We’re starting in the major nexus that is Lake City. Considering how many significant roads go through here, and the fact that it’s the Columbia County seat, it’s surprisingly small. Not tiny, per se, but only moderate sized. US 41, US 441 and US 90 go through the heart of Lake City, and I-75 and I-10 intersect just to the north.
This post is about a very untravelled section of a very major road; US 90 between Lake City and Jacksonville. US 90 parallels I-10 for its whole length in Florida, even crossing each other at about half a dozen points along the way. There’s not much of interest to the casual traveller, so most people just zoom to or from Jacksonville on the interstate. Yet because there’s so little between the two cities, you can travel almost as quickly on US 90. As much as I like backroads, I equally like major roads where you can speed along as though you’re on an interstate, without having to contend with the heavy traffic and speed demons. So let’s mosey along down US 90, shall we?
There’s a couple of older homesteads in AGFHA that I couldn’t find, due to very vague directions. Most of the historic stuff is right around downtown. There are two historic districts; the downtown area and the residential neighborhood nearby. A mile or so of walking and you can catch it all. A good spot to park is near the old courthouse. (see Google maps)
- Birley-Gray Plantation (US 90, 3 miles west of I-75) (AGFHA)
- Watkins Estate (Penwood) (Herlong Road, west of US 47) (AGFHA)
- Columbia County High School (528 West Duval Street) (NRHP)
- Horace Duncan House (202 West Duval Street) (NRHP)
- Old Columbia County Bank (502 N Marion St) (AGFHA)
- Hotel Blanche (212 North Marion Street) (NRHP)
- Old Courthouse (135 Northeast Hernando Avenue)
- Old Post Office (55 Northeast Hernando Avenue) (AGFHA)
- Lake City/Columbia County Historical Museum (157 SE Hernando Avenue)
- T. G. Henderson House (207 South Marion Street) (NRHP)
- Lake City Historic Commercial District (Roughly bounded by Railroad, North Hernando, Duval and North Columbia Streets) (NRHP)
- Lake Isabella Historic Residential District (Roughly bounded by East, Duval and Columbia Streets, Baya Avenue, Church Street and Lake Isabella) (NRHP)
This is a very relaxed part of the state, except for one weekend in February. The downtown is closed off to celebrate the annual reenactment of the battle of Olustee. The site of the battle, and the perennial replay, is the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park. If you want to see the historic structures in Lake City, this is not the time to be there. I’ve never been to the battle, even though I have several friends who are reenactors. Military events and artifacts of any century hold little interest for me. But it is a big shindig, with thousands attending. Might even be tens of thousands. It’s certainly not dull. Should you decide to go, prepare for inclement weather. That weekend always seems to be cold, or rainy, or cold and rainy.
There’s a National Natural Landmark along the way somewhere in the Osceola National Forest, but it’s restricted access. When you get to Sanderson, go north on CR 229 if you want to see the John Bethea State Forest. (see Google maps)
- Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park (2 miles East of Olustee on US 90 in Osceola National Forest) (NRHP)
- Osceola Research Natural Area (northeast corner of Big Gum Swamp Wilderness) (NNL)
- Olustee Naval Stores and Experimental Station/SCM Corporation (US 90, W of Olustee SP entrance and CR 231) (AGFHA)
- John Bethea State Forest
You’re mostly going to see trees on both sides of the road, interspersed with small towns. The next such is Glen St. Mary. Take a right at CR 125 and pass under I-10. Take a right at the first dirt road, which should be Glen Nursery Road. Check the street sign to be sure, though. You’ll come to the old offices of the Glen Saint Mary Nurseries Company. There’s some historic homes in the area too. I met a nice man on a golf cart (security, I think), who told me some of the history of the company. If you’re lucky, so will you. (see Google maps)
Only a few miles on is the Baker County seat, Macclenny. Due to a dip in the St. Mary’s River, you’re closer to Georgia than anywhere else along here. If you feel like taking a run for the border up SR 121, I have to warn you that there’s not much to see. I’ve only ever gotten as far as St. George, and believe me, I’m not tempted to make a return trip.
In Macclenny, you should visit the heritage park. I was happily surprised when I first stopped there that the one remote NRHP in the county, the Burnsed Blockhouse, had been moved to the park from Sanderson. The old railroad depot is there too, as well as other historical buildings. Further east is the moderately old courthouse, the older courthouse (which is now used as a library) and jail next to it, and a few homes dating back to earlier in the last century. (see Google maps)
- Burnsed Blockhouse (127 S Lowder St) (NRHP)
- Southern Coastline Railroad Station (AGFHA)
- Old Baker County Courthouse (14 West McIver Street) (NRHP)
- Merritt-Herndon House (228 S. 5th St) (AGFHA)
- Suits Us (Dorman House) (212 McIver) (AGFHA)
- Baker County Courthouse (339 E. Macclenny Ave) (AGFHA)
- Charles F. Barber House (S 4th St) (AGFHA)
- Edgar Turner-Duncan House (N 6th St) (AGFHA)
- David Griffin House (George Hodges Rd, west of CR 121, south of Macclenny) (AGFHA)
- Williams-Shuey House (George Hodges Rd, west of CR 121, south of Macclenny) (AGFHA)
You’ll cross US 301 as you go through Baldwin. From here on are sporadic industrial businesses and not much else of interest. You’re on the outskirts of Jacksonville, and the road will get more congested as you progress. Especially once you’ve passed under I-295, part of the Jacksonville beltway. If you want to go to Jacksonville, I’d actually recommend you get on I-10 at this point. If you need to go north (towards Georgia) or south (towards St. Augustine), get on I-295. ‘Cause trust me, unless you like big cities and all that they entail, you want to get away from Jacksonville as quickly as possible.
This post is done, and on this route I hope you have fun. See you on the road!
Route length: 60 miles