Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rice Creek Railroad Trestle

If you’re a fan of Desolation Florida AND a fan of cycling, you should check out Gravel Cyclist – a Florida-based site about riding gravel and dirt roads through many of the beautifully desolate corners of our state, the US, and the world. JOM, the driving force behind Gravel Cyclist, has brought many of the locations featured on this site to our attention – including the location of this post. So click on over to and check him out!


In the late 1880s, the Georgia Southern and Florida Railroad constructed a line which began in Macon, GA and ran south, passing through Valdosta, GA as well as Lake City and Lake Butler in Florida before reaching its final destination in Palatka, FL. Over the years the line changed ownership multiple times, initially carrying both freight and passengers, but later dropping to freight only. The line was abandoned in the late 1980s. The state of Florida began working to turn the abandoned rail line into part of the Florida Rails-to-Trails network in 2000, with the trail opening in 2007. Currently, much of the former line between Palatka and Lake Butler has been converted into a paved cycling and hiking trail, although the conversion of the complete stretch to paved trail has not yet been completed. Further plans to extend the trail to St. Augustine to the northeast and Lake City to the northwest are being considered, although as yet nothing is in the works.

As much of the former rail line between Palatka and Lake Butler has been converted to a paved trail, little remains of the actual rail line. Florida Trailblazer has a great post on an abandoned trestle along the line on the border of Bradford and Union counties, as the path of the old rail line approaches Lake Butler which you can check out here. Last week, JOM of GravelCyclist took me to several desolate sites in Putnam County (in which the town of Palatka is located) last week, including an undeveloped portion of the abandoned rail line just to the northwest of Palatka where it crosses Rice Creek on a rickety old trestle. There’s not much one can say about an abandoned and decaying trestle, but as ever, pictures are worth far more than words.

The rails themselves are long since gone, but some rail-spikes remain.

Crossing Rice Creek

Rice Creek

Crossing Rice Creek

Crossing Rice Creek

For more information on the Georgia Southern and Florida Railroad and the Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail, check out the following links:

Lake City to Palatka (
Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail (Florida State Parks)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Some Structures of Southern Bradford County

Bradford County is a small, rural north Florida county with a population of less than 27,000 county-wide. The county’s borders were defined in 1858, although at the time it was called New River County. In 1861 it was renamed Bradford County after Confederate General Richard Bradford. The few small communities of modern-day Bradford County are quite small: Brooker (pop. 338), Starke (pop. 5,500) and Lawtey (pop. 730), known mainly for being a speed-trap. (Seriously, here's a google image search for Lawtey speed trap!) On the one hand, a small, rural county such as Bradford should be ripe for Desolation Florida posts. On the other hand, much of the desolation revolves around farmland and the state prison, the former not being overly photogenic, and the latter, well, not something one can wander about taking photos of. I did, however, take a few photos of three interesting old structures in southern Bradford County last month. I do not know the history of any of these three properties; if any of you do, please share!

This first amazing old house is set rather a long way back from the road, and the following shots were taken with my zoom lens. (It is part of a property with a modern residence next to it. If I were a normal, social person, I would go ask about the history of this house, but as I am not, I simply stood on the side of the road and took photographs.)

The following house is of a much more recent vintage than the previous one, (decades newer than my own home, even), although it is most definitely abandoned at the moment, and looks to have been that way for some time. I am in love with the large oak tree!

The following empty house is in the tiny community of Brooker, right along the main road. It is plastered with no trespassing signs, so I did not venture off the road/sidewalk. That being said, the owners of the house located next to it (not pictured) do not take kindly to their property being photographed, so if you're in the area, be forewarned.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Mayo, Florida

When I was about ten or eleven years old, a friend of mine invited me to accompany her to 'the festival in Mayo' where her family's church was going to have a booth that year. Even though I had grown up less than 40 miles from Mayo, I'd never heard of the town before that invitation. I don't remember much about the festival; my friend and I spent the day trying on and buying various items of costume jewelry from vendors while her parents fried elephant ears in a food truck. All I noticed about the town was that it was small. I did, however, immediately assume that it was the location of the Mayo Clinic. This says a lot about me as a child that the Mayo Clinic was my first thought, and not mayonnaise! It wasn't until I was in high school that I realized that the town was affiliated with neither.

There's not much to the town of Mayo, Florida. It's the county seat of Lafayette County, and has a population of around 1300. It's located along highway 27, which connects High Springs (where I live) to towns further to the west. I've certainly driven through Mayo quite a few times as an adult, although I've only stopped once - and that was in order to take pictures for this blog. Modern day Mayo consists of a decaying old downtown, paralleling highway 27. While many of the older buildings are home to local businesses, many others sit empty in various states of decay. Finding information online about the history of Mayo is.... challenging, to say the least. Seriously, google it; there's not much out there. (This of course means that if you have Mayo related information, I would love to receive it!) What I've been able to learn about the town boils down to this: Lafayette County was created in 1856, and Mayo was named its county seat in 1893. While I don't know when the town was founded, its oldest surviving building dates to 1883. And that's all I've got. Yeah.

Main Street, Mayo, approx. 1910 (source)

The 'House of the Seven Gables' was inspired by the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel of the same name. It was designed by James Mitchell and built by Mack Koon in the 1880s. This photo was taken in the 1960s. (source)

I do, of course, have some modern day photographs for you as well:

The House of the Seven Gables today, sans porch.

Original Lafayette County Courthouse, built in 1893
Currently a B&B and apartments.

Current Lafayette County Courthouse, built in 1908

Unidentified building

This building was most recently the Precious Memories Flower Shop

Center: Mayo Fire Department
Right: Former Dees Drug Store

Doorway: Dees Drug Store 1916

Unidentified building

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Hampton Springs Hotel: Update!

Joe of Florida Trailblazer (and y'all should check out his site if you haven't) emailed me the link to a really fantastic document on the Hampton Springs Hotel. My original post on the hotel is here, but it definitely deserves this followup comparison between how things were then and how they are now. The document where the following old pictures - and more - can be seen here. There is no date on the document itself, but based on its contents, it was published no earlier than 1927. Definitely check out the whole file - it gives a great look into how the tourism business was run in north Florida in the late 1920s, and it clearly shows how strongly they were pushing the medicinal benefits of Florida's spring water. You can explore the file in detail on your own, but I wanted to post some comparison before and after shots, so you can visualize the hotel upon its modern remains:

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Hampton Springs Hotel

You might have noticed that even though this blog is relatively young, I have done quite a few posts on Florida's springs and the remains of hotels and springhouses that surround them. This is partly because Florida's springs are one of my favorite features of this state. This is also because in the early days of Florida tourism - before Disney was a household name and when Miami was nothing but a small town - Florida's springs were what drew tourists to the state. It certainly didn't hurt that basking in mineral-rich waters, such as Florida's springs, was believed to have numerous medicinal benefits. The Hampton Springs Hotel was once such a tourist attraction.

Located just outside of the town of Perry, the hotel was constructed over the springs back in the early 1900s, the grand hotel attracted so many visitors that it had to be expanded - and its famous visitors even allegedly included Theodore Roosevelt. In the late 1920s, modern medicine of the day began to discount the 'healing' claims of Florida's mineral-rich springwater, and many of Florida's spring-affiliated resorts closed. Hampton Springs Hotel, however, added a golf course, a hunting and fishing club, and an exclusive spa club, which helped the hotel continue attracting visitors through the 1930s. Beginning in the late 1930s and into the 1940s, the hotel was used to house troops who were testing military aircraft at the airport located in Perry. The hotel complex was destroyed by fire in 1954.

In the upper left it reads, 'Guaranteed for Rheumatism, Indigestion, Dyspepsia, Stomach, Kidney, Bladder Troubles, Gastritis, and Skin Diseases'

This is a promotional brochure for Taylor County, which features an image of the Hampton Springs Hotel. The text reads: "Anyone interested is invited to come to Taylor county. The homeseeker, the tourist, and the sportsman are all welcome. Perry is known as a Glad Hand Town, where the visitor is given a cordial greeting, and made to feel at home. If you are interested in fruit growing, trucking, farming, darying, raising livestock or poultry, if you are interested in hunting or fishing, or just wish to rest and recuperate, you are asked to come and investigate opportunities. Meet our people, see our proved and unimproved lands, learn of the great variety and yield of the crops, partake of the pleasures our section has to offer, then if you are pleased, make your plans to stay with us."

Little remains of the Hampton Springs Hotel today other than the foundations and the concrete pools built up around the spring itself. Taylor County and the Florida Bureau of Historic Preservation have turned the former site of the Hampton Springs Hotel into a park, where visitors can enjoy the springs, hotel ruins, Spring Creek, and picnic tables. 

Entering the Hampton Springs Park. The walkways and cement structures date back to the hotel.

Numerous remains of building foundations dot the site.

More foundations

More original concrete work

Approaching the springs area

Before you reach the springs, you come to this pool.

A closeup of the structure (?) in the center of the pool.

Looking back towards the first pool from the springs.

The springs have been entirely enclosed in these concrete pools. Despite the algae growing in the pool, the water flowing from the spring (coming up from that dark hole in the center) is crystal clear - although it has a strong sulfur smell!

A closer look

From this angle, you can see remains of either tile or scored concrete surrounding the spring (look to the upper right of the hole).

A look at the spring-fed pools.

The spring water flows into various pools before finally exiting the concrete maze and entering Spring Creek.

Stairs into the largest pool, the one located the closest to Spring Creek

Spring Creek

There's an old bridge over Spring Creek (right center). 
Not sure about the concrete structure in the fore.

Ruins of the Hampton Springs Hotel

UPDATE: Click here to see a comparison between the original hotel grounds and the way the property looks now!