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A Tally of Florida’s Capital Attractions

Megan Kopp - Click to Enlarge
by Megan Kopp

The 22-storey new Capitol looms like a big brother over its aging counterpart, the restored 1904 Old Capitol building. Photo credit: M. Kopp - Click to Enlarge
The 22-storey new Capitol looms like a big brother over its aging counterpart, the restored 1904 Old Capitol building. Photo credit: M. Kopp - Click to Enlarge
Named for an Apalachee Indian word meaning “old town”, Tallahassee was declared as Florida’s capital on March 4, 1824.  Today this southern city has close to 150 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  On a recent trip, I did a tally of a few favorite historical attractions:

Number one attraction is the Old Capitol. Snappy red-and-white striped awnings adorn the restored 1904 structure.  My neck was a little stiff after staring in awe at the gracefully replicated Tiffany-style glass dome, in addition to checking out exhibits dealing with the state’s political history, restored Senate chambers, House of Representatives and Supreme Court - complete with the magnificently carved, quarter-sawn oak Justice’s bench.

Two, Three and Four are churches.  Gleaming white, the First Presbyterian Church (Park Avenue & North Adams Street), built in the late 1830’s, was used by early settlers as a barricaded fort during the Seminole Wars.  On North Monroe Street, the brick-red St. 

John’s Episcopal Church was rebuilt in 1880 after a fire destroyed the original wooden building. The youngest of the three is the now 102-year-old St. James Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, one block off the Old City Cemetery.

Five is the Old City Cemetery itself.  A walking tour takes on a whole new dimension when you stop to visit Elizabeth (Bessie) Budd Graham’s grave, facing west instead of east.  Rumors float around that maybe she was a witch.  Established in 1829 by the Territorial Legislative Council, the cemetery was originally outside of Tallahassee’s city boundaries.  Civil War-era graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers can also be seen.

Six (minus two) is the number of massive white columns fronting “The Columns.”  Built of brick in 1830 and falsely rumored to have a nickel baked in every brick by owner William “Money” Williams, The Columns is Tallahassee’s oldest remaining residence (moved once to its current location on Park Avenue and South Duval Street). It is also rumored to be haunted by Rebecca, a Civil War widow who is still pacing the floors, waiting for her husband’s return.  I searched second story windows with a keen eye, but didn’t catch a ghostly glimpse.

Seven are the parks along Park Avenue.  The majority of this group of seven, also known as the Chain of Parks, were established in the late 19th Century, were planted by the Tallahassee Improvement Association (TIA).  In the 21st Century, I strolled under towering live oak trees gaily draped with flowing Spanish moss through Ponce de Leon Park (the first of the parks to be established), Lewis Park, Cherokee Park, E. Peck Greene Park, McCarty Park, Bloxham Park and Genevieve Randolph Park (named after the woman who spearheaded the work of TIA).

Historical attraction number eight is the Knott’s House. Originally built in the 1840’s, Luella Knott’s whimsical ditties and early 1930’s lifestyle are displayed in the Knott House Museum (Park Avenue & South Calhoun Street).  William Knott (State of Florida’s first State Tax Auditor) purchased the home in 1928, adding gracious white columns to the front.  His wife Luella made it “The House That Rhymes.”  Be sure to check out the exercise bike in the upper bathroom - it would appear that Luella was not only concerned with art, literature and painting.

Nine, ten and eleven are the Knott’s House neighbors - the Chittenden House, Murphy House and Wood House.  It was Mrs. Chittenden herself who was responsible for having Park Avenue so named, seems the original McCarty Street just wasn’t glamorous enough as a return address for her son’s wedding invitations.  The neighboring Murphy House (c. 1838) is one of the oldest buildings along all of Park Avenue.  Elaborate woodworking detail is a key feature of the Wood House, named original owner Henry O. Wood, a lumberman.

Set off in the gardens of the Goodwood Plantation, the "Rough House" provided a place to relax from the social confinement of the "Big House." Photo credit: M. Kopp

Twelve (plus two thousand, three hundred and eighty-eight) equals the acreage of the Goodwood Plantation at its peak.  Today’s Goodwood Museum and Gardens still stand on the low rise of land chosen for its cool breezes and are comprised of 19 acres and over a dozen buildings dating back to 1830’s, including the Rough House (where family members escaped the social refinements of the Big House to have a little fun).

There’s also the Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens (c. 1923),  the Tin Front Store (c. 1890), Lively’s Corner (c. 1875), the John G. Riley House (c. 1895), the Brokaw-McDougall House (c. 1856) and its 140-year-old live oaks in the Calhoun Historic District ...

Now was that number sixteen or seventeen? 

I hate having to recount.

One ... the Old Capitol ...

For further information, contact the Tallahassee Area Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 628-2866 and request a copy of “A Guide to Historic Sites” or the “Walking Guide to Historic Downtown”, or visit online at http://www.seetallahassee.com.

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Megan Kopp is a freelance writer published in a variety of markets including Reader’s Digest, Canadian Living, Western People, YES Magazine, Western Parent, Northwest Family and The Traveler’s Journal. She has traveled extensively throughout Western Canada and the United States; spent time in the Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Belize and have recently been re-directing her writing efforts towards sharing my passion for new sights, smells and sounds.

Email:  Megan Kopp

 

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