Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Last Stops Before Clearwater

We were headed south to Tampa/Clearwater on the last day of our drive before we arrived at our friends Bob and Nona’s house.  We took in a couple more historic places along the way. 

The first spot we stopped to photograph was in Cross City Florida.  This is the old Atlantic Coast Line Depot.  It was built ca. 1910.  At one point in more recent days it apparently was occupied by a local business.  These days it’s not in use…but I noted that they’d boarded in the old freight dock for this combination passenger and freight depot.

The asphalt path in the foreground is part of the 32 mile long Nature Coast State Trail… The former rail right of way has been converted to what is popularly called a “rail trail”.  At one point, this paved trail crosses over the Suwannee River.

Historical Note:

·       During the Second Seminole War (1835-1842) Federal forces engaged the Seminoles in this area near the Suwannee River, across from Ft. Fanning.  The engagement is known as the "Battle of Old Town."

This Spanish Mission style building in Crystal River Florida was built with native limestone in 1939 under the auspices of the Work Project Administration…part of Roosevelt’s New Deal program.  It was originally designed to house the police and fire departments, (with a 3-cell jail) and it served as City Hall until 1972. 

The building now houses the Coastal Heritage Museum, which is operated by the Citrus County Historical Society.  Exhibits focus on the early history of the west side of Citrus County Florida and include a 1929 diorama of downtown Crystal Springs, a fish house facade, and one of the an original jail cells. Admission is free.  You can check it out at:


·       Both Art Fleming, the original host of “Jeopardy!” and baseball hall of fame member Ted Williams, lived in Crystal River at the time of their deaths. 

·       Crystal River is situated around Kings Bay, which is spring-fed and so keeps a constant 72 °F temperature year around.  A cluster of 50 springs designated as a first-magnitude system feeds Kings Bay.  This discharge equals about 64 million gallons of water per day!   Kings Bay can be home to over 400 manatees during the winter when the water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico cools and this fact is a major draw for tourists in the area.

Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park is a Florida State Park located in Homosassa Florida, just a couple of miles west of US Hwy 19.  In addition to the historic ruins, the park has a picnic pavilion, restrooms, picnic tables and grills…as well as the ruins of the historic old sugar mill.

David Levy Yulee was a delegate in the Florida Territorial Legislative Council and when Florida became a state, he became the first US Senator from the state as well as the first American of Jewish heritage to serve in the Senate.  Yulee is also credited as being responsible for the development of a network of railroads that tremendously boosted the state's economy.

The large mill (which was steam-driven) operated from 1851 to 1864.  It produced sugar, syrup and molasses.  FYI, the molasses was used in making rum.  At the park, the stonework (foundation, well and 40-foot chimney) of the mill, iron gears, a cane press, and some of the other machinery remain.

The mill was just part of Yulee’s huge enterprise in the Homosassa area.  His plantation covered more than 5,100 acres and was worked by approximately 1,000 slaves.  They raised sugarcane, citrus, and cotton.  Yulee made the plantation the base for all of his businesses and land holdings, building his home on Tiger Tail Island in the Homosassa River just a few miles from the mill.

David Yulee had a much larger empire than just this 5,100 acre plantation and mill.  Yulee also owned vast lands across North Central Florida and maintained other homes in Fernandina and what is now the town of Yulee.  (When his father Moses, first emigrated to Florida from the island of St. Thomas in what is now the US Virgin Islands, he purchased 50,000 acres in that are now occupied by Jacksonville Florida)

Using the labors of 69 slaves, Yulee built the mill of hewn Florida limestone, brick and wood.  In addition to the steam-operated grinding or pressing rollers, the operation also included large kettles for cooking down the juice squeezed from the sugar cane.  By the time of the Civil War, when it was in full operation the Yulee Sugar Mill used more than 100 slaves to process the sugar cane.  Sugar was exported from the Homosassa River to ports all along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. 

Elected to the U.S. Senate again in 1855, Yulee was still serving in Washington when the obvious threat of Civil War loomed over the horizon.  Resigning his post in the U.S. Senate, Yulee went home to Florida.  Although he served for a time in the Confederate Congress, his primary role during the Civil War was as a businessman and industrialist.  His railroad was brought into operation in March of 1861 and the sugar mill on the Homosassa was devoted to the production of sugar for the Confederate armies.

In May of 1864, the Union navy made a raid up the Homosassa River to Tiger Tail Island.  A building containing Southern military supplies was set on fire and the flames spread to Yulee's home.  In their reports of the affair, U.S. Navy officers claimed that burning Yulee’s home was "accidental". 

To learn more about David Levy Yulee, go to

FYI…Homosassa Florida is the home of the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, where visitors can observe manatees close up and personal.  To learn about this park, go to

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. We enjoyed the Crystal River area and may go back for a longer visit.

  2. Very interesting! It sounds like a good spot to visit for its history. And the manatee attraction at the river would be great fun. I enjoyed reading this, thanks!

  3. So fascinating, Dave! And your photos are lovely! Thank you so much for sharing.