Checking Out Florida's Capital - Tallahassee


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North America
July 3rd 2013
Published: July 26th 2013
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Home, Sweet, Home!Home, Sweet, Home!Home, Sweet, Home!

Big Oak RV Park - Tallahassee FL
With my annual “tune-up” and my (seemingly semi-annual) kidney stone removal completed, I departed Sanford FL for parts north. It’s not that I dislike Florida summers – they would be fine were it not for the humidity. Actually, with the news I have heard from the West, Midwest and Northeast; I picked a pretty good year to be held in limbo in Florida anticipating a strike from the chrome cobra! Actually, I am told by the natives, this has been the most typical summer in many years – afternoon showers to add to the “humidity half” of the temperature/humidity index. Alas, all is well as long as the air conditioner works!

The forecast was not-so-good for the next several days when I set out for Big Oak RV Park in Tallahassee FL on Friday, June 28, 2013. Overcast skies were heavily laden with dark gray, threatening clouds for the first half of the trip, but the showers were held at bay for the most part until I neared Cross City FL. The rain was so heavy on US 19/98 (a four-lane divided highway with a posted speed limit of 65 mph) that the traffic slowed to 35-40 mph; however, ten
It’s Hot!  Let’s Take A NapIt’s Hot!  Let’s Take A NapIt’s Hot! Let’s Take A Nap

Tallahassee Museum of History & Natural Science - Tallahassee FL
percent of the drivers still must have felt headlights were unnecessary. Unfrigin’ believable!!! The heaviest rain lasted for 10-15 minutes, and the remainder of the trip was uneventful. The RV park is near I-10 and relatively close to everything.

Even though the skies had remained heavily overcast and it had rained steadily for most of Saturday morning, the forecast was for intermittent rain in the afternoon so I set out for the Tallahassee Museum of History & Natural Science, more commonly referred to as the Tallahassee Museum. Neither title accurately divulges the true content of the facility. The attraction features a natural habitat zoo, a living history museum and a small-scale zip line for the kids – not the geologic specimens and the archaeological artifacts I was expecting. I am confident the weather affected my attitude; but, on the brighter side, the Florida Panther and both venomous snake species (there were six snakes on display) were active. This is a nice, well-kept, small-town zoo but should not be placed on most “must see” lists.

Next I headed for Mission San Luis de Apalachee - a National Historical Landmark. Soon after Columbus discovered the Americas, Spain began to establish
It’s Hot!  Let’s Take A SwimIt’s Hot!  Let’s Take A SwimIt’s Hot! Let’s Take A Swim

Tallahassee Museum of History & Natural Science - Tallahassee FL
missions in Florida in an attempt to convert the native peoples to Christianity and to prevent the colonization of Florida by other countries. The first Spanish missions to the Indians of La Florida began soon after the founding of Saint Augustine in 1565. Spanish Florida originally included much of what is now the Southeastern United States, although Spain actually never effected control over any areas other than what is now the northern part of the State of Florida. The missions were divided into four main provinces that roughly were defined by the dialects spoken by the various tribes, thus, essentially mirroring the territories as already defined by the natives. There were only fleeting attempts to establish missions elsewhere in what is now the southeastern US.

Mission San Luis de Apalachee (also known as San Luis de Talimali) was built in 1633 in the Apalachee Province - two miles west of the present-day Florida Capitol Building in downtown Tallahassee. Apalachee Province was one of the most powerful and wealthy chiefdoms in Florida, and the Apalachee were the most advanced native peoples in Florida. In 1539, Hernando de Soto wintered in the area and celebrated the first Christmas in North America.
Replica of the Old Mission SanctuaryReplica of the Old Mission SanctuaryReplica of the Old Mission Sanctuary

Mission San Luis - Tallahassee FL
In 1612 the Apalachees made a formal request for a mission, but the request was denied. After the Apalachees sent food supplies to Saint Augustine in 1625, the Spanish realized they would be wise to utilize this labor supply and source of provisions from the densely populated and extremely fertile Apalachee Province. The Apalachee men and women were excellent agriculturists and provided much of the food for San Luis as well as for export to such places as Saint Augustine and Havana.

In 1656, Spanish authorities decided to establish their western capital on one of the region’s highest hilltops for strategic purposes, and by 1675 more than 1,400 Spaniards and Apalachee lived under the jurisdiction of San Luis. While the size of most other Apalachee missions declined sharply over the years, the population of San Luis increased. In 1698, San Luis Apalachees were seriously alienated when Spaniards commandeered some of their houses and land, and forced Indians to build houses for themselves using lumber intended for church repairs. At the end of July 1704, following a devastating series of raids by English soldiers and Creek Indians, the mission was evacuated and the Spanish soldiers destroyed the fort before withdrawing
The Memorial From In Front Of The Old CapitolThe Memorial From In Front Of The Old CapitolThe Memorial From In Front Of The Old Capitol

Florida State Vietnam Veterans Memorial - Tallahassee FL
to Saint Augustine.

Beginning in 1996, the reconstruction of many of the buildings in the mission got underway using archeological and historical evidence to conjecture the location and the architecture of the buildings. The buildings that have since been reconstructed include the Church, the Convento, the Council House, the Chief's House, the Fort and Blockhouse, and a typical Spanish House as well as many minor features around the site. The site was interesting and informative, the admission fee was reasonable and the living historians were great; however, there is nothing at this attraction that is original – save the artifacts in the small museum. It’s a good stop to learn history and culture but not to visit an historic Spanish mission.

My GPS next took me to the Florida State Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Tallahassee. The imposing black granite memorial honors the 386,000 Floridians who served in the War and is inscribed with the names of the 1,669 KIA and the 83 MIA, “as a token of everlasting gratitude to these patriots for their supreme sacrifice." Dignified, somber, appropriate, worthwhile. A “visitor only” parking lot is adjacent to the memorial, and it happens that the memorial is directly
The Names Of Some Of Florida’s FallenThe Names Of Some Of Florida’s FallenThe Names Of Some Of Florida’s Fallen

Florida State Vietnam Veterans Memorial - Tallahassee FL
across the street from The Historic Capitol. I put that bit of info in the memory bank!

After being held hostage in my travel trailer all day Sunday by a steady rainfall, I set out for the “visitor parking lot” and the historic capitol on Monday morning. Many state capitals are located in the largest city – Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Salt Lake City and Atlanta come to mind quickly. Some state capitals are located near the geographic center of the state – Jefferson City MO, Springfield IL and Columbus OH come to mind. Some state capitals satisfy both criteria – Denver, Little Rock and Indianapolis are examples. The location of some state capitals seems to make no sense whatsoever – Santa Fe NM, Olympia WA and (drum roll, please) Tallahassee FL – at least when examined through 20th or 21st Century glasses. Reno NV was the largest city in its day, but Tallahassee was merely a compromise.

When the British controlled Florida (1763-1783), the territory was split into two regions – east and west - and two capitals were established – Pensacola and Saint Augustine. Keep in mind that southern Florida was desolate and remained largely ignored. Even by
The New Capitol Looms In The BackgroundThe New Capitol Looms In The BackgroundThe New Capitol Looms In The Background

Florida Historic Capitol & Museum - Tallahassee FL
1830 Florida, demographically speaking, WAS the Panhandle and touted 70 percent of the state’s population. At that time less than 2 percent of the state’s population (about 500 people) lived south of Lake Okeechobee. (Today the area is home to nearly six and one half million people or 35.8 percent of the state’s population.) Dade County (now Miami-Dade County) had all of 83 people in 1860, making it the least populated county in the state. By 1890 the Miami-Dade County population had increased to 861 but was still the least populated county; however, fifty years later it was Florida’s most populous county with 267,739 people.

Travel between Pensacola and Saint Augustine was hazardous and took almost twenty days so the mid-way city of Tallahassee was chosen as the new, unified capital on March 4, 1824. For two years the new capitol was a log building, pending the completion of a two-story masonry structure. After the completion of one wing of a planned larger structure, funds waned until 1839 when $20,000 was appropriated for “the completion of a suitable building.” By the time Florida gained statehood on June 25, 1845, the new capitol had been finished. By the end of
Ancient MapsAncient MapsAncient Maps

Florida Historic Capitol & Museum - Tallahassee FL
the 19th Century, the fifty year-old capitol was experiencing growing pains. A move to relocate the capital to another city was soundly defeated by a public vote on November 6, 1900 and imparted the confidence officials needed to appropriate $75,000 for renovation and expansion of the existing statehouse. The 1902 capitol, The Historic Capitol, was the last capitol to house all three branches of Florida state government. A new twenty-two story capitol building was dedicated on March 31, 1978, and restoration of the 1902 structure was undertaken between 1978 and 1982.

I have found that an introductory film is always a good way to start and did so at The Historic Capitol. In its day, the North Wing housed the functions of the Executive Branch. Today, the restored governor’s office is on display, but other offices in the wing contain displays of subjects related to the executive – governors’ portraits, campaigning and inauguration. The South Wing showcases the Chambers of the Supreme Court, and the adjacent rooms house displays associated with the judiciary – civil rights; one person, one vote; and the infamous Election 2000! The second story houses the restored chambers of the Senate and the House. Each
Ancient Navigational AidsAncient Navigational AidsAncient Navigational Aids

Florida Historic Capitol & Museum - Tallahassee FL
branch has an adjacent room with an overview of that branch while other rooms highlight a variety of topics – the environment, education, development and immigration.

A large room across from the governor’s office suite houses revolving exhibits. As part of the statewide “Viva Florida 500” celebration, commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the landing of Ponce de Leon in Florida, the Florida Historic Capitol Museum is hosting an exhibition entitled Navigating New Worlds: Identity, Perception, and Politics in Florida. The display, open from January 17, 2013 - December 31, 2013, showcases approximately thirty rare and important maps and prints from the Michael W. and Dr. Linda M. Fisher collection. The crown jewel, in my opinion, is a rare 1493 double-sided, hand-colored map. Interestingly, the map that was printed after Columbus' expedition does not have the New World represented! The Florida Channel produced a video tour of the exhibit with the Collectors and Museum staff in Florida Portraits: Navigating New Worlds (11:11). The Florida Historic Capitol Museum is very interesting of its own accord. This particular revolving exhibit is the “sausage in the gravy!”

My second stop on Monday was the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee FL. Don’t let the parking deck next to the museum mislead you – a
Museum of Florida History - Tallahassee FLMuseum of Florida History - Tallahassee FLMuseum of Florida History - Tallahassee FL

Arrow Meets Bison Skull, Arrowhead Breaks – Did Bison Win?
free token available at the gift shop will release your vehicle from bondage. Entry is through the main entrance of the R.A. Gray Building which also houses the State Library of Florida. The museum is on the lower level. Unfortunately, this attraction is a disjointed maze, and the printed “guides” offer little assistance. One multi-color, four-fold brochure merely lures the visitor to the museum. The 8½ X 11 black and white photocopied “Visitor Guide” sports numbered reference dots without a key to the points referenced, and a label in the “Changing Exhibit Gallery” room of the diagram instructs the visitor to “(see exhibit schedule on reverse);” however, the reverse is blank. Also, I would suggest taking a moment to look over the floor plan in the “Visitor Guide” to orient yourself to the various sections of the museum before entering the theater to view the orientation video. All that having been said, the museum provides an interesting overview of Florida’s history.

Tuesday July 2, 2013 was my final full day in the Florida panhandle. The forecast was not promising but not hopeless either – iffy might fill the bill. There was one indoor attraction I was interested in seeing
Saint Marks Lighthouse - Saint Marks FLSaint Marks Lighthouse - Saint Marks FLSaint Marks Lighthouse - Saint Marks FL

View From An Adjacent Wildlife Viewing Platform
that happened to be located on a scenic route. I guess scenic is scenic even if it is through intermittent raindrops! As an added bonus, there are two lighthouses along the route as well. I started the day trip under overcast skies and headed south on FL 363 to Saint Marks FL. The Saint Marks Lighthouse is located in the Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, this lighthouse has no open house hours but a plaque near the base provides a brief history.

My next stop was the attraction that had brought me in this general direction in the first place – the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Panacea FL. This small non-profit biological supply facility has been in business for 45 years, supplies live specimens to universities, high schools and aquaria for educational purposes and conducts marine life and conservation educational programs for over 15,000 children every year. Although the focus of the public areas is childhood education there is plenty for the adults to absorb as well. All of the specimens are small and most were of the type NOT on display at many aquaria. If you are in the area, the facility is worth
Might This Aquarium Really Be A Sponge Bath?Might This Aquarium Really Be A Sponge Bath?Might This Aquarium Really Be A Sponge Bath?

Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory - Panacea FL
an hour of your time but is not a “must see” attraction.

Back on scenic US 319, I made my way to the Crooked River Lighthouse in Carrabelle FL. This facility has a gift shop and the lighthouse is open to climbing on weekend afternoons. I knew the facility would be closed but the weekend just didn’t work for me this trip. This lighthouse is the only one of its general type which I know of that allows climbing of the tower. The small exterior diameter of the tower causes me wonder about the stairs and the ascent. I hope to return to learn first hand!

Tallahassee has some interesting attractions, but for the tourist on a tight schedule one day should be adequate to see its offerings. The only real “must sees,” in my opinion, are right across the street from each other - the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Historic State Capitol. The literature doesn’t tout (and I didn’t see) any significant commercial or residential historic district. Tallahassee is the capital and the home to Florida State University. Tourism is not its strong suit.

Wednesday morning, July 3, 2013 found me readying the Pilgrim for
That Staircase Must Be A VERY Tight SpiralThat Staircase Must Be A VERY Tight SpiralThat Staircase Must Be A VERY Tight Spiral

Crooked River Lighthouse - Carrabelle FL
a trip to visit my cousins in Andalusia AL. I instructed Informational Irene (my GPS) to “Avoid Highways” and to use Graceville FL as a waypoint so I could travel among vs. through America. The trip was uneventful save an almost continuous light rain interspersed with several brief downpours. A couple of times when the rain was particularly heavy and the road was especially narrow, I thought using the “road more travelled” might have been wiser. That’s some info to be stored in the “Pulling the Pilgrim in the Rain” folder of the soft drive! Exactly as predicted in the hour by hour forecast on weather.com, my teardown in Tallahassee and my setup in Andalusia were overcast but without rain.

Andalusia is teeming with murals that I saw as part of a personal tour I was given early in my visit. As is frequently the case, several cars were obstructing the photo op I coveted. As I had hoped at the time, the weather was cooperative on Sunday morning when the cars were assembled in the numerous church parking lots! Andalusia is pretty much a blue-collar town. Its greatest claim to fame is that it hosted the wedding of
Hank, Sr. and Audrey’s Wedding CityHank, Sr. and Audrey’s Wedding CityHank, Sr. and Audrey’s Wedding City

Murals Around Andalusia AL
Hank and Audrey Williams on Dec. 15, 1944 and is the birthplace of Randall Hank Williams, Jr. on May 26, 1949. One of the murals showcases the marriage. Hank Williams’ life was tumultuous to say the least and makes for interesting reading. His final single released during his lifetime is titled "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive."

I have one first cousin and his wife in Andalusia, one of their sons and his wife and their two children. In spite of the rain, all seven of us took a ride in the SUV to several nearby towns and past some local landmarks. From time to time the rain subsided at an opportune moment and some of us got out of the car for a closer look. Sundry dining assemblages visited local eateries. Other than these intermittent diversions, rain kept this fair-weather tourist indoors for most of the week. Never fear, I am confident the weather will be more cooperative during my next visit.

The first three weeks of my 2013 journey were unremarkable in a general sense but provided me with a smooth transition from the sedentary routine of the past six months to the nomadic
How Could I Not Stop In For A Sundae?How Could I Not Stop In For A Sundae?How Could I Not Stop In For A Sundae?

Murals Around Andalusia AL
excitement I relish. After a one week stop in Biloxi MS, I plan to visit friends in Houma LA, travel to my aunt’s in Kentucky via the Natchez Trace Parkway, continue to northern Illinois to see more family and friends, migrate to the Ohio River country of southern Indiana and Ohio to enjoy the fall foliage and through West Virginia for a stop in North Carolina to visit more relatives before returning to Florida in the late fall. That’s the always dynamic plan at this point.


Additional photos below
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Historic House ChambersHistoric House Chambers
Historic House Chambers

Florida Historic Capitol & Museum - Tallahassee FL
And The Supreme Court Says…And The Supreme Court Says…
And The Supreme Court Says…

Florida Historic Capitol & Museum - Tallahassee FL
The Sundry Rulers Of La FloridaThe Sundry Rulers Of La Florida
The Sundry Rulers Of La Florida

Florida Historic Capitol & Museum - Tallahassee FL
A Lifetime Of Political CaricatureA Lifetime Of Political Caricature
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Florida Historic Capitol & Museum - Tallahassee FL
A Crab On The Move With House In TowA Crab On The Move With House In Tow
A Crab On The Move With House In Tow

Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory - Panacea FL
Seahorses, Of Course!Seahorses, Of Course!
Seahorses, Of Course!

Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory - Panacea FL
A Memorial To The Veterans Of All WarsA Memorial To The Veterans Of All Wars
A Memorial To The Veterans Of All Wars

Covington County AL Veterans Memorial Park - Andalusia AL
From A School To An Governmental InstitutionFrom A School To An Governmental Institution
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Andalusia AL City Hall - Andalusia AL


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