Monday, September 29, 2008

Gainesville's Courthouse Square

You can still discern the outline of a courthouse square in downtown Gainesville, although the original Alachua County courthouse is no longer there. Brick store front face inward toward the courthouse, with on-street parking. The county building currently on the site of the old court house was built in 1958 is a modern-style structure, against which the Confederate memorial looks incongruous.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Alfred Browning Parker

The University of Florida is celebrating the life and continuing career of Alfred Browning Parker, noted for his Tropical Modern architecture. The exhibit "Of the Master's Hand" will be on display at the Reitz Union on the UF cumpus through October 3, followed by the exhibit "Promises of Paradise: Staging Mid-Century Miami" opening at the Harn Museum on October 11.

Alfred Browning Parker website:

"The Master of Coconut Grove": Article in Summer 2008 issue of Modernism magazine (free registration required)

"UF names endowment after alumnus, renowned Miami architect" (InsideUF, Sept. 17, 2008)

House du Rivage: a film maker looks at her experience of living in an Alfred Browing Parker house, and expands into an examination of the role architecture plays in our lives.

"Architect Teaches 'Green' Techniques: A 1940''s Architect Continues To Make 'Miami Modern Homes' Using 'Green'" with video clip


Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Country Club at Snell Isle

Now part of the Renaissance Vinoy Gulf Club in St. Petersburg, this building used to be the Snell Isle Golf Club or the Sunset Country Club. It was built in the 1920s by C. Perry Snell. Snell started out as a pharmacist from Kentucky, then married well and came to St. Petersburg for a honeymoon. He ended up as one of the city's most prominent Boom Time developers. Snell Isle was built in the mid 1920s as an upscale development. Like so many other Florida developers, the end of the Boom hit Snell hard, but he perserved to finish Snell Isle. He enjoyed travel and collecting art work, some of which he incorporated into developments and buildings. The panther street signs in Snell Isle have an European heritage.

(My Florida History - Old Houses on Campus included one of Snell's homes in St. Petersburg.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Citrus Park Colored School

Tucked away just off Gunn Highway in northwest Hillsborough County, an area now more known for estate homes, is an old, one-room school house. The Citrus Park Colored School was built in the 1920s by and for the African-American community in the Keystone-Odessa-Citrus Park area on land donated by Mrs. Barbara Allen. Rev. Charlie Walker spent many hours at the county school board's offices urging them to open this school, until they agreed to supply the materials. The families served by the school provided the labor and construction know-how to actually build the school. Citrus Park Colored School served up to thirty students at a time until it closed in 1948. Since then, the old school building has been used by the Mount Pleasant AME Church. The Citrus Park Colored School is a designated Hillsborough County Historic Landmark.

"A Shared and Pleasant History" from the Tampa Tribune

For further reading:

"'The Most Well Utilized the United States:' Citrus Park Colored School," by Geoffrey Mohlman. Sunland Tribune (1999) Volume 25, Number 1, pages 77 - 96.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Movie Night

The Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society will be showing the movie Beneath the 12-Mile Reef Thursday, September 25 at the Depot Museum. The film starts rolling at 7 pm.

Beneath the 12-Mile Reef was filmed on location in Tarpon Strings in 1953, and starred a young Robert Wagner. The story is a tale of young lovers from rival sponge fishing families, a Florida Romeo and Juliet.

Monday, September 22, 2008

International Coastal Cleanup

Saturday was the 2008 International Coastal Cleanup Day, organized by the Ocean Conservancy. Several local cleanups were coordinated by Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful, including one along Courtney Campbell Causeway in Tampa Bay.

It was a beautiful morning to be picking up trash. My team found plenty of bottles, cigarette butts, and a dreidel, which got a mention in the local paper!

Things we found that belonged there included a wasp nest and several horseshoe crab shells.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ode to Odet and Those Who Came Before

In my mind it was a quiet day. Boys were throwing sticks, dogs were licking baby faces, parents were napping or cleaning up after lunch. An ordinary day.

Then the Spanish came.

Do you see them? Is that Panfilo de Narvaez, the man standing on the deck, eyes straining toward shore? If it is, you had better run and hide.

Now Philippe Park, then the Native American village of Tocobaga, this site on the shore of Safety Harbor was a sort of ground zero for the radical cultural and social changes that came along with Spanish exploration of La Florida in the 16th century. Each time I visit here, I look across the harbor toward Old Tampa Bay and wonder what it's like to have your way of life end.

Yet for all that, Philippe Park is a very pleasant place. It's big; there's room for everyone, with picnic shelters, a boat ramp, and great playgrounds for little and not-so-little kids. The oaks provide shade for you and shelter for frisky squirrels who have their beady eyes on your KFC. After dinner, the kids run up and down the old Indian mound. Where else in coastal Florida do they see a hill such as this? I suspect any child who tried this 500 years ago got a good clout on the ear.

The park has a quirky history as well as a prehistory. In the 1840s, when settlement was just starting around here, a man named Odet Philippe picked this spot to be his homestead. Or Count Odet Philippe, or Dr. Odet Philippe -- he was a colorful man with a past, who claimed to be French royalty and a friend of Napoleon Bonaparte. If all the stories were true, he was over 100 years old when he died here. But no matter -- he was a true Floridian, who started a new life, reinvented himself, and stuck it out in the end. He certainly had his share of adventures here -- an exerpt from an interpretive sign at the park:

"Originally, this mound was rectangular in shape, but a tremendous hurricane in 1848 washed away approximately 1/3 of the mound. At that time, Odet Philippe used the mound to save his family from the tidal surge."

Just another typical day at the park.


For more information or directions and events, visit Pinellas County's website for Philippe Park.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Primrose Willow

This primrose willow is doing just what it should, growing in a wet area of central Florida, and blooming in the fall. There's not much to say about it, other than it looks nice.