Archive for June, 2012

Photo: Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne

Get great Atlantic views from the top of the lighthouse at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne.

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Photo: Tallahassee Museum

Learning about wildlife at the Tallahassee Museum.

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Photo: Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is the tallest in Florida.

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See It Like a Native

Evidence suggests that the first Floridians lived here 12,000 years ago, and today, you and your family can find dozens of ways to celebrate Florida’s Native American heritage. Here are just a few ways to spend the day (or even the night) discovering the lasting legacy of Florida’s original natives.

Miccosukee Indian Village, Miami

This is as real as it gets, the home of the Miccosukee Tribe in the heart of the Everglades, and you’re invited to share their rich culture firsthand. Visit the Miccosukee Museum, watch a film on the tribe’s history, then step outside and live it. Wander chickee huts and observe masters of woodworking, beading and sewing. For heart-pounding action, watch as the men demonstrate the traditional techniques used for capturing alligators.

Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation, Clewiston

Explore the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and see how the Seminole Tribe of Florida survived in the unforgiving environment of the Everglades. Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki means “place to learn,” and this living museum fits the bill. Watch films, explore authentic exhibits, learn from the tribal elders and see an extensive collection of authentic crafts, patchwork clothing and more.

True adventurers can extend their visit with a stay in a traditional chickee hut at Billie Swamp Safari. Relish the rustic comfort as you listen to the sounds of the wild. There’s no running water or electricity, only you and up to 10 brave friends under the stars in the Everglades. Relax around the campfire with a Seminole storyteller, or take a guided stargazing tour and nighttime swamp buggy ride. Daytime visitors will also experience unforgettable adventures with airboat and swamp buggy rides, the Bird of Prey show and the chance to hold an alligator. Stop in the Swamp Water Café and taste local specialties like gator nuggets, frog legs, catfish, fry bread and Indian tacos.

Mission San Luis, Tallahassee

History comes alive at this re-created community where Apalachee Indians and Spanish settlers once coexisted. Learn about this fascinating time through costumed interpreters as you explore the lush grounds at your leisure to see where the inhabitants lived and how they farmed. You can even pay a visit to the tribal council house. This is also an important archaeological site, and you can view the ongoing findings in their gallery.

Mound Key Archaeological State Park, Estero

Rising more than 30 feet above the water, miles from shore, ancient shell mounds transform the landscape of Estero Bay. Made of bones, shells and pottery pieces, this is believed to have been the ceremonial center of the Calusa Indians. Access to the site is by boat only, but the journey is well worth it. Trails lead to the center of the mound, with natural vistas and intriguing exhibits along the way.

Continue reading See It Like a Native »

Photo: Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Clewiston

Native crafts at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Clewiston

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Early 20th-Century Palm Beach Architecture Spawned Florida’s Style

Until I saw the Stephen Sondheim' musical "Road Show" ten or so years ago, I had never heard of Addison Mizner. But Mizner, who died in 1933 after turning 60, is widely credited with "inventing" the Florida style we so take for granted today.

He ushered in the Spanish tiled roofs and shaded interior courtyards, the gothic windows of Venice and the patios of Seville. He threw out the white colonial buildings and overly formal East Coast manners.

Mizner, it turns out, was not only a colorful bon vivant, a society sycophant, and an all-around oddball (that's the part that intrigued Sondheim), but one very influential architect. Influenced by his childhood in Guatemala and his travels through southern Europe as a young man, he determined that the look and feel of the Sunshine State should more closely echo the Mediterranean and not the stuffy town houses of New York and Philadelphia.

Many of the 40-plus mansions that Mizner designed in the area have been demolished or are unrecognizably altered. The bulk of those that still exist are hidden behind sky high hedges or tucked away from the beach.

But much of his work that still stands is readily accessible.

You just have to know where to look. For that, I turned to the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach and its self-guided walking tour (downloadable from palmbeachpreservation.org). It led me, naturally enough, toward Worth Avenue, the picturesque street of tony shops that allows visitors to happily spend — and spend some more — en route to the Atlantic Ocean. {pullquote}

I began at the Everglades, Mizner's first (1918) project in town and now a very exclusive private club. He crafted it as a retort to the area's most famous resort, The Breakers, located about a mile north. The building became Mizner's calling card, an entry point into the checkbooks of every socialite who soon wanted a Mizner-designed "Mediterranean Revival" villa to call her own.

"With the Everglades, Mizner was aiming for what he saw as a more authentic sense of place," says Janice Owens, associate director of the Preservation Foundation.

Its tower, reminiscent of a campanile, and its cascading roof line, gives the building the appearance of an entire village. It looked as if a row of disparate buildings had evolved over the years.

Inside, says Owens, it's filled with wrought-iron chandeliers. The Spanish tile was hand-crafted at Mizner's own atelier. Owens notes that it has cypress ceilings, cast stone spiral stairways and Gothic arches.

That's also true of the three privately-owned, Mizner-designed mansions. They hug the lakeshore along a curving road just to the west of the Everglades. Chief among these is Casa de Leoni (1920). He designed it to suggest a Venetian palazzo. Craning my neck, I convinced myself that I could see a piece of the boat-landing.

Now, to really experience Mizner, I needed to get back to the commercial end of Worth Ave. That’s where his most magnificent creation stands. It features a main, arcaded shopping street and secret "vias" hidden behind it. With their gurgling fountains and overflowing window boxes, this series of courtyard offers an entrancing hideaway.

Strolling through it, I thought of today's "lifestyle centers," designed to present an alternative to the sterile shopping mall. They, too, feature real sidewalks and stucco painted in sorbet colors and fountains. Mizner's vias, though, felt real — and at this point actually antique; after all, they date from the 1920s. This eccentric genius created a stage-set, sure, but it was one crafted out of love and attention to detail, not out of cynicism and cookie-cutter patterns.

Moving on, I walked toward the ocean and then veered north toward Phipps Plaza, where two more Mizner buildings awaited. They were paired across from each other at the entrance to a verdant oval surrounded by private homes.

The southern end is clad in the nubby black and white stone that the architect sourced from the Florida Keys. Now home to a restaurant, it was erected in 1930 for E.F. Hutton. It was meant to serve as a home for his brokerage offices. It’s a tradition that continues today along Royal Palm Way, which is lined with private banking offices.

Across from this sturdy, castle-like structure is the now-vacant Plaza Building (1924), a vision in salmon-hued stucco. Once home to a Bonwit Teller department store, what beckons is its most distinguishing feature — an exterior spiral staircase with a wrought-iron railing.

I started climbing it, stepping over a trail of errant bougainvillea. Occasionally I kneeled to more closely examine the porcelain tile that covered its risers. I reached the top and looked out over the town that a monkey-toting, giant (he was 6'3" and 300 pounds) had so carefully and thoroughly crafted.

I walked back down, humming Sondheim's lyrics to myself. "I get to play with an artificial lake and with Spanish tiles and Moroccan chairs, with indoor fountains and outdoor stairs, with whims and fancies and millionaires!"

Continue reading Early 20th-Century Palm Beach Architecture Spawned Florida’s Style »

Early 20th-Century Palm Beach Architecture Spawned Florida's Style

Until I saw the Stephen Sondheim' musical "Road Show" ten or so years ago, I had never heard of Addison Mizner. But Mizner, who died in 1933 after turning 60, is widely credited with "inventing" the Florida style we so take for granted today.

He ushered in the Spanish tiled roofs and shaded interior courtyards, the gothic windows of Venice and the patios of Seville. He threw out the white colonial buildings and overly formal East Coast manners.

Mizner, it turns out, was not only a colorful bon vivant, a society sycophant, and an all-around oddball (that's the part that intrigued Sondheim), but one very influential architect. Influenced by his childhood in Guatemala and his travels through southern Europe as a young man, he determined that the look and feel of the Sunshine State should more closely echo the Mediterranean and not the stuffy town houses of New York and Philadelphia.

Many of the 40-plus mansions that Mizner designed in the area have been demolished or are unrecognizably altered. The bulk of those that still exist are hidden behind sky high hedges or tucked away from the beach.

But much of his work that still stands is readily accessible.

You just have to know where to look. For that, I turned to the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach and its self-guided walking tour (downloadable from palmbeachpreservation.org). It led me, naturally enough, toward Worth Avenue, the picturesque street of tony shops that allows visitors to happily spend — and spend some more — en route to the Atlantic Ocean. {pullquote}

I began at the Everglades, Mizner's first (1918) project in town and now a very exclusive private club. He crafted it as a retort to the area's most famous resort, The Breakers, located about a mile north. The building became Mizner's calling card, an entry point into the checkbooks of every socialite who soon wanted a Mizner-designed "Mediterranean Revival" villa to call her own.

"With the Everglades, Mizner was aiming for what he saw as a more authentic sense of place," says Janice Owens, associate director of the Preservation Foundation.

Its tower, reminiscent of a campanile, and its cascading roof line, gives the building the appearance of an entire village. It looked as if a row of disparate buildings had evolved over the years.

Inside, says Owens, it's filled with wrought-iron chandeliers. The Spanish tile was hand-crafted at Mizner's own atelier. Owens notes that it has cypress ceilings, cast stone spiral stairways and Gothic arches.

That's also true of the three privately-owned, Mizner-designed mansions. They hug the lakeshore along a curving road just to the west of the Everglades. Chief among these is Casa de Leoni (1920). He designed it to suggest a Venetian palazzo. Craning my neck, I convinced myself that I could see a piece of the boat-landing.

Now, to really experience Mizner, I needed to get back to the commercial end of Worth Ave. That’s where his most magnificent creation stands. It features a main, arcaded shopping street and secret "vias" hidden behind it. With their gurgling fountains and overflowing window boxes, this series of courtyard offers an entrancing hideaway.

Strolling through it, I thought of today's "lifestyle centers," designed to present an alternative to the sterile shopping mall. They, too, feature real sidewalks and stucco painted in sorbet colors and fountains. Mizner's vias, though, felt real — and at this point actually antique; after all, they date from the 1920s. This eccentric genius created a stage-set, sure, but it was one crafted out of love and attention to detail, not out of cynicism and cookie-cutter patterns.

Moving on, I walked toward the ocean and then veered north toward Phipps Plaza, where two more Mizner buildings awaited. They were paired across from each other at the entrance to a verdant oval surrounded by private homes.

The southern end is clad in the nubby black and white stone that the architect sourced from the Florida Keys. Now home to a restaurant, it was erected in 1930 for E.F. Hutton. It was meant to serve as a home for his brokerage offices. It’s a tradition that continues today along Royal Palm Way, which is lined with private banking offices.

Across from this sturdy, castle-like structure is the now-vacant Plaza Building (1924), a vision in salmon-hued stucco. Once home to a Bonwit Teller department store, what beckons is its most distinguishing feature — an exterior spiral staircase with a wrought-iron railing.

I started climbing it, stepping over a trail of errant bougainvillea. Occasionally I kneeled to more closely examine the porcelain tile that covered its risers. I reached the top and looked out over the town that a monkey-toting, giant (he was 6'3" and 300 pounds) had so carefully and thoroughly crafted.

I walked back down, humming Sondheim's lyrics to myself. "I get to play with an artificial lake and with Spanish tiles and Moroccan chairs, with indoor fountains and outdoor stairs, with whims and fancies and millionaires!"

Continue reading Early 20th-Century Palm Beach Architecture Spawned Florida's Style »

Smithsonian Program Seeks Stories and Storytellers in Blountstown July 14 – Aug. 25

One reason I enjoy writing about “off the beaten path” Florida is that it covers so many topics from destinations, dining and attractions to adventures, people and, above all, the overarching subject of history. If you’re a fan of history, the Pioneer Panhandle Settlement, a living history museum in the Calhoun County community of Blountstown (roughly midway between Tallahassee and Panama City Beach), could use your help.

In addition to donations (memberships start at $20), they’re seeking volunteers to help in the July 14-Aug. 25 production of ‘Journey Stories’ about North Florida families and industry. Volunteers are needed for committees such as planning, exhibit installation, program development, publicity, docents and demonstrators. Something else they’re looking for are “journey stories” from YOU. They’d love to hear tales about families that lived in or moved to North Florida and understand how they lived, how they made a living and how they created a life here. It’s worth noting that this is the only North Florida venue to be selected to host the exhibition, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service’s Museum on Main Street series. If you have a story to tell (they’re looking for storytellers, too, so ask about that!) you can mail your memories to P.O. Box 215, Blountstown, FL 32424, or email them to info@panhandlepioneer.org.

There’s a lot more in store as the Pioneer Settlement’s prepares for the Smithsonian Exhibit, and you can learn all about it at Pioneer Settlement Village.

Continue reading Smithsonian Program Seeks Stories and Storytellers in Blountstown July 14 – Aug. 25 »

Smithsonian Program Seeks Stories and Storytellers at Blountstown’s Pioneer Panhandle Settlement July 14-August 25

One reason I enjoy writing about “off the beaten path” Florida is that it covers so many topics from destinations, dining, and attractions to adventures and people and, above all, the overarching subject of history. If you’re a fan of history, the Pioneer Panhandle Settlement, a living history museum in the Calhoun County community of Blountstown (roughly midway between Tallahassee and Panama City Beach), could use your help.

In addition to donations (memberships start at $20), they’re seeking volunteers to help in the July 14-Aug. 25 production of ‘Journey Stories’ about North Florida families and industry. Volunteers are needed for committees such as planning, exhibit installation, program development, publicity, docents, and demonstrators. Something else they’re looking for are “journey stories” from YOU. They’d love to hear tales about families that lived in or moved to North Florida and understand how they lived, how they made a living, and how they created a life here. It’s worth noting that this is the only North Florida venue to be selected to host the exhibition, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service’s Museum on Main Street series. If you have a story to tell (they’re looking for storytellers, too, so ask about that!) you can mail your memories to P.O. Box 215, Blountstown, FL 32424, or email them to info@panhandlepioneer.org.

There’s a lot more in store as the Pioneer Settlement’s prepares for the Smithsonian Exhibit, and you can learn all about it at Pioneer Settlement Village.

Continue reading Smithsonian Program Seeks Stories and Storytellers at Blountstown’s Pioneer Panhandle Settlement July 14-August 25 »

Seminole Museum Celebrates Milestone Anniversary

At the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum on the Big Cypress Reservation, you can catch a rare glimpse into the culture of the Seminole Tribe and its members, who hid out in remote camps there at the start of the century. Learn about marriage ceremonies and camp life through exhibits, stroll nature trails that wind through a cypress dome and experience firsthand an authentic Indian village.

Located 17 miles north of Interstate 75, the museum is celebrating its 15th anniversary in August. In honor of the milestone, you can tour the museum for free that month.

Culture and Tradition

Descendants of the Creek people, the Seminole Tribe of Florida can be traced back at least 12,000 years. In 1997, under the vision of then- and current-Tribal Council Chairman James E. Billie, the museum opened; 12 years later, it became the first tribally governed museum to be accredited by the American Association of Museums.

In the Seminole language, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki means "a place to learn."

Begin your educational adventure in the 5,000-square-foot gallery. Enjoy a hands-on tour with touchable artifacts and admire life-like dioramas that detail camp life and ceremonies.

In the West Gallery, view two traveling exhibits on display through August. “The Seminole Wars” timeline depicts the tribe’s resistance against the government’s removal policies in the 19th century, while “At Home: Seminole Reservations” explains the history of each reservation.

In all, the museum is home to more than 20,000 artifacts, as well as interactive computers and a theater.

Before you leave, hit the Museum gift shop. Don’t miss the Seminole dolls, crafted of palmetto husk fiber. {pullquote}

Natural Splendor

Nestled on a 66-acre cypress dome, the museum is surrounded by natural beauty.

Hike the winding, one-mile boardwalk and see bobcats, bears and birds such as the Gray Catbird. Stop at interpretive panels to identify local flora like St. John’s Wort and Spanish moss, and learn how the Seminoles used them medicinally.

At the boardwalk’s midpoint, you can tour the recreated ceremonial grounds. Stroll through various chickees, see how Seminole canoes are carved and explore the grounds where stickball is played.

The boardwalk leads to the Living Village, which is a recreation of a Seminole camp that existed from the turn of the century. Here, tribal elders tell stories, answer questions and demonstrate arts and crafts. Guided tours are available.

The outdoor area is also home to an amphitheater, where storytelling and activities, such as arts and crafts workshops, take place.

Special Events

Throughout the year, the museum hosts an array of events, including the Seminole Archaeology Day and Annual American Indian Arts Celebration.

This summer, you can listen to tribal member Moses Jumper Jr. read from the book Legends of the Seminole, which was written by his mother, Betty Mae Jumper. At the June 26 event, Moses will also read poetry from Echoes in the Wind.

Also in June, the museum is participating in Broward Attractions and Museums Month, which is a month-long reciprocal program that allows members of any of the participating organizations to visit the others for free.

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum belongs on your must-visit list this summer. It is a place to learn – and a place you won’t soon forget.

This article was brought to you by the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. To plan your trip, go to www.ahtahthiki.com.

Continue reading Seminole Museum Celebrates Milestone Anniversary »