Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Miami Super Bowl Venues

According to the official Super Bowl website, this Sunday's game will be the 9th Super Bowl played in Miami, and the 4th at Dolphin Stadium. The other 5 were played at the Orange Bowl.

Originally named Burdine Stadium in the late 1930s, the Orange Bowl was renovated and enlarged periodically over the years. In the 1960s it could seat 80,000, and acquired a MiMo flair.

Dolphin Stadium, designed by HOK Sport, opened in 1987. To prepare for Super Bowl LXI, the stadium underwent renovation and construction work. The City of Miami is redeveloping the Orange Bowl.

For local coverage of the Super Bowl and tips on visiting Miami, check out Dave Barry's Blog.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Of Yellow Jessamine

The recent warm weather and rain brought yellow jessamine flowers. In February 1872, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote from her Florida home: "To-day is mail-day, and as the yellow jessamine is in all its glory, the girls here are sending little boxes of it North to their various friend through the mail." The mail was carried from Mandarin on a steamboat down the St. Johns River.

Soon after Stowe wrote Palmetto Leaves, calling yellow jessamine "the very Ariel of flowers,--the tricksy sprite, full of life and grace and sweetness," another writer from the North moved to St. Augustine. Constance Fenimore Woolson's Florida novels reflect the cultural and racial struggles and dilemmas of the time; however, she also wrote poetry, including "Yellow Jessamine":

The Southern land, well weary of its green
Which may not fall nor fade,
Bestirs itself to greet the lovely flower
With leaves of fresher shade;
The pine has tassels, and the orange-trees
Their fragrant work begin:
The spring has come—has come to Florida,
With yellow jessamine.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski

I just finished reading Strawberry Girl, by Lois Lenski. It's a children's book, about pine woods Florida settlers at the turn of the century. The title character is Birdie Boyer, a girl who helps her family grow and sell strawberries. The Boyers live in the Roddenberrys' old house -- the Roddenberrys left Florida after the 1895-1896 freezes nearly killed all their orange trees. The Boyers are hard-working farmers who grow strawberries for northern markets. They nourish the soil, feed their livestock, and fence their land. Their children go to school and church. Providing contrast are the Slaters. Their cattle tromple the Boyer's strawberry patch, their children beat up the teacher, and in a drunken rage Mr. Slater shoots the heads off all their chickens. It's hard to say which family is more likeable.

Lenski wrote Strawberry Girl in 1945, several years after Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' The Yearling won the Pulitzer Prize. There are similarities between the two --- Cracker culture, battles between hard-working and lazy neighbors, farmers struggling against the elements... The Yearling is better, but Strawberry Girl is not bad. It was good enough to win Lenski a Newberry Medal in 1946. Strawberry Girl was the first in Lenski's regional series of children's books, each set in a different locale (for example, an Iowa corn farm and a West Virginia mining town).

Lenski packs a lot of information and morality into 150 pages, and I suspect this is a book that parents and teachers wish that children would want to read, rather than a book kids will sit down with on a summer day. However, the Central Florida Memory program has a nice 4th grade unit available online.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Road Trip to Clearwater

OK, Clearwater isn't exactly the other side of the world from where I live, but it's not really on the way to anywhere. You have to intend to go there, it doesn't just happen.

The drive started peacefully, passing Tampa Bay Downs, with thoroughbreds training in a gauzy morning light. Then on to Oldsmar, a small town island in a sea of sprawl. The Sun Groves store in Safety Harbor is a reminder of times past as well, of tourists shipping fruit by the boxful to family and friends -- a nice way of saying "I'm in Florida, and you aren't."

There aren't many groves left in Pinellas County. US 19 is lined deep with shopping centers -- who buys all this stuff? Traffic going into downtown can be snarled, but it wasn't too bad this morning despite some closed streets. In downtown Clearwater you won't see many tall buildings, but there are a lot of people wearing white shirts and black pants. One of my favorite buildings is the Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church -- how often do you see a pink church?

The Clearwater Main Library is in a new building, opened 2004. The reference section is very comfortable (I particularly like the reading lamps), but the best part is the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Coachman Park and the new Memorial Causeway Bridge. (Some pilings from the old bridge are still there.)

With a sandwich from the library's cafe, I was on my way home, past the original Hooters on Gulf to Bay Boulevard, on to the Courtney Campbell Causeway, and back to my side of the bay.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Updates on State Song and Mini Golf

Today's Tampa Tribune is running a story about the state song ("Racist Screed or Enlightened Work?") that y'all should check out, and perhaps leave a comment in the accompanying forum. (I was interviewed for the Tribune article, but got left on the cutting room floor!) Whether or not the song ever changes is not as important as getting people talking about what it means to be a Floridian.

One of the other controversial state songs mentioned in the article, Maryland, My Maryland, has a vague Florida connection. They lyrics are a poem written by James Ryder Randall, who before the Civil War spent some time on Atsena Otie (Cedar Key) as Augusta Steele's tutor. Augusta was the daughter of Augustus Steele, an early settler of both Tampa and Cedar Key, and later married James Matheson of Gainesville.

(Original post: Florida's State Song)


Yesterday Tim Hollis sent me a nice email. He has a new book coming out later this spring, The Land of the Smokies: Great Mountain Memories. And yes, I have started reading his previous books, Florida's Miracle Strip and Dixie Before Disneyland!

(Original post: Miniature Golf)


Update to the Update:
February 28, 2007
There's more talk of changing the state song...

"Famous or Infamous?" (from the St. Petersburg Times)

"New State Song?" (from Q: The Florida Politics Blog, on Palm Beach Post)

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Great Oak Was Once A Little Acorn -- Happy Florida Arbor Day!

National Arbor Day is in April, but winter is a better time to plant trees in Florida, so here it's celebrated on the third Friday in January. Which happens to be today --so go plant a (Florida native) tree!

And speaking of Florida trees, USF's Chinsegut Hill Conference and Retreat Center north of Brooksville is home to the Lenin Oak. In 1917 when this acron sprouted, Chinsegut was owned by Raymond Robins, who was off in Russia serving as head of the American Red Cross there, and working as a diplomat in a country going through "interesting" times. In the course of his work, he became acquainted with Vladimir Lenin, so his wife named the new tree the "Lenin Oak." Later, after Robins died, a plaque was placed near the tree. In 1961, during the Cold War when anti-Soviet sentiment was high, a group of Boy Scouts found the plaque. Their incensed leader notifyied the newspapers, and with the involvement of senators and such, a major brouhaha erupted. The USDA, which was running Chinsegut as an experimental agricultural center, ordered the removal of the plaque, which was melted down and pitched into a nearby lake.

Another noteworthy oak is Jacksonville's Treaty Oak, in a small urban park (Jessie Ball duPont Park). Legend has it that Andrew Jackson and Chief Osceola met under this tree to sign a treaty. That story is unfortunately false, but the tree is still important. In 1984, Jeffrey Meyer had a family picnic under the Treaty Oak, and his son picked up some acorns. They planted a nut in their yard, where it grew quite well. An idea also grew, and Meyer started American Forests' Famous and Historic Tree Program, where you can buy "offspring of trees connected to famous people, events, and places." JEA (Jacksonville's utility company) also grows seedlings from the Treaty Oak.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Miniature Golf

This weekend I played a round of mini-golf at Tampa Grand Prix (used to be Malibu Grand Prix). Not particularly "Florida," although there is a pirate, and not particularly historic, although it is aging.

Miniature golf is a great family activity --it's (usually) outside, it involves physical activity and strategy, it's appropriate for all ages, and it gives people a chance to talk to each other. All in all, a great fit for a place like Florida, with its tourist orientation and nice weather, right? Unfortunately, rising land values are leading developers to buy out mini golf courses. Also, the "mom-and-pop" courses face competition from some elaborate newcomers, like Disney's Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland.

In 2004, the St. Petersburg Times reported there were only about 200 mini golf courses in Florida, compared to 3,000 in 1930 ("Mini Golf Says Bye to Kitsch, Hello, Glitz"). Bayfront Golf in St. Augustine promotes itself as the oldest mini golf course in Florida (1949), but the ultimate is Panama City Beach's Goofy Golf (Agilitynut.com offers several pages of photos).

Tim Hollis is the author of a book I want to read -- Florida's Miracle Strip: From Redneck Riviera to Emerald Coast. In it, he writes about Goofy Golf and other tourist attractions along the Panhandle's Miracle Strip.

A remnant of a Jacksonville mini-golf course has been hitting the local news lately ("Beach Blvd. Dinosaur Gets New Life" and "Ash Properties Works with UNF to Restore T-Rex on Beach Boulevard"). Originally part of Sir Gooney Golf, this quite large roadside dinosaur was about to be taken down to make way for a shopping center, but local sentiment led the developer to refurbish the beast instead.

Some brief histories of mini golf available online:

"Miniature Golf History" (U.S. Pro Mini Golf Association)

"A Brief History of the Nature of Miniature Golf" (Miniature Golf Association US)

"Simply Putt: Mini-golf is an Art Form" (Jonathon Haeber)


Update on Mini Golf

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Martin Luther King Jr. in St. Augustine, 1964

Commemorative holidays such as yesterday's Martin Luther King, Jr. day, promote awareness and remembrance of past events. It was not until many years after I moved to Florida, when I began studying history, that I learned that in the summer of 1964, St. Augustine was the site of heated civil rights protests, and that Martin Luther King Jr. had been jailed there. A sense of the summer's events can be found in the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee's 1965 report, Racial and Civil Disorders in St. Augustine, and 26 minutes of original footage of wade-ins, speeches, and Florida troopers, available through the Florida Memory Project.

One of the summer's focal points became the Monson Lodge, a whites-only motel. First, Rev. King was arrested for "trespassing" at the motel. Then, when some white and black civil rights supporters went for a swim together at the Monson, the motel's owner sought to intimidate the swimmers by pouring muriatic acid into the pool.

Forty years later, the Monson Motor Lodge was an aging establishment on the Avenida Menendez, which had become a trendy street in St. Augustine. In 2003, the Monson was demolished to make way for a new Hilton Garden Inn. The concrete steps where Rev. King was standing when arrested were preserved, but the rest of the building and swimming pool are gone.

St. Augustine is a very old city, with literally layers of history. Underneath the Monson, where the Hilton hotel's underground garage is now, were the "the remains of 25 or so historic buildings and hundreds of archaeological features." The archaeologists actually started their excavations before the motel was torn down, chipping through the guest room floors.

So, should the Monson have been preserved in place, kept as it was in the 1960s, or is the Hilton simply the latest in a long chain of events in America's oldest city?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Tampa Streetcars

The Tampa Historic Streetcar Association and TECO's Streetcar System were recently highlighted in a USA Today article.

For continuing updates on light rail, streetcars, and transportation in the Tampa area, check out the informative Tampa Rail.

The 2005 issue of the Sunland Tribune, published by the Tampa Historical Society, included an article examining the factors leading to the day in 1946 when Tampa's streetcars rolled to a stop ("Tampa's Trolleys: Innovation, Demise, and Rediscovery," by Meeghan Kane). The Sunland Tribune is a benefit of membership in the Tampa Historical Society -- copies and backissues are available from THS, or at the downtown Tampa public library.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Other Blogs on Florida History Topics

From Ephemera (Exploring the World of Old Paper): Interview with Citrus Label Collector Tom Spellman

From The 26th Parallel (From South Florida, a Beacon of Freedom and Hope): Industrial Archaeology -- Aerojet's Everglades Rocket Factory

From Abandoned Places: Weekend Exploration (the ruins of the Glenn Curtiss house in Miami Springs)

From Invasive Species Weblog: History Trumps Ecology, Again (Australian pines in Gulf Stream, Florida)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Deco and Doors

For you Florida architecture fans, a nice article in the Miami Herald on screen doors with tropical themes -- "Screen Gems: Once Common in S. Florida, Screen Doors are Now Rare" (Jan. 7, 2007).

And a note that the 30th Annual Art Deco Weekend Festival starts tomorrow in Miami Beach, sponsored by the Miami Design Preservation League.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Power of the Blog: SquanderedHeritage.com

A grass-roots effort led by an art dealer and a law librarian, Squandered Heritage highlights the unintended consequences of post-hurricane demolitions -- this time in New Orleans, but next time in Tampa or Pensacola or Key West?

After Hurricane Katrina, several New Orleans bloggers noted that buildings were being torn down when perhaps they didn't need to be. In some cases, these demolitions were funded by FEMA. In other cases, the overwhelmed city government simply wasn't following the proper notification and review procedures. With input from an active blogger community and concerned citizens, Squandered Heritage became a clearinghouse of information and an advocate for historic structures at risk of being demolished.

Squandered Heritage is Preservation Online's Story of the Week. A sample quote from the blog's co-founder Karen Gadbois: "People are using Katrina as a cover to do whatever they wanted to do. There was a lot of opportunistic demolition."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Florida's State Song

Why didn't Gov. Charlie Crist play the official state song at his inauguration? Well, the state song is "Old Folks at Home," by Stephen Collins Foster. Most people sing the first line -- "Way down upon the Swanee River..." -- then just hum the rest. It's not the misspelling of the Suwannee River that causes the fuss, it's the part that everyone hums. The song's lyrics include gems like the first chorus: All de world am sad and dreary / Ebry where I roam / Oh! darkeys how my heart grows weary / Far from de old folks at home.

"Old Folks at Home" became the Florida state song in 1935, and implies a connection to the Old South. While northern Florida has a historical, social, and political connection to the southern United States, the same does not hold for southern Florida. As Florida's population and political centers drift further south, the song becomes less and less relevant (although we should not forget that slavery and plantations are very definitely part of our state's heritage).

But if the state song isn't to be played at inaugurations, what should take its place? Crist opted for "The Florida Song" (links to mp3 file) by blues musician Charles Atkins. Atkins is black, a native of Daytona Beach, a former student of the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, and most of all, a talented artist.

Up in north Florida is the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park on the Suwannee River. Stephen Foster never even visited Florida, and chose the name Suwannee because it fit the cadence of the music. The song originally refered to the PeeDee River in South Carolina. So why does Foster get all this attention from Florida? On the state park's website, we read that the idea of the park came from Josiah K. Lilly, an Indiana pharmaceutical manufacturer (perhaps you've heard of his family's business, Eli Lilly and Company). Lilly was a scholar and collector of Foster's music. The Florida park was not the only memorial to Foster instigated by Lilly -- he was also directly responsible for establishing the Foster Hall Collection (the largest collection of Stephen Foster's work), housed in the Stephen Foster Memorial building on the University of Pittsburgh campus. (Foster was born in Pittsburgh, and wrote many of his songs there, including "Old Folks at Home.")
The Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center State Park hosts the Florida Folk Festival each year, where Charles Atkins has been a featured artist.


Update on State Song

Monday, January 08, 2007

Preserve America Reports

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation is seeking public review and comment for historic preservation issue area reports drafted at the Oct. 2006 Preserve America summit, which commemorated the 40th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Reports available for review are:

Building a Preservation Ethic and Public Appreciation for History,
Coordinating the Stewardship and Use of Our Cultural Patrimony,
Determining What's Important,
Protecting Places that Matter,
Improving the Preservation Program Infrastructure,
Dealing with the Unexpected,
Addressing Security,
Using Historic Properties as Economic Assets,
Involving All Cultures,
Fostering Innovation, and
Participating in the Global Preservation Community.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Brooker Creek Preserve

Today it stopped raining and became springlike. So we headed out to Brooker Creek Preserve . This is an 8,500-acre wilderness area in northern Pinellas County, with several miles of hiking trails and a wonderful education center, classrooms, and auditorium. The center is very kid friendly, but has exhibits for everyone (it is a popular birding spot). And a good gift shop with amusing squirrel-proof bird feeders.

On a short hike we saw a hawk, a catbird, an egret, a (an?) anhinga, cardinals, warblers, tadpoles, spiders, ants, ant lions, deer tracks, a vulture (in the distance), colorful mushrooms, and a turtle.

(Then we had dinner at Outback Steakhouse, which has its own Florida connection -- headquarters in Tampa, where the first Outback restaurant opened in 1988. You can still visit the original on Henderson Blvd. in South Tampa.)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Taking Your Heritage

A headline story in today's St. Petersburg Times, "Ancient Tools, Modern Crime," reports the arrest of several men caught illegally digging up an archaeological site in Hillsborough County. They were caught through the good work of Cpl. Don Balabau of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, and Florida Fish and Wildlife officers Steve Delacure and Alton Still. This is not an isolated incident, nor is it particularly a secret that it happens. Eastern Hillsborough County is very popular with looters, who travel hundreds miles to get some of the artifacts created by Native Americans thousands of years ago. The men in today's story were arrested for tresspassing and outstanding warrants, but they may be charged with additional offenses related to disturbing archaeological sites.

I'd love to hear what you think of this.


Additional information:

"What do I do if I see damage or looting of archaeological sites?"

"An Overview of Anti-Looting Efforts in Florida" (.pdf)

"Should Finders Be Keepers?" (St. Petersburg Times, Oct. 2006)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Suburban Pilgrimages

In Irving, Texas, city officials are considering a historic marker for Ruth Paine’s former home, where Lee Harvey and Marina Oswald stayed in 1963. It’s a modest suburban home, certainly nothing out of the ordinary architecturally, yet it is associated with significant people and events in our nation’s history. The current owner evidently wasn’t impressed by the house’s history when she moved in, but then she noticed all the people driving by, stopping to look or take pictures. There’s a book: Mrs. Paine’s Garage and the Murder of John F. Kennedy by Thomas Mallon (Pantheon, 2002). (Ruth Paine now lives in St. Petersburg, Florida).

Paralleling the Paine house, the Jack Kerouac house on 10th Ave N in St. Petersburg is a local pilgrimage destination. This is the beat poet’s last home, his address when he died in 1969. In the late 1950s, he lived in Orlando’s College Park Neighborhood. (In 2004, the Sun-Sentinel ran this story about Kerouac’s Orlando home, and the St. Petersburg Times ran this story about Kerouac’s last years in St. Pete and subsequent struggles over his estate.)

Another unassuming suburban Florida house noted for its connection to a famous writer is 1734 Avenue L, where Zora Neale Hurston lived in the late 1950s.

Can you add to this list?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Historic Preservation and Quality of Life

A common arguemnt in favor of historic preservation is that it will improve a community's quality of life. But that can it be a hard position to support -- how is that old buildings are better than new?

A new study produced by the University of Florida's Center for Governmental Responsibility attempts to at least start answering that question. The report, titled "Contributions of Historic Preservation to Quality of Life in Florida," focuses on historic preservation legislation, tourism taxes, history museums, affordable housing in historic residential neighborhoods, and community land trusts.

This report is a companion to an earlier report titled "Economic Impact of Historic Preservation in Florida." Both reports are available on the Center's website.

Monday, January 01, 2007

From Modest to Majestic

Florida Historic Structures in the News

1. Charlie Crist moving into renovated Governor's Mansion (Tallahassee Democrat, Dec. 29, 2006)

2. Controversy over new lifeguard stands on Miami Beach (Miami Herald, Dec. 31, 2006)

3. FDOT renovates 1935 house moved for road widening project (Ocala Star-Banner, Dec. 29, 2006)

4. Former Lykes-Pasco juice plant to become citrus museum (Tampa Tribune, Dec. 28, 2006)

5. Melbourne Beach pier to be repaired (Florida Today, Dec. 26, 2006)