Thursday, September 29, 2011

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

September has been a busy month for us here in Florida.  We really haven't taken anymore big trips except for a quick one day trip to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute Emergency Room in Miami for Hubby's inflammed eye.  All is good now so, last Saturday, we visited a park close to home.  The 325 acre park is named after the previous owner, John D. MacArthur, who wished to preserve it for future generations.

There are nearly two miles of beach for swimming.  It's is a prime nesting site for sea turtles too.

You get to the beach via a 1,600-foot boardwalk that spans Lake Worth.

It was fascinating to look into the water at all the fish.  In cooler weather you can see manatees too.

If you get tired you can sit down and wait for the tram to  take you back across the estuary to the Nature Center.

The Nature Center has displays and live animal exhibits to learn more about the park.  This is NOT a live exhibit.  YUCK!  That is a live hand though.

This IS a live exhibit.  DOUBLE YUCK!  They're not poisonous but I don't want to meet up with one of them.

The park also has nature trails.

This Banyon Tree has a ways to grow before it reaches the size of the one at Thomas Edison's home.

The fruit on this Sea Grape Tree looked good enough to eat.

Hubby pointed out this guy in one of the trees.  I watched where I walked after seeing that!

Then, we spotted these guys in one of the parking lots.

As I approached, the larger Turkey Vulture flew away but this one let me get close - maybe, too close.  You can tell this one is still a juvenile because his head hasn't turned red yet, so maybe he didn't know any better.  I decided I was close enough.  He was looking at me with a hungry eye!

You can also observe the wildlife by renting a kayak so, tomorrow, we're slathering on the sunscreen, packing up our water bottles, and trying our hand at kayaking.  It will be a new experience for us.  I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Gamble Plantation Historic State Park

While Hubby and I were visiting the Bradenton/Sarasota area we just had to make a side trip to Ellenton to see the only surviving antebellum mansion in South Florida.  It's also the oldest building in Manatee County. 

Following the Second Seminole War (1836 - 1842) which removed many Indians from Florida, Congress opened up the area for settlement and offered 160 acres to anyone who would live on the land for five years.  In 1843, Major Robert Gamble, Jr. of Tallahassee claimed his acreage along the Manatee River, then a very remote region, to establish a sugar plantation.

His mansion took six years to build using slave labor and local craftsmen.  The low building in front of this picture is the cistern where they collected rain water for drinking.  The two-story mansion has ten rooms and the outer walls are nearly two feet thick.  Eighteen columns support the roof and upper verandas.

Although a bachelor, Gamble loved to entertain and even installed a piano in his small living room.

The dining room lavishly fed any company willing to make the trip to his remote location.  Once someone made the arduous trip, by river or horseback, they usually stayed a while!

Here's where all the food was prepared.  Everything was cooked over an open fireplace.

They had to roast their own coffee beans, fresh each morning, before grinding them for the master's coffee.  Since coffee beans were a precious commodity, that had to be shipped in, servants had to be extra careful not to burn the beans!

Gamble eventually accumulated 3,500 acres and was producing large amounts of sugar.  The areas in green were part of his plantation.

However, natural disasters and a fickle sugar market drove him deeply into debt.

As if falling sugar prices and natural disasters weren't enough, there was still the occasional Seminole Indian attack.  Everyone, including slaves, would grab guns and take up their posts in the mansion.  The second floor veranda provided a good view.

This bedroom is at the front of the house on the second floor.  There is no hallway and you have to pass through one bedroom to get to another.  Hopefully, Gamble's guests weren't shy!

Each room in the mansion has it's own fireplace.  The two-foot thick walls may help keep out the summer heat, but they also help keep in the winter chill.

I really liked the bed in the second bedroom and I actually learned something interesting!  See how there is a blanket rolled around the bar at the foot of the bed?  That is officially a blanket roll and the ends were kept waxed so the bar would roll quietly in the middle of the night when the bed's occupant would reach down and pull the blanket over him/her when cold.  I even have a bed with a roll like that at home and didn't know it's purpose!

One more room completes the second floor.  It was used as an extra bedroom or place to store trunks and other items.

By 1856 Gamble could no longer weather the problems stemming from falling sugar prices and crop losses.  He sold the entire estate for $190,000 to two men from Louisiana and returned to Tallahassee.  In 1872, the land and mansion were sold by forced sale to Major George Patten (no relation to the World War II General) for $3,000.  And we think home prices have fallen badly now days!

In 1895, the Pattens abandoned the mansion to avoid the high cost of maintaining the aging and decaying house.  The youngest son of George and Mary Patten, Dudley, built this house on the property around 1895.  By the 1920's the vacant mansion was in ruin.   But, in 1925, the Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy purchased the property and deeded it to the State of Florida as a historic site.  A happy ending at last for the beautiful antebellum mansion!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Snooty The Manatee

While Hubby and I were in Bradenton we visited the South Florida Museum.  It also houses the Bishop Planetarium and the Parker Manatee Aquarium.  It was the Aquarium that I really wanted to see because I wanted to see a manatee!

The Aquarium is home to Snooty, the world's oldest known manatee.  He was born July 21, 1948 at the old Miami Aquarium and has lived at the South Florida Museum since 1949.

Two other rescued manatees share his tank, Brandee and Charlie.  They will eventually be released back into the wild but Snooty, who was born in captivity, will live out his days here.

See the white patches on Brandee's skin?  That's frost damage and will never change.  Manatees need warm water to survive.  During the winter they like the warm discharge of power plants and they know where the warm spots in the rivers are located.

Man is the  greatest threat to these slow moving animals.  The gentle manatees just don't realize the danger of a speeding boat and don't, or can't, get out of the way. 

The Aquarium is also a rehabilitation center so Snooty often shares his tank. 

Snooty is hand-fed but Brandee and Charlie are fed separately so they don't get used to human contact.

Snooty is a healthy manatee at 1,215 pounds and 9 feet 7 inches long.  Manatees love to eat lettuce, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes - white and sweet.  Broccoli is a special treat!

We really enjoyed our visit with Snooty.  If you're ever in the area stop by and see him!

Next time:  The Gamble Plantation

Friday, September 16, 2011

Manatee Village Historical Park

Hubby and I love history so, while we were in Bradenton, we had to visit this collection of restored buildings from Manatee County's early settlements.

This was the first thing we saw at the park entrance.  I had a little trouble getting Hubby (big kid that he is!) to move on!

The 1903 General Store and Boat Works are next door to each other.  The upper floor of the store had rooms to rent to travelers.

You could buy just about anything.

The Blacksmith Shop wasn't too far away.  I had to pry Hubby away again.

This 1887 church is beautiful.
Weddings are still performed here today.

Here's the Courthouse, on the left, and the 1908 one-room Schoolhouse, on the right.

I could have been a judge - guilty!

One of our daughters is a teacher.  I wonder how she'd like teaching here!
She could have her own desk.

Unfortunately, the 1912 Settler's House was closed for renovation so we didn't get to go inside.
They did have some things on the back porch though.  I'm glad we don't have to wash clothes like this anymore!

This replica of a typical Florida barn sucked Hubby right in!
I wouldn't mind having a few of these antiques myself!

Last, but not least, the "necessary room."  It was a two-seater but, fortunately, other options were provided!

Next week - Manatees!