Historic Spanish Point – Palmer’s Gardens

Bertha Matilde Honore’ Palmer bought Spanish Point from the Webbs in 1910 along with a huge swath of what would become Sarasota county. A smart woman, this widow of a Chicago magnate planned her newly purchased acreage for real estate development, citrus, and cattle.  (The cattle ranch would extend into what is now Myakka State Park.)

Myakka State Park

While living for a scant eight years after buying the land, Bertha left her mark as much as the Webbs and Natives did during their time on the point.  Historic Spanish Point must’ve been Bertha Palmer’s private escape and personal joy for she filled it various and wonderful gardens.

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The land stayed in the Palmer family until 1980 when the family donated it to The Gulf Coast Heritage Association, Inc.

At $12 a person to visit, Historic Spanish Point has a lot to offer, teach, and see.  It was well worth visiting and I will definitely come again.

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Historic Spanish Point – The Pioneers.

The winters in Utica, New York must’ve been fierce back in 1867 for that’s when John and Eliza Webb decided to take their five children and move to Florida permanently.  They had met a Spanish trader in Key West earlier who had mentioned of a place where the land was extended into Sarasota bay and was high enough to protect it from flooding during the seasonal rains.

Grateful for the sound advice of their friend from Key West, John and Eliza named their new ten acre homestead “Spanish Point” and for the next forty years grew citrus, sugar cane, and many other various vegetables.

Being the so far from the nearest town, they built their own packing house.

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The main markets for their crops of citrus were in in Cedar Key and Key West, so the Webb’s built their own ten ton schooner called “Vision”. Later they would refit a schooner into a motor boat and name her “Magic”.

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Wishing for company, the Webb family encouraged tourism by creating a winter resort and dormitory, now called the White Cottage.  Here visitors would come and relax in the mild winter temperatures while enjoying fishing, hunting, and sailing. Today the White Cottage displays various pieces of art and makes for a wonderful mid-point resting place.

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Not everything was happy though; a young lady, Mary Sherrill, died while staying at the winter resort.  Heartbroken by the event, the Webb family named the family chapel after her.  Beside the chapel is a small cemetery where members of the Webb family and other pioneers rest.  Years of heavy storms and hot summers took their toll on the chapel and in1986 it was reconstructed while containing the six stained glass windows of the original building.

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As much as the land and the people influenced the Webbs, the family decided that their opportunities would be greater if they sold the homestead and focused on future endeavors. Luckily, they found Bertha Palmer.

Historic Spanish Point – Prehistoric Natives

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There is no name. There are no books, scrolls, or artifacts telling us who exactly they were or what they called themselves; but these people lived on the grounds now called Spanish Point and they left many clues and evidence of their existence.

I have to say I would’ve made for a horrible detective.  Without all the signs pointing to the various historical places on the grounds, I would’ve walked right over them and never known what I had missed.

Luckily those who are much better at discovering lost treasures and mapping them did all the work for me.

The first historical point of interest is the Burial Mound.  Keep your eyes opened for it is very subtle.  In fact, I thought it was just a garden mound for a palm tree before noticing the sign telling of its true importance.  This mound covered multiple generations of natives along with ceremonial offerings and smashed pottery.  Dated from 300 A.D. to 1000 A.D. it offers a glimpse of the people that lived before the pioneers moved in.

Along with the burial grounds there are multiple Middens on the property.  Middens are basically trash heaps left by the people who lived in that era.   The oldest midden dates back to before 3000 B.C. and made up of shellfish, shell tools, pottery and other artifacts.

The other midden is called the Shell Ridge midden. The highest point in Historic Spanish Point, it is speculated that it also was used as a platform for the chief’s residence or temple.

To truly give visitors of what a midden looks like from the inside, an exhibit was created in the building labeled “A Window to the Past”.  Inside that is a diorama of a prehistoric native dwelling, multiple artifacts, and a short movie that tells you of the history of these people.  There is also a huge window that looks into a bisected section of the midden displaying all the shells, fragments, and other objects just as they were left.

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If historic civilizations long past are deciphered and judged by the garbage they left behind.  I wonder what future generations will think of us.

Historic Spanish Point

Florida is legendary for hidden treasures.  Pirates sailed all around in search of treasures of gold and gems.  There are still treasures to be found today.  Some are clearly marked and well known, while others are obscure and hidden in plain sight.

My wife and I visited one of these hidden treasures over the weekend.  It’s called Historic Spanish Point.

Historic Spanish Point is on highway 41 in Osprey, Florida.  Nestled in between two strip malls, we drove past it for many years and never really knew what it was.  The building on Highway 41 is the backside of Osprey School which serves as the visitor center.  It is so subtle that you’d think that Historic Spanish Point was just a small museum with a small park attached.  Don’t let the looks deceive you.

Historic Spanish Point is large and covers 30 acres!  With buildings and artifacts spanning from 800 A.D. to the early 1900’s this is no little museum decorated with trinkets.

Historic Spanish Point Map

The people at Spanish Point did a wonderful job of breaking the timelines down into three distinct parts:  Natives, Pioneers, and Palmer.

The Natives lived there in the 800s and died out long before the Seminoles migrated to the area.

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John Greene Webb moved his family from Utica and bought the land in 1867 where they grew citrus and other crops.

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In 1910 The Webbs sold the land to Mrs. Bertha Potter, an extraordinary lady determined to leave her mark in history.  Bertha brought beauty into the area with a sunken garden, a bougainvillea accented pergola, aqueduct, Duchene lawn, and portal.

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There are cottages and houses to explore along with chapels, gardens, a burial mound, a cemetery, and a boathouse all surrounded by wonderful native Florida flora.

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With so much to see, I’m going to post multiple articles so you can get as many angles and as much detail as possible.  After all, treasures like Historic Spanish Point need to be explored thoroughly.

Scenes from a gas station.

I took my dog, Sadie for a ride tonight.  It’s one of our weekly rituals so she doesn’t get cabin fever.  She is one of the best dogs to give a ride to.  She’ll jump up to her seat and lay down quietly as I drive down the road.

The trips aren’t usually too long. Twenty minutes tops if I feel she needs extra away time.

Tonight I needed to gas up for the week so I thought I’d take her with me.

The gas station was brightly lit as usual.  It was also busier than expected.  There were three full sized, crew cab pickups pulling trailers sitting in strategic areas.  Two were gassing up while one was off to the side to allow other people the ability to gas up.

I pulled my truck up in the bay between them.  One truck was pulling a rock wall and I wondered if there was a festival going on somewhere that weekend.  That’s when I noticed that the one of the other trailers had a granite business printed on it.  I doubted that it was part of the group then, but the generator being towed behind the trailer gave me doubts.

A loud rumbling shifted my thoughts.

“More trucks.”  I said to myself.  “Probably horse pullers from the sound of it.”

My guess was disproved as two long bed diesels pulled in boy racer style.

They were jacked up on aftermarket suspension lifts, shod in large off road rubber, and sprayed in a covering of mud and turf.

One of the young drivers looked at me questioningly as I looked at the rigs.  I gave him a slight smile and a nod of the head to calm his fragile ego.  His young face and plaid white shirt instantly brought back an article I read by Ted Baxter.

Ted was an editor for Car and Driver back in ’82 and had written about the culture of high school boys and their trucks in Hardin County, Texas. He went through the pecking order of those trucks and how the young owners would spend copious amounts of money on them to attract the fairer sex.  Thirty-one years later it seems like not much has changed.

I twisted the cap back on and shut the flap as the kids strolled into the station for Cokes.  They left their trucks running for audio effect.

Ted’s words faded as I pulled away only to be replaced by a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Ketchup With Us – Overcoming myself.

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Michele and Mel asked if there was something I was trying to defeat?

(Oops.  Did I clean the kitchen after dinner?)

I’m not sure if I can think of anything.

(Down Sadie.  I’m trying to write here.)

After all, like every write out there, the words just flow from my mind to my fingers with no problem…

(Was that the cat again?  Buster!)

Distractions!  That’s what I’m trying to defeat.

(Better do those dishes.)

My virtual visit to the North American International Auto Show to visualize the event and live vicariously the moment.

 Ah the Detroit Auto Show.  Now here’s an auto show!  I grew up around this annual homage to the great automobile and have yet to be (completely) disappointed.  I was there as a kid during the bad years of the seventies and eighties when lust for carts was so low that outside vendors where there to show off the latest blender.  (True fact!)  I remember crawling all over the contractor/farm trucks in 79, being floored at the outrageously high sticker price of the 84 Corvette ($14,000), misspelling my own name when getting an autograph from Susan Napoli at the Yugo stand.  (Hey.  I was 15 and she was a Penthouse Pet.), and loving the fact that Detroit Piston star Isaiah Thomas was getting publicly crucified for promoting Toyota cars at the show.  (Bad form, old mate, bad form.)

I would’ve loved to have gone to this year’s show, but life just decided to throw other things my way.  Luckily, I can get all the good dirt and visual scenes right here on my computer by going to the NAIAS website.  No, II don’t get to jump in all the various production models, pop the hoods and crawl all around them; but I also don’t have to worry about crowds of people pushing to see the new Stingray or Silverado either.

And as for food, well I can half boil a hotdog here and eat it if I really want that experience again.

I was going to break down my favorites by type and style, but since not everything has been released or posted, I’ll just hit the highlights.

Let’s start big. No, not the Corvette Stingray.  Everybody and their grandmother has already talked about that.  I’m talking about the family truckster.  The rig that your tribe piles into and beats the crap out of both inside and out.  The one vehicle that get no respect.  The Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible.

Here is a full sized, two door convertible that will comfortably seat five with all their luggage.  Besides the comfy leather seats and pliant ride, this car will also make sure the kids aren’t late for soccer practice with its 202 miles per hour top speed.

Yeah.  202.

I don’t know about the 0 to 60 times or the quarter mile specs, but there’s gotta be something wonderfully delicious about blowing past a Ferrari on the freeway with your kid sticking his tongue out at them.  (Plus you finally get to find out at what speed that toy pinwheel finally spins off its stick.)

Next are the Ford Transit Connect, Transit Van, and Atlas concept truck.  I found the Transit Connect interesting since I wrote about the earlier edition as a good platform for a new camper van.  The new one should work every bit as well.

The Atlas concept did give a good blend of what the future light duty and heavy duty trucks will look like, but the main thing I found interesting was redesign of the tailgate step.  In its new design, it can act as a rear rack to allow work related items such as ladders to fit in a channel on the roof, a great idea; but what I see is a way to carry that long canoe or kayak so it isn’t sticking out the bed of your truck.  This item needs to be standard on all new trucks.

Finally the Stingray.  (You knew I wasn’t going to let this one go, right?)

This car screams excitement.  It’s destined to be the new obligatory poster on every teenager’s bedroom wall and in every college dorm.  It’s lithe.   It’s lean.  It’s powerful.  It’s a beautiful design in every way… but one.  The taillights suck! Call me a fuddy-duddy purist but Corvettes are supposed to have round taillights not square.  Every Corvette that had square taillights was designed wrong and these escapees from the Camaro definitely do not belong on a car of this caliber.  Everything else works though.

This year’s North American International Auto Show is making out to be a good one.  I wish I was there, but at least I can visit virtually.