Holly Hill History Museum and Education Center

Holly Hill History Museum and Education Center located at 1066 Ridgewood Avenue in Holly Hill. Holly Hill a city that encompasses only 4.5 square miles is sandwiched between Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach. William and Mary Fleming founded Holly Hill in 1901 and named the town after his ancestral home in Holywood, Ireland. Vet Cave owner of Cave’s Cigar Factory named the first mayor.

Early maps, a biographical account of the city founders alongside biographical accounts and photographs of early settlers throughout the museum. Dr. Carter a minister from New Jersey moved to the area in the late 1870s and formed a mission. In the late 1870s, Gibson W. Harris from Illinois moved to Holly Hill. He owned a grocery and mercantile store. In 1845, while a law student in Illinois he worked in the law office of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield. Holly Hill the early years photographed by E.G. Harris, Holly Hill’s first photographer. A picturesque view of Ridgewood Avenue in the late 1890s.Due to the popularity of the automobile motels became popular in the 1930s. Fifty-one motels built along Ridgewood Avenue through the 1960s. Some motels remain others have been turned into businesses.

A famous ballplayer Nap Lajoie who played with the Cleveland Indians inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937 lived in Holly Hill. James Calvert Smith, an artist who lived in Holly Hill until his death in 1962. Known for his famous mural that hangs in the museum of the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.

Browse in the museum gift shop and purchase a painting by a local artist, jewelry, a limited edition throw pillow or coffee mugs. Take a book leave a donation.

I recommend the museum our museum guide was very knowledgeable. Free entrance to the museum, donations accepted. Hours of operation on the website.



Sunken Gardens

Sunken Gardens a historical landmark located at 1825 4th Street North in St. Petersburg. Take a map, follow the pathway around the gardens, stop and take pleasure in all that the gardens offer. Sunken Gardens opened in 1935 to the public. When George Turner bought the property, he drained the shallow lake and found the growing stone a fossilized limestone rock, which is on display at the gardens.

Lillypads surround the Koi Pond. The Japanese started raising Koi in the seventeenth century. The fish can live up to 50 years but some reported to be 100 years old.

The Balloon Milkweed Plant comes in green and white flowers. The Dutchman’s Pipevine a tall vertical vine in brown sparkled with yellow that grows up to 30 feet both attract the Monarch butterfly inside the Butterfly Garden. Even though butterflies were in flight in the butterfly garden, I wasn’t able to capture any butterflies on camera.




Walk along the winding pathway and under trestles surrounded by beautiful foliage while admiring the fountains, ponds and waterfalls. Different species of exotic birds reside in the gardens. Chilean Flamingos, Umbrella Cockatoo native to Australia and Macaw Parrots native to Central and South America.





Cacti and other succulents surround the elephant sculpture in the garden. Plan a wedding on the North Lawn, stand at the arched bridge a great photo opportunity.

I recommend the gardens, so much beauty. Admission prices, hours of operation on the website.


St. Petersburg Museum of History

St. Petersburg Museum of History located at 335 2nd Avenue NE in St. Petersburg. A painting of Peter Demens a Russian immigrant who founded St. Petersburg. He named the town St. Petersburg after the town in Russia where he grew up. He also founded the Orange Belt Railway that began train service in the late 1880s. The railway served the towns of St. Petersburg and Sanford that carried freight and passengers.





Black and white photos of a bygone era. Formerly a spa, the “Fountain of Youth”, opened as an attraction. The railroad pier built by the Orange Belt Railway to bring in tourists. The bathing pavilion built by D.F. S. Brantley, a boat builder. The “Million Dollar” pier built in the mid-1920s a famous gathering place for locals.

African Americans helped build the Orange Belt Railway then settling in Pepper Town an early African American community. The early settlers held many different occupations and by the early 20th century were an important part of St. Petersburg.

Two men that became influential members of St. Petersburg. Mark Dixon Dodd, an artist who helped design and construct homes in the Driftwood Community. Known for paintings of coastal and architectural scenes. William L. Straub and his two partners bought the St. Petersburg Times. He remained editor for thirty-eight years.

“Schrader’s Little Cooperstown” the world’s largest collection of signed baseballs on loan to the museum. Dennis Schrader at 9 years old started his collection. A timeline of baseball beginning in 1845 when Alexander J. Cartwright credited with being the Father of Modern Baseball to 100 years of spring baseball. Al Lang, mayor of St. Petersburg brought spring training to St. Petersburg. All-American Girls, a professional baseball league formed in 1943 until 1954. Fifteen teams made up the league. Moses Fleetwood Walker, the first African-American baseball player. Rube Foster founder of the Negro League in 1920 that consisted of 8 teams.

A tribute to the American Soldier from the Civil War to the War in Iraq. Photographs along the walls depict the many soldiers through the war years. A four-part film about the Civil War and World War II. One film about women who visited their husbands and boyfriends in their encampments during the Civil War. A display of American Red Cross Uniforms during World War I.

I recommend the museum, an early history of St. Petersburg. Admission prices, hours of operation on the website.

After touring the museum, take a thirty-minute St. Petersburg Looper Trolley Tour around downtown St. Petersburg. Our trolley guide born and raised in St. Petersburg knows the entire city. He pointed out historical points of interest as well as the city parks that hold free concerts and other venues.


Matheson History Museum





Formerly an American Legion Hall the Matheson History Museum located at 513 E. University Avenue in Gainesville. The Matheson family early settlers to Gainesville since the 1860s. A photograph of the first store on display shows the first Matheson Dry Goods store in downtown Gainesville. Stop and visit a replica of the Matheson Dry Goods Store and see what people bought in the 1870s. Dr. Frederick Humphreys a Homeopathic Physician founded Humphrey’s Specifics in the mid-1840s. From mild powder cures to curing infant diseases like colic and slow growth.A timeline of events inside the exhibit hall from the British Period to when Florida becomes a territory. During territorial times, John Bellamy a plantation owner from Monticello built the Bellamy Road and Jacob Rhett Motte, an army surgeon during the Seminole and Creek Wars wrote about life in the harsh frontiers of Georgia and Florida.A current exhibit includes posters illustrating the search for Ponce de Leon and the fountain of youth. Take a swim in the springs at Ponce de Leon Springs State Park, Warm Mineral Springs in Sarasota and Wakulla Springs near Tallahassee. Before theme parks, people visited Silver Springs and took a ride on the glass bottom boat. A clear view of the springs while watching sea life looking down at the glass in the center of the boat. Silver Springs now a state park.

Posters describe Native American names given to rivers, lakes, counties and cities. Check the website for upcoming exhibits in the museum.

The Museum Shop sells tin cans as collectables, books about Florida, a map of Alachua County circa 1824. Margaret Tolbert’s prints for sale an artist based in Gainesville.

Matheson House

Chris Matheson’s Office

Augusta Matheson Painting
in the dining room






Listed on the National Register of Historic Places Matheson House Georgian Architecture built in 1867 by James D. and Augusta Matheson. Our docent took us on a tour of the house describing in detail the history of each room. Original furnishings throughout the house except the bed and wardrobe in James and Augusta’s bedroom. During his lifetime, Chris their only surviving son became an attorney, Presbyterian Minister and a mayor. After becoming a Presbyterian Minister, he married Sarah Hamilton, and they lived in Oklahoma for twenty years. Sarah a teacher and missionary taught the Native American Children. They moved back to Gainesville where he served as mayor of Gainesville for 8 terms.

After Chris’s death, Sarah traveled around the world for forty years. Collectables around the house serve as a remembrance of the trips taken. Serving as a missionary in South Korea for 2 years teaching children English. Sarah deeded the house to the history museum after her death.

Tison Tool Barn

The Tison Tool Barn built in the 1990s. It serves to house the many tools made in the 1850s. Before automobiles, the cast-iron horse trough outside the barn used to water horses and mules outside the courthouse in the 1880s. The trough donated to the museum.

Battle of Gainesville Site

Gainesville founded in 1853 and named after General Gaines who served in the Seminole Wars. During the Civil War the skirmish in downtown Gainesville and the Battle of Gainesville occurred. The Confederates lost the skirmish to the Union Troops but won the battle. The docent pointed out the site where the Battle of Gainesville occurred.

While visiting the museum let the docent know that you want to visit the house. I recommend the museum, tool barn and house, so much history in Gainesville. Free admission to the museum donations accepted. Hours of operation on the website.

Myakka River State Park





Myakka River State Park includes 37,000 acres located at 13208 State Road 72 in Sarasota created by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression. Enjoy the 7-mile scenic park drive and admire the abundance of trees and plants. Stop at the Myakka River Bridge and look down at the alligators basking in the afternoon sun, a good photo opportunity.

Pick up a park map at the ranger station before hiking or biking the trails. Bring a camera or a pair of binoculars while hiking you may encounter different species of animals. Before launching your canoe or kayak on the Upper Myakka Lake or Myakka River stop by the visitor center and pick up a brochure of the birds of Myakka River State Park. Spend the night in an historic log cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Take a leisurely ride on a tram that has been in operation for 50 years as the guide takes you through the Oak and Palm Hammock and dry prairie. Describing tasty Hearts of Palm known by Southerners as swamp cabbage as a delicacy from the Sabal Palm. The Scottish people early settlers to Sarasota brought their flower the Scottish Thistle the national symbol of Scotland. Our guide describes the early pioneers who took the bark from a Willow Tree made tea and used it as a pain reliever. Listen to the story about the Cow hunters but don’t call them cowboys who took six months to drive their cattle up the St. Johns River to Cowford. Cowford renamed Jacksonville after Andrew Jackson.

Inside the Visitor Center, watch a movie about the construction of the park by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Wetlands encompass half of the park. Marshes, Forested Wetlands, Rivers and Lakes all part of the ecosystem. Life size mounts of Ducks, Wading Birds and the Panther an endangered species all found inside the center.

Bring a picnic lunch, sit at one of the picnic tables, relax and look out at the Upper Myakka Lake. Stop at the gift shop and browse the many items for purchase. Sealife sculptures created with sand and clay by Kevin Rowley, artist and sculptor.

Myakka River State Park one of the oldest state parks. I recommend visiting the park so much to see and do. Visit the website for fees and hours of operation.


Hallstrom House/Farmstead

Two hundred guests celebrated Hallstrom House/Farmstead’s 100-year anniversary on March 10th of this year. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places located at 1723 Old Dixie Highway SW in Vero Beach. Axel Hallstrom born in Sweden in 1870 and immigrated to the United States in the late 1890s. He moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota and became the master gardener for the estate of James J. Hill a railroad tycoon. Axel met his wife Emely while working for Mr. Hill. They moved to Florida and bought 40 acres in the town of Viking, which eventually became absorbed into the community of Indrio in St. Lucie County near Ft. Pierce. Named Viking because of the Scandinavian people who settled in the town.





After Emely’s death in 1908, Axel Hallstrom moved to Vero Beach. He bought the land, which consisted of 120 acres but construction of the house didn’t start until 1914. Completion of the house didn’t happen until 1918 because of scarce supplies during World War I. During construction of Hallstrom House, a temporary home built to house Axel and his daughter Ruth as well as a chicken house and a barn.

Solid oak floors laid over Southern Pine and original furnishings throughout the house. Storyboards in each room describing the house, the Hallstrom family and the crops they grew. Pineapples a favorite crop shipped to northern states. After the hard freeze in 1910, Axel switched to citrus.

The pamphlets created during the 100th anniversary describes in detail each numbered item throughout the house. The docent brings to life each room throughout the house and the Hallstrom family who lived there. An interesting fact on the tour about the fainting couch. Women wore corsettes even during the hot summer months therefore; they fainted due to the heat so they needed the fainting couch for rest and relaxation.

Many items throughout the house once popular in the first part of the twentieth century. I recommend touring the house. Free entrance to the house donations accepted. Hours of operation on the website.



McKee Botanical Garden





McKee Botanical Garden situated on eighteen acres listed on the National Register of Historic Places located at 350 US Highway 1 in Vero Beach. Walk across the Historic Stone Bridge to the trails, wooden bridges, paths, ponds and streams that surround the garden. Stand at a bridge, look down at a stream and admire the many different varieties of Waterlilies and Aquatics that inhabit them. Trees, vines, shrubs and herbaceous plants provide a canopy throughout the garden. Relax on a bench and enjoy the serenity and calming sounds of a waterfall. Take shelter from the sun under a thatched roof rain shelter.A film and poster displays about the early years inside the Hall of Giants. Arthur G. McKee and Waldo Sexton, both industrialists had a vision to open an attraction that gave people an opportunity to see the many different plant species from around the world as well as the many wild animals that made up the jungle gardens. McKee Jungle Gardens an eighty-acre tourist attraction opened in the early 1930s. Due to low attendance, the park closed in 1976. The garden opened in 2001 after a fundraising campaign to buy the land and restore the garden to its former beauty.

A temporary exhibition through April 29th of this year includes twenty-four African Animal Sculptures created by the Art Collective in Nairobi, Kenya. African artists trained in all forms of art by Moses Ochieng. Animals throughout the garden described in detail through interpretive exhibits.





Edible fruit from Brazil, tropical plants from Asia, a Dragon Tree that originates from India whose root looks like a Dragon’s tail. Royal Palms native to Florida, Cuba and Honduras. The palms grow to one hundred feet and are the tallest in the world.

Stickwork Sculpture named The “Royals” by Patrick Dougherty a world-renowned artist who takes trees and twigs and transforms them into art. The “Tower” a prism made of clear glass bulbs and rods by Hans Godo Fräbel, a glass sculptor. I’ve named a few but over ten permanent landscapes are in the garden.

I highly recommend visiting the garden. McKee Botanical Garden is the first garden that I’ve visited and written about that has traveling exhibits. Admission prices and hours of operation on the website.

Casa Feliz Historic House Museum

Casa Feliz Historic House Museum built in the style of a 100-year old Spanish farmhouse. Casa Feliz means “Happy House” listed on the National Register of Historic Places at 656 N. Park Avenue in Winter Park. Original roof tiles built by hand in Spain and recycled bricks bought from the Armory in downtown Orlando built in the mid-1880s.

Robert Bruce Barbour a manufacturer from Massachusetts who spent winters in Winter Park hired James Gamble Rogers, II a Winter Park Architect to design Casa Feliz. My museum guide gave me a detailed history of the rooms. The library, formerly the maid’s quarters. Photographs throughout the room of James Barber’s projects and family photographs. A carriage house and in the dining room an English Antique table 7 feet long made of walnut or mahogany. The kitchen and butler’s pantry remodeled to look like it did when the Barbour family lived in the house.

Every weekend the house rents space for weddings. Walk up the spiral staircase to the upstairs bedrooms. Mrs. Barbour’s bedroom is now the groom’s room. The bathroom design is Art Moderne popular in the 1930s and 1940s the original design when Mrs. Barbour lived in the house and still exists today. The room is dedicated to the Harper family who were involved in the Casa Feliz Foundation that was instrumental in moving the home from Lake Osceola to its present location.

The bride’s room formerly Mr. Barbour’s room. Used by brides to get ready for their wedding. The bathroom is not part of the original design. I opened the French doors and looked down into the courtyard that bridal parties use to take many photographs.

I recommend touring the house, a look inside the architectural design of a Spanish farmhouse. Hours of operation and venue contact information located on the website. After the tour, stay for Music at the Casa.

Audubon Center for Birds of Prey

Overlooking Lake Sybelia Audubon Center for Birds of Prey located at 1101 Audubon Way in Maitland. While walking along the pathway, stop and see the many magnificent species of different birds of prey and read the signs about the different birds and their migratory patterns. Afterwards, relax under a gazebo, listen to the sounds of nature, and appreciate the stillness of the surroundings.





A chance to see a Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon up close. Garden birds act as ambassadors in schools and civic organizations. Step inside the house and watch a 12-minute film about the rehabilitation center. From baby owls in incubators to young birds that require assistance in feeding. An American Kestrel one of the smallest falcons and an Eastern Screech Owl inhabit the porch. In the wild, the screech owls sing to each other to keep in touch with other family members.

I recommend the center, its quite an educational experience on rehabbing birds of prey. Hours and admission fees on the website.

Orlando Loch Haven Park

Orlando Loch Haven Park located at 777 E. Princeton Street in Orlando. What is now 2.6 miles of urban trail formerly the Dinky train line that began service in the late 1880s. The Orlando-Winter Park Railroad owned the 6-mile train line that ran from Orlando to Winter Park eventually extended service to Oviedo and by the late 1960s service ended.

Whether its a 0.5-mile, 1.25-mile, or a 1.3-mile urban trail all lead to different areas in Orlando all part of the former Dinky Line. Lake Formosa an historic neighborhood established in the early part of the 20th century to Virginia Drive or Magnolia Avenue in downtown Orlando.




Paul Marco

Albert Paley

Bob Van Breda






Relax in a lounge chair under a thatched hut, a lounge chair by the lake or on a garden bench under a trestle overlooking the lake. Stroll around the manicured lawn admiring the many sculptures that are part of the collection of the Mennello Museum of American Art and some gifted to the city of Orlando. Sculptures made of welded steel, welded metal, bronze and fiberglass with steel.

I recommend the park a relaxing way to spend a couple of hours. Afterwards, visit a museum or science center.