Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pioneer Florida Museum

A mile north of Dade City, Florida just off of Highway 301 stands The Pioneer Florida Museum and Village.
It's origins go back to 1961 when a large donation of antique farm equipment and vehicles was made to the Pasco County Fair Association by a prominent citizen of San Antonio, Florida.  Soon after came the formation of the Pioneer Florida Museum Association.  The association is dedicated to the preservation of artifacts and buildings from Florida's pioneering years, the 1840s through whenever air conditioning was invented which made the settling of Florida more accessible to those who were not of hardy pioneering stock. 

There is a large steel building housing most of the exhibits and what is most probably some of the original vehicles and tools donated back in 1961. 

The remainder of the 16 acres  is occupied by The village which includes a one room school house, the Overstreet House, the Trilby Depot (complete with train), an old timey church and a working cane syrup mill where demonstrations are held that visitors can witness how cane syrup was made back in the 19th century and even purchase the finished product later at the museum gift shop.

The Pioneer Florida Museum and Village is located at 15602 Pioneer Museum Road, Dade City, Florida.  Dade City itself is about an hours drive north of Tampa on Highway 301. The museum and grounds are open  Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:00AM-5:00PM, closing for major holidays.  It also hosts special events throughout the year.  For more information click the link provided below.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and her husband bought and moved to the 72 acre property near Cross Creek Florida in 1928.   Her first published writings about life in cracker Florida soon caught the attention of Scribner publisher Maxwell Perkins.  As he mentored Rawlings she got to know  the people and their ways living in the wilderness known as the Big Scrub country. 

Rawlings did most of her writing, including The Yearling and Cross Creek, seated at a round table on her front porch.   The Yearling, published in 1939, would win Rawlings the Pulitzer Prize and earn her world wide recognition. 
Upon her death in 1953 her home and property was bequeathed to the University of Florida where she also had taught creative writing. 
The home was added to The National Register of Historic Places in 1970.  The park is open seven days a week for people who want to hike around and the house for guided tours from Thursday through Sunday.  From Tampa and points south take I-75 North most of the way or Highway 301 all of it and turn left on CR 325 heading west about four miles and the park will be on the left. Just a little ways further up CR 325 is The Yearling Restaurant.  From what I understand they serve an outstanding key lime pie.   Click the provided link below for more info.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Eureka Springs Regional Park

Eureka Springs Regional Park, established 1967 on land donated by Albert Greensburg, is described as a hidden gem by the St Petersburg Times, rightfully so considering all the turns and twists in the roads one must take to get there.  Located on Eureka Springs Road just down the street from Tampa Executive Airport still called by some Vandenburg Airport.  It was developed by Mr Greensburg into a Botanical Garden and kept up by the Hillsborough County Parks system. 

There is a greenhouse surrounded by lush flowering plants and a large butterfly garden down a shell path near a green pool popular with hummingbirds and pollunating insects(the lush plant life, not so much the green pool).  Other highlights include a boardwalk that meanders from the pool and back around to the greenhouse, a covered bridge crossing a lily padded stream and a large pavilion available for events. 
The park is open 9-5 week days and 8-6 on Saturday and Sunday.   Head east on Sligh Ave from Highway 301 and hang a right on Maple Lane which becomes Eureka Springs Road after a couple of miles and the park will be about half a mile or so up on the left after the turnoff for Frontage Road.  Or take Frontage Road from Williams Road which connects to Highway 92, or just use google maps.  The address is 6400 Eureka Springs Road, Tampa, Florida.  More information is available by clicking the link provided below.    

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Gamble Plantation Historic State Park

Gamble Mansion built 1845-1850
Gamble Plantation is located on 16 acres just off of Highway 301 in Manatee County, Florida. It is the last surviving antebellum mansion in south Florida built by Major Robert Gamble, who came to homestead in Florida shortly after the end of the Seminole War of 1842. From 160 acres originally granted to Major Gamble it grew to 3500 acres and a prosperous sugar mill operation along the banks of the Manatee River until 1864 when the mill was destroyed by Union raiders. Confederate blockade runner Captain Archibald McNeill occupied the home during the war. Former Confederate Secretary of State Judah P Benjamin took refuge there while in flight from Federal authorities after the war until he made his escape to the Bahamas with the aid of Captain McNeill. 
Patten House built 1872
The land was owned for a time after the war by George Patten who built his own house on the grounds because the mansion was in too poor a condition to live in.
40,000 gallon cistern
Bed in upstairs bedroom
 In 1923 the Judah P Benjamin chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy started a campaign to raise money to save and restore the badly deteriorating mansion. Restoration was completed in 1927 and a plaque honoring Benjamin was installed in 1937. The mansion was added to The National Register of Historic Places in
Kitchen in separate building from mansion
1970. The grounds are open to the public Thursday through Monday from 9am until 5pm with guided tours twice daily. It is located at 3708 Patten Ave in Ellenton, Florida. For more information follow the provided link.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Circle B Bar Reserve

The Circle B Bar Reserve is a nature preserve comprising 1267 acres and part of Polk County's Environmental Lands Program.  Located near Lakeland it includes oak hammock, freshwater marsh, hardwood swamp and lake shore.  A great variety of bird life calls it home including a nesting bald eagle population.  It is also home to alligators (big 'uns) and bobcats.  Park hours are 6:00am 'til 6:30pm year round and admission is free last I checked.  The entrance is located at 4399 Winter Lake Road (SR 540) a short distance from US 98.  From I-4 take exit 27 onto the Polk Parkway (570), take exit 10 off the parkway and merge onto SR 98 (Bartow Road) south and drive about a mile and turn left on Winter Lake Road.  Bring food and water since there are no concessions other than restrooms at the ranger post.  Follow the link below for more info.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lettuce Lake Park

Lettuce Lake Park is located at 6920 E Fletcher Avenue in Tampa, Florida.  Wedged between the road and the Hillsborough River it is a 240 acre park consisting of wetland, scrub and old growth hardwood.  Very accessible to the public paved trails run all through the park making it ideal for jogging, strolling, strolling with strollers and dogs on leashes are allowed.

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  A boardwalk runs the perimeter of south shore of the lake with a four tier tower located near the west end of the walk.   The lake and park ecosystem supports a great variety of marsh birds, raptors and reptiles plus migratory species depending on the time of year.   On weekends the park is teaming with couples with strollers so if one is seeking the solitude offered by nature or to take pictures of the natural denizens it's best to go early.  
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Park hours during the spring/summer is from 8am to 730pm seven days a week.  There is a two buck admission fee, bring your own food and beverages because there are no concessions.  Canoe and kayak rentals are newly available at the park.   For more information go to the link provided below. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

University of South Florida Botanical Gardens

The University of South Florida Botanical Gardens is located at the west end of USF campus in Tampa, Florida.  Open seven days a week and to the general public, the gardens maintains a wide diversity of exotic plant life and plant environments, everything from western cacti to a lush miniature tropical forest, butterfly garden and orchid room. 
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The botanical gardens is conveniently located in north Tampa within a short drive of both I-275 and I-75. Take Bruce B Downes Blvd north from Fowler Ave and turn right at the first light(Pine Drive). Turn left through the elbow turn at the weird three way intersection then the entrance to the gardens is on your left. 
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