300 Years, 100 Miles, 4 Hours... Imagine - Part 1
Imagine outdoor Stations of the Cross built by volunteers. Imagine a 1914 Sears and Roebuck kit house built by early homesteaders. Imagine a Revolutionary War sawmill, once humming to produce lumber for houses for English loyalists; but, now remains hidden from view, waiting to be rediscovered. Imagine all of this and much more as you board a truly magical history tour bus for a four-hour trip back in time presented by the Flagler County Historical Society.
The trip begins with a tour of the Holden House. It was the home of Ethel and Tom Holden, pharmacist for a young and thriving community once known as the Bunnell Colony. Today, it is a museum and a testament to the members of the Flagler County Historical Society and their commitment to preserve the many historical landmarks found throughout the county which include eight listed by the National Historic Register. As you stand in front of the phonograph, close your eyes and imagine the Holden’s young daughters, Alta Jane and Eleanor, turning up the volume and dancing on the front porch. Look at the icebox in the kitchen and imagine blocks of ice being delivered. A preserved pharmaceutical ledger adds to the imagery of what life as a pharmacist must have been like in the early twentieth century. After a quick presentation, it’s time to get on the bus!
The bus, an air-conditioned coach provided by Flagler County Public Transportation, stands ready to accommodate guests with comfortable seating and large windows for viewing the many wonders waiting to be discovered. A bonus of the tour is the tour guide, Mr. Bill Ryan. The passion he holds for Flagler County comes to life the minute he introduces himself to the group. Mr. Ryan has written five books about this area: The Search for Old Kings Road, I Am Grey Eyes, Osceola, Bulow Gold, and A Door to Time in Florida. These books are available for purchase at the History Annex at the Holden House and the Flagler Beach Historical Museum.
The first leg of the journey follows the paths traveled by settlers of the area, spanning a 300 year period and encompassing a diverse culture of pre-historic man, Native Americans, early European conquistadors, American colonists, slaves, and even today’s tourists. Paraphrasing Mr. Ryan, in order to fully appreciate the history of this area, one needs to look underneath the covers to see it; and, with each passing mile of this 100 mile journey, more and more of the covers are pulled back and each passing view reveals what can be accomplished with hard work and dedication.
Tour gazers are first introduced to the Old Court House, the Bunnell Civic Center (formerly City Hall), the Telephone Equipment Building, and the Little Red School House. Imagine buying a $24.00 round trip ticket from Chicago and arriving at the train depot in the first planned community of Flagler County, the Bunnell Colony. A $5 down payment along with monthly payments of the same was all one needed to buy a 40 acre farm on time. Those not traveling by train packed up the family in the Model T and traveled from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to Miami by way of the Dixie Highway. How many street signs have you seen in Florida named Old Dixie Highway? Why so many? In 1918, as a way to attract tourists, roads running north and south in each county were linked together to form the Dixie Highway. Part of the Dixie Highway in Flagler County included the Old Brick Road and a portion of that road purposely passed by the Bunnell Development Company, where travelers could stop and buy land. The Old Brick Road was constructed using bricks from Alabama. Many of the first homes built in Bunnell, including the hotel by the train depot, stand today. Imagine the stories their plaster walls could tell.
Imagine Mabel connecting party line calls through the Telephone Equipment Building. Imagine towering live oaks being felled for their valuable wood and living to see that wood used to build houses and businesses. Imagine Florida summers without air-conditioning. Imagine a school house complete with McGuffey Readers. The first few buildings were built in response to a growing town; but, the tour showcases many wonders built by volunteers.
More to come...