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Princess Place Preserves Turn of the Century Florida

Kim Medley
Kim Medley

A rumbling road, sprinkled with Florida sugar sand, slowly winds through a canopy of bending oaks, heavy from moss laden limbs, and lonesome pines. Trees, once destined to become planks of lumber, a tin of turpentine, or a ship's mast, now stand as silent sentries for pristine forests; while visitors begin a journey to a Florida of long ago. Whether you choose to travel on horseback or in the comfort of a horseless carriage, all trails and roads to Princess Place Preserve take you back in time when family, friends, conversation, and outdoor activities provided entertainment and memories that would last a lifetime.

It began as a Spanish land grant to an indentured servant, became one of the first orange groves in the State, provided a hunting retreat for shipping and lumber tycoons of the day, offered peace and tranquility for all and finally, came to be a Russian Princess’ Fabergé to Flagler County. Although the land has passed through many hands ownership, the spirit of the most memorable resident, Angela Mills Cutting Worden Scherbatow, continues to embrace this home, forever known as, Princess Place.

 An island house, surrounded by marsh grass, and a covered bridge, a perfect spot for fishing and a picnic, offer guests their first glimpse of a lifestyle enjoyed by many for more than a century. Short walks to Mr. Cutting’s hunting cottage are the first steps tourists take to begin a relive Old Florida. As you stroll across the grounds, that once produced cane, corn, and cotton; twisting vines, grand oaks with limbs large enough to accommodate armies of climbing youngsters, and calming breezes from Pellicer Creek are the first hints of the solitude discovered by history’s affluent and today’s travelers. The wrap-around porch, supported by cabbage palm and cedar trunks cut to fit the architect’s vision of an Adirondack style lodge, invites guests to walk around, enjoy the echoes of their own footsteps, marvel at the shells lodged in the walls, sit a spell in a rocker, and breathe in a relaxation not found at top spas and resorts.

Guided tours of the home, offered from Friday to Sunday, provide a glimpse of life lived at a slower pace. Step back in time and imagine a peaceful cruise aboard one of Mr. Cutting’s watercraft with his winter retreat as its final destination. Servants lug trunks and luggage through the south entrance. A pulley system, still in place today, hoists baggage overhead for stowage. The netting encased loft pays homage to the seafaring industry enjoyed by Mr. Cutting. Firearms and supplies are handed out to guests from the mudroom; and, upon their return, hunters enjoy a French Shower to become refreshed from the spirited hunt. Henry and Angela Cutting wine and dine guests hailing from St. Augustine to cities of Europe. He enjoys his wooded escape for four short years. Upon his death, his widow inherits the property and remarries twice. A hunting lodge, adorned with simple yet elegant fixtures, begins it course to become a living testament to the grace of the princess who once called this home.

Lamps, once lit with flames from burning oil, now illuminate beams through Edison’s invention. They are suspended over the Great room’s four corners and cast their light in all directions with a sweeping swing. Original tile, shipped from Europe, sparkle like diamonds as they surround fireplaces once enjoyed by Princess Angela. Light floods bedrooms and sitting rooms through transoms, while wisps of winds gain unrestricted access by way of windows and French doors, crafted in the same fashion as Flagler’s hotels. These rooms afford guests with postcard pictorials that include a palm tree lined driveway, massive oaks that offer shade throughout the day, and a beautiful creek brought to life with sounds of jumping fish and singing birds. Modest and unassuming hinges, purchased through the Sears & Roebuck catalog, support the doors the Princess opened to her visitors. Across the way, meals are served in the dining room. It is easy to envision bounties of the hunt being roasted in the state of the art wood-burning stove, that still stands guard over the kitchen, today. Fresh vegetables and bread, prepared with cast iron pots and pans, are presented on fine porcelain that lines the shelves of the china cabinet in the butler’s pantry. A small cabinet, seamlessly built into the hearth, opens to offer once forbidden, yet welcomed spirits for the day’s end. The interior of the lodge provided five star accommodations of the era while the wooded playground, just steps from the porch, afforded the royals and affluent many hours of sport.

This royal estate includes a coquina tennis court, riding and hiking trails, still enjoyed today, a state of the art livery stable, which now includes an early horseless carriage, and the first in-ground, spring fed swimming pool where the rich and famous played, splashed, and cooled down. The Prince preferred St. Augustine but his Princess sought and found peace and tranquility within this enchanted forest. Even though today’s guests represent folks from all walks of life, Flagler County’s oldest building remains intact and the lands once granted from the King of Spain offer residents and out of state travelers year round benefits from this winter treat.

Equestrian enthusiasts, primitive campers, hikers, fish aficionados, admirers of nature, and those who find sanctuary on the water, will want to include Princess Place Preserve on their Destination Flagler itinerary. A winter retreat, once visited and enjoyed by affluent titans of industry and European nobility, now opens its many long, winding paths to all who seek a perfect place to escape and a wonderful way to enjoy Florida at a slower pace. In October, the former homestead comes to life as the annual Creekside Festival combines blue-grass songs of the South, arts and crafts, kids’ games, and an abundance of food to celebrate Old Florida. Whether you come for the historical value, or come to enjoy its natural beauty, Princess Place Preserve captures your imagination the moment the rumbling, sandy road leads you across a covered bridge to a place a princess once called home.

For Planning Purposes:

Destination:    Princess Place Preserve

Location:        2500 Princess Place Road, Palm Coast

Hours:             Monday – Sunday; 7 am to 6 pm

                        Tours of the Home: Friday – Sunday; 2 pm (weather permitting)

Admission:     Entrance to the park is free. Fees and Permits are required for camping.

Camping:       Check-in at Ranger’s Station: 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm

                        Check-out: 12:00 noon

                        Primitive camping only, tents required

Permits:          Contact Flagler County Parks & Recreation

& Fees                        1769 E. Moody Blvd., Building #5

                        Bunnell, FL 32110

Contact:          386-313-4020

Website:          Princess Place Preserve

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