Monday, September 5, 2016

The Telford Hotel of White Springs

In my previous post I wrote about the town of White Springs and the spring which gave it its name. I mentioned that in the town’s heyday it had fourteen luxury hotels, only one of which survives today. That surviving hotel is the Telford Hotel, and it is the subject of this post.

The Telford Hotel was built by WB Telford in 1902, and was the seventh hotel built in the town. In 1911, the town was ravaged by fire, which destroyed nearly all of the town’s luxury hotels. The number of hotels destroyed differs depending on which website I check; some say four remained while others say only two survived. Needless to say, the Telford Hotel was one of the survivors. Famous visitors to the hotel back in its prime allegedly included Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Howard Taft. As time passed, however, and the popularity of White Springs as a tourist destination began to dwindle, and the community became unable to support luxury hotels. The Telford changed hands numerous times over the years, most commonly operating as a bed and breakfast and/or restaurant. 

Telford Hotel, ca 1903 (source)

Telford Hotel, ca1910 (source)

Telford Hotel. ca1903 (source)

Telford Hotel. 1974 (source)

Telford Hotel. 1978 (source)

As someone who grew up in north Florida, I have two distinct personal memories of the Telford. I’m not sure when I first visited White Springs, or even exactly when my first memory of visiting the town happened, but I certainly remember the event. My mother is a retired history professor, and although she was a stay-at-home-mom at the time of my first Telford memory, she possessed an MA in history. The Telford Hotel was open in one of its many modern day incarnations. The owner had hung portraits of all the US Presidents from Washington to whomever was President at the time (Reagan, I believe) in order around the hotel’s restaurant. He had a standing offer that if anyone could correctly name all of the presidents in order from memory, that person would receive a free meal. My mother, expert on all things historical and lover of all things free, was the first (and for all I know, only) person to take him up on his offer and receive a free meal. After we ate, he gave us a tour of the hotel’s facilities.

Several years later my parents and I returned to White Springs and decided to pop into the Telford on the off chance that my mom could score another free meal by naming all the presidents. Unfortunately for her, the hotel was under new ownership. I don’t recall if it was operating as either a hotel or a restaurant at the time, but what it was operating as was (of all things) an alien conspiracy radio station. I have always been fascinated by the concept of space aliens, and have loved reading science fiction from an early age. However, instead of being fascinated or excited, I remember this absolutely creeping me out. Unfortunately, I don’t remember too many details, other than a man telling us that there was a face on Mars constructed by aliens and the US government knew about it and was keeping it secret. This is such a weird thing to remember that I had actually begun thinking it was some sort of childhood fantasy.

I went down quite an internet rabbit hole researching this, and it turns out that I really can trust my memories. Apparently a fellow named Chuck Harder and his wife purchased the Telford sometime in the late 1980s to serve as the studios for the Sun Radio Network/Talk Star Radio and the production location for his show, “For the People.” Harder went off the air in 1996, although I do not know if he had continued to broadcast from the Telford up until that time or not. A fellow named Richard Hoagland was, for a time, the Science Advisor for Harder’s For the People. This is important because in 1987 Hoagland published a book entitled “Monuments on Mars: A City on the Edge of Forever” which was intended as fact, not fiction. He claimed that there was evidence of the remains of a civilization on Mars, including a giant monument in the shape of a face, pyramids, and the ruins of a city. (A defunct civilization on another planet? Talk about Desolation Travel!) There are even audio archives of Harder and Hoagland discussing various alien conspiracies. Apparently they also offered a TV version of For the People for a brief period; below I've added the introduction to the TV show, which features video of the hotel and the radio station. I do not, however, know when the footage was shot. (Warning: the tune will get stuck in your head.)

video

As I mentioned above, I don’t know exactly when Harder and his radio program left the Telford, but I do know that it was recently refurbished and operating as a restaurant and bed and breakfast. Unfortunately, the most recent incarnation of the Telford went out of business last year, and as of my visit to White Springs last month, it sat empty with a For Sale By Owner sign on the front door. The interior pictures shown below were taken from the Facebook page from its most recent period of operation, and were first posted online in 2014






The following exterior photos of the Telford were taken by me
during my August 2016 visit to White Springs: 





For more information on the Telford Hotel:

And on the off chance you want more information on Harder or Hoagland:

I have been blogging here at Desolation Florida since October 2015, taking photographs and writing stories of the old, decaying, desolate, abandoned, and rural parts of Florida that are rarely seen. In order to continue sharing quality posts with you - and to fund photography and research trips to parts of Florida more than a day-trip's distance from my home, I am asking for your support. Please visit patreon.com/desolationflorida to see how you can help Desolation Florida continue. I thank you in advance for your support!

Monday, August 29, 2016

White Springs

The town of White Springs sits on the eastern shore of the Suwannee River in the southeastern corner of Hamilton County. Today the town is a quiet, sleepy community with a population of less than a thousand. While the annual folk festival draws thousands to the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park on the town’s edge once a year, on the average day the streets and the park are fairly quiet. However, things were once quite different.

The Timucuan tribe, the first recorded residents of the area (as documented by Spanish explorers of the 1500s), considered the springs to be sacred and to contain healing properties. While European settlers displaced the Native Americans who once called this area home, they retained the local belief in the healing powers of the springs. Plantation owners Bryant and Elizabeth Sheffield purchased the property in the 1830s, and were the first to market the springs' purported health benefits, including treatment of nervousness, kidney disease, and rheumatism. They named the springs Upper Mineral Springs and constructed a log springhouse and hotel. For this reason, the springs are considered by many to have been Florida’s first tourist attraction.

The original springhouse, photographed in the 1890s (source)

The Civil War and the following Reconstruction period stifled the town’s burgeoning tourist industry. However, the 1880s saw the beginning of a massive influx of tourists to Florida for the purpose of “taking the waters” at various high mineral content springs throughout the state. (I have written previously about such tourist destinations as Suwannee Springs, Worthington Springs, and Hampton Springs.) At this time, the springs and the community which had sprung up nearby were renamed White Springs. The connection of the town to nearby rail lines spurred the growth of the town’s tourist industry. In 1903, the spring was enclosed in a three-story bathhouse constructed from coquina and concrete; the bathhouse contained changing rooms, doctors’ offices, concessions facilities, and even an elevator. Fourteen luxury hotels, numerous boardinghouses, and all the amenities of a modern community of the time sprang up around the springs.

Hamilton Hotel, ca1900 (source)

Colonial Hotel, early 1900s (source)

Hotel Jackson, ca1920 (source)


Interior of the springhouse, ca1910 (source)

Exterior of the springhouse, 19?? (source)

Today, only one of the fourteen hotels remains (and it is closed and up for sale at the time of this writing), and few of the community’s “downtown” structures remain. The spring itself stopped flowing in the mid-1990s, although in recent years heavy downpours have triggered short periods of spring-flow. The springhouse, located adjacent to the entrance to the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, can be explored to this day, although it is now only one story, and a shadow of its former glory.

Telford Hotel, currently closed and for sale by owner

Downtown structures on Bridge Street

Adams Country Store, est 1885

Many of the town's old homes are still maintained and inhabited:

Sophia Jane Adams House, built 1893



Although there are also plenty of abandoned structures:





The Riverside Filling Station, built in 1914, was recently the site of the White Springs Public Library, although from what I can tell the building now sits empty, except for the books piled inside.

The springhouse today

The view of the interior of the springhouse from the remaining walkway

Looking out from the walkway over the Suwannee River

The springhouse as seen from the Suwannee River

The exterior of the springhouse where water once flowed out into the Suwannee River. A gate system could once be closed at this location to prevent backflow from the Suwannee entering the spring during periods of flood.

The interior of the springhouse as seen from inside

For more information on White Springs:

I have been blogging here at Desolation Florida since October 2015, taking photographs and writing stories of the old, decaying, desolate, abandoned, and rural parts of Florida that are rarely seen. In order to continue sharing quality posts with you - and to fund photography and research trips to parts of Florida more than a day-trip's distance from my home, I am asking for your support. Please visit patreon.com/desolationflorida to see how you can help Desolation Florida continue. I thank you in advance for your support!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Abandoned Rural Residences of North Florida

My house was built in 1920; my mom's house was built in 1905. I love old homes, but I also understand that the older the structure, the more expensive the upkeep. For many families with roots in north Florida, purchasing a newer home may very well be cheaper than maintaining and/or updating their family homestead. As many families are unwilling to either sell or tear down their historic family home - often the home in which older family members were born and raised - it is common to see many old homesteads slowly decaying into the ground next to newer family residences. Abandoned homes in varying states of decay dot the rural landscape of north Florida. Below are images of a few. 

Bell, FL

Bell, FL


Northern Columbia County


Southern Columbia County


Fort White, FL


Northern Gilchrist County


Northern Lafayette County


Northern Lafayette County


Old Bellamy Road, Alachua County

Old Bellamy Road, Alachua County




Eastern Suwannee County


Eastern Suwannee County

Eastern Taylor County



Lulu, FL

I have been blogging here at Desolation Florida since October 2015, taking photographs and writing stories of the old, decaying, desolate, abandoned, and rural parts of Florida that are rarely seen. In order to continue sharing quality posts with you - and to fund photography and research trips to parts of Florida more than a day-trip's distance from my home, I am asking for your support. Please visit patreon.com/desolationflorida to see how you can help Desolation Florida continue. I thank you in advance for your support!