Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: The Review

In comparing my intentions for 2011 with the reality of the past year, I feel satisfied with how much I accomplished. I wrote posts for most of the excursions I took at the end of 2010, with the exception of the Nehrling House and Vilano Beach, which may be 2012 posts.

I made great progress on my Ponce de Leon project, although I rarely blogged about it. Much of my in-state travel was inspired by quest for the Fountain of Youth. Look for more on that subject next year. While I didn't get to Tallahassee or the panhandle, I did make it to Flagler College and Ponce Inlet.

My trip to SW Florida for a February wedding was fruitful and I got to see Everglades Wonder Garden, Warm Mineral Springs and the Koreshan Unity State Park. I attended Hukilau in June, re-connecting with my friends Jeff and Kelly from Vintage Roadside and met the legendary underwater performer Medusirena Marina. On the way back we stopped at Henry Flagler's opulent Palm Beach home Whitehall.

A visit to Everglades Wonder Gardens allowed me to indulge
in my obsession with taxidermy

Jeff from Vintage Roadside

It's not every day you get your photo taken with a real live mermaid

In addition to blogs spawned from my 2011 goals, I also:

Overall it was a year of connection for me. I started an Old Florida group on Facebook, and have developed a following over 600 devoted to remembering and preserving the sunshine state's past. Through social networking I've met several like-minded folks with similar interests and enjoyed a sense of camaraderie in my mission. My Ponce de Leon project has led me to my own exploration of Florida's springs and the issues of water in our state and I feel drawn to documenting and creating more awareness of that critical issue. I believe this state is at a critical crossroads and the decisions we make now will determine whether Florida will be a state worth living in.

Some updates about past posts:
  • I connected with one of the new owners of the Pine Green Sam Stoltz house and he is writing his own blog about living there.
  • Dr. Bob Knight and staff of the H.T. Odum Florida Springs Institute will be making a presentation to the members of the Elks Club at Glen Springs regarding refurbishing the spring
  • I created an Old Florida slide show for use during the Osceola Pioneer Village's Pioneer Day
  • A preservation-oriented mayor was elected in Orange City, perhaps paving the way for the preservation of that city's historic district
  • Jeff, Kelly and Marina who gave the excellent presentation at Hukilau on Aquarama, are giving an expanded presentation on mid-century mermaids across the US at Modernism Week in Palm Springs this year. Best of luck guys!
  • Everglades Wonder Gardens appears to be off the market, pending the health of its owner
  • Legoland opened on the site of the granddaddy of all Florida attractions, Cypress Gardens, and has been drawing huge crowds
  • I was contacted by a journalist from the Wall Street Journal pitching a story about shuffleboard in Florida (I'll keep you posted on future developments)
  • A new book has been published about the artist Joy Postle

I feel like my blog helped connect people and places in 2011 – for some it was an opportunity to remember places lost, for others it was learning about new places to explore. It feels great when someone visits a place I blog about. If we don't visit these places from Florida's past, they won't continue to exist. My mission remains the same, and this year I felt like maybe I might be making a wee bit of an impact. Tune in tomorrow to see my intentions for 2012.

The legendary Willa Cook at Cypress Gardens (image from Lu Vickers)

I found out after swimming in Wekiva Springs, that an immediate shower is encouraged
after exposure to the water, due to the poor water quality

I experienced a youthful euphoria swimming at Warm Mineral Springs

One of my favorite images of the year from Rock Springs

I was able to photograph several of Sam Stoltz's homes this year

Watch out Marina!

I found a new appreciation for Florida's Cracker architecture this year

Blues musician Willie Green performed feet away from our table
at the Yearling Restaurant in Cross Creek

An old favorite in great shape

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Glen Springs
and all of Florida for that matter...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Polk County Citrus Monument on the Old Tampa Highway

According to, this stretch of road between Osceola and Polk Counties was once "part of the Lee-Jackson Highway, Dixie Highway, and Central Florida Highway (Old Florida Route 2) and later US 92 and US 17 northeast of Loughman, Florida. The mostly brick road, now labeled the Old Tampa Highway, stretches from CR 532 to US 17-92, just a few miles south of I-4. At the start there is a "no dumping" sign, and just beyond that someone had dumped a load of trash. Otherwise this short stretch of road offers scenic glimpse of a old rural Florida highway.

About midway down the road's length is a large concrete marker, marking the county line between Polk and Osceola Counties. "Imperial" Polk County erected 3 of these markers in 1930, the other two are on US 92 between Lakeland and Plant City and on US 98 northwest of Lakeland. In 1997 the Polk County Tax Collector incorporated the marker into its official seal. Ironically the seal has portrays a"Western sun shines the light of knowledge onto the perfect side of the highway monument", "to demonstrate the Tax Collector's relationship and commitment to education." However, on the side of the marker that faces the road, "Citrus" is misspelled "Citurs." The original purpose of these markers, according to the County Tax Collector's website was to "welcome visitors into Polk County and promote tourism and citrus."

Any frequent reader of this blog, knows that I tend to make numerous typos, (thank God for spell check.) I'm just glad my typos are not set in stone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas, Florida

Ever since I moved to Central Florida over twenty years ago, I've wanted to mail my Christmas cards from the tiny post office in the East Orange County town of Christmas. Christmas got it's name from Fort Christmas, a Seminole War outpost that was built on December 25, 1837. The original fort is long gone but there is a re-creation of it in a great county park that was built during the US Bicentennial in 1976.

As you arrive into the rural Yuletide town, its hard to miss a holiday display on the corner of Highway 50 and Fort Christmas Road. There is a large permanent Christmas tree, a concrete Santa and sled, a manger, a shrine and other assorted Christmas memorabilia. Apparently there was a small museum at one time but the building looks like it has been closed for a while and the floorboards on the wood porch are starting to rot. But the collection of Christmas paraphernalia around the property is pure holiday kitsch and makes for a great photography stop.

The Ft. Christmas Historical Museum is a located on a good sized county park, and on this day it was very well used. There is a collection of Cracker Florida houses and buildings relocated from their original locations in Central Florida, in addition to the replica of the fort. All the houses are completely furnished in period furnishings, and it is a fascinating look back into the days when living in Florida was attempted only by the hardiest of folks.

There is a simplicity and efficiency of these Cracker houses that I find very appealing. The ingenuity used in their creation and the use of natural materials give the buildings a soul that is often lacking in many modern homes. I admire the connection the homes have to their environment and the Florida landscape. As Mrs. Ephemera and I consider renovating our home, I'd love to borrow some of that spirit as we proceed. Only with air-conditioning and indoor plumbing!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pine Green - a hidden jewel in downtown Orlando

Central Florida is largely a land of homogeneous houses and bland commercial buildings. It's often difficult to find mom and pop businesses to patronize as the transient population of this ever growing region seems to frequent chains and franchises exclusively. Perhaps that is why I am so drawn to the homes built by Sam Stoltz in the early 20th century. Each one is a custom creation by a talented artisan with quirky eccentricities and a high level of craftsmanship. They are windows into a time when Central Florida was known more as an escape for northern winters than for its theme parks. I recently had the opportunity to explore another fantastic Stoltz creation near downtown Orlando, as it transitioned to new owners.

The home on Livingston Street was built for Mr. and Mrs. Horne as a winter cottage, until Mildred Horne moved in year round. An accomplished gardener, Mrs. Horne lived there until she moved into a retirement home, (she's the one who nicknamed the home Pine Green), and since then the home has only had one other owner. So it's in good condition with a few pristine rooms, exactly as they were created by Stoltz.

The house is built of Cypress with a custom multi-colored stain and flourishes of Stoltz rockwork around entryways and on the monumental fireplace/fountain. His trademark pecky cypress ceiling can be found in the living room, and walls in one of the bedrooms and bathroom still show colorful Stoltz's touch. Two perpendicular walls surrounding the bathtub have a quintessential Stoltz flamingo fresco and are masterpieces with expressive splash techniques, years before Jackson Pollock.

The feeling I got from this small house was that of a lodge out West. There aren't many surviving old wood structures in Central Florida and the use of rough hewn timbers and large rocks reminded me of the architecture one might see in the National Parks. Behind a wall of colorful Crotons, this amazing oasis is hidden from downtown commuters. The size of the rooms is small by today's standards, and the home's new owners must have appreciated it as a piece of art, not for its livability. Let's hope they are good stewards of what is becoming a rarer commodity in Central Florida: originality.

Custom made light fixture made with Whiskey bottle

Flamingo decoration on the detached garage

Original light fixture

Hand-tinted photograph shows the way the home was originally furnished

The drip technique was used on several of the Stoltz homes I've seen