to Zolfo Springs, then over to Sebring and up US 27 back home. But we made better progress than expected, and got to Zolfo Springs around 1 PM. I mentioned to Mom how I wanted to see Arcadia, but didn’t want to detour that far from my plans. She asked how close it was and I wasn’t sure. I thought about 30 miles. She said that since we had a good amount of daylight left (it was cold with clear skies all the way), why not go to Arcadia? Thing is, I didn’t have any maps of Arcadia with me, since I’d not expected to go there. But somehow Mom convinced me to deviate from my plans. I mean, I did want to go, and why argue with her, since things were going so swimmingly. So we headed down US 17. Then I saw a road sign saying it was only 20 miles to Arcadia, so we were in better shape than I thought.

There’s only one NRHP in DeSoto County, and it’s Arcadia itself. Much of the downtown and surrounding environs is a historic district. Since I had no map that first trip, I had to go with estimating the boundaries from memory. I knew the courthouse was in the district, so I went there. Also stopped at the nearby Chamber of Commerce, but it was closed. (see Google map)

  • J. L. Jones Building (10-14 North DeSoto Ave) (AGFHA)
  • DeSoto County Courthouse (115 East Oak Street)
  • Courthouse Annex (201 East Oak St) (AGFHA)
  • DeSoto County Chamber of Commerce Building (16 South Volusia Ave.)

Then we went downtown. I parked and walked around, taking pictures all over. Yeah, I left Mom in the car, but that was SOP on all our trips. I never stayed away long, not more than a half hour. She was fine when I got back. Probably the thing I liked best was the Arcade-Koch Building, which looked like something you’d find on Miami Beach. I drove around a bit more and took some pictures of houses I thought were within the district. When I got home and checked, I found out I was right.

I’ve been back to Arcadia twice since, with maps and additional information. Once down US 17 again and passing through, the other from the west on SR 70 and stayed the night. The second time I crossed the Peace River, then went north so I could see the old Peace River Bridge, which is in AGFHA. Also visited the local cemetery, where some WWII British soldiers are buried. Each time I was in Arcadia, I went to downtown and parked where I had the first time. I’d sit a bit and remember the good times Mom and I had, and thanked TPTB for helping her feel good for so long so I could have those extra memories of her and me on the road together. (see Google map)

After Arcadia, we went east on SR 70 to US 27 and north. Really liked this part of the trip, since it was 30 miles of straight open road and little traffic through mostly ranches. We’d be like, “Look at all the moo-cows!” She was 83 and I was almost 50 and that’s right, we said moo-cows. If we felt like acting like 12-year olds, we felt no shame in doing so. If more folks would let themselves be less uptight more often, I think the world would be a better place. It worked pretty well for Mom and me.

If you go west, you can get to Sarasota or Bradenton, but they’re both about an hour’s drive. An hour south will get you to Fort Myers. The nearest large city is Punta Gorda, which is about a half hour away southwest down US 17. About halfway there is the town of Fort Ogden. More than a road sign, since it has an actual post office. In front of which is a historical marker about the town. Go north up the road behind the post office and you’ll find a few reminders of the past. There’s a small cemetery and an old school, for example. There may be more; drive around some if you have a mind to. Won’t take long, since there’s not much of Fort Ogden. (see Google map)

That’s all for this ramble. More maudlin than most of the other posts, but this was the last problem-free trip I took with Mom, so I hope y’all understand. Until next time, then, see you on the road!

Route length: 80 miles

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So, where were we? That’s right, Fort Meade. US 98 splits off to the east here. But maintain your southerly course on US 17 and bye-bye, Polk County. Next you’ll hit Hardee County and Bowling Green. Which may or may not have any relation to the other one. There’s an old hotel on the corner of US 17 and Main Street, which is now home to the Bowling Green Youth Academy. If you park at the Dollar General nearby, you can take a walk around it. Then if you stroll east on Main Street, you’ll pass the most unprepossessing city hall I’ve ever seen, and an old railroad depot about another block on.

Get back in your car and drive east on Main Street until it dead ends into Lake Branch Road. South on that will get you to Paynes Creek Historic State Park. Inside the park is an NRHP, the site of Fort Chokonikla, built during the Seminole Wars. There’s nothing left of it, just signs in the sand marking the spot. There are trails through the park. Very open and scrubby, with some stands of trees. The visitor center was closed when I visited, so there may be information inside about the history of the place. (see Google map)

Back on US 17 and southward. The road is four-laned, with a wide median between the northbound and southbound parts. It’s very well maintained, and more what I’d expect to see near a larger city. I can’t imagine there’s that much traffic going through here, so why it’s like this I haven’t a clue. Makes driving easier, I’ll give it that.

You’ll soon be going through the Hardee County seat, Wauchula. A right at Main Street, and you’ll go through downtown and some nice old commercial buildings. Just past them on the left is the Hardee County Courthouse. I like the solid architecture, but the brownish-grayness does make it a bit bland. The old County Jail is behind, now used for local government office space.

Back the way you came and crossing US 17, the old city hall is on the left. Very nice condition, I must say. All along here is nice, since Wauchula participated in the Main Street Florida program. Whenever I get back down there, I may some aimless driving in town, since I suspect there’s some other neat stuff to see.

A couple blocks south is the only other NRHP in Hardee County, the Albert Carlton Estate. Which is, you know, a house and a few acres of land. It’s not fenced, so you can get close-ish to take pictures of the house. Still, it is private property, so you might want to take telephoto shots from the street.

Which is what I’d have done, if I was alone. But Mom was with me, and she encouraged me to get closer. I was like, "Mom, I could be trespassing and get into trouble." And she was like, "We’ll just tell them why you’re here." No greater love hath a mother for her son than being willing to use her terminal cancer to help her son take pictures of historical places. Yep, she was one in a billion. (see Google map)

Wauchula was one of those towns I wanted to visit due to its mildly odd name. The next town’s name is a bit weirder. Zolfo Springs. It’s believed the name came from Italian immigrants’ pronunciation of "sulphur springs", a feature in the area. Oh, and lest I forget, as you enter town you’ll cross the Peace River, which will be to the west of US 17 the rest of the way south.

You’ll pass by Pioneer Park, which is a heritage park like the one up in Homeland. There’s no admission fee, so it won’t cost you anything but time to go in and look around. If you go far enough in, you’ll reach the banks of the Peace River. If you have a kayak or canoe, you can take a relaxing trip along the river. (see Google map)

  • Pioneer Park (US 17 and 6th Ave. (or SR 64 and Terrier Drive)) (AGFHA)

If you go continue south, the road becomes two-lane and stays that way until you get to Arcadia in about twenty miles. Mostly farmland along the way. So whatever the reasons for US 17 being so expansive, they end in Zolfo Springs.

If you want to see one of the kitschy places that define Florida, though, go east on SR 64. Then south on CR 663 and west on CR 665. Look for the signs for Solomon’s Castle and follow them to the parking lot. A note, though. I couldn’t get to it the first time I visited because the parking lot was flooded. So if there’s been torrential rain recently, you mightn’t be able to get in. Otherwise, park and go witness the glistening home of Howard Solomon, Solomon’s Castle. He’s an artist and sculptor, so you can see his smaller works inside the castle. Which was made from printing plates that were discarded by a local newspaper. There’s a small restaurant there and limited lodging is available. Howard doesn’t do credit cards, so make sure you have the 10 dollars per person admission in cash when you go. And some extra in case you want to get souvenirs. (see Google map)

The most direct way to the next area on the itinerary is down Pine Level Road. The first mile or so is a dirt road, but not pot-holey or anything. You’ll get to SR 70 in about 10 miles. Then follow the map link below to see the remnants of Pine Level itself. Hard to believe this used to be a county seat, since there’s hardly anything left now. You can else check out what’s left of Owens, a small community in the area. (see Google map)

Next post, Arcadia. See you on the road!

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This is a melancholy trip for me, since it was one of the last I took with Mom. We did Bartow to Arcadia, then over to Lake Placid and up US 27. This will be about the first half.

However, we’ll start in Mulberry, which Mom and I didn’t go through. I got there about a year later. The only reason I went was to see the Mulberry Phosphate Museum, since that was a major industry in days of yore. I didn’t go in. Yeah, me and museums. There may be more to see there, but you’ll have to figure if there’s enough enticement to go there, folks. (see Google map)

Take SR 60 east and you’ll run straight into Bartow. It has 1 commercial and 2 residential historic districts, and several NRHP sites. They’re spread out somewhat, so there’s as much driving as walking involved. The county historical society is in the old courthouse, where you can learn more details regarding the area’s past. (see Google map)

Once done with central Bartow, head south on US 17/US 98. Before you get completely out of town, there are a couple more sites of historical interest. First is what’s left of South Florida Military College, which is now a private residence. Then there’s the Conrad Schuck House, which is one of the trippiest homes I’ve ever seen. (see Google map)

From south of Bartow to Arcadia the road is one of the most unmoving roads in the state. I mean, you can move on it. But it’s not especially thrilling, at least between inhabited places. Good for getting you from point to point, but scenical it ain’t.

Look for the sign for the Homeland Heritage Park and take a right at the light at CR 640. In a short bit you’ll arrive at the park. There’s a collection of historical buildings, some of which I’m sure were moved there. I’ve seen a few parks like this all over the state. Macclenny, for example. Amongst the buildings is the old Homeland School, which is on the NRHP. To me, the nicest thing is the old church.

When you go back to US 17, if you cross it you’ll find Mosaic Peace River Park. The Peace River parallels the road all the way down to Arcadia, and is on the east side most of the way. There are a few parks along the river, and this is one of the larger ones. There’s a boardwalk that’ll get you to the river, and it feels like you’re in a tropical rainforest. I rather liked it more than I thought I would. (see Google map)

Continue south and you’ll be in Fort Meade. A large part of it is a historic district. Quite a lot of neat old homes, so take some time and drive around. Don’t miss the old Christ Church, either. (see Google map)

  • Fort Meade Historic District (Roughly bounded by North 3rd Street, Orange Avenue, South 3rd Street and Sand Mountain Road) (NRHP)
  • W. Henry Lewis House (424 North Oak Ave) (PENDING NRHP)
  • Fort Meade Town/City Hall (8 West Broadway)
  • Christ Church (331 East Broadway) (NRHP)

Fort Meade is the last city you’ll be going through in Polk County. After this, you’ll go through 2 more counties, their county seats, and some other towns too. Bit like US 90, but flatter and less trees. But that’s all in the next post. Later, and see you on the road!

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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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