My Favorite Florida Drives: INDIAN RIVER LAGOON

This is part of a series of driving tours I will present in the next few months with an emphasis on Florida’s natural beauty, historic architecture, and attractions.

Most people vacation in Orlando, Daytona Beach, or Central Florida visit the John F. Kennedy Space Center off FL 405 by traveling east from Orlando on the Beachline Expressway (toll) or coming north or south via Interstate 95.

FLORIDATRAVELER VAB_aerial

With more interactive exhibits, a space ride, the Astronaut Memorial, and such amazing spots as the massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and giant rockets, the NASA attraction is a wonderful family attraction.  The fact that you could have a real astronaut as a guide is even more amazing to me.

FLORIDATRAVELER THE INDIAN RIVER TOUR 2018

Cape Canaveral is a massive bird sanctuary and if open, I would drive south along Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and stop at their Air Force Space and Mission Museum.  Exiting Gate 1 will take you to A1A and 528 a mile away from Port Canaveral.

Port Canaveral has some recreational facilities and restaurants but the star of the port are the Disney berths.  Even if you are not taking a cruise to the Bahamas, the Disney Cruise Terminals when any ships are in port is an attraction.

From there you can take an oceanway tour down US A1A as far south as you wish – to Sebastian Inlet or Vero Beach.  Most people like to stop off at historic Cocoa Beach Pier, which has restaurants, gift shops, nearby motels and resorts, and hopefully a great view of surfers if the Atlantic is active.

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Few people can resist stopping at the main store of Ron Jon Surf Shop with all its ocean-going equipment.  The clothing sections will satisfy those who stay on the beach.  The area is starting to look like the largest outdoor sports mall in Florida with nearby Cocoa Beach Surf Company and Oceansports World, huge shops.

If you don’t have enough time to journey south on A1A, you can drive west to the mainland to Historic Cocoa, with a famous theater, the headquarters of the Florida Historical Society, and nice restaurants and shops.

FLORIDATRAVELER PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE

South of Cocoa Beach on A1A is Patrick Air Force Base.  This must be a serviceman’s dream location with its beach cottage rentals, marina, golf course, and location to the family amusement parks.

FLORIDATRAVELER INDIAN RIVER LAGOON

Driving north US1 in Melbourne you are close to the Indian River Lagoon, perhaps the least appreciated body of water in Florida.  It is the most biodiverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern Hemisphere.  It is 156 miles long and only four feet in average depth.  It combines saltwater and freshwater.

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Along you drive you will probably note this is a great place for a fishing and boating vacation (boat or kayak) on the riverside and swimming and surfing in the Atlantic.  There are also five state parks and four Federal wildlife refuges on the Indian River/Banana River lagoon complex.

FLORIDATRAVELER Melbourne riverside

If you love architecture: you can drive off US1 whenever you want to look at some expensive riverfront homes with their neat docks and wharves.  Historic buffs may wish on another trip to explore Indian River Drive in Titusville where the mansions go back to the 1890’s.

Off FL 509 is the Brevard Zoo, one of Florida’s three best small county museums with over 400 animals and great educational programs.   ALL in all, Brevard County is a vast vacation spot.

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My Favorite Florida Bed and Breakfast Places

When it comes to staying in a great vacation spot at a value place, Florida’s top bed and breakfast houses are a great choice for couples of all ages.  The breakfasts alone at many of these places beats anything you’ll get at a hotel or eatery.

Many of these places are perfectly located near attractions in areas where the hotel prices skyrocket during the prime business seasons.  Everyone in these places often seem to be a voluntary concierge, giving you tips of local restaurants and activities.

Here are some Florida bed and breakfast spots to consider:

 Blue Heron Inn

102 South 7th Street, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

 Fernandina Island challenges Saint Augustine and Key West as Florida’s bed and breakfast treasure house and the Blue Heron is a real gem.  The Victorian mansion is exquisite in its taste in furnishings and décor, but it is modern with full facility Wi-Fi and big flat screen TVs.  Some rooms have whirlpool tubs.

FLORIDARAVELER Blue Heron fernandina bedroom

Where Blue Heron jumps ahead of its competition is its personal service to guests and a four-course hot breakfast with a menu that totally changes each day. The 1904 inn is minutes away from the rustic downtown, Fort Clinch, and the Atlantic beaches.

Carriage Way Bed & Breakfast

70 Cuna Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

FLORIDATRAVELER Carriage Way Inn St Augustine

No city in America the size of Saint Augustine has as many highly ranted bed and breakfast spots as the Ancient City.  Any couple that stays in a motel out on US1 is out to lunch!  At night the Victorian area just south of the Plaza turns into the city that make writers and artists arrive in the 1890’s.

This place has a magnificent staff and breakfast and treats guests to tea and coffee and wine.  There is a travel concierge who’ll help you make restaurant reservations and show you all the secret spots that make visiting here so unique.

Inn on the Avenue

309 Flagler Avenue, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32169

New Smyrna Beach has the same beach as Daytona, without the noisy crowds and carnival atmosphere.  It is five minute walk down Flagler past the quaint gift shops and restaurants to the beach.

FLORIDATRAVELER Inn on Avenue New Smyrna

The Inn is a small, happy place where everyone plays with the pancake griddles during the prix fixe breakfast and few miss the daily happy hour where sangria and hor d’oeuvres seem to be the food choice.  This is great location for such a low key experience.

floridatraveler inn on the beach coral room new smyna

Harrington House Beachfront Bed & Breakfast

5626 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island 34217

FLORIDATRAVELER harrington house anna maria is

This is a no-brainer – if you want a beachside, long-established tremendous bed and breakfast spot on a peaceful island filled with friendly restaurants and happy travelers.

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Fifty guests stay in three houses and some bungalows, all on one of Florida’s best Gulf beaches.  An executive chef comes in and makes a unique breakfast everyday.  Your wish is their command for finding island things to do.

Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn

1915 REPUBLICA DE CUBA, 33605 Tampa

If you want to be in the heart of Tampa’s Latin Quarter near the restaurants and nightclubs and a short walk to the trolley to downtown then you might consider this romantic inn.  I know it well for 35 years I taught across the street at the community college.

FLORIDATRAVELER don vicente at ybor city outside

Don Vicente started as the headquarters of the Ybor City Development Company and was once even a hospital.  Jose Marti gave a speech on the steps across the street.  The inn is totally renovated and has some cool public rooms.

FLORIDATRAVELER don vicente ybor lobby

Grandview Gardens Bed and Breakfast 

1608 Lake Avenue, West Palm Beach, FL 33401

FLORIDATRAVELER casa grandview west palm beach pool

This place is half a city block with a 1919 house, a 1925 house, and eight cottages not counting a pool that belongs at a luxury resort.  People have found this spot and is gets booked heavily by repeat business.

FLORIDATRAVELER casa grandview west palm beach bedroom

The breakfast is not a fixed plate, but resembles a restaurant menu of choices.  If you are a couple with an automobile, it is a simple drive to the shops of Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.

Henderson Park Inn

2700 Scenic Highway 98, Destin, FL 32541

The Henderson Park doesn’t fit the image of a bed and breakfast although it resembles a Victorian edifice on Block Island, Rhode Island.  There are two large three story buildings right on the Gulf of Mexico next to Henderson Beach State Park.

Bed and breakfast guests have a huge buffet for dining, but the vast place has a popular restaurant with a view of the Gulf.  The rooms were redone in 2005 with more amenities than most motels.

Heron Cay Lakeview Bed & Breakfast

495 W Old US Hwy 441, Mount Dora, FL 32757

Mount Dora, north of Orlando, is a great village for antique hunting, train rides along the lakes, and a lot of interesting restaurants.  This is a picturesque place on a bluff facing the town.

FLORIDATRAVELER Heron Cay Mount Dora outside

There is a buffet and continental breakfast and Heron Cay even cooks up some special meals.  There is a large swimming pool and something not found at most hotels – a tennis court.

FLORIDATRAVELER Heron Cay mount dora inside food

Happy b&b hunting!

Posted in adventure vacation, attractions, bed&breakfast, Florida Food, florida history, florida vacations, Historic Buildings, Historic Hotels & Inns, mcbobleonard, Recreational Experiences, Restaurants, Tampa | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Snorkeling In Florida Is A Recreation Bonanza For All Ages

I never appreciated snorkeling when I was a kid and scuba diving seemed an impossibility to be with my poor eyesight.  Ironically, now after cataract surgery I can see underwater as an old coot better than when I was in grade school.

Still, I am not attracted to going two miles offshore to a Florida Keys reef where the waters are five to fifty feet; I’d stick as close to the five foot edge as I could.  Diving down into the deep is not my bag so I need to mention places off the beach.

That’s why this article is not telling you about advanced snorkeling sites and too many places where you have to take a long boat trip to your destination.  Plus, people should realize Florida’s clear spring rivers are filled with great fish and manatees, and there are many safe snorkeling spots where alligators don’t line the shoreline.

Here are some neat spots to snorkel in Florida:

 Biscayne National Park

 You don’t have to go to the Florida Keys to see the third largest barrier reef system in the world for its starts just south of Miami’s Key Biscayne with forty islands (keys), nine reefs, and five shipwrecks to explore, many with near shore snorkeling environments in hard-bottom coral communities.

FLORIDATRAVELER SNORKEL key west snorkel-reef-cruise4

Experts suggest Caesar Creek Sandwich Cove as a nice shallow area with hard bottom coral colonies, and Bell Buoy Reef which does require a snorkeling boat trip.   Look at a map of the underwater Park and you realize it is a giant, protected bay.

Carysfort Reef

 John D. Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a famous place for scuba and snorkeling and Carysfort is in the northern tip, popular with many Key Largo snorkeling firms.  This one is a boat trip to a mature reef with depths of 5 to 25 feet.

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Carysfort was a 118-foot British frigate that hit the reef in 1770 and is six miles off North Key Largo.  As the ocean level rises the island that once held the lighthouse becomes a larger shallow snorkel area.

Pigeon Key and Bahia Honda are two islands where the snorkeling is done right off the beach.  While the latter, a state park with campsites is more famous, the snorkeling program at exotic Pigeon Key covers adults to small kids.

Pigeon Key Snorkel Class Right Off Highway

FLORIDATRAVELER snorkel Pigeon-Key1

Key West Marine Park

 Located on the south side of the urban island from the end of DuVal Street to the White Street pier, the Key West Marine Park has 116 mooting buoys marking the near coastal reef.

Experts pick the remnants of the old White Street bridge (Higgs Beach) and the Dog Beach area at Vernon Street as the best entry points to the reef.   They remind people don’t grab any spiny lobsters in the off-season.

Most people think that you have to go to the Florida Keys to find a large snorkeling area that has clear waters and loads of interesting fish.  You can walk off the beach at these spots.

Bathtub Reef Park

FLORIDATRAVELER SNORKEL bathtub reef park

 Located on Hutchinson Island on the Atlantic Ocean, the Bathtub is a honeycomb worm reef that diverts the surf making a more protected bay for snorkeling.  It is a good experience even for amateur and child snorkelers while experienced people can go over the reef walls into deeper water.

Point of Rocks

 FLORIDATRAVELER SNORKEL point of rocks siesta key_701

The design of the Gulf of Mexico beaches limits visibility in Florida, but there are still spots like South Venice Beach that are fun snorkeling spots.  The best Point of Rocks on the south side of popular Siesta Key, voted by many as the whitest sand in the USA.

This is a mostly residential area but there are access points and it is a short southward walk from Turtle Beach (half way south on the island).  A long row of outcroppings protect fish from large attackers.

Florida’s river springs are popular snorkeling places so if you look up the Florida State Parks to see if scuba is allowed – snorkeling will also be allowed.

Crystal River

 Scuba Diving Magazine lists this huge multi-=spring site as one of the top 25 snorkeling areas in the world.  It is famous for swimming near manatees and the water is mild all year.

floridatraveler SNORKELING crystal river

The Three Sister Springs area attracts the most winter manatees and there are several tour firms that specialize in snorkeling programs.

Homosassa River

floridatraveler SNORKEL Homosassa+Springs

 The same tour people also operate thirty miles south in Homosassa Springs famous for its State Park on US19.   Snorkeling here is equally interesting for besides manatees, both saltwater and freshwater fish mix freely in this wide river.

FLORIDATRAVELER SNORKEL destin east jetty

Snorkel off the East Jetty in Panhandle Destin

So consider a snorkeling trip as part of your outdoor Florida experiences.

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A Salute To Those Caring For Florida’s Damaged Wildlife

All polls indicate that besides the sun and the beaches, visitors and residents alike admire Florida’s tropical environment which includes wildlife and plants.

With twenty million residents, several million snowbirds, and over one hundred million visitors there is less and less habitat for Florida’s creatures to avoid mankind.  Encounters with humans often lead to injuries and even death despite the best intentions of people. Florida’s big zoos and attractions like Sea World and Busch Gardens have nature rescue programs but I want to concentrate on some of the smaller, lesser known places.

Here is a look at some of Florida’s best animal and bird preservationists. 

The Seaside Seabird Sanctuary at 18328 Gulf Boulevard on the Gulf of Mexico in Indian Shores is a rescue operation in itself.  Lacking in sufficient funding the original Suncoast Seabiard Sanctuary (1971-2016) closed but was reopened with the help of bird-loving volunteers and specialists.

floridatraveler seabird sanctuary

At one time this location was the “largest bird hospital in the world” while its rescues of over 3,000 wild birds each year are much less than the old facility, some 80% of the birds that survive 24 hours are rehabilitated and released.  There are always residents in house and there are presentation and programs everyday for people to visit.

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Down in Key West the brown pelicans and other island creatures have a big friend in the Key West Wildlife Center at 1801 White Street.  Open 24 hours a day, the center’s hospital covers dozens of boating accidents with birds and wildlife.

floridatraveler KEY WEST WILDLIFE CENTER

Highly unusual, the Center also handles the island’s huge stray wild children population.  I wonder if they have treated some of the ancestors of Hemingway’s multi-toed cats?

More than six hundred miles away south of Tallahassee is the Florida Wild Mammal Association surrounded by the dense pine forests in Crawfordsville.  Open since 1994, the center will help any sick, injured, or orphaned creature.

floridatraveler FWMA crawsfordville -raccons

In the Panhandle that could include deer, bobcats, and black bear.

Sanibel Island is a very conservation-oriented place with much of the bayside as part of the famous Ding Darling preserve.  CROW or the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife is a ten acre complex complete with hospital and nature trail.

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“I’m at CROW .. but I’m an owl!”

The island may seem rather urban but the raccoon and owl population often seems as note-worthy as the water birds.

The Treasure Coast Wildlife Center in Palm City has been open since 1974 and covers an area from Lake Okeechobee to urban Palm Beach County to Martin County.

On a typical day the Center may treat a barn owl, baby wrens, and a wounded bobcat.  At least 10% of their cases involve endangered or rare species.

In Miami Sea World is famous for their treatment of manatees and dolphins, but the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station right there on the 79th Street Causeway is filled with brown pelicans and other seabirds usually caught in fish nets and lines.

floridatraveler PELICAN HARBOR at miami pelican012

The Station has serviced a monstrous 30,000 patients, with over 300 species of birds. It is a tourist attraction for nature lovers.

It is not unexpected that there is an active wildlife treatment center in Gainesville.  The Florida Wildlife Care Center gets over 5,000 rescue calls each year.  With I-75 nearby deer, foxes, opossums, and bears can be targets.

This article just touched a few bases, but if you are a Florida resident or snowbird look online for the nearest wildlife rescue place if you wish to donate or volunteer.  These spots could be educational stops for tourists with families.

 

 

 

 

 

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Underrated and Often Forgotten Great Beaches of Florida

Florida has one thousand miles of coastline and miles of terrific beaches, but some beaches are actually underrated and almost forgotten by a majority of tourists and even Floridians.  Why is that?

Sometimes, there are few large resorts advertising the benefits of the beach village and small family motels don’t promote except in local media.  Other great beaches are hemmed in by larger, more commercial communities.

Here are some places to consider:

VERO BEACH may have changed some with the loss of the Dodger Baseball Spring Training City and now a less-promoted smaller McKee Botanical Garden attraction, but it still has a wonderful beach, quality restaurants, and the McLarty Treasure Museum.

floridatraveler VERO BEACH

The funky Driftwood Inn is still on the beach with some nice restaurants within walking distance.  To the south is a Holiday Inn and Suites and a Prestige Hotel, just south of South Beach Park.   Not far north at Wabasso Beach is Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.

floridatraveler FUNKY DRIFTWOOD Vero-Beach-61922

The Historic But Strange Driftwood Inn, Vero Beach

Another often neglected Atlantic beach town is DEERFIELD BEACH, hemmed in by the fancy resorts of Boca Raton and the huge hotels and condos of Pompano Beach.  The beach is very pristine and even in the heart of the winter tourist season not packed since the beachfront is mostly small motels and residences.

Architectural Photography

Royal Blues Hotel in Deerfield Beach

The great 976-foot International Fishing Pier is the beach focus and right next door is five star Wyndham Deerfield Beach and a half-dozen eating places.  A few blocks south is the deluxe Royal Blues Hotel Relais and Chateau.

Fort Myers Beach has been a popular resort spot for years, but first timers usually stay near Times Square, the very active restaurant center on the northern tip by the main bridge.  At the southern tip is the LOVERS KEY area.

floridatraveler lovers-key-resort FORT MYERS BEACH

Lovers Key Resort – Park Across Street

The Lovers Key Resort looks out onto the ocean and the bay where the Calusa Indian Mound Key is visible.  Across the street is Lovers Key State Park, where a tram takes you around the mangroves and lakes before the beautiful beach.  It is a truly natural setting where pirates once roamed.

If you want a strange mix of rustic casual, small crowds but access to luxury and fancy than the ENGLEWOOD BEACHGASPARILLA ISLAND area is your bag.  On the Charlotte County side of Manasota Key are small motels and resorts.  My favorite is the Weston’s WantaB Inn located at the entrance of semi-deserted one mile Stump Pass Beach State Park.floridatraveler ENGLEWOOD -stump-pass

Englwood Beach to north and Palm Island Resort to south

East of Jacksonville is ATLANTIC BEACH, often unnoticed by visitors for it hasn’t the bustle and amusements of nearby Jacksonville Beach.  Atlantic Beach has small deluxe resorts like the One Ocean Resort and Spa and the delightful Sea Horse Inn.

floridatraveler atlantic-beach

Uncrowded Atlantic Beach

A big asset to this beach is nearby Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park.  Atlantic Beach was voted by the Travel Chanel one of Florida’s best secret beaches.

While most visitors to Saint Augustine visit St Augustine Beach with its famous  lighthouse and “oldest” alligator farm, few don’t realize that on the northside of St. Augustine Inlet is peaceful VILANO BEACH with the same neat beach.

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Vilano Beach bayside Pier, Beach, St Augustine Beach on right

At the southern tip are several moderate hotels including the beachfront Hampton Inn and Suites.  Don’t expect lots of nightlife, but Saint Augustine is just over the bridge and five minutes away.

 

 

 

 

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Women Who Changed Florida: My Honor Roll

I was asked at a conference if I thought Janet Reno was the greatest woman in Florida history.  She was the first female Attorney General in the USA, but she was appointed at a time Presidents realized Cabinets should resemble the U.S. populace.

Most Floridians and surely most Florida visitors know few of the women who most impacted the Sunshine State so I decided to make a list of my top choices.  Since I will be doing a literary landmark article in the future, I excluded noted writers Marjorie Rawlings and Zora Hurston, for which I will then tell an interesting tale.

Here are Florida women you should know:

Julia DeForest Sturtevant Tuttle  (1848–1898)

Julia Tuttle is the only woman considered to be the founder of a major American city (Miami) and one of the true pioneers of the Florida frontier. She first came to the isolated area to see her father’s plantation on the Miami River and while she was fascinated by the potential area, she did not consider leaving Ohio for when her husband died in 1886 she had to manage the family iron foundry.  In 1891, however, her father died leaving her his Dade County real estate.

FLORIDATRAVELER -JULIA-TUTTLE facebook

          Julia Tuttle believed this frontier outpost would become a major American city and purchased hundreds of acres, including the remains of Fort Dallas. While some of the tales about her are mythical , she was able to convince Henry Flagler to extend his East Coast Railroad to Miami in part showing the area’s importance in agriculture and tourism.

She once told supporter and banker J. E. Lummus that “if you live your natural lifetime, you will see one hundred thousand people in this city.”  Lummus saw five times that amount at the time of his death.   She is truly the “Mother of Miami.”

Marjory Stoneman Douglas  (1890–1998)

Marjorie Stoneman Douglas could easily be listed as one of Florida’s ten most influential writers, but she was more than just an author.  She is viewed as the “Savior of the Everglades.”    Moving to Miami as a young journalist for The Miami Herald, Douglas became an outspoken writer for civil rights and women’s suffrage, but her biggest love was for protecting the Florida wilderness.

floridayraveler MARJORIE STONEMAN DOUGLAS

Her book The Everglades: River of Grass (1947) is Florida’s classic environmentalist non-fiction work and the inspiration for hundreds of writers and political leaders.  She was still a crusader for restoration of her big river when she died at the age of 108 and her humble Coconut Grove cottage is maintained by the Florida Park Service and is a must if you are in the Coral Gables area.

Mary Jane McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)

Best known nationally as a national advisor to President F. D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression, Mary Bethune was a key educator, civil rights leader, and important humanitarian. To Floridians, her career was even more extensive.

In Florida she started a private school for women in Daytona Beach and merged it with a male school to form Bethune-Cookman College.  She served as college President from 1923 to 1942 and 1946 to 1947.  Her house in Daytona Beach is a National Landmark.

Jacqueline Cochran (1906-1980)

Born in 1906 in a shack on stilts in Muskogee, Florida, Jacqueline Cochran is a story rarely matched in history books.  Her real name was Bessie Lee Pittman; she took the last name from her husband Robert Cochran, whom she wed at age 14.  Starting as a hairdresser in Pensacola, this farm girl soon rose to that job in New York City at Saks Fifth Avenue.  But that would not be the end of the tale.

Offered a flying lesson at Roosevelt Field in Long island, she found a new love and within two years had a commercial pilot’s license.  While becoming the first woman pilot in major airplane races, she met Floyd B. Odlum, CEO of RKO Pictures, and he helped start a cosmetic company called Wings.  By 1938, she was the best female pilot in the world, holding more speed, distance, or altitude records in aviation history than any other pilot, male or female.

When World War II started, the very patriotic Cochran volunteered to fly Lockheed bombers across the Atlantic to help save Britain and even recruited American female pilots to serve England.  When the USA entered the war, she overcame all opposition to help start and direct the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).  In 1948 she joined the US Air Force Reserve as a test pilot.

floridatravel;er jackie cochran

          Rising to a rank of Colonel, Cochran was the first women to break the sound barrier, to land on an aircraft carrier, to fly a transatlantic jet aircraft, and to fly over 20,000 feet.  In 1961 she flew a T-38 higher than any human in history. In case, you think her flying career ended her cosmetic business, she continued it and got Marilyn Monroe to be spokesperson for her lipstick.

Paulina Pedroso (1845-1925)

Paulina Perdroso is often viewed as the female leader of the Cuban War for Independence for Spain and certainly it’s most famous Afro-Cuban.  Born in Cuba, she and her husband moved to Key West as cigarmakers, a move probably triggered by her opposition to Spanish policies in Cuba.  In the 1880’s she moved to segregated Tampa and worked in the factory of Vicente Martinez Ybor, a Spanish-born manufacturer who supported Cuban independence and started Tampa’s Latin City. Her husband Ruberto headed the Marti-Maceo Society, the club of Afro-Cubans since they couldn’t integrate into the white Cuban groups.  Pedroso went with Marti to unify the Cuban cigar workers, both black and white, to support raising money for weapons and equipment to gain Cuban independence from Spain.

floridatraveler PAULINA PEDROSO

          When Spanish agents in Tampa  tried to poison Cuban Revolutionary leader Jose Marti, Marti stayed at the Pedroso boardinghouse at 8th Avenue and 12th Street, since it was protected by stone walls.  Paulina and Marti, who was white, worked to end racial discrimination in Cuban organizations.  The location of the Pedroso house is today a park in Ybor City (Tampa) donated to the people of Cuba by the people of Tampa.  She is a member of the Florida Hall of Fame.

May Austin Elizabeth Mann Jennings (1872 – 1963)

May Jennings of Brooksville was the wife of Governor William Sherman Jennings.  Many viewed his success to his wife’s ability to organize voters via her vast network of Florida Federation of Womens Club members.

Following her husband’s term as governor in 1904, the couple moved to Jacksonville, then Florida’s largest city, where Jennings was an organizer of the Duval County Federation of Women’s clubs and was president of the Florida Federation of Womens Clubs and got an army of women into promoting child welfare laws, reservations for Seminoles, a State Library, state parks, compulsory eduication for all, and conservation laws.

FLORIDATRAVELER May Mann Jennings

 Club women across the state worked in campaign drives, lobbied legislators and appealed to other organizations for assistance.              After she was widowed in 1920, she was co-founder of the Florida State League of Womens Voters.  As their spokesperson, she lobbied for prison and education reforms.

She was known as the “Mother of Florida Forestry” for her part in promoting and securing the legislative act that created the Florida State Board of Forestry, known today as the Division of Forestry.

Posted in adventure vacation, attractions, conservation, environment, florida education, florida history, Historic Buildings, mcbobleonard, travel, women | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter Park Is The City Of Wonderful Canals

Winter Park is identified across Central Florida as an upscale community filled with a downtown of attractive stores and restaurants along Park Avenue, wonderful lakeside estates, and Florida’s first four year college, ROLLINS COLLEGE

The mix of education, money, and Northern money gives the town a prosperous atmosphere, one that can support the world’s largest Tiffany glass collection at the CHARLES HOSMER MORSE MUSEUM of AMERICAN ART.

After shopping along Winter Park’s wonderful downtown streets and visiting Rollins College, the best thing to do is take a BOAT TOUR of the city’s many canals.  This is the best way to see many of the extensive mansions of the city.

floridatraveler WINTER PARK BOAT TOURS

The Boat Tour Shows A Different Winter Park

The area has attracted New Englanders in large numbers since the 1880’s, although pioneer Favid Mize; Jr atarted Lake View (later Osceola) in 1858 for Southern farmers. When the South Florida Railroad reached the area in 1880 it brought Loring Chase. When he saw the lovely lakes, he recruited a rich New England Oliver E, Chapman to buy land and plant orange groves around a downtown.

floridatraveler WINTER PARK from the air postcard

By 1885 Chase and Chapman sold the property to a group of investors who opened the Winter Park Company with an eye to turn the town into a winter residence of the rich. Later that year the Congregational Assembly selected the town for ROLLINS COLLEGE and the huge Seminole Hotel was built on Lake Osceola to attract the rich.

After touring the shops on Park Avenue (complete with Amtrak station so we once came here for the day from Tampa by train), tour the beautiful ROLLINS COLLEGE campus where being lakeside makes a difference.

floridatraveler WINTER PK Rollins Graphic

On campus is the CORNELL FINES ARTS MUSEUM (1942), the original site of the Morse Art Gallery, and the exquisite ANNIE RUSSELL THEATRE (1932), A Romanesque classic by O. W. Hessler and Richard Kiekael.  Original plays directed by Zora Hurston were once done here.

floridatraveler WINTER PK ANNIE RUSSELL THEATER

The Historic Annie Russell Theater

Over at 1000 Hlt Avenue is the KNOWLES MEMORIAL CHAPEL, a Spanish Revival center by G. W. Cram and Ralph Adams.   If you are renting a canoe or traveling on Lake Virginia to get scenic views of the Rollins Campus, you should notice the houses on the south shore, a subdivision called Ellno Willa. (13) At 247 Virginia Drive is the 1925 Spanish style W. B. JOINER HOUSE ; at 181 Virginia is the 1928 HERBERT HALVERSTADT HOUSE. He was Mayor of the city while his wife Gertrude was President of the Womans Club.

The large Italian Renaissance farmhouse at 147 Virginia is the 1925 DR. N. L. BRYAN ESTATE, on two acres with 15-foot outer walls.

Traveling from the Rollins campus east on Osceola it is hard to miss (B) the ALBIN POLASEK MUSEUM at 633 Osceola. It is the house where the great Czech artist/sculptor retired in 1950, but the grounds and building houses a great display of his work.

Floridatraveler WINTER PARK POLASAK MUSEUM

One Look Tells This Is Not The Typical House

It is much easier to miss (1) the REV. CHARLES W. WARD COTTAGE (1882) purchased by Alonzo Rollins from the towns first Episcopal minister to serve as the first women’s dorm at Rollins. I do not know if Alice Guild stayed here, but she was the first woman in Florida in get a BA from a Florida college in 1890.

floridatarveler winter park WARD COTTAGE

The Ward Cottage

North of Osceola on the eastern shore of Lake Osceola is (2) THE PALMS (1898), a 21 room Georgian Revival complete with boathouse and pagoda and a favorite on the Boat Tours. Edward Hill Brewer, a winter resident built the house. Later noted architect James Gamble Rogers II redid the interior for another owner.

floridatraveler winter park CANAL TRIP

Even In Summer The Canals Are Cooling

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