Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Summer Road Trip Without Leaving Your Desk

A few months ago I blogged about other state and local history and culture blogs ("There's a Big World Out There"). Well, it's time for a little summer roadtrip --

BlogOklahoma.us ("Exploring Oklahoma's History") won the 2006 Okie Blog Award for Best Culture Blog. Read about a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere buried as a time capsule 50 years ago and recently unearthed.

Arizona Preservation -- "Posts and Musings from the Arizona Preservation Foundation"

Searching for Minnesota ("Things That Make Minnesota Great") With "quirky" prairie chicken, otter, and viking statues.

North Carolina Miscellany, "...a blog produced, edited, and maintained by the North Carolina Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill." Recent posts about barbeque and Cheerwine, and lots of historic images.

Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi -- learn about growing zucchini and the history of bentonite mining, among other things.

And last, but certainly not least, two very thoughtful blogs about a region rather than a particular state: Appalachian History and Hillbilly Savants.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Take the Train to Tampa Downs

I've noticed a lot of you find my blog when you search for history of race tracks in Florida. So for you, here's a little something I learned this weekend.

I was at the library, reeling through microfilm of old Tampa newspapers, reading about legal issues that shut down local horse and dog tracks in the 1920s (gambling, you know). And I noticed the ads the track ran on the bottom right hand corner of the sports page each day there was racing. These were attractive ads, with dynamic graphics of horses running and fashionable women, but what caught my eye were the directions for getting to get to the track. Tampa Downs (which became Sunshine Park, and now, Tampa Bay Downs) is not completely on the beaten path here, and I had wondered why people would venture so far out from the city to go to the races. But it seems that race fans could catch a special Seaboard train from Tampa'a Union Station to the track, or one of the Blue Line buses that ran every hour or two. It's small potatoes compared to the train from New York's Penn Station to Belmont Park, but on a Friday in 1927, 3,000 fans reportedly showed up to watch the ponies.

New Issue of Florida Historical Quarterly

I got my copy of the latest Florida Historical Quarterly in the mail today, and it looks pretty interesting. The articles are:

"A Plague in Paradise: Public Health and Public Relations During the 1962 Encephalitis Epidemic in St. Petersburg, Florida," by Eric Jarvis

"A Women's Page Pioneer: Marie Anderson and Her Influence at the Miami Herald and Beyond," by Kimberly Wilmot Voss and Lance Speere

"Progress and Sacrifice: Tampa Shipyard Workers in world War II," by Stacy Lynn Tanner

I've learned that in an attempt to stop the spread of St. Louis Encephalitis, the City of St. Petersburg made it against the law to feed wild birds (including pigeons in parks), that journalist Marie Anderson used the newspaper's women's page to promote feminism, and that shipyard workers organized into leagues to play basketball and softball.

The Florida Historical Quarterly is a benefit of membership in the Florida Historical Society.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

This Week's Florida Happenings

"Rosen Shingle Creek Opens New A Land Remembered Restaurant" World Golf News, June 22, 2007. Resort opens upscale restuarant inspired by Patrick Smith's novel about Florida Crackers.

"Forgotten Indiana Jones Was Man of Many Mysteries" The Villages Daily Sun. The story of archaeologist Dr. Edgar J. Banks, who discovered ancient relics and made bad movies.

"Treasure Island Resident Wants to Protect Architecture." Beach Beacon, June 20, 2007. Will Treasure Island be the next South Beach?

"Reviving Rose Bay: Port Orange Estuary's Rebirth" Orlando Sentinel, June 23, 2007. Remains of old bridge pulled out of bay as part of restoration project.

"Present Meets Past at FSC -- A Cyber Cafe Coexists with Frank Llyod Wright Buildings." Orlando Sentinel, June 23, 2007.

"Explosions Demolish Towers" Florida Today, June 17, 2007. Cape Canaveral Air Force Base demolishes two launch towers. Includes links to video.

"Study Casts a Light on Shade." St. Petersburg Times, June 17, 2007. Study completed to analyze shadow that would be cast by proposed 32-story building.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Prize Property

A relic of my husband's youth in Miami, dredged from the bottom of the family game closet: Prize Property, the 1974 Milton Bradley land development board game. The object: "to develop wastelands into prize properties."

At the start of the game, the board is covered with overlays showing the undeveloped land, brown and in places, on fire. Old brick factories and farm buildings stand abandoned, gaping holes in their roofs. These overlays are removed as players "improve" their property, revealing lush green sites where casinos and resort hotels may be built.

To win, you must be the first to construct all nine of your resort buildings. On the waterfront, you build a tennis & swim club, a marina, and camp grounds. In the middle tier, you build a golf course, a health spa, and a dude ranch. And finally, you build a hotel, a casino, and a ski lodge. Nope, no affordable housing for the people who run your properties, but the little buildings sure are cute.

The money is counted in the millions, and players must navigate town meetings; legal actions are settled by drawing colored marbles from a plastic gavel. Periodically, a marina is flooded or a camp ground burns.
Aside from creative genius of the game's design, it's actually pretty dull to play and it comes in a large awkward box. But we keep it around because it's just so..., well, they just don't make them like this any more.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fenway Hotel, Dunedin, Florida

Today Robert La Follette shared a beautiful photograph of the historic Fenway Hotel on the Dunedin waterfront. The hotel's owner has been working with local citizens and the city government to agree on a plan to renovate the 1920s Mission Revival style building.

WGHB first broadcast from the Fenway in 1925; in 1927, the radio station became WFLA, which still broadcasts today.

Related Links:

WFLA - A History


"Fenway Hotel Benefits from Common Ground" (St. Petersburg Times editorial, May 27, 2007)

City of Dunedin, Florida

Blog of the Day: Community Mosaic

Community Mosaic is the creation story of a large outdoor mosaic celebrating the history of Winter Park's Hannibal Square community. The mosaic was designed and made by students, with the assistance of local artists and teachers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Nancy Moskovitz

Florida artist Nancy Moskovitz was nice enough to talk to me yesterday about her artwork, particularly the house portraits she has done. She told me that when she paints or draws a house, she tries to capture the "essence of the house," rather than create a formal architectural rendering. She noted that these artworks make nice corporate gifts, but some clients just want a reminder of a special house. Also, sometimes she is asked to paint landscapes of property particularly meaningful to a family, like a ranch or farm.

Nancy also paints portraits, and you can see her work on both her website and her blog. I like her paintings of the Sharpe's Ferry Bridge, a 1920s drawbridge over the Oklawaha River in the Ocala National Forest.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Other Voices

Saurly Yours -- "Our Trip to Egmont Key"

"Vintage Urbanism in the CBD" -- Boom or Bust: Miami looks at restored historic buildings in Miami

"Go Go Gatorland!" -- Celebration Florida visits a recovering Gatorland

Woodland Shoppers Paradise is "Searching for Webb's City"

Seminole Heights "As Grandma Remembers"

And a new blog, Florida Keys History This Week

History is a Business Asset

"Innovative." "Industry Leader." "Successful." These are positive words -- but can your company back them up with facts and concrete examples? Here are some examples of how Florida companies use history online to put some substance behind those claims.

Innovation is the result of problem solving, a new idea or technology developed in response to a challenge. Innovation sets one company apart from another, and showing how your company has met past challenges encourages customer confidence in your future. An example of innovation from a Florida company? Tropicana's Juice Train solved the problem of shipping fresh orange juice to the Northeast.

A company's creation story helps customers connect with the company and its product on a personal level. Publix's website shares the story of founder George Jenkins, who worked hard during the depression and in the 1940s took out a mortgage to open his dream store, the first supermarket in Florida.

Corporate experience and corporate history go hand in hand, and online timelines highlight acheivments. For example, in 1960, Ryder was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1998, Palm Harbor received the EPA Energy Star Certification.

Consider incorporating your company's history into your next marketing campaign.

Friday, June 15, 2007

This Week's News -- Historic Florida

"Capt. Sewell's Homestead Still Stands" -- Eliot Kleinberg of the Palm Beach Post is writing a series of columns about Florida towns turning 50. this week -- Sewell's Point.

Speaking of anniversaries, Happy 185th Birthday Jacksonville! ("Commemorating Jacksonville's First City Planners" -- Financial News and Daily Record)

"Jackie Robinson Ballpark Scores All-Star Game" (Daytona News-Journal) getting ready for the Florida State League All Star Game at "the field where Jackie Robinson broke professional baseball's color barrier 60 years ago during a spring training game."

"Train Depot Fate Still Unclear" (Panama City News Herald) What should be done with the Bay Line train depot in Panama City?

"His Land, His Ranch, His Lifetime" (St. Petersburg Times) A profile of rancher Milo Thomas

"History Club Collects Firsts" (St. Petersburg Times) Why wait until everyone has forgotten? Wiregrass Ranch High School students record history as it happens.

"Wright Rescue Takes Shape" (Orlando Sentinel) Frank Lloyd Wright buildings at Florida Southern College in Lakeland are now on the World Monuments Fund 2008 list of 100 Most Endangered Sites.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Another Florida Landmark on Endangered List: Hialeah Park

Hialeah Park has earned a dubious distinction -- it has been named to the National Trust of Historic Preservation's 2007 list of Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places. Hialeah Park is fourth on the list.

What can be done? For starters, the National Trust provides links to an online petition opposing demolition or inappropriate redevelopment of the racetrack and a form letter to send to City of Hialeah officials opposing the proposed development.

For more background on Hialeah Park's history, here's a link to my November 2006 blog entry, "The Sun is Setting on Hialeah's Race Track," which includes links to other resources.

Americana Motor Inn

Preservation Online reports that the Fort Lauderdale city council turned down a developer's request to demolish the Americana Motor Inn, most recently a Best Western, and currently vacant. The Americana's distinctive seven-pointed roof would have been replaced by a 12-story hotel (The Sails) near the Port of Ft. Lauderdale.

The hotel is an outstanding example of modern architecture in South Florida. Designed by Charles McKirahan and Arthur Rude in the early 1960s, the motel features a hyperbolic paraboloid concrete shell roof, which was intended to invoke images of ocean waves.

HOME Ft. Lauderdale featured the Americana Motor Inn in its November 2005 issue as one of the 10 most architecturally significant structures in Fort Lauderdale.

"Americana at Risk" (The Slatin Report)

Docomomo/US Florida

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Old Memorial Highway

On the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, at the Old Memorial Highway Trailhead, is a historical marker, of sorts. A large sign straddles a surviving chunk of the original Memorial Highway pavement.

Historically, the highway ran from Tampa to the Pinellas County line. According to this sign: "Dedicated on January 1, 1921, the highway honored Tampa and Hillsborough County citizens who died in World War I. As part of the original projet, the Tampa Rotary Club planted oak trees on both sides of the road and erected monuments along the roadway to the war heroes."

The bottom left photograph on the sign shows the young oak trees lining the highway. And here's how Old Memorial Highway looks today, facing west from the trail marker.

The photo on the bottom right of the trail sign shows the World War I monument that stood at the intersection of Memorial Highway and Howard Avenue, until it became a traffic hazard and was moved to the American Legion Cemetery. Another similar marker stands on a small island in a sea of traffic at the intersection of Kennedy Boulevard and the modern start point of Memorial Highway (this is on the west side of Westshore Mall in Tampa).

The old highway was paved with asphalt blocks, which created a durable but bumpy surface. Asphalt blocks were a fairly common paving material in the early twentieth century, when they were made in local factories and transported to the construction site. (In St. Petersburg, some streets in the Old Northeast neighborhood were asphalt block.)

The Upper Tampa Bay Trail is maintained by the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation, and Conservation Department. The Old Memorial Highway Trailhead offers shady parking and picnic tables, along with easy access to the trail. This trailhead is located on the southern end of Montague Street, south of Braulio Alonso High School.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Using Sanborn Maps to Find History of Your House

Researching the history of your house can be a jigsaw puzzle or a scavenger hunt. But like a a good detective knows his sources, a house historian knows the likely places to find a lead. Sanborn Insurance Maps are one of those sources. Created by the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, these incredibly detailed maps lead the way to historic treasures.

The Sanborn Fire Insurance Company created these maps to help evaluate fire risk and existing construction. Not every aspect of a house or building was be recorded (for example, the company did not care what color the house was painted), but what was included is tremendously useful. You can expect to find:

* the footprint or shape of the building
* use (house, apartment, store, restaurant, factory)
* the street name and address (especially useful if lots have been renumbered)
* how many stories it had
* location, number, size, and shape of porches
* the basic construction material (frame, concrete block, tile, etc.)
* setback from the street
* width of the street
* location of water tanks, wells, cisterns, or fire hydrants
* additions
* nearby buildings
* nearby public utilities (water mains, train tracks, streetcar lines)

Since the company wanted to keep current records on the structures they were insuring, the maps were meticuously updated every few years. These updates help narrow timeframes for when a building might have been built, or when a room was added, information that is very useful for determining what is original, historic, or modern in a particular house.

Sanborn maps were created for cities all over the United States, including Florida. These maps, however, focus on the properties within city limits or particular factories. Your particular house may not be included, or may only be on maps from certain years. Although Sanborn maps are valuable resources in urban areas, rural houses are rarely found. Another possible problem comes from how these maps were updated. The Sanborn company created these maps for their own business use, not as a future archive of historic structures. The maps themselves are in large atlases, and when they were updated, snips of paper were glued on top of the old map, obscuring the drawings below.

Original Sanborn maps can be found in local public and university libraries, as well as in some governmental offices. However, due to the size, age, and importance of these documents, access may be limited. For these same reasons, as well as copyright issues, photocopies of the originals are usually prohibited.

But don't despair. Those same public and university libraries and historical societies often have microfilm copies of the maps, which although they are in black and white, have most of the same information and you can print copies. Some libraries provide online access to their cardholders, and the University of Florida has color images of many Florida Sanborn maps available to anyone on line.

Sanborn maps are an important piece of the puzzle for finding your house's history.

Seven Wonders

Greece had its Colossus and Babylon had its Hanging Gardens, but Florida has . . . .

The Sun-Sentinel is asking readers to nominate their choices for the Seven Wonders of Florida. You can submit photos and/or a short essay to support your nomination. The hardest part may be picking just seven, but later this summer we can all vote on which of the finalists make the list.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Waterspouts in Florida

The Florida Keys have more waterspouts each year than anywhere else, hundreds of them. Some people subscribe to the theory that Bermuda Triangle disappearances are the result of waterspouts. Personally, I've never seen a waterspout, but they are essentially tornadoes over water, and I have seen a tornado so I can guess what they look like. Also, I can see video clips and photographs at Florida Lightning.com, Eye in the Tropics, and the NOAA photo library (scroll down to see Florida pictures).

Friday, June 08, 2007

Gilded Age Resort Hotels

The Belleview Biltmore is just one of Florida's great Gilded Age resort hotels still standing today.

In St. Augustine, Henry Flagler's Hotel Ponce de Leon is now part of the Flagler College campus.

His Alcazar Hotel is the Lightner Musuem.

The Casa Monica is a hotel again, after years of service as the St. Johns County Courthouse.

The Breakers in Palm Beach is still in business, although the original hotel building burned, and the current structure dates to the 1920s rather than the Gilded Age.

Henry Plant's Tampa Bay Hotel, like the Ponce de Leon, is part of a college campus (University of Tampa), although part of one wing is the Henry B. Plant Museum.

In The Architecture of Leisure, Susan Braden traces the role of the two Henry's, Flagler and Plant, in creating Florida's winter luxury resorts: "These two wealthy New York businessmen ... effectively transported urban cultural ideas to Florida, transforming a sparsely inhabited, scraggily beautiful near-wilderness into what they promoted as the 'American Riveria.'" Braden's thought-provoking book explores not only why Flagler and Plant built the hotels, but the thinking behind the exotic architecture, and what this all said about the society and culture of the time.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Belleview Biltmore

Today's St. Petersburg Times has an article about the current status of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel in the Town of Belleview, just south of Clearwater. In the recent past, the 110-year-old hotel, which is possibly the world's largest inhabited wooden structure, has faced the real possibility of demolition. The issue became so critical that the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 2005 list of most endangered historic places included the Belleview Biltmore.

I was at the Biltmore last month, and took a couple of pictures of the reroofing project underway (see above). That's a daunting task, with what must be acres of green shingles!

If you're interested in spending a night or a weekend enjoying the hotel's peaceful ambience or golfing on a historic Donald Ross-designed course, check the hotel's website for contact information. The website also has a very nicely done timeline of the Biltmore's history, starting with its construction in the late 1890s for original owner, Henry B. Plant.

Additional information and images are also available on the website of Save the Biltmore, a group dedicated to the preservation of the Belleview Biltmore.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Horses of Proud Spirit by Melanie Sue Bowles

Today I'm reading The Horses of Proud Spirit, by Melanie Sue Bowles. Bowles's memoir is not about Florida per se, but is set in Florida and peopled by Floridians, good and bad. In this book, Bowles shows how she went from being unable to ride, to saving horses other people thought were hopeless. Each chapter is the story of a horse, and how that horse came to the Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary near Myakka City (that's in Manatee County). Since writing this book, Melanie and Jim Bowles have moved the Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary to Arkansas, where they continue to save horses, one at a time.

The book has been made into an Emmy-winning documentary by WEDU, Tampa's public television station.

Published by Florida's own Pineapple Press in 2003, The Horses of Proud Spirit is 200 pages, hardcover, with black and white photographs. If you buy the book through Bowles' website, part of the proceeds go to the horse sanctuary.