The Fort Gates Ferry ferry landed us near Salt Springs, another place I had not been since I was a kid, but that was not our destination. Instead we stopped at a ghost town known as Kerr City. Now private property, Phil knew the owner from a previous tour and was familiar with the site. No trespassing signs are prevalent throughout the small hamlet in an effort to discourage visitors and prevent vandalism.
An overgrown dirt road takes you to a collection of wooden houses and what is said to be the state's oldest gas station. Kerr City, a former stagecoach stop, was platted in 1884 at the site of a former Civil War cotton plantation. The town was a prosperous citrus farming community with a population of 100, until the legendary freezes of 1894 and 1895. Today the entire town is owned by the great grandson of its founder, 14 buildings in all. On the National Register of Historic Places, some of the buildings are well cared while others look to be slowly melting back into the soil.
|According to wikipedia, the Kerr House Hotel was built by Junis Terry, a well-to-do doctor from Illinois. Opened in 1885, the hotel burned to the ground in 1907. |
Image from the State Archives of Florida.
|The post office was in operation from 1884 to 1942 (wikipedia). Photo by Ebyabe.|
|View of the site of the new town, 1885 from the State Archives of Florida|
|Here's view from 1886 of the Robert B. Henley home from the State Archives of Florida|
|Here's a great view from 1884 of a double pen Florida Cracker cabin. The open area in the center is known as the dogtrot. State Archives of Florida.|
Kerr's City's founder, George Smiley, continued to live in the Marion County Community after the disastrous freezes at the end of the 19th century, and by 1955 the entire town was in the possession of his son Alfred. Today Alfred's aging grandson Arthur is heir to the town and he does his best to keep it intact. On our visit we ran into neighbors who acted as volunteer caretakers, doing their best to keep the forest from finishing off the remnants of Kerr City.
|Dating back to 1925, this may be the oldest gas station in Florida|