Monday, December 31, 2007

Dade Battlefield -- Annual Re-Enactment

This past weekend was the annual re-enactment of Major Dade's last encounter with the Seminoles. One hundred seventy-two years ago, in December 1835, Major Francis Dade of the U.S. Army led 107 men out of Fort Brooke (now Tampa) to reinforce Fort King (now Ocala). While walking through piney woods and palmettos on December 28, they were unpleasantly surprised by over 100 Seminoles. After a day's battle, only three Army soldiers survived. Simmering tensions between the United States and the Seminoles became the long and costly Second Seminole War, which didn't end until 1843.

The Dade Battlefield Society hosts a re-enactment of the battle each December at the Dade Battlefield State Park near Bushnell, Florida. We went on Saturday, and had a great time. Parking was easy, with shuttle buses from a sports complex to the park entrance. The park is open year-round (not just during the re-enactment) and there are trails, picnic shelters, and a museum. The re-enactment doesn't take place on the actual battlefield, but in the park are several markers pinpointing key points ("Here Major Dade Fell") and the Battlefield Society has erected a replica of the small log barricade the soldiers built as a shield.
Before and after the battle (held promptly at 2pm), we wandered through the Seminole and Soldiers camps, where re-enactors explain the food, tools, and shelter of the time and place. In another area vendors offer a wide range of goods, some authentic to the event, some not.

An earthern mound creates ampitheather seating for the battle. The bleachers fill up fast, but there's pleanty of room for those with folding chairs or blankets. This re-enactment is a little different from others, in that the battle is narrated by Ransom Clark (one of the few survivors), with the assistance of a wireless microphone. The Seminoles come in first, and get into their places, waiting for the troops to walk into the ambush. There is gunfire, and cannon fire, and smoke, and soldiers falling artistically into what look like some rather uncomfortable plants. Horses gallop by, Indians whoop, and at the end it is quiet except for a bugler playing taps. When the battle is over, they drop the rope separating the audience and the players, and you can go meet the re-enactors, and ask questions.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Historic Sites In and Around Tampa

The Tampa Tribune has been running a really nice series of stories about historic sites in the Tampa Bay area. Included have been:

Clay Sink

Sulphur Springs

The Tampa Theatre

Sacred Heart Church

Bayshore Boulevard

University of Tampa

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Fort Christmas

On Christmas Day in 1837, a small Army fort was established in central Florida. Today, Fort Christmas Historical Park features a replica of the original Seminole War-era fort as well as other historic buildings such as a one-room school a several Cracker houses that were home to Florida pioneer families. The park is managed by Orange County Parks and Recreation.

The Christmas, Florida, postmark is popular with people mailing holiday cards and letters to Santa.

"In This Florida Town, Christmas is Year-Round Business" (Sun-Sentinel, December 18, 2007)

"Christmas Has a Zip Code" (Herald Tribune, December 23, 2007)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Florida News

"Song picks won't have anyone leaving the show humming " (Daytona Beach News-Journal, December 14, 2007) "...the No. 1 requirement for a state song: A marching band must be able to play it."

"New study explores economic impact of Daytona International Speedway" (Orlando Sentinel, December 18, 2007) "The Daytona 500, considered the most prestigious race in the NASCAR circuit, had its first run in 1959."

"A Shining Beacon" (Tampa Tribune, December 19, 2007) Plant Hall at the University of Tampa

"Bayshore Still 'A Special Place'" (Tampa Tribune, December 18, 2007) "For more than a century Bayshore Boulevard has been Tampa's showcase, its jewel, touted as having one of the world's longest uninterrupted sidewalks."

"Old military ordnance not uncommon find in Florida " (Daytona Beach News-Journal, December 16, 2007)

"Quick 6: Homes for the holidays" (Sun Sentinel, December 13, 2007)

"Audubon Christmas Bird Count adds Clewiston area" (The News-Press, December 13, 2007)

"New program would help old homes" (St. Petersburg Times, December 16, 2007)

"Disney works its magic on its golf courses as well" (Toronto Star, December 15, 2007)

"Water crisis threatens Apalachicola oysters" (Miami Herald, December 17, 2007)

"Dan Warren recounts civil rights struggle in new book" (Daytona Beach News Journal, December 19, 2007)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lewis Hine in Florida

Recent articles in the Tampa Tribune feature one of the photographs taken by Lewis Hine for the National Child Labor Committee. This 1913 portrait of a newsboy in Ybor City is one of many such images that elicited support for child labor laws in this country. Recently, Joe Manning has been tracing the stories and identities of the children Hine photographed, and this fall the Tampa Tribune published a story about Manning's search to find the newsboy ("Photos Expose Child Labor in Tampa," October 21, 2007). Tampa historians traced small clues, and found that the boy is probably Tony Valenti, son of Sicilian immigrants, who grew up to be a successul businessman ("Everybody Turns Out To Be Something," Tampa Tribune, December 8, 2007).

To see the National Child Labor Committee photographs from Tampa, visit and type "Tampa" in the search box. Or type "Florida" to see Hine's photographs from Jacksonville and Apalachicola as well.

Monday, December 17, 2007

See a Manatee

Looking for ideas of something to do with kids or visiting relatives during winter vacation? Go see some manatees! The Save the Manatee Club website lists places where you can see Florida's state marine mammal either in the wild or in capativity. As Gulf water temperatures drop, manatees seek warmer waters, so in the wintertime you are more likely to find them at natural springs or near power plants.

"Our favorite snowbird, the manatee" (The News-Press, December 16, 2007)

Friday, December 14, 2007

USF Libraries and YouTube

The University of South Florida Libraries Special Collections Department and the Florida Studies Center have several videos available on YouTube, including several oral history podcasts from the 2007 Florida Folk Festival, "Tabaco con Ideologia," "Eye of the Beast" (radical student culture at USF in the 1960s and 1970s), and an interview with Raymond More, owner of La Segunda Bakery in Tampa.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

State Song Finalists Announced

The three finalists in the Just Sing Florida contest to select a new state song have been announced, and you can vote for your favorite online.

Tampa Tribune Special Report "Florida's State Song"

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


While reading this article ("Hear Here" by Eric Wills, Preservation Online), I was reminded of an article a while back in Creative Loafing, about a musician working on a project inspired by the sound of cars driving over the Cass Street Bridge in Tampa ("Take It to the Bridge" March 21, 2007). The soundfile links in that article aren't working for me, but a great time to listen to the bridge is during intermission of any nighttime performance at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Just walk outside towards the river, and you'll hear the car tires rolling out harmonic chords on the bridge's metal draw.

St. Michael's Cemetery

The Pensacola News-Journal and the University of West Florida put together an interesting website with family stories of people buried in the historic St. Michael's Cemetery.

Researching St. Michael's Cemetery: Step Into Pensacola's Past

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Florida News

"Pirates...extremists all" (Fort Myers Florida Weekly, December 6, 2007)

"Monday Chat with Willy Johns: Seminole tribe historian looks toward future" (TCPalm, December 2, 2007)

"McCarty House fire was set by someone, but not sure if intentional" (TCPalm, December 5, 2007)

"Former local developer has big plans for a Florida ranch" (Virginian Pilot, December 5, 2007)

"1920s and '30s Saw the Start of Many Local Traditions" (High school football in Lakeland, The Ledger, November 29, 2007)

"America's first Christmas was right here" (Tallahassee Democrat, December 1, 2007)

"Challenging the Citrus Status Quo" (The Ledger, December 3, 2007)

"Hope floats for revamping historic vessel: The Schooner Western Union Preservation Society is holding a festival Sunday to raise funds to restore the aging wooden boat with a rich history." (Miami Herald, December 1, 2007)

"Work is nearly done at Dubsdread golf course in Orlando" (Orlando Sentinel, December 2, 2007)

"Historic School Falls But Memories Rise" (Meachem Alternative School in Tampa's Central Park Village, Tampa Tribune, December 1, 2007)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Narvaez / Anderson Mound and Jungle Prada

In the Jungle Terrace neighborhood of St. Petersburg, there is a small waterfront park at the corner of Park Street and Elbow Lane. The park has a boat ramp into Boca Ciega Bay, plenty of parking, and some short trails that seem fairly popular with fishermen. This bit of relatively undeveloped land is quiet today, but perhaps it's just resting, catching a breather, after a hectic few centuries.

Nearby is the Narvaez / Anderson mound site, the former home of Tocobaga Indians. Here is where Spanish explorer Panfilo de Narvaez landed in 1528, on a rather disasterous journey along the Gulf coast. In the 1920s, this was part of the Jungle Prada complex, home to St. Petersburg's first nightclub. Stories abound concerning Al Capone's connections to this site.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Florida Maritime Museum in Cortez

The Florida Maritime Museum in Cortez is opening this weekend. The museum exhibits, store, and offices are located in the historic and renovated Cortez Schoolhouse. The 1890 Burton Store has been moved to a site next to the schoolhouse and renovations are underway for its use as a classroom and research library.

The museum is a joint project between Manatee County, F.I.S.H. (Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage), and the Cortez Village Historical Society. The museum's public grand opening is 9am - 4:30 pm Saturday, December 8.

Also associated with the Museum is a boatworking shop in Cortez, where volunteers restore historic craft and build new ones, including a 20' surf boat for the Jacksonville Volunteer Red Cross Life Saving Corps.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Everglades National Park 60th Anniversary

Tomorrow is the 60th anniversary of Everglades National Park. There will be ceremonies and exhibits, and discussion of where the park is headed next, with recent concern over the Restoration plan. The Park is also working on a plan, now in the public comment phase, for "re-establishing commercial services and facilites at Flamingo destroyed by hurricanes in 2005." Additional information about the Flamingo plan is available from the National Parks Conservation Association.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Holiday Shopping

I can't go to a museum without meandering through the gift shop, especially this time of year with all the seasonal goodies. Many museums shops sell crafts, decorative items, foods, stationery, toys, and books. These are great places to find a special gift, and make a purchase supporting local cultural institutions.

The best way to enjoy shopping is to visit the museum, then make a personal appearance in the store, but some museums have online catalogs for your convenience. I'm listing a few links here, but I haven't personally tested these museums' online services.

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens Store
Flagler Museum Store
Henry B. Plant Museum
Florida's History Shop
Edison & Ford Winter Estates Online Store
John and Mable Ringling Museum Store
Key West Art & Historical Society Online Store

Monday, December 03, 2007

City Beautiful

Orlando and Coral Gables have the same nickname, which led to a little trouble. Not that the two places are easily confused, but everyone likes to feel special. But why would two totally different cities pick the same, somewhat awkward name -- "The City Beautiful"?

For the same reason that many other cities across the nation chose it as well -- the name comes from the City Beautiful Movement, a Progressive reform movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As cities grew, so did the problems of urban life, such as poor sanitation and crime. Greatly simplified, the City Beautiful's proponents thought that a clean and attractive city would create more prosperity. Beaux Arts architecture typifies public buildings of this time and this movement. An early and particularly well-known expression of City Beautiful was Daniel Burham's White City at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dr. Robert Cade, Gatorade Creator

Dr. Robert Cade, instrumental in creating Gatorade, died today at age 80. He and other scientists at the University of Florida developed the drink in the 1960s to help keep the school's football players hydrated. The name Gatorade is a reference to the team's nickname, the Gators.

"Gatorade creator Dr. Robert Cade dies Tuesday at age 80" (University of Florida News, November 27, 2007)

"Dr. Robert Cade, Gatorade inventor, dies at 80" (Gainesville Sun/, November 27, 2007)

History of Gatorade, from the sport drink's official website

Monday, November 26, 2007

SS American Victory

The SS American Victory is docked in Tampa's Channelside District, between the Florida Aquarium and the cruise ship terminal.

SS American Victory is a World War II Merchant Marine Victory ship, now serving as a maritime museum. Although this particular ship was built in California, it is an effective reminder of the many, many ships built in Tampa during the war at the docks visible from the American Victory's decks.

Garrison Channel, looking west toward downtown to the right -- Harbor Island to the left, Tampa General Hospital on Davis Islands straight ahead.

Ybor Channel (part of the Port of Tampa, looking north toward Ybor City). When the Ybor Estuary was dredged in the early twentieth century, creating the channel, the Port of Tampa drew commercial shipping away from the Hillsborough River. It is now the largest port in Florida.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Florida News, After a Long Weekend

"Eight million pounds of citrus will crisscross the country" (Orlando Sentinel, November 21, 2007)

"A Florida Thanksgiving" (Herald Tribune, November 22, 2007) "'Pluck 'em, skin 'em, bread 'em and fry 'em' is his family's traditional recipe for wild turkey, dating back four generations to Florida's first Austin Heacock -- Hay-cock -- who came down from Ohio with the Sebrings in 1912."

"Old-timer recalls when citrus ruled area" (St. Petersburg Times, November 23, 2007) Memories of Orange Blossom Groves.

"Wooden icon breathes new green life:
The governor endorses the energy efficiency project of the new owners of the Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa." (St. Petersburg Times, November 20, 2007)

"Restoring the Everglades" (Tampa Tribune, Special Report)

"Herbert Saffir, creator of hurricane intensity scale, dies at 90 " (St. Petersburg Times, November 23, 2007)

"State Has a History of Primary Skirmishes" (Tallahassee Democrat, November 25, 2007)

"'60s concrete monsters get a second look" (Miami Herald, November 21, 2007)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving (A Month or Two Late)

"Florida teacher chips away at Plymouth Rock Thanksgiving myth"
USA Today, November 20, 2007

Old Houses on Campus

The University of South Florida-St. Petersburg has a small, two-building historic district on campus, consisting of the Williams House and the Snell House.
The Williams House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and desinated a City of St. Petersburg Landmark in 1986, was built in 1891 by Genreal John C. Williams, a key figure in St. Petersburg's earliest days. This Queen Anne-style house was originally located in downtown St. Petersburg, where it was part of the Manhattan Hotel for many decades before being moved to the USF-SP campus.

The Snell House gets its name from an historical association with C. Perry Snell, a leading St. Petersburg developer in the early twentieth century. Snell built this eccletic Dutch Colonial bungalow in 1904 as his own home, where he lived with his wife Lillian for a few years. Like the Williams house, the Snell House was part of a downtown hotel before it was moved to its current location on the USF-SP campus. It is now home to the Florida Studies and University Honors programs.

The Snell House features rounded rooms, three sided bay windows, classical columns, and a gambrel roof.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Florida News

"Is it Bigfoot? Nope, just a fox squirrel" (Florida Times-Union, November 17, 2007)

"Wildlife Officers Investigate New Ape Sighting" (News4Jax, November 15, 2007) with video

"Water skier, boat pioneer raced through life" (St. Petersburg Times, November 13, 2007)

"The Sponge Man Of Tarpon Springs" (Tampa Tribune, November 10, 2007)

"First woman mayor is Homestead's new face" (Miami Herald, November 15, 2007)

"Key deer refuge marks 50 years"(Herald Tribune, November 18, 2007)

"Judges who will pick plan for Riverview building hear of its former splendor" (Herald Tribune, November 18, 2007)

"Historic Hollywood mansion for sale again: The Storied Home of Hollywood's Founder Joseph W. Young is all ready for a new buyer" (Miami Herald, November 11, 2007)

"The old Coke plant could help revive All Saints" (Tallahassee Democrat, November 10, 2007)

"History echoes through the halls of newly renovated courthouse in West Palm Beach" (Sun Sentinel, November 17, 2007)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

So Long, Americana

Miami's Sheraton Bal Harbour Hotel (originally the Americana) crumbled to the ground this morning.

"Rat Pack's Lair Gone in a Cloud of Dust" (Miami Herald, Nov. 18, 2007)

"Historic Hotel Goes Out With Bang" (, Nov. 18, 2007 -- includes video)

" Sheraton Bal Harbour Vanishes in a Cloud of Dust" (CBS4, Nov. 18, 2007 -- includes video)

"Old Americana Hotel Will Be Dust at Dawn" (Miami Herald, Nov. 18, 2007)

"While You were [Probably] Sleeping This Morning" (Stuck on the Palmetto, Nov. 18, 2007)

"Americana" (My Florida History, Feb. 16, 2007)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

More Books on the Florida Shelf

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, by Cory Doctorow. (Tor, 2003.)
Disney World preserved in a future world. For more, visit the author's website. This book is also available through Daily Lit.

The Columbia Restaurant Spanish Cookbook, by Adela Hernandez Gonzmart and Ferdie Pacheco (University Press of Florida, 1995). History and recipes from Florida's oldest Spanish restaurant.

Bern's Steak House: Reflections & Recipes from a Remarkable Restaurant, by Joyce LaFray. (Seaside Publishing, 2002). History and recipes from Tampa's famous steak house, although it's about organic food, wine, and dessert, as well as the meat.

Wildfire!, by Elizabeth Starr Hills (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002) Short novel for children, set in rural Florida. Themes include peer pressure, jealosy, and family.

More Disney Golf

Imaginerding has a snipet of a 1976 Disney map showing the Magnolia golf course's unique groundskeeper, along with a link to My Florida History's April 2007 entry. Thanks!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Leisurama South

A February 1964 New York Times article described new homes being built in Lauderhill, Florida, where you could buy a 2-bedroom, 1 1/2 bath house for $16,990, "completely furnished, even down to the dishes and linens." This was the Leisurama South development, built by All-State Homes, which also built Leisurama in Montauk, on Long Island, New York.

A 2005 episode of PBS' History Detectives traced the path from Nixon and Khrushev's Kithchen Debate in Moscow to these modern homes near Fort Lauderdale. Architect Andrew Geller designed the kitchen where those two world leaders argued the relative merits of their contry's political systems, while looking at household appliances. Geller also designed the Leisurama homes.

Herbert Sadkin was the developer of Lauderhill. An interesting quote from the History Detectives: "Richard Nixon used the kitchen debate to sell the world capitalism. Herbert Sadkin used it to sell houses in Florida." (click here for a pdf of the episode's transcript)

The City of Lauderhill's website includes the story of how its name came close to being "Sunnydale," if not for the advise of William Safire.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Winslow Homer in Florida

With autumn here, and winter migrants arriving, let's look back at a man who visited Florida a hundred years ago.

Winslow Homer is famous as an American painter, and his watercolors are especially well known. Beginning in 1885, he made periodic winter trips to Florida. Over the span of a couple of decades he visited Key West, Tampa, the St. Johns River, and Homosassa Springs, trips that resulted in wonderful images of Florida that still resonate today.

So with the cooler, fresher weather, and the vacation time coming up, consider a family trip to Homosassa Springs, to see the manatees and Winslow Homer's art. A great 2 for 1 deal!

Online Winslow Homer exhibit from the National Gallery of Art

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Florida News

"Orange Bowl: Farewell to a Classic" (Palm Beach Post, November 9, 2007)

"Coffee! Soda! Chocolate! Call Us Caf-Fiends" (Tampa Bay is the 2nd most caffienated metro area in US, Tampa Tribune, November 8, 2007)

"Partiers come home to roost" (Tampa Tribune, November 9, 2007)

"Antique trailer show brings back memories" (News-Press, November 3, 2007)

"Internet mogul breaks ground on commercial launch complex" (Florida Today, November 2, 2007)

"FEMA provides nearly $350,000 to protect Edison & Ford Winter Estates" (Naples Daily News, October 31, 2007)

"Nostalgia inspires landowner to rebuild Cobb's Corner" (Daytona Beach News Journal, November 2, 2007)

"Winding road connects generations" (I-275 widening project uncovers tombstone, St. Petersburg Times, November 2, 2007)

"Historic buildings trumpet their age: More than 300 places can wear a bronze stamp of approval." (St. Petersburg Times, November 7, 2007)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Coral Gables Resources

I had a chance to flip through Arva Moore Parks' book George Merrick's Coral Gables "Where Your 'Castles in Spain' Are Made Real!" (Centennial Press, 2006), and it looks like something worth sitting down and reading.

Another interesting book is Coral Gables: Miami Riviera - An Architectural Guide, which has walking tours, maps, and photos.

Speaking of photos, the website Coral Gables Memory has piles of old photographs. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Florida's Architectural Follies

I'm amused and bemused by architectural folles, those outlandish or unusual constructions that step outside the square design box. Different people define architectural follies in different ways -- do these constructions have to be impractical or foolish? Do they have to be expensive or lose money for their builders?

Gwyn Headley, in Architectural Follies in America (John Wiley & Sons, 1996) considers follies as "...structures that are not ordinary buildings but are edifices that transcend the banal, the commonplace, the simply utilitarian. ... Architectural follies transcend barriers of style, time, taste, and nationality. They spring from those most human of emotions: vanity, pride, passion, and obsession." Sounds like something we just might see in Florida.

And, indeed, Headley mentions several follies in this state. In Florida, with exotic images and people seeking to escape from the ordinary, the line between unusual and folly is slim. But here are some of the structures Headley lists, with links to more information or images:

Castle Otttis
Coral Castle
Dragon Point
Solomon's Castle
Venetian Pool

I can think of several others, but do you have any favorite Florida follies?

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Water is Wide

On November 15, 2007, a month-long exhibit and program series begins at Studio@620 in St. Petersburg -- The Water is Wide: The Art of Boat Building (A multi-disciplinary celebration of the rich heritage of boat building on the West Coast of Florida). The event includes boat building demponstrations, model boats, hands-on event for kids, musical performances, and a play by Bob Devin Jones. There will be talks by Olympic sailors, yacht builder Charley Morgan, author Robert Macomber, artist Robert Stackhouse, and more! See the website for a complete schedule of events.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Spook Hill

Near Lake Wales, Florida, is an unusual spot, where cars may roll uphill, rather than down. In traditional Florida style, this phenomenon is attributed to ghosts of Indians and alligators, and turned into a tourist destination. Some spoilsports have tried to explain Spook Hill with reason and measurable observation, but Lake Walesians hold fast, even naming a nearby educational facility Spook Hill Elementary.

In the spirit of Halloween, consider a trip to Lake Wales to see for yourself. And while you're there, check out The Depot (the Lake Wales Museum and Cultural Center) and Bok Sanctuary.

If you get hungry, consider a table at the Chalet Suzanne (known for its soup), or explore Lake Wales' food heritage. Lake Wales is also home to Florida's Natural Brand orange juice.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Florida News

"My Florida dream" (St. Petersburg Times, Octoer 21, 2007)

"Pumpkin, knife, Scuba gear -- all set" (, October 21, 2007)

"Underwater carving contest draws fish" (Miami Herald, October 21, 2007)

"Film Festival: New Urban Cowboy: An interview with Michael E. Arth" (Connect Savannah, October 23, 2007; documentary about "New Pedestrianism" in DeLand)

"Architect's Vision Realized As Fountain Comes To Life" (Tampa Tribune, October 26, 2007; Frank Lloyd Wright's Waterdome)

"The great swan corral at Lake Eola" (Orlando Sentinel, October 27, 2007)

"Alligator Emerges From Sewer and Is Found Under a Parked Truck" (First Coast News, October 26, 2007)

"'A particular kind of beauty' spares house demolition" (News-Leader, October 25, 2007)

"Marineland: 'God's country'" (Bradenton Herald, October 14, 2007)

"Tomato packaging firms feel squeezed" (Bradenton Herald, October 23, 2007)

"An old look for Truman retreat" (Little White House in Key West, Chicago Tribune, October 14, 2007)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tarpon Springs

One of the best things about living in these here parts. I was in Tarpon Springs one morning this week doing a little research, and finished up in time to walk in the sun along Dodecanese Street and enjoy some spanakopita for lunch.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Welcome to the Waterdome

WUSF-Radio had a very interesting story during the evening rush hour about Florida Southern college's reconstruction of Frank Lloyd Wright's Waterdome ("Waterdome" Returns to Florida Southern). Listen to the podcast and you'll hear people muse about what Frank Lloyd Wright would think about the project, about how technology might finally have caught up with his ideas, and how proud people are to be involved with this effort. WUSF's website also has a slideshow of the restoration process.

From Florida Southern College's website:

"Long-awaited restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright's Waterdome to begin at Florida Southern College." The third paragraph: "As a metaphor for the journey of student life, Wright intended the Waterdome to draw water from a deep artesian well and form the headwaters of an elaborate composition of “matriculating” streams and pools through campus to its natural counterpart in Lake Hollingsworth. The small planters and “paradise garden areas” he planned would be, “an expression of Florida at its floral best.”

"FSC Announces World Premiere of Frank Lloyd Wright's Waterdome" First paragraph: "Florida Southern College is pleased to announce the Frank Lloyd Wright Water Dome World Premiere, beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 25 in front of the Roux Library on the FSC campus. The Discovery Channel will be on campus to film the event."

Thursday, October 25, 6:30 p.m. How cool is that?!

(For a bloggers perspective, The Frank Lloyd Wright Newsblog: Category Archives: Florida Southern)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Florida Lecture Series

Each year, the Center for Florida History at Florida Southern College in Lakeland offers the Florida Lecture Series. Coming up on the schedule:

November 15, Stuart McIver discusses Guy Bradley and Death in the Everglades

January 31, Les Standiford presents Henry Flagler's Last Train to Paradise

February 28, David Jackson talks about "Booker T. Washington Comes to Florida"

March 13, John F. Marszalek offers "The Petticoat Affair: Manners and Sex in Andrew Jackson's White House"

All lectures are at 7 pm on the Florida Southern campus, in the Hollis Room. Past lectures are also available as podcasts on WUSF's website.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Florida News

"Weaving prose through history" (St. Petersburg Times, October 14, 2007) James Tokley, Tampa's poet laureate

"The soul of an alligator: Sun City Center Bill Warner likes a fight. This one's a doozy." (Brandon Times, October 19, 2007)

"Designing Dogtown: Local barkitects go all out for Marion County's latest public arts project" (Ocala Star-Banner, September 28, 2007)

"Fed-up Conchs find haven in Micanopy" (Orlando Sentinel, October 14, 2007)

"The USF Bulls: From a fake helmet to the real deal" (ABC Action News, October 17, 2007)

"Local notables flock to Petty film" (Gainesville Sun, October 16, 2007) "The red carpet was nowhere to be seen, those in attendance wore V-necks rather than Versace, and yet the Gainesville premiere of the Peter Bogdanovich documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers still had an air of excitement as a couple hundred fans turned out for the four-hour film."

"Market for landmarks surveyed during Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach panel" (Palm Beach Daily News, October 17, 2007)

"Group gathers to mark anniversary of Muir walk" (Nassau Sun, October 18, 2007) commemorating John Muir's A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf.

"The latest war on terror victim: beauty" (Tallahassee Democrat, October 21, 2007) Old oak trees and new concrete bollards at the Capital Building.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Palmetto Historic Park

Palmetto Historic Park is located at 515 10th Avenue W, Palmetto, Florida, just off US 41 north of Bradenton. Several historic structures have been moved here, and are open to the public.

The Cypress House, originally located on Longboat Key, is now a small military museum. It was built using pecky cypress, a decorative wood type. The holes in the wood are apparently caused by the growth of a fungus in the living tree.

The Heritage Station Post Office, built in 1880, was Palmetto's first free-standing post office. When it was built, mail still came to Palmetto by steamship from Cedar Key. The post office was moved here in 1982, and was the first building the Palmetto Historical Park. On Heritage Day each year, you can mail letters from this post office, each one getting a special hand cancellation.

A prominent feature of the historical park is the 1914 Carnegie Library, which over the years has also served as Town Hall, the school library, and the Girls Club. Today it houses a local history library. The current public library is across the street.

The Manatee County Agricultural Museum and Hall of Fame is also at the Palmetto Historical Park.

The park and agricultural museum are free if you just want to walk around (donations welcome), and tours are available.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Florida Dream

"The Florida Dream," a new documentary produced by the Florida Humanities Council and WEDU-TV, will air Thursday, October 18, at 9 p.m. on public television stations across the state ( broadcast schedule). This documentary, narrated by Ed Asner and based on Gary Mormino's book Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams, explores Florida's tremendous growth and change after World War II.

Companion to the film is a wonderful website (
Florida Humanities Council: Florida Dream website), with audio and video clips, powerpoint presentations, images, and lesson plans organized into 7 categories: civil rights, land & development, people & cultures, politics, retirement & aging, technology, and tourism.

Florida Dream media kit

Monday, October 15, 2007

Plume Hunters in Florida

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

The hottest fashion accessory in the late nineteenth century was a bird plume hat. Elaborate feather confections adorned women's heads, but as Stuart McIver writes:

"Behind the plumes and feathered hats lay a trail of bloody slaughter, human greed, human ingenuity, production skills, and artistry. The result was a thing of beauty that brought joy to its wearer and her admirers. The feather trade's cast of characters was a large one: in the big city, the fashion designers, millinery workers, salesmen, and retail merchants; in the swamps, marshes, and woods, the traders and plume buyers and, at the bottom of the chain, the plume hunters."

A plume is a large and particularly showy feather. The plumes of Florida's snowy egret, white ibis, and other wading birds during breeding season were particularly sought-after commodities. That so many plume birds could be found in Florida added to the state's mystique -- historian Jack E. Davis calls the birds the "beauty to the alligator's "beast," good and evil in an exotic wilderness.

Life was difficult in south Florida and the Everglades, and it was hard to turn down a chance to make a little money, a little better life for the family. Many men already hunted these birds for dinner (white ibis was also called Chokoloskee chicken, refering to a trading post in the Ten Thousand Islands). What was wrong with killing a few more?

Plume hunters didn't restrict themselves to shooting just one or two birds. They would kill all the adults in a rookery, leaving the young on their own to die. Thousands upon thousands of birds were shot, threatening the continued existence of some species. This carnage, however, gave credence to early conservation efforts in the United States.

In 1901, at the urging of the American Ornithologists' Union, Florida passed a law protecting many species of birds. In 1902, Guy Bradley, a former plume hunter himself, was appointed warden in Monroe County. In Death in the Everglades, Stuart McIver tells Bradley's story, the story of the plume birds, the story of the south Florida frontier. Ultimately, he tells the story of Bradley's death, shot in 1905 by the father of an accused plume hunter. Bradley became a martyr for the cause.

Wildlife contributed to Florida's popular image, so important to those marketing its homes and hotels. Nonetheless, the wildlife, the natural resources, were themselves commodities -- alligator hides, sea shells, orchids, and cypress knees were marketed, along with the plumes. Notes Davis, writing about the late 1800s, "In the end, harvesting novelties of nature threatened those things that gave Florida its original splendor."

Gradually, a combination of legal controls, changing fashions, and diminishing supply lessened the demand for plumes, although the hunting continued well into the twentieth century. Today, Florida's wading birds are threatened by pollution and habitat loss rather than by the hats we wear.

Death in the Everglades: The Murder of Guy Bradley, America's First Martyr to Environmentalism, by Stuart B. McIver (University Press of Florida, 2003)

"Alligators and Plume Birds; The Despoilation of Florida's Living Aesthetic" by Jack E. Davis, in Paradise Lost? The Environmental History of Florida (University Press of Florida, 2005)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Florida News

"Old Florida ranching family faces New Florida challenges" (The McDaniels' ranch in Hendry county deals with developers and a storm water project, Palm Beach Post, Oct. 8, 2007)

"Pepper Ranch would be part of Collier land preservation program, if owners get their way" (2,500 acres in Immokalee, Naples Daily News, Oct. 8, 2007)

"It's only logical to get history correct" (Tampa rededicates the Eugene Holtsinger Bridge, St. Petersburg Times, Oct. 5, 2007)

"Bridge links us to more bits of history" (Memories of the old Garcia Avenue Bridge, St. Petersburg Times, Oct. 12, 2007)

"The Carolina Connection -- Floridians are buying up homes in North Carolina -- and Florida builders are hot on their heels. But the Sunshine State's brand of development is creating tension in the hills." (Florida Trend, Oct. 1, 2007)

"Mound seen as sacred trust" (Efforts to protect Pinellas Point temple mound, St. Petersburg Times, Oct. 7, 2007)

"Villa Serena labeled historic home" (Former Miami home of William Jennings Bryan, Miami Daily News, Oct. 11, 2007)

"Up against the wall--Old murals adorn a doomed building. Can they be saved?" (Works Progess Administration muralist George Snow Hill, St. Petersburg Times, Oct. 10, 2007)

"1947 Greyhound station for sale" (Streamline Moderne building in Daytona Beach, Orlando Sentinel, Oct. 7, 2007)

"Biltmore course re-opening delayed" (Renovated 1925 Donald Ross golf course to reopen Nov. 1 in Coral Gables, Miami Herald, Oct. 12, 2007)

"Satelitte Beach turns 50" (Florida Today, Oct. 12, 2007)

"Time may be running out on Gov. McCarty's house -- The current owner of Daniel McCarty's home wants to tear 102-year-old house down." (in Fort Pierce,, Oct. 11, 2007)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Support the Tampa Historical Society

Two events this month to benefit the Tampa Historical Society:

Feast of the Dark at Gaspar's Grotto in Ybor City.
Friday, October 19, 2007, 7:30 - 11:30 pm
Tax deductible $10 cover for costume contest, ghost ship decor, pirates, games, silent auction, live music, food and drink specials.

Graveyard Walk
Oaklawn Cemetery in downtown Tampa
Sunday, October 28, 2007, 3:00 - 4:00 pm
Led by Miss Prudence Fipwhistle (who died in 1899, by the way)
$5 donation requested
For more information, call (813) 831-5214

Funds raised to help with restoration of the Society's headquarters, the Peter O. Knight House.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Heritage Village

Yesterday I took my class on a fieldtrip to Pinellas County's Heritage Village. This park and museum offers 25+ historic structures, exhibits, educational programs and classes, a gift shop, and a nature trail. The oldest structure is a mid-nineteenth-century dogtrot log cabin. Other buildings include cracker houses, barns, a church, a railroad depot, a general store, a bandstand, and a shelter from an old cemetery, all moved here from somewhere else in Pinellas County (except the railroad depot is from Sulphur Springs in Tampa). And as if that weren't enough there's a caboose and fire engine. All this, and a really helpful and enthusiastic group of guides, interpreters, and volunteer docents.

Coming up soon, on October 27, will be the Annual Country Jubilee and Heritage Village 30th Birthday Celebration (9:30 am to 4:30 pm, free admission, shuttle parking). Come enjoy crafts, live music, activities, and special guests in the historic buildings.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Devil's Millhopper

What could be more fun than a hole in the ground?!

This summer, the family visited Devil's Millhopper State Park near Gainesville. I hadn't been there for a decade or more, since I was in grad school at the University of Florida. Devil's Millhopper is a park that features a 120-foot-deep, 500-foot-wide sinkhole. A 236-step wooden staircase winds down to the bottom. (Walking down 236 steps while outside is an odd thing for us flatlanders. Walking up 236 steps is popular with local residents who incorporate the sinkhole into personal fitness routines.) It's a beautiful and peaceful place, with shade trees and trickling spring-fed springs.

"Devil’s Millhopper gets its unique name from its funnel-like shape. During the 1880’s, farmers used to grind grain in gristmills. On the top of the mill was a funnel-shaped container called a 'hopper' that held the grain as it was fed into the grinder. Because fossilized bones and teeth from early life forms have been found at the bottom of the sink, legend has it that the millhopper was used to feed bodies to the devil. Hence, Devil’s Millhopper."

At the park, there is a nature trail, and a small interpretive ceter where you can see artifacts left behind by Native Americans, the Spanish, American explorers, and other who have visited the site over the past 10,000 years.


Information about Florida sinkholes:

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Elizabeth Bishop's Florida

The state with the prettiest name,
the state that floats in brackish water,
held together by mangrave roots
that bear while living oysters in clusters,
and when dead strew white swamps with skeletons,
dotted as if bombarded, with green hummocks
like ancient cannon-balls sprouting grass.

These are the first few lines of Florida, by Elizabeth Bishop. Bishop was a twentieth-century American poet, who lived and worked in Key West in the 1930s and 1940s. She is also the topic of a Florida Humanities Council-sponsored lecture to be offered in Key West in December 2007.

Monday, October 08, 2007

More Florida Blogs

It's always nice to run across some new (to me, at least) Florida blogs such as these:

Civil War Florida

Digital Library Blog

(and one for my sister...)

Gardening in Central Florida

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Florida News

"Ormond Firehouse Converting to Office Building" Daytona Beach News-Journal Oct. 1, 2007

"Wright's Stuff" Florida Trend Oct. 1, 2007

"From Bondage to Great Brooksvillian Nominee" Hernando Today Sept. 30, 2007

"Get Ready for Some Fun at the Old Ice House" Punta Gorda Herald Oct. 3, 2007

"New Finds among the Old: Historian is First Full-time Paid Venice Archive Manager" Herald Tribune Oct. 2, 2007

"Orange City Water Museum" DeLand-Deltona Beacon Sept. 28, 2007

"Library Photo Archives One of Putnam’s ‘Little-known Treasures’" Palatka Daily News

"Railroad Shop: The Day a Black Community Died" Miami Herald Sept. 23, 2007

"Florida's Space Coast was Sparked by Sputnik" St. Petersburg Times Sept. 30, 2007

"Landmark Hotel Adds a New Page to its History" Tallahassee Democrat Sept. 30, 2007

"Diversity's Good Business for Longtime Skating Rink" Miami Herald Oct. 4, 2007

"Martha Makes a House" Orlando Sentinel Oct. 7, 2007

"To Them, It's Joyful Noise" St. Petersburg Times Oct. 5, 2007

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Florida Flicks

It's the weekend -- time to head over to the local movie rental store.

Key Largo : Bogie and Bacall, Edward G. Robinson -- gangsters, Seminoles, and a war veteran gather at a hotel in the Florida keys as a storm approaches.

Sunshine State: Families and communities in transition as developers make big plans for some Florida towns. Filmed on Amelia Island, and features American Beach. Director: John Sayles.

Cocoon: A group of retirees discover the fountain of youth -- and something rather unexpected. Ron Howard directed this lite sci fi comedy filmed on location in St. Petersburg. See how many places you recognize.

Bad Boys: Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are buddies in this Miami cops and robbers action film. The sequel, Bad Boys II, didn't get such great reviews ("Whatcha gonna do?") but it did get made into a video game.

The Cocoanuts: The Marx Brothers run a hotel in south Florida in the 1920s land boom. Best line: "You can have any kind of home you want. You can even get stucco. Oh, how you can get stucco."

Vernon, Florida: According to director Errol Morris' website, this "is an odd-ball survey of the inhabitants of a remote swamp-town in the Florida panhandle." Last month, the St. Petersburg Times ran an article about this "swamp-town" : "Dismembered Again."

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sign Sign

Somehow I missed this article a couple of months ago in the Orlando Sentinel: "Roadside signs light way to our community's past," which was accompanied by a map of Central Florida's Historic Signs.

Super Signage has more photos of great old Florida signs.

The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati leads a nationwide effort to preserve these bulky relics, and the National Park Service's Technical Preservation Services division has written a booklet, Preservation of Historic Signs.

Do you have a favorite old sign in Florida?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Historic Preservation, Sustainability, and Being Green

From the National Trust for Historic Preservation comes this article, "The Green Future of Preservation," discussing how the coming generation of historic preservations are learning how to combine preservation with sustainability.

Other related articles:

"Preservation and Sustainability: The Greenest Building is the One Already Built" -- AIA's Newsletter of the Committee on the Environment

"The Greening of Historic Properties" (pdf)
White Paper from Green Building Alliance

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

State Vegetable?

It came to my attention today that Florida doesn't have a state vegetable. State fruit, pie, beverage, flower, soil, freshwater fish, and many more, but no veggie. That's ok -- many states don't, and of the ones that do, two chose sweet potato, some picked tomatoes, and three selected some variety of onion. Utah added the State Historic Vegetable section (sugar beet), and Oklahoma started conversation by naming watermelon as its state vegetable.

Practically every vegetable under the sun is grown in Florida -- which would best represent this state? How about naming the state tree (Sabal Palm) as the state vegetable as well? That would be swamp cabbage (or hearts of palm, depending on where you are dining). However, since harvesting the cabbage kills the tree, you would need permission before using fresh swamp cabbage to make this recipe:

Marinated Flank Steak with Stewed Florida Swamp Cabbage (from Emeril Lagasse and the Food

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Outside My Office Door

Under tall pines and tangled with palms and muscadine vines, an American beautyberry bears fruit. The beautyberry's scientific name is Callicarpa americana. Birds enjoy the berries straight off the bush, but people make jellies and jams.

Pretty, but not welcome in these parts, is the Caesarweed (Urena lobata). It looks fairly quiet, but it's an invasive exotic plant, considered a noxious weed.

Additional reading:

Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants
50 Common Native Plants Important in Florida's Ethnobotoanical History

Friday, September 21, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Avast! It be Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Aye, ye heard me, Talk Like a Pirate Day. Of course, Florida has seen it's share of pirates, and we still like a good pirate festival. The biggest of them all is Tampa's Gasparilla, held every winter for over 100 years.

The pirate ship in the photo above is the Flying Dutchman. Used during the filming of Pirates of the Carribean, the Flying Dutchman is now docked at Castaway Cay.

Monday, September 17, 2007

President Eisenhower over Fort Jefferson

Over New Year's weekend 1956, President Eisenhower spent 10 days in Key West recovering from his heart attack the previous September. Flying back to Washington, D.C. on the Columbine III, Eisenhower asked his pilot to make a detour to the south, to fly over Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas.

If you were a president who had just been reminded of your own mortality, what would be going through your mind as you inspected the former prison of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, accused of conspiring to assassinate President Lincoln?

I don't know what President Eisenhower pondered, but it didn't keep him from signing a bill nearly three years later, authorizing a marker memorializing Dr. Mudd's work during a 1869 yellow fever epidemic.

Fort Jefferson is now part of the Dry Tortugas National Park. It was originally a massive brick fort built in the 1840s. As the building sank under its own weight, and as new types of weapons made the fort's defenses obsolete, the Army halted construction. However, the fort's isolation was an asset for its role as a prison.


"Eyes on Key West" New York Times, January 1, 1956

"President Takes Detour to See Historic Fort" New York Times, January 9, 1956

"President Approves Memorial to Dr. Mudd" New York Times, September 22, 1959

Friday, September 14, 2007

Heritage Newsletter and Event Calendar

I just received in my electronic in-box a nifty new thing -- a e-newsletter called "Heritage Happenings." It includes a lengthy list of local heritage events for the coming month, and from looking at this, no one has any excuse to be sitting at home bored. To sign up for your very own copy of "Heritage Happenings" visit Reclaiming Our Heritage's website, and click on "newsletter."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Florida Author Tim Dorsey

Florida author Tim Dorsey spoke at the Upper Tampa Bay Library last night. His most recent book is Hurricane Punch, and he is working on the third draft of his next novel. The books are in that genre of Florida humorous crime novels populated by unusual characters, such as Serge Storms, serial killer and font of Florida lore. Serge often is described as the main character of Dorsey's books, but according to the author this is incorrect: "Florida is actually the main character."

Dorsey's stories are packed with Florida places, people, and stories. How do readers react to such specific settings, detailed right down to street addresses? Dorsey described two types of reactions he has encountered. People who live in Florida and are initimately acquainted with the place say that they feel comfortable in familiar surroundings. On the other hand, some people from out of state use the books as an "insider's travel guide." The places in Dorsey's books are real, places you can actually visit, places that might not make it into Fodor's guide.

For more information about Tim Dorsey, his books, and speaking calendar, visit his website,