Monday, April 30, 2007

Historic Landmark Photo Contest

The National Park Service has announced the 2007 National Historic Landmarks Photo Contest. Basically, you can submit a photograph of a National Historic Landmark along with the entry form available on their website. There will be a national winner and six regional winners.

A searchable database of all the National Historic Landmarks is available online -- if you choose Florida from the drop down menu, you'll see that there are nearly 40 sites to choose from in this state alone. (The results will include a link to an address and brief description of each) That list includes big fancy buildings, modest houses, a train car, a schooner, a battlefield, indian mounds, and a wildlife refuge. Something for everyone!

These landmarks struck me as being particularly photogenic, but this isn't a complete list.

Mary McLeod Bethune House, Daytona Beach
Bok Tower, Lake Wales
Cathedral of St. Augustine
El Centro Espanol de Tampa
Fort San Carlos de Barrancas, Pensacola
Fort Zachary Taylor, Key West
Ernest Hemingway House, Key West
Hotel Ponce de Leon, St. Augustine
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings House, Cross Creek
Miami Biltmore Hotel

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Florida News Stories

"Dr. Fleas: As the 50-year-old market closes, so does a way of life" (Palm Beach Post, April 29, 2007 -- developer buys flea market, plans to build townhomes)

"Dough! Not my job: Cuban bread maker" (Tampa Tribune reporter spends day making bread at Ybor City's La Segunda Bakery)

"Drought has varied effect on Lake O life" (Naples Daily News, April 29, 2007. How Lake Okeechobee's low water level affects people and animals)

"Historic house on the move-Again" (April 24, 2007, Miami Herald -- Annie Beck bungalow in Fort Lauderdale)

"Parkway designation gone with Ivan's winds" (opinion piece in Pensacola News Journal about scenic highway in the Panhandle)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Map My Florida

Here's an idea -- using Google's My Maps for historical sites or events. See how they explained it over at Tulsa Preservation Blog, including a link to a great example.

There's even blogs about Google Maps, like Google Maps Mania, which has a side bar section of links to historically themed Google maps.

But where are the Florida maps?! There are so many possibilities, like swamp ape sightings, a literary tour of the Keys, historic house museums, Jim Morrison in Florida.

Has anybody seen any Florida art/history/culture maps made using Google's My Maps?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tampa Architecture - MOSI

I'm a historian, I study buildings, I live in Tampa. Not surprisingly, people ask me what interesting buildings there are in Tampa. Of course there is the Tampa Bay Hotel (University of Tampa Plant Hall), which is probably my favorite, and there are cigar factories. I also like the "Beer Can Building," although that's not an opinion everyone shares.

I've also come to appreciate MOSI (that's the Museum of Science and Industry, near the University of South Florida). MOSI started as a small youth museum funded by Hillsborough County in 1962. In 1982, the museum moved to its current location, in a building designed in 1978 by Dwight Holmes of Rowe Holmes Associates of Tampa. In 1995, a 135,000+ square foot addition opened, designed by Antoine Predock working with Robbins Bell and Kuehlem Architects of Tampa. Recently the museum added another building to the west to house Kids in Charge!

At first I thought MOSI's building was jumbled and messy, and sited too close to a busy road. But it also has little things to discover, like tubes through walls to let you peer outside, and the crushed scallop shells in the concrete sidewalks. And it's like a game to count how many triangles you can find. The tiered seating area under the dome was built with lines in the concrete to coincide with shadows from the columns on the summer and winter solstices (for the curious, summer solstice is June 21 this year). Indeed, in July 1995 Predock said of his work, "It's a building that has as its purpose science, the answering of questions, the exploring of the mysterious. That's what science and this museum is all about. That's what the building had to be."

The most prominent part of the building is the big sphere that holds the IMAX theater. It's covered with panels of polished blue steel that reflect the sky and the clouds, and can be quite beautiful depending on the weather. The blue is for the ever-present Florida sky, water, and rain. The architect, Antoine Predock, said he got the idea for a ramp circling the sphere while peeling an orange. In his words, the idea was to make the sphere unique: "We didn't want to do just another sphere or geodesic dome. We wanted to express a sphere in a way that was very unusual. we kind of unpeeled it and we thought of a sherical Rubik's cube and kind of distorted it." Also, "The building itself is a sign, the icon of the dark blue reflective metal Omnimax. You won't have any trouble finding this building."

MOSI is pushed next to Fowler Avenue, and an entrance drive passes under a walkway connecting the museum and the sphere. A large courtyard and butterfly garden building separate the museum from its wooded natural area behind, away from the street. Again, in Predock's words, "We thought a great way to engage the site was to block it, in a way, with the building. We deny the view to the site beyond, so when you move through the building in your car, you experience a wonderful surprise." The berm on the front of the building, by the street, is supposed to be a visual clue or link to the natural land out of view, but it seems to me that the greenery struggles against the baking heat of Fowler Avenue's six lanes of heavy traffic.


"Antoine Predock in Tampa" Florida Architect Nov/Dec 1982
Tampa Tribune June 12, 1992 "Science museum plans a big step 'beyond'"
Tampa Trubune March 13, 1995 "Architect visits his MOSI building vision"
Tampa Tribune July 1, 1995 "Magnificent MOSI; Science museum expansion opens today"
Tampa Tribune March 22, 2004 "MOSI Jr."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

All Hail the Conch

Yesterday the Conch Republic turned 25, and there's a party going on! The excitement seems to have overwhelmed the official Conch Republic website. While you're waiting for that to return, enjoy "Rubber Chicken Does the Conch Republic."

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Linoleum and Touch of Tung Oil

This may not seem like it's about Florida at first, but bear with me.

Recently I read Linoleum, by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen (Gibbs Smith, 2003). It's a coffee table book--oversized, glossy photos, not too much text. Yes, an actual entire book about linoleum, the floor covering of the hoi polloi. The photographs really make this book, transforming linoleum into abstract pieces of art. The text covers much the same territory as other books and journal articles on the topic, but with a welcome sense of humor. The last part of the book recounts the author's experiments to determine whether linoleum can withstand cat pee. (We're not to the Florida part yet.)

Frederick Walton, an Englishman, invented linoleum in 1855. It was basically canvas or burlap coated with oxidized linseed oil, cork dust, and resin. There have been variations on this over the years, but the key point is that linoleum uses natural products and is not vinyl.

Linoleum originally was made from linseed oil, which came the name. But later other kinds of oils were used, among them, tung oil. Tung oil comes from the nuts of the tung tree, which is native to China. The oil has other industrial uses, including as an ingredient in varnish.

Heading into the twentieth century, China was the leading producer of tung oil, and had cornered the market. So some Americans looked around for where tung trees might grow well in the United States, and came up with north central Florida. The first tung trees were planted in Florida in 1906, and the first oil was produced from their nuts in 1913.

Wars disrupted supplies of tung oil from China, which in turn encouraged increased production in Florida. The zenith of Florida's tung industry was during World War II. Jefferson County claims to have been the center point of this industry, with over 12,000 acres of tung oil trees in the 1950s.

But the tung trees weren't the only thing happening in Jefferson County at the mid-century mark. A young man named Homer Formby used some of that oil to make his own line of furniture finishing products. His first store was in Jefferson County, in the old Monticello Opera House.

Storms, freezes, and competition put an end to Florida's tung oil industry in the 1960s and 1970s. Formby made a pile of money, sold his company, and in the 1970s/80s owned some islands down in the Keys.

Florida just may be the Kevin Bacon of the 50 United States.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Carpenters' Home

The Carpenters' Home in Lakeland was a retirement home for members of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, before Social Security. Built between 1926 and 1929 at a cost of $1,000,000, the home could accommodate 400 retired carpenters. There is also a Carpenters' Home Cemetery in Lakeland.

Several unions have built homes or communities in Florida for the benefit of their retired members (see previous posts about Salhaven and Nalcrest, for example).

(1920s photographs of the Carpenters' Home and gateway from the State Archives Florida Photographic Collection)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lake Wauburg

One of the perks that come along with being part of the student body, faculty, or staff at the University of Florida is the Lake Wauburg Recreation Center. This is an outdoor facility with picnic pavilions, canoes, paddleboats, sailboats, water skiing, a ropes course, trails, and more, all just a few miles south of Gainesville on US 441. It's beautiful, and historic, nestled on the edge of Paynes Prairie, north of Micanopy.

Prehistoric Native Americans, Spanish cattle ranchers, Seminole chiefs -- all are part of the story. The lake and the park take their (misspelled) name from Frederick Warburg, a European merchant who, with Moses Levy, established a Jewish settlement near here in the 1820s.

In 1918, the University YMCA bought some land on the west shore of Lake Wauburg to be used as a student recreation center. When the YMCA closed, the University of Florida took over the Camp Wauburg property. In the 1930s, several buildings -- including a house, lodge, and boathouse -- were built on a hill overlooking the lake. In the 1960s, the University acquired some additional property on the south side of the lake, which was developed as Lake Wauburg South recreational area in the 1980s. In 1971, the state's first preserve, Paynes Prairie, opened across Lake Wauburg from the University's facility.

The Lake Wauburg Recreation Center continues to operate today, funded with student fees, and administered by the College of Health and Human Performance.

Please let me know if you have any information to add about Lake Wauburg's history!

Lake Wauburg History (University of Florida)

Additional Reading:

Moses Levy of Florida: Jewish Utopian and Antebellum Reformer, by Chris Monaco (Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 2005)

The Story of Historic Micanopy, by Caroline B. Watkins (The Alachua County Historical Commission, Gainesville, Florida, 1976)

Paynes Prairie: The Great Savanna: A History and Guide, by Lars Anderson (Pineapple Press, Florida, 2004)

NOTE: Even though "Wauburg" is itself an incorrect spelling, it has become the preferred name, not "Wauberg."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Florida's History in the News

"Minneola Seeks Help to Restore Builing" (city's first schoolhouse, Sun-Sentinel, April 15, 2007)

"Martin County Road's Possible Scenic Designation is a 'Feel-Good' Effort" (15-mile segment of Highway 714 between Palm City and Okeechobee, also called Historic Martin Grade, Vero Beach Press-Journal, April 15, 2007)

"Project Parramore" (series about historic African-American neighborhood in Orlando, Central Florida News 13, April 13, 2007)

"Local PTA History is Needed" (Tallahassee Democrat, April 12, 2007)

"Main Street Put Spark into Dade City" (St. Petersburg Times, April 11, 2007)

"Residents Don't Want Cedar Key to lose its Character" (Sun-Sentinel, April 9, 2007)

"Old Boynton High Faces Peril Again" (Palm Beach Post, April 10, 2007)

Friday, April 13, 2007

They're Cooking Up Some BBQ

Tomorrow, Saturday, April 13, 2007 is Mosquito County Barbeque Society Cook-Off and the Osceola County Historical Society's Collector Day at the Spence-Lanier Pioneer Center at 750 N. Bass Road in Kissimmee.

According to their website, the Mosquito County Barbeque Society's mission is: "to preserve the art and subtleties of slow cooked BBQ."

At the Pioneer Center, you can also visit several old Florida buildings interpreted by the Osceola Historical Society, and visit their museum. I was over there yesterday, and they are really very nice people, and a great group of volunteers. The Pioneer Center is a nice break from theme parks, and they offer school field trips as well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


U.S. Sugar is closing its Bryant Mill, which opened in 1962 north of the small town of Pahokee.

"U.S. Sugar Closes Historic Bryant Mill as Industry Struggles in Florida" (Sun-Sentinel, April 9, 2007)

Sugar has been produced commercially in Florida for nearly 250 years, probably beginning in New Smyrna. The Bulow Plantation sugar mill was destroyed during the Seminole Wars, and the antebellum sugar plantations of David Levy Yulee and Robert Gamble are now state parks. In the 1880s, Hamilton Disston tried large-scale production of sugar in St. Cloud, but weather and soils pushed sugar growers further south, down to Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. Sugar growers relied heavily on seasonal labor, and in the 1930s and 1940s, and even into the late 20th century, the cane fields were hot spots for migrant labor issues. After the U.S. embargo on Cuban goods in the early 1960s, there was an increased demand for Florida sugar. Sugar production is still strongly tied to international trade and labor issues, recently the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Read More About It:

Big Sugar, by Alec Wilkinson (Alfred A. Knopf, 1989)

Cuba's Sugar Industry, by Jose Alvarez and Lazaro Pena Castellanos (University Press of Florida, 2001)

The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise, by Michael Grunwald (Simon & Schuster, 2006)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Commemorative Building Replicas

This weekend the Tampa Bay Devil Rays gave replicas of Tropicana Field to the first 12,000 fans through the gate, to commemorate their 10th season. The replica is about the size of an adult's hand, and has a lid that lifts off to reveal the field and stands. It is easily my favorite Rays giveaway (of course, bobbleheads and bats are also good). Tropicana Field is older than the Devil Rays, having opened in 1990 as the Suncoast Dome.

I have another souvenir, a Cat's Meow Village wooden cutout of the Roser Chapel in Anna Maria. I bought this when we spent July 4, 2002 at the beach. The local historical society was selling them in their giftshop. There's a little story about the building on the back of the wooden cutout.

This idea of commemorative building replicas is intriguing. What draws us to these knick-knacks? Do they keep the idea of a place fresh in our minds? On a more practical level, do they work as fundraisers or promotional items?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Freddy Goes to Florida

,I was scanning a list of recommended children's books the other day when the title Freddy Goes to Florida caught my eye (how could it not catch my attention?!). The cover shows farms animals staring at alligators. So of course, I had to read it.

First published in the late 1920s and originally titled To and Again, Freddy Goes to Florida was the first of 26 children's books Walter R. Brooks wrote about the animals living on Mr. Bean's farm in upstate New York. Brooks was himself a New Yorker, and had worked in advertising before embarking on a career in writing and publishing. Aside from his Freddy the Pig books, Brooks is best remembered for writing a short story that inspired the Mr. Ed TV series.

Basically, the plot of Freddy Goes to Florida is this: the animals on Mr. Bean's farm do not want to spend another winter in cold, drafty barns. So they decide to go to Florida for the winter. Along the way, they meet people and animals and have adventures. In the Springtime, they return to their farm reinvigorated.

But how does Brooks portray Florida? The journey is as important a part of the story as is the animals' stay in Florida. They don't arrive at their destination until halfway through the book, in Chapter 11:

They sniffed the air delightedly.

"Mmmmmmm!" said Mrs. Wiggins. "Isn't that good? It's better than clover. I wonder what it is."

"I know," said Jack. "I've smelt it at weddings. See all those little green trees down ther? They're orange-trees, and that smell is orange-blossoms."

"Look! Look!" squealed Freddy. "There's a palm-tree!"

"It's Florida!" shouted Jinx.

And all the animals shouted together: "Florida!"

The animals dance and celebrate reaching Florida. Freddy makes up a poem:

In Florida, in Florida,
Where the orange-blossom blows,
Where the alligator sings so sweet.
And the sweet-potato grows;
Oh, that is the place where I would be,
And that is where I am ---
In Florida, in Florida,
As happy as a clam.

And then they head off to the beach, where they stay for a month:

"Every day at four o'clock they went in for a dip in the surf, and then they would lie round on the sand and talk until supper-time. It was a very lazy and pleasant life that they lived in Florida."

Eventually, they decide they should see more of the state, so they head off to Palm Beach, Miami, and the Everglades. In the Big Cypress Swamp, they encounter a hungry group of alligators. Mrs. Wiggins (who is a cow) tries to scare them off:

"Keep away, now!" she said. "We won't stand any nonsense!"

But the alligators only laughed, and one of them said: "Oho! You won't eh? Well what did you come into our country for, then?"

They alligators take the animals to Grandfather Alligator, who remembers the when the Spanish explorers visited Florida. He wants to eat them as well, despite being scolded by Jinx the Cat:

"What do you suppose all the animals up north are going to think of you when they hear about it? Eating up visitors who come to make you a friendly call! A nice opinion they'll get of Florida!"

Eventually, the farm animals escape the alligators, and continue their vacation until spring arrives and it is time to go home to Mr. Bean.

The image of Florida correlates with the popular tourist images of the 1920s, when the book was written. Florida as a wild, somewhat foreign place to rest and play before returning to your actual life.

(This book is most appropriate for third or fourth grade, and would appeal to children who like stories with talking animals. Even though the story was written 80 years ago, there are no obscure references to old machines or technologies that kids today would not understand. The edition I read was published by Overbrook Books in 1998, and is 197 pages with black and white line drawings by Kurt Wiese).

Friday, April 06, 2007

Lower Keys Rabbit

The Lower Keys Rabbit is a marsh rabbit subspecies found only in the very southern tip of Florida. They live in coastal marshes, eat grass and tree bark, and are endangered because of habitat loss. There's only about 300 of the furry little things left. Like Key Deer, the Lower Keys Rabbits are smaller than their cousins. There are marsh rabbits all over the southeastern United States, but the theory is that when sea levels rose 10,000 years ago, some animals got stranded. The isolation and environmental differences led to the emergence of a new subspecies of marsh rabbit.

In the 1980s, biologist James Lazell was the first to show that the little marsh rabbits were a distinct subspecies. Presenting his research in the Journal of Mammology, he wrote: "In accord with the tradition of patronyms, the new form is named for Hugh M. Hefner, whose corporation has generously supported field work on this and other species." (Yes, that would be the Playboy Corporation.) The rabbit's official scientific name is Sylvilagus palustris hefneri.

Further Reading:

Lower Keys Rabbit (pdf file, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

James D. Lazell, Jr. A New Marsh Rabitt (Sylvilagus Palustris) from Florida's Lower Keys. Journal of Mammalogy, 1984, Volume 65, Number 1, pages 26 - 33.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Turnpike Turns Fifty

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first segment of Florida's Turnpike, a 110-mile stretch connecting Miami and Fort Pierce. The Ft. Pierce to Wildwood section followed in 1964, and the Miami to Homestead Extension in 1974.

In 1953, Governor Dan McCarty authorized the Florida State Turnpike Authority to build the highway, which was originally called the Sunshine State Parkway. (Traffic Jam in South Florida has a link to a Sun-Sentinel article, "How Florida's Turnpike Transformed the State.")

Some of you may not remember Governor Dan McCarty, whose promising career came to an untimely end. A Progressive Florida Democrat in the 1940s and 1950s, he was a Fort Pierce citrus grower, cattleman, and war hero who ran for governor in 1948. He lost that race to Fuller Warren, a Democrat from rural North Florida. Four years later, McCarty ran again and won, campaigning on a platform of ending political patronage. This election can be seen as part of a larger and growing shift in political power in 1950s Florida, from rural to urban, and north to south.

McCarty was just 40 years old, the father of three children, when he took office in January 1953. In February, he had a debilitating heart attack, and he was unable to recover. In September 1953 he died after less than a year in office. The President of the Senate, Charley Eugene Johns became acting governor, and in 1954 McCarty's friend and political ally LeRoy Collins was elected to complete the rest of his truncated term.

Suggested further reading:

Building a Community: The History of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, by Jerrell Shofner

Floridian of His Century: The Courage of Governor LeRoy Collins, by Martin Dyckman

(Photo Credit: Toll Plaza at the Ft. Pierce entrance to the Sunshine State Parkway, 1959. From the Florida Photographic Collection, State Archives of Florida.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Old Florida Malls Learn New Tricks

Sometimes those old malls just get bulldozed and dumped in the local landfill. Sometimes they adapt to changing neighborhoods. Here are two examples of the later, from either end of the state.

"Exploring the Northside: Gateway Mall Phototour" from MetroJacksonville.

"Lauderhill Mall, Lauderhill, Florida" from Labelscar.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Disney's Magnolia Golf Course

Florida and Disney, Florida and golf . . . Florida and Disney and golf.

Golf courses were part of the original Walt Disney World plan, with two 18-hole courses built in 1971, the same year the theme park opened. Golf course architect Joseph L. Lee designed both the Magnolia and the Palm courses, which hosted the inaugural Walt Disney Classic in December 1971. (In June 1971, Lee's picture appeared in the New York Times, looking over course blueprints with Mickey Mouse.) Jack Nicklaus won the Classic that year, and the following year, and the year after that. The tournament is still part of the PGA Tour. This year the 37th Annual Disney Golf Classic will be held Oct. - Nov. on the Palm and Magnolia courses, with the final round on the Magnolia. In 1993, Disney brought Lee back to renovate the Magnolia, rebuilding the greens and planting a different kind of grass. The Magnolia has one of the "hidden" Mickey Mouses scatted across Walt Disney World with a mouse-eared sand trap on the 6th hole.