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."