Old Windmill at Charles H. Bronson State Forest

Old Windmill at Charles H. Bronson State Forest

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Windmill

One of my favorite places to roam in Florida is at Charles H. Bronson State Forest. I always get that “old Florida” feel when I am exploring there.  The area was once used for ranching and some of that history can still be seen throughout the area. It is a large forest with many trails, wooded areas and open pasture areas. It is also near the St. Johns River and the floodplains. It is a place of beauty with many layers of history.

A really neat relic from the past here is an old windmill that even still works. It is amazing to see it in action as the winds blow through the pasture lands. It pumps water from underground into a vat that cattle still use today for drinking water. The windmill was made by the Aermotor Windmill Company and it may date back to the early or mid-1900’s.

There are more windmills out here but this is the only intact one that I have found, I hope that it can remain that way for a long time to come. I can imagine future generations seeing it here still working, a reminder of old Florida…

My Video

Old Windmill at Charles H. Bronson State Forest

Resources

Charles H. Bronson State Forest

Out in The Boonies – Charles H. Bronson State Forest

Charles H. Bronson Wildlife Management Area

Aermotor Windmill Company

Mound History on The St. Johns River (Indian Field Grove)

Mound History on The St. Johns River (Indian Field Grove)

I have been exploring some Native American Indian Mounds along the St. Johns River, most of them have been Shell Midden Mounds. The journey has been great and I continue to be amazed at some of the history that I am learning. The Timucuan Indians inhabited the areas going back at least 500 years, but natives long before that so it can be a very complex history to learn about. The shell middens were built up by discarded shells, bones, pottery and other debris left behind over long periods of time. It is truly fascinating to still see evidence from the past at these places and walk in the footsteps of these ancient people.  After them these were mounds were continued to be used by land owners, because of the higher ground they would build homesteads on them.

One mound in particular that I explored near the St. Johns River had an old orchard and ruins from some structures on it including remains from an old boat dock. I learned more about the history of the place and Samuel J. Norton use to own the land here in the early 1900’s. An old newspaper article published in 1921 describes the place. Here is part of it, I will post a photo of the original article below.

“ Mr. Norton’s country place is rare among the estates in the South for combining magnificent orange, fig and banana culture with exhilarating sports afforded by a well stocked game preserve, and the numerous lakes and sloughs of the St. John River which lie close at hand and which offer a Paradise for the hunter and fisher. Its desirability either for pleasure or profit or both is unquestioned, and the beauty of its orange palms and live groves, its sparking waters and wonderful Indian mound, present a picture in the mind of the beholder that will never be forgotten.”

Indian Field

1921 Article

Map Cropped

1920 Survey Map Illustrating The Grove and Dock on The Mound

My Videos

Exploring at Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

Old Dock Pilings at Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

Old Indian Mound at Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

 

Resources

St. Johns River Mound History

Out in The Boonies – Boonieman

Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

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

 

Exploring Centralia Ghost Town in Hernando County

Centralia Sawmill Ruins

Centralia Sawmill Ruins

Centralia was a booming lumber town back in the early 1900’s located in Hernando County. The town formed in 1910 and lasted until around 1922 and had one of the largest sawmills in the south. There was a commissary that sold all kinds of goods. There was a boarding house, the Centralia Hotel, a restaraunt, drug store, church, school and even a movie house. The sawmill could turn out 100,000 board of feet a day. The timber didn’t last long though and after all the trees were cut the town was abandoned around 1917.

Today not much is left from the old town but foundations from the sawmill and the old roads that are now all overgrown. I found the old railroad spur that ran by the town and that was interesting to follow. Along those areas I found old bricks and railroad spikes. It is a fascinating place to learn about and hopefully the site will remain undisturbed as so many of these places around Florida seemed to have vanished completely.

My Videos

 

Resources

Centralia Early History

Centralia Ghost Towns of Florida

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Centralia Sawmill Ruins

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Sawmill Ruins

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Sawmill Ruins

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Old Cypress Tree in Float Pond

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Old Float Pond

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Sawmill Ruins

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Sawmill Ruins

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Building Ruins at Sawmill

 

Exploring The Hampton Springs Hotel Site in Taylor County

Hampton Springs Hotel

Hampton Springs Hotel

Just outside of Perry is the old Hampton Springs Hotel Site. The history I learned about on this place is that an early Taylor County settler whose wife suffered from rheumatism, was directed by an Indian to these springs. When the water eased her pain and stiffness, Hampton obtained a government grant to the spring area. Although I am not sure how accurate that story is…

Benjamin W. and Joseph L. Hampton did purchase the land for $400 from John and Ana Carlton in 1879. The Hamptons eventually formed the Hampton Springs Hotel and Mineral Company. In 1908 the first part of the hotel was built and had a two story structure with about 70 rooms. The sulphuric spring bubbled up into an indoor swimming pool and the overflow was channeled back into the river. The hotel expanded in 1915 and had all the trappings of a luxury resort. People from all around came here to experience the “healing” waters of this spring.

The hotel eventually burned down in 1954 and was the area was abandoned. Today it is now a park where some of the ruins are still visible and the spring still flows into the pool. It is a great place to visit to take in some history and there are even some nice nature trails around the area to explore.

My Video

The Historic Hampton Springs Hotel Ruins in Taylor County

Resources

Hampton Springs Historical Information

Hampton Springs on Ghost Towns of Florida by Mike Woodfin

Old Photo of Hampton Springs Hotel on Florida Memory

Old Photo of Hampton Springs Bath House on Florida Memory

Hampton Springs Hotel on Florida Memory

Location: Exploring at Hampton Springs

Hampton Springs Hotel Ruins

Hampton Springs Hotel Ruins

Hampton Spring

Hampton Spring

Hampton Spring

Hampton Spring

Old Pool at Hampton Springs

Old Pool at Hampton Springs

Old Pool at Hampton Springs

Old Pool at Hampton Springs

Hampton Springs

Hampton Springs

Foundation at Hampton Springs Hotel Site

Foundation at Hampton Springs Hotel Site

Ruins at Hampton Springs Hotel Site

Ruins at Hampton Springs Hotel Site

Hampton Spring

Hampton Spring

Hampton Spring

Hampton Spring

Hampton Springs Hotel Site

Hampton Springs Hotel Site

Hampton Springs Hotel Ruins

Hampton Springs Hotel Ruins

Old Pool at Hampton Springs

Old Pool at Hampton Springs

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

Exploring The Ghost Town of Ellaville in Madison County (Suwannacoochee Spring)

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Suwannacoochee Springs

This is Swannacoochee Spring in Madison County located near where the Withlalcoochee and Suwannee rivers merge. The structure around it was built sometime in the 1800’s. I found it while exploring around the ghost town of Ellaville near Suwannee River State Park.

It is a nice place to take a refreshing dip on a hot day after exploring the trails nearby. It is also a great spot to experience some amazing views along the river.

Here is some history on the town: “Ellaville was established in the 1800’s and had a population of 1000 people at one time. Located where the Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers merge. George Drew and Louis Bucki had several business’s here including logging, sawmill and turpentine.”

My Video

Suwannacoochee Spring

Resources

Ellaville Ghost Town

Ellaville, Madison County History

Suwannacoochee Spring

Suwannacoochee Spring

Suwannacoochee Spring

Suwannacoochee Spring

Suwannacoochee Spring

Suwannacoochee Spring

Swannacoochee Spring

Swannacoochee Spring