Archive | May 2014

125 years young

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Construction began on this beauty around 1889 and was completed in 1900. Its builder, Daniel Morgan, was a prominent businessman in the timber and turpentine industries, as well a county commissioner and postmaster. Built of all Heart Pine and trimmed in Cypress, it has 10 rooms as well as a separate, detached structure housing the kitchen and dining room. But Daniel would have very little time to enjoy his beautiful home, as he was killed in a logging accident in 1901.

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The home was purchased 5 years later but another turpentine and timber family, the Townsends. Sometime before 1919, their family moved the home from a nearby lakeside to the spring head at the top of a picturesque river run where it sits now. But soon after moving it, the Townsend family would part with the home selling it to another Marion County family. Since then, it has at times been a clubhouse, a hunting lodge, a private residence, and in the more recent years, just sat as a vacant reminder of long ago.

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In December of 2012, it was again sold, this time to a local family who is working diligently to repair, renovate, and restore the gorgeous place as a bed and breakfast.

At 125 years young, the strength of her bones is still evident. It is truly an incredible place with a long history and hopefully an even longer future thanks to the dedication of those working to restore it.

[Marion County, FL c. 1889]

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Of my past I am sure, but my future is uncertain

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This remarkable 2 story home was built in 1867 by the Randall family who were originally from the Carolinas. All stick construction assembled on site, the 2,000 square foot home was warmed by one central chimney with fireboxes to warm both the parlour and dining rooms on the first floor.

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(The Randall Family at home c. 1880’s- Photo courtesy of the Leslie Family)

They were one of the first families to settle this small community that sits just along the Ocklawaha River. After the Civil War, the area began to bustle with new settlers from neighboring states and traffic from steamboats along the river helped to establish numerous citrus farming towns.

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(View of the Ocklawaha River c. 1880- Original photo courtesy and property of the State Archive of Florida Memory Project)

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(Original photo courtesy and property of the State Archive of Florida Memory project)

From each of their respective ports, boats would pick up and deliver goods, as well as tourists who began to frequent the line.

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(Original photo courtesy and property of the State Archive of Florida Memory Project)

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(Original photo courtesy and property of the State Archive of Florida Memory Project)

The Randall’s built a grand hotel just along the riverbanks as accommodations for traveller’s who arrived by boat.

randall_hotel(Original photo courtesy and property of the State Archive of Florida Memory project)

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(Original photo courtesy and property of the State Archive of Florida Memory Project)

But a lot of changes were coming quickly for this sleepy river town when the 1890’s dealt the area two freezes that devastated area citrus crops. Then in 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the area a National Forest, the first East of the Mississippi River, which began a transformation in the identity of the communities in the area. All of this coupled with the blow that the railroads dealt to the Riverboat economy spelled the end of tourism and most commerical economy for the town. Locals recall that the last boats came through in 1925 and The Randall Hotel would shut its doors then too.

As their community and livelihoods changed, I can only imagine the struggles they must have faced but members of the original family would call this home until the mid-1940’s. The last Randall’s to live there sold it to Paul and Opal Leslie along with 10 surrounding acres for $850 around 1945. Their grandchildren can remember a time when they had to carry pails of water in to the home from the hand pump in the back yard but by 1952, numerous upgrades like plumbing and electricity had been added. Paul and Opal would remain in this home until her death in 2004. It is still owned by the Leslie family and has been rented at times, but due to severe neglect by the last tenants, the family is not interested in renting it again.

For now, its roof is in good shape and the windows are in tact. It needs a lot of work, but luckily, its current owners are doing as much as they can to prevent further damage to it.

As I walked through this home, I felt so very fortunate to be able to take in such an awesome piece of architecture. The exposed paneling told so much about its original builders. The original wooden staircase and floorboards seemed even more compelling as I considered that they must have been harvested from this very site.

In 147 years, the outside world looks a whole lot different, but from in here, it feels like time is standing still.

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[Ocala National Forest- Marion County, FL c. 1867]

Broken but beautiful

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If you take a moment to appreciate the nuanced details of this home, I think you’ll find that a beautiful story unravels, hidden behind a seemingly lonely setting.

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Look past the sagging foundation and broken parts to find the craftsmanship in the woodwork of the clapboard paneling and the detail work of the chair. You might notice the addition of electrical outlets many years after this was built. And if you look at it long enough, it’s easy to imagine a family gathered around this old yet familiar television set as they watched their favorite programs.

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It’s pretty incredible to consider the changes that happened in the outside world in the time that this building served as a home. Imagine how significantly this family’s life changed with the addition of electricity and then later on when they were able to afford a TV. I wonder what the first show was that they saw on it? And what was the last?

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But as much as the old place tried to keep up, the time came when this it had served its purpose. It’s family moved along and this is what got left behind. When life forces change upon us, we can hold on to memories when we can’t take our things with us.

[Bradford County, FL c. 1870’s]

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