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Posts Tagged ‘Tallahassee’

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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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The next posts are all about the Leon County seat and Florida State Capitol, Tallahassee. Most non-residents (and probably quite a few natives) wonder why our state capitol is so far from the middle of the state. Thing is, it is in the middle of the state. At least it was when it was founded.

See, when the Spanish were in charge, the peninsula was divided into two sections. East Florida, the capitol of which was St. Augustine, and West Florida, where Pensacola was the capitol. When Florida became a United States possession, a single capital for the whole territory was needed. So expeditions set out from St. Augustine and Pensacola, heading for each other. The roughly halfway point where they met was where Tallahassee is now.

But what about Orlando and Miami and all the rest? Not there. Draw a line across Florida just below St. Augustine. South of there was forests and swamps and Seminoles. There were a few outposts of non-Indians down there, but not enough to make it worth having the capitol further south.

That’s change, obviously, over the last century and a half. There’ve been attempts to relocate the capitol to Orlando or Ocala. The most recent try was in the 1960s. But the expense of moving the entire state government would be prohibitive. Plus you’d have to set up the infrastructure in the new location, which would take time and additional financing. It’s annoying for those living further south, but with modern transportation, it’s not enough of an inconvenience to generate significant dissatisfaction with the situation. So Tallahassee is likely to remain the state capitol for the foreseeable future.

I like Tallahassee. It’s urban, but not like Tampa or Jacksonville. Apparently there’s an anti-skyscraper ordinance that’s been in place for years, so there’s only a small handful of tall buildings in the city. It’s hilly, a bit like San Francisco, which is atypical for most metropolitan areas in Florida.

On the outskirts are the canopy roads; long stretches of oak-lined avenues dripping with Spanish moss. Some go by surviving antebellum plantation homes. Several roads go up into Georgia, where there are more plantations that have been preserved for posterity. At some point you should visit Thomasville, which is close to the border and filled with a lot of interesting historical buildings and districts. And a gaudy NHL that’s kind of groovy.

Tallahassee itself is hardly lacking in historical sites, including its own National Historic Landmark. About half the sites are in and around the center of town, the rest are scattered around the periphery in all directions. Just driving to them all will take you a couple of days, so either plan an extended stay or several return visits. Tallahassee is also a good jumping off point for exploring the Panhandle. It’s only three hours from Pensacola, so you can spend your first night here and head west the next morning.

I’m going to start on the outlying sites to the north, then spiral in towards the center counter-clockwise. You can look at the map links and decide the travel strategy best for you.

The first section may not take you as long as you’d think, just looking at the map. Several of the places are private, and the historic parts not visible from the road. You can drive by them if you want, since they’re along canopy roads. Or skip them and just go to the ones you can get to.

That would be the two state parks, Maclay Gardens and Lake Jackson Mounds. Both nice in their own way, but I prefer Maclay Gardens. Walking along the paths and seeing all the plants is so restful.

You can also get to the old Blackwood-Harwood Plantations Cemetery, but it takes a bit of doing. The directions were vague (northeast of Junction FL 263 and I-10, really?), but I did some research and pinned it down. I wasn’t sure, though, until I got to the housing development where I thought it was. Some traipsing through the woods and I found it. Just a small plot surrounded by a rusty gate, with a dozen or so graves. I’m glad it got preserved and not plowed under. (see Google map)

Now get to SR 20, which cuts through Lake Talquin State Forest. You can see the old Fort Braden school, which is now a community center. A bit further east is the Lake Talquin State Park. River Bluff Picnic Site State Park, too, but I think it’s in the other state park. I have a feeling Lake Talquin is popular in the summer. It’s a big lake, perfect for boating and swimming and such. Lots of room to meander in the woods, too. I did cover this bit on the first roadtrip post about SR 20 .

Southeast is the Tallahassee Museum, which also contains part of the Bellevue plantation. I’ve not gone in, so I don’t know how extensive the place is. (see Google map)

Due south of Tallahassee is St. Marks River State Park, one of the newest in the system. Therefore it’s very undeveloped and hard to find, with no signage. Only hiking trails, not even restrooms or picnic areas. Further down is Natural Bridge, which I mentioned in the last post.

San Pedro y San Pablo de Patale only has a historical marker. The Chaires historic district is small. I’d park at the old school and walk up and down the street. Half an hour is more than enough time to see the best parts. The Billingsley Farm is private and fenced and foliated so you can’t see a thing from US 90. (see Google map)

Last but certainly not least is the eastern fringe. In fact, it’s one of my favorite parts. You’re mostly driving along canopy roads again, so just getting from point to point is pleasant.

First is Pisgah United Methodist Church, which is big wooden block of a church. Roberts Farm is nearby, but not much to see. There’s an old cemetery at the corner of Roberts Road and Centerville Road that’s more scenic.

About where Centerville Road turns into Moccasin Gap Road is the place I liked so much, I visited it both times I was here. It’s Bradley’s Country Store. Yeah, it’s the name, even though they ain’t related. But they make really great smoked sausage. I’ve seriously thought of ordering by mail, or buying a few pounds the next time I’m there. Not a primary reason to visit Tallahassee, but it encourages me to find another excuse so I can make a sidetrip there.

Keep going on Moccasin Gap Road and you’ll come to Miccosukee. There are four NRHPs here; two north of SR 59 and next to each other (Strickland-Herold House and Van Brunt House), and two to the south that are across from each other (Averitt-Winchester House and Miccosukee Methodist Church). (see Google map)

That’s it for the outskirts. Next post, Tallahassee proper. See you on the road!

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Caroline Brevard Grammar School is in Tallahassee, in the Panhandle. The Mediterranean Revival building was designed in 1925 by William Augustus Edwards. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. See more photos here.

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I was debating with myself about how to do travel posts. They’ve been reminiscences up until now. But I tend towards the meandery, which mayn’t be how a lot of folks travel. So I decided to focus more on roads, and talk about offshoots where appropriate. Here goes!

Had to start with my favorite part of the state, the Panhandle. I define it as west of Tallahassee ; conventionally it’s further west, on the other side of the Apalachicola River. I was going to do US 90 first, but there’s a lot there, and could run into several posts, so let’s begin with State Road 20.

It surprised me that SR 20 was in the Panhandle. Having lived in Gainesville for years, I thought it only ran from there to Palatka. Apparently it’s hidden for much of its length between G’ville and Tally. The things you find out when you travel.

So, starting in Tallahassee, go west. In 10 to 15 miles (depending on where you start), you’ll come to the entry road for Lake Talquin State Park. The lake was created when the Ochlockonee River was dammed up in the 1920s. It was ostensibly named for the two cities it’s between, Tallahassee and Quincy. Yet if you look at a map, you’ll see that it’s more between Tallahassee and Hosford. Quincy is the larger city, though, and maybe the namers didn’t like the sound of “Lake Talhos” or “Lake Hostal”. It’s a nice park, and I can see it being especially popular with boaters.


Old Fort Braden School

Get back on SR 20 and head west. Less than a mile on the left is the Fort Braden Community Center, which used to be the Fort Braden School. It was built in the 1920s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I’ve seen so many buildings listed on the Register that are dilapidated or gone, and it’s nice to see ones that are not only being preserved, but actively used.

The next stretch of SR 20 I haven’t travelled myself, so I have to rely on Google Street View. Which is where I found that about 8 miles past the Old Fort Braden School is a major bridge over the Ochlockonee River. The dam that formed Lake Talquin is just to the northeast. There was an older bridge to the southwest as late as 1975, but there appears to be no trace of it now. It must have been demolished when they built the new one.

After the bridge, the scenery changes and becomes one of the reasons I love the Panhandle. People who don’t know better think Florida is all beaches, theme parks and overdevelopment. But there are vast undeveloped areas of the state, and they’re likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. If you enjoy driving not to get somewhere, but to relax and soak in the sights, there are roads aplenty for it in Northwest Florida.

Nine miles past the Ochlockonee River bridge is Hosford, which I mentioned previously. Having driven between there and Hosford, I can speak more knowledgeably about this stretch. Not much to see in Hosford, though there is a nicely restored old church.


Fort Gadsden site

And here’s one of those offshoots I was talking about. If you continue south on SR 65 for about 35 miles through the Apalachicola National Forest, and follow the signs, you’ll wind up at Fort Gadsden, one of the most remote National Historic Landmarks in the state. It’s the site of two forts, one built by the British, one by Americans. There’s not even ruins left above ground, so there’s little to see in the historic sense. If you want to get away from it all, and have a relaxing picnic along the Apalachicola River, this is definitely a place to go. Should the spirit move you, drive south 23 miles until you get to US 98. Turn right (west), and you’ll reach Apalachicola pretty quickly. Turn left, and you’ll be in Carrabelle in short order. It’s also the section of US 98 I like the most.

Yes, it is a rather extreme detour. But Fort Gadsden is so out-of-the-way, and the drive so nice from the north or the south, I decided to include it.

Back to SR 20. Continuing west is just road and trees and lots of time for thinking. In about 12 minutes (depending on how fast you drive), you’ll be in Bristol, the county seat for Liberty County. This is the least densely populated county in the state. It’s also one of three in the Panhandle that has neither Gulf shoreline or shares a border with another state. There’s not much to see there. The courthouse is nice enough, but nothing special. Unlike the one in the next county over.

There’s two offshoots in this area, but I’ll discuss them later.

Up to this point, the terrain is fairly level. Now you hit one of the hillier parts of the state as you head west. Which gives you a good view of the 1.5 mile-long Trammell Bridge, which crosses the Apalachicola River. The river is also the divider between Eastern Standard Time and Central Time, so adjust your watches accordingly. Unlike the bridge across the Ochlockonee River a ways back, the old bridge here was preserved and is still in use. So instead of a lane each way, both lanes on the old bridge go west, while the new bridge carries traffic east.

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Old Calhoun County Courthouse

In no time at all, you’ll be in the county seat of Calhoun County, Blountstown. Which has one of my favorite old courthouses in the state, which is on the NRHP. It’s Romanesque Revival and very angular, looking more like a church than a courthouse. It’s a couple of blocks away from the current courthouse, which is modern and incredibly drab by comparison.

You’ll also find the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement further west, inside Sam Atkins Park. It’s a living history museum, but don’t know much else. The only time I’ve been there, it was late, an hour or so before sunset. That’s not a good time for taking photographs, and honestly, museums aren’t my thing. Especially living history museums. But if you like that stuff, it did look like there was a lot to see.

The two offshoots. One north and on the east side of the Apalachicola River (Torreya State Park), the other south and on the west side (the city of Wewahitchka). Each is also halfway between SR 20 and another major road. First, Torreya.


Gregory House, in Torreya State Park

From Bristol, go north on SR 12. It’s about 13 miles. The route to the park is not well marked, so use this for reference. And it’s really hilly, so be sure your car is in good shape. Once you get to the park, go to the Gregory House, which is the visitor center. It’s a very old house that used to be on the other side of the river, but was moved to its current location years ago by the CCC. Behind it is a view unlike any you’d expect to see in Florida. You’ll be standing on a bluff overlooking the Apalachicola River 150 feet below. Stretching out before you is miles and miles of forest. The unique topography created a microclimatic area. And with plant seeds and such brought down the river from further north, the ecology is different than anywhere else in the state. I like to go there in the fall because you can actually see a large amount of leaf-color change. It’s not like Maine or Vermont, as it doesn’t have those kind of trees. Still, for Florida it’s pretty amazing. I’ve learned to call the park first, though, because sometimes the color change doesn’t happen quite when you’d expect. The park’s especially interesting to me because it falls under several categories that I like: it’s a state park, on the NRHP, and a National Natural Landmark.


Old Gulf County Courthouse

Now for Wewahitchka. From Blountstown, go south on SR 71. This one’s easy. Stay on SR 71 and you’ll go right through Wewahitchka. Before you get there, you’ll pass a former state park, Dead Lakes. It’s run by Gulf County now. Don’t know what it’s like, because I couldn’t really find it. Anyway, Wewahitchka. One of those on my list of “places with weird names I wanted to visit.” It’s got one historic spot I know of, the old Gulf County Courthouse. The town is known for its honey. The movie “Ulee’s Gold” was filmed in the area.

If you keep going south, you’ll cross the Intracoastal Waterway and wind up in Port St. Joe. I recommend visiting there, but I’ll go into it more when I talk about US 98 in another post.

OK, back to Blountstown. Westward is another large chunk of road I’ve not traversed. I like the looks of this bridge over the Chipola River, east of Clarksville. The next 30 miles or so has nothing specifically noteworthy, just mellow driving.

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Moss Hill Church

Once you get to SR 77, you have the option of continuing west, or going north for the last offshoot. If the latter, take SR 77 north, then SR 279 north. On the right after about 6 miles, you’ll find Moss Hill Church. It was built in 1857, so it’s one of the oldest churches in Washington County. I’m always amazed when I find extant wooden buildings this old in Florida, what with the humidity and hurricanes and all. It’s made of heart of pine, which explains a lot. Our ancestors, they knew how to build to last on a budget.

Back on SR 20, go west another 12 miles and you’ll reach the SR 79 intersection. I’ve travelled the rest of this stretch, but from the other direction. There’s another big bridge, this one over the Choctawhatchee River. From this point on, it’s mostly forest, with occasional spots of civilization. Which is another thing I like about the Panhandle. You’ll have these nice isolated stretches, and every 10 or 15 miles there’s a town or city where you can avail yourself of necessities.

There are a couple of long bridges across Choctawhatchee Bay which will get you to US 98.

Before you get to Niceville, you’ll pass by Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park. I’ve not much to say about it, unfortunately. When I visited, I discovered I’d lost my Florida State Park pass. Fortunately, I was still able to get the stamp for my State Park passport, and I’d seen all the state parks I wanted to on that particular trip, so it wasn’t a big deal. And I replaced the pass when I got home, so it was all good.

Niceville is, as it’s name would indicated, nice. I’d always wanted to visit, as I had several friends who were from there. It’s close to some great beaches, so there’s that.

If you go a bit further west on SR 85, then south on SR 397, you’ll be in Valparaiso, and you can visit the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida. It’s small, so shouldn’t take up too much time. You can also visit the Air Force Armament Museum on Eglin Air Force Base, which envelops Niceville and Valparaiso.

So that’s it. And remember to value what’s been, cherish what is, look forward to what’s to be.

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Had some vacay time to use, so decided a couple of weeks ago to take this past Monday off. I really wanted to go up west of Tallahassee, and in Tallahassee, but wasn’t sure the weather would cooperate. Fortunately, it did and then some. It was in the upper 20’s in the morning, but warmed up to the high 50’s/low 60’s, which is just about perfect to me.

One minor downer was I dropped my digital camera in a river on the first day. Not completely, fortunately. I was trying to get shot of the Victory Bridges and Woodruff Dam in Chattahoochee. I stepped out on a small projection of sand and stones in the Apalachicola River. It turned out to be more sand than stone, and I sunk in over a foot. In trying to extricate myself, and not lose my sneakers, I lost my balance and the camera lens went in the water. When I got it out, the lens wouldn’t retract completely, and when it finally did, it wouldn’t come out. After some shaking, I got it to mostly function. The dial at the top to turn it on and off and change settings was sticking too. It was touch and go, but seemed to be ok.

The next day it was even more difficult to turn the dial, but as it warmed up, it got easier, so maybe it was ice. Rest of the trip was fairly lovely.

Favorite part? I’d say most of day 2, driving through the Apalachicola National Forest, seeing the Fort Gadsden site, driving along the Gulf Coast Highway (what I call US 319/US 98 between Port St. Joe and St. Teresa), and Carrabelle. Very little traffic, so a very relaxing drive. I can’t recommend the area too highly.

Google links below to the routes I travelled:

Day 1Day 2Day 3

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