Roadside History: Abandoned Highway 90 Bridge on The Suwannee River

Roadside History: Abandoned Highway 90 Bridge on The Suwannee River

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Old Highway 90 Bridge

One of my favorite places to explore in Florida is along the Suwannee River with many wilderness areas and historical sites to experience there. The area just has that “old Florida” feel to it. On this visit I went to check out an abandoned bridge that crosses over the river. It was part of the old Highway 90 at one time and the bridge was built around 1925. I read that it was also known as the Hillman Bridge or Ellaville Bridge over the years. The bridge is nearly a thousand feet across and as you walk out onto the bridge you experience amazing views of the Suwannee River.

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Highway 90 Bridge Construction 1920’s

The area was once part of the ghost town of Ellaville back in the 1800’s. There is a park next to the bridge with a historical marker describing some of the history about the town. Behind the parking lot and down under the bridge you can find some trails to hike with more scenic views and even more history that can be discovered if you look good enough. The Hillman Bridge was abandoned sometime in the 1980’s when the modern Route 90 bridge was built next to it. Today this old bridge still stands as a relic and reminder of history, hopefully it will remain there for many years to come.

My Video

Abandoned Highway 90 Bridge

Resources

Bridge Hunter – Hillman Bridge

Ellaville Ghost Town

Roadside History: Lake Monroe Bridge

Roadside History: Lake Monroe Bridge

Passing over Lake Monroe where it meets the St. Johns River you can see the old Lake Monroe Bridge. Just off of Hwy 17 there is a park called Wayside Park in Seminole County. It is a popular place for fishing and boating. The bridge was Florida’s first electrically operated swing bridge and was built in 1933. It was part of the original Hwy 17, today the swing span is preserved as fishing pier. There is a historical there that describes the history.

“The Lake Monroe Bridge was the first electrically operated swing bridge in Florida. In 1932-1933 the State used federal assistance to build this bridge, which replaced a wooden toll bridge that was manually operated. The construction of the bridge provided economic relief for an area hurt by the economic collapse of the Depression era. The bridge was fabricated by Ingall’s Iron Works of Birmingham, Alabama. The swing machinery manufactured by Earle Gear and Machine Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was erected by W. W. White Steel Construction of St. Petersburg, Florida. Kreis Contracting Company of Knoxville, Tennessee was the general contractor for the Florida Department of Transportation. The Florida Department of Transportation and Seminole County cooperated in preserving the swing span as a fishing pier when the new Benedict Bridge was completed in 1994.

The Lake Monroe Bridge had historic impact on the communities of the area, but also is of historical value as an example of a branch of bridge engineering.

The Lake Monroe bridge was 627 feet, and included a 235 foot swing span. It carried the main route linking Daytona Beach and Tampa, via Deland, Sanford, Orlando, and Lakeland. It could pivot 360 degrees on its curved rack and two spur pinions.

The Warren-type through truss construction had a central panel section peaked to accommodate the drive machinery. The Warren-type truss is considered the most economical construction for continuous spans. It is characterized by diagonals that alternate in direction. The first diagonal beam starts at base level and goes up to the top. The next diagonal starts at the top and goes down to the base level. The diagonals are in tension and compression in alternate panels. To meet the heavy stresses of the swing span operation the bridge arms were heavily reinforced and had riveted connections at all stress points. The harbor for Lake Monroe Park in Volusia County was created by fill taken for the approaches to the Lake Monroe Bridge.”

Visit the links below to see my video, photos and for more information.

My Video

Old Lake Monroe Bridge

Resources

Lake Monroe Bridge on Bridge Hunter

Lake Monroe on Waymarking

Lake Monroe Historical Marker

Gravesite of Ellis Mize in Alachua County

Gravesite of Ellis Mize in Alachua County

One of the most interesting gravesites I have visited was this one in Alachua County. It is the gravesite of Ellis Mize. The Mize family operated a turpentine still up until 1950. Ellis Mize lived from 1862 until 1967. Because of his love for the pine tree industry, Mize had his granite tombstone carved to resemble a “working face” pine tree. There is a historical marker outside of the cemetery describing the history: “From 1909 until 1923, Florida led the nation in pine gum production. In 1909, the peak year in the U.S.A. gum yielded 750,000 barrels of turpentine and 2.5 million barrels of rosin. The 1910 census listed 27,2ll men and 3l6 women, mostly blacks, working in the industry with 65 percent in Florida. Fairbanks, Florida was a turpentine still town with the Mize family operation processing ten 50-gallon barrels of crude gum at a time. This still required six crops of 10,000 faces (an area where streaks of bark are removed) and each crop covered 400 acres. As recently as 1951, 105 fire stills operated around Gainesville. The Mize family operated the Fairbanks still until 1950. Many of the buildings (the cooper’s shed, machine shop and worker homes) still stand. Ellis Mize (1882-1967) donated land with a lake bearing his name to the University of Florida’s forestry education program. In 1948, they deeded this private cemetery on that property to the Fairbanks Baptist Church. Because of his love for the pine tree industry, Mize had his granite tombstone carved to resemble a “working face” pine tree. This marker is dedicated to all who toiled to provide an income for families and communities and resinous products worldwide.”

My Video

Ellis Mize Gravesite

Resources

Fairbanks Turpentine Industry

Roadside History: Joshua Davis House in Gadsden County

Roadside History: Joshua Davis House in Gadsden County

This is a fascinating historical site you can see along the Blue Star Memorial Highway near the town of Quincy in Gadsden County. It is known as the Joshua Davis House. Here is some of the history about the house: “In the 1820’s, settlers from Georgia, South Carolina and other states came to the new United States Territory of Florida in search of land to homestead. One such frontiersman was Thomas Dawsey, who by 1824 was residing in the Gadsden County area. In 1827 Dawsey purchased the 160 acres upon which this house stands from the United States Public Land Office, a common practice for homesteaders. Another pioneer in the region was Joshua Davis, who brought his family from Laurens County, South Carolina to a farm two miles west of Quincy ca. 1828. He soon moved to the North Mosquito Creek community located about a mile northeast of this site. Between 1830 and 1849, Joshua Davis acquired the Dawsey property and moved with his wife and five children into what would be their permanent home. By 1830, a road had been built through this area from Quincy to the Apalachicola River crossing at Chattahoochee. Stage-coaches carrying mail and passengers through this fertile and well-populated farming region traveled over what was known as “the upper road.” Some evidence suggests the Joshua Davis House served as a stage-coach stop and perhaps as a horse-changing station.

This house was the focal point of a cotton, tobacco, and corn plantation which by 1859 consisted of 1440 acres of land on which Joshua Davis had as many as 33 slaves, 6 horses, and 135 cattle. A map of 1857 designated this general locality as “Davis.” After the death of Joshua Davis in 1859 and of his wife Esther in 1876, the house was occupied by their grand-daughter Esther and her husband Lieut. Mortimer B. Bates, C.S.A. This house has been used as a frontier home, tenant house, and storage facility. It was originally built as a one room, 18′ by 27′ dressed timber structure with a front porch and a heating-cooking fireplace at the west end. Early alterations included a rear porch, attic sleeping loft, and east room. Joshua Davis enclosed the rear porch into shed rooms opening onto a breezeway, refurbished the interior and exterior with hand-beaded siding, and is thought to have added a separated kitchen in the rear. The additions include several architectural elements not commonly found in Florida. This house, which was still the property of descendants of Joshua Davis at the time of its restoration in 1974, is included on the National Register of Historic Places.”

There is a historical marker at the location which describes this history.  It originally stood right on the highway but they moved it during the restoration. It now sits back a little ways from the highway on a hunting preserve. Events are hosted at the house from time to time. This is just one of the amazing historical sites you can see in this part of Florida. Check out the links below for more information on this place and how to find it.

Resources

Joshua Davis House Historical Marker

Joshua Davis House Wikipedia

Roadside History: Historic Dupree Gardens in Pasco County

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Old Gatehouse

Near the old community of Ehren in Pasco County was a thriving park during the 1940’s known as Dupree Gardens. It was developed by J. William Dupree who was an Attorney. After sustaining an accident and not being able to continue on in his profession he developed the gardens and opened them to the public. The remains of the old gatehouse can still be seen from Ehren Cutoff Road and there is a historical marker at the site describing the history.

 

The historical marker reads as follows: “Developed by Tampa Attorney J. Wm. Dupree, t he gardens opened to the public on December 1, 1940. The attraction consisted of 900 acres of flowering trees and plants and included a lodge and a tearoom with gift shop. It also featured electric powered glass-bottomed boats on Dupree Lake. Even though gasoline rationing had caused the facility to be “Closed For The Duration” in 1943, a New York City auction of Dupree Gardens’ camellia blooms netted $250,000.00 for the War Bond effort in 1944. Dupree Gardens, still a beautiful garden spot, briefly reopened in 1946 for some civic events.The tearoom burned in 1995. The lodge (converted to a home by the Hendrix family), the gatehouse (now in ruins) and some scattered plantings are all that remains of this early Florida theme park. Beginning in 2003, Beazer Homes developed 468 acres as Dupree Lakes.”

My Video

Dupree Gardens Historic Site in Pasco County

Resources

Historic Dupree Gardens

History of Ehren

 

Roadside History: WWII Brooksfield Army Airfield Bunker in Hernando County

Old Bunker

Old Bunker

When driving by Hernando County Airport in Brooksville you may have never known that it was once the site of the Brooksville Army Airfield during World War II. In 1942 the 1st Bomb Squardron arrived and the 9th Bombardment Group trained on B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberators. Designated an auxiliary base to Drew Field in Tampa, the crews from Brooksville regularly made practice runs to Avon Park Bombing Range and Osprey Bombing Range. A tactical bombing school operated under the direction of Orlando Air Base was also present. After the war it became Hernando County Airport in 1945.

Today you can find some remnants still there from that time such as this concrete bunker. These are known as Boresight Ranges and it was used as a firing target, that is how they tested and aligned the machine guns on the bombers. If you look closely at the structure you can still see the bullet holes. There are concrete tubes on top of the bunker, they filled up the bunker with sand through those. The piles of wood still laying inside the bunker combined with the sand were there to help stop the bullets.

There is a lot of World War II history throughout Florida and this is one of the fascinating sites you can still see in Hernando County. To access the area pull into the airport from Spring Hill Drive by Aviation Loop and you will see a large hill by the entrance that is where the bunker area is.

My Videos

The Brooksville Army Airfield WWII Bunker in Hernando County

Old WWII Bunker in Hernando County

Resources

Museum of Florida History – Brooksville Army Airfield

Bullet Holes in Structure

Bullet Holes in Structure

Inside the Bunker

Inside the Bunker

Concrete Tube on Bunker

Concrete Tube on Bunker

Concrete Tube Inside Bunker

Concrete Tube Inside Bunker

Roadside History: Old Railroad Trestle at Dowling Park in Suwannee County

This is an old railroad trestle I found while exploring around the Dowling Park Area in Suwannee County. The trestle crosses over the Suwannee River there and is a fascinating piece of history to see.

Old Railroad Trestle over The Suwannee River

Old Railroad Trestle

The railroad line and trestle were once part of the Live Oak, Perry and Gulf Railroad. It started as a log road of the R.L. Dowling & Sons Lumber Co. out of Live Oak, Florida in the mid 1890’s. The railroad was slowly built towards the Suwannee River and was known as the R.L. Dowling Shortline. The town name was eventually changed to Dowling Park and a sawmill was built there. in 1905 Thomas Dowling helped establish the Dowling Lumber and Naval Stores Company with locations in Live Oak. In Live Oak his relative Robert L. Dowling’s sawmill stood, the Live Oak, Perry and Gulf Railroad machine shops would later reside there and also in Dowling Park. Dowling also established several other lumber companies around the state.

I explored around the trestle and the surrounding woods and found old paths which may have been used for roads at one time. I saw pieces of old metal and bricks in different areas along there but the main thing to experience here is the trestle. I still would like to search around more extensively though to see what else I can discover.

There is a boat ramp and parking area nearby and where you can access the trestle from. It is a great place to enjoy some roadside history, just be careful around the trestle and do not attempt to cross over it. I posted a couple of my videos below, some photos and my hiking route around the trestle. Be sure to check out the historical links I listed below as well to learn more, enjoy!

My Videos
 
Resources
 
The Old Railroad Grade

The Old Railroad Grade

View of Trestle

View of Trestle

View of Trestle

View of Trestle

Old Railroad Trestle

Old Railroad Trestle

Under The Trestle

Under The Trestle

Old Debris by Trestle

Old Debris by Trestle

Old Trails by Trestle

Old Trails by Trestle

Trail to Trestle

Trail to Trestle