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Florida history: Perched in Tallahassee’s Sun and Shade

By Sandy Katz
February 26, 2013 - 10 comments

Tallahassee, Florida's state capital, tucked in between the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and the juncture of the Sunshine State's panhandle and peninsula, has often been described as The Other Florida.

With the Gulf of Mexico 40 kilometres south and the Georgia border only 25 k north, Tallahassee is closer to Atlanta than to Miami.

Its rolling hills and winding canopy roads shaded by moss-draped oaks more closely resembles its neighbouring state than the state it’s in.

Accentuating its Southern character are lush rolling hills, likened to the Seven Hills of Rome, and canopy roads lined by moss-draped patriarch oaks. The rich soil and four distinct seasons breed floral brilliance and natural vitality year-round.

And, while it's best known as the seat of state government, Tallahassee is also home to two major state universities, the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, and the Supercomputer Computations Research Institute, placing it at the forefront of international scientific and technological research. Complementing the academic with the artistic, Tallahassee offers visitors an intimate neo-metropolitan city with rich historical treasures and majestic natural beauty.

The 22-storey state capitol building has an observation deck on the top floor and is flanked by the house and senate chambers, each with viewing galleries.

The tower looms over the Old Capitol, which has been restored to its 1902 appearance and transformed into a museum housing exhibits that take visitors through Florida's history.

The nearby Knott House Museum, which was built in 1843 as a private home, has housed three Florida Supreme Court judges over the years and is known as "The House That Rhymes" for the poems written by an early 20th-century owner who wrote verse lauding its ambience and Victorian-era furnishings.

An excellent spot to walk off lunch, where we blended French cuisine with Southern hospitality at the 1920s restored home that has been named Chez Pierre, is the Goodwood Museum and Gardens. The estate's beginnings go back to the 1830s as a cotton plantation that encompassed 2,400 acres. The plantation's agricultural emphasis declined after the Civil War and it was gradually pared down to its current 19 acres.

One of the most impressive buildings left on the property is the main house built around 1840 and considered one of the finest antebellum plantation houses in the region. Other structures include a water tower, woodshed, aviary, guest house, rough house, old kitchen, jubilee cottage, girl's cottage, and reflecting pool.

A wider view of Florida's colourful past is depicted in the Museum of Florida History. Visitors can view a mastodon skeleton and a giant armadillo mannequin from the Pleistocene era, gold and silver from Spanish shipwrecks, flags flown during the Civil War, and a partial replica of a Florida steamboat.

On our last full day in Tallahassee, we started with a continental breakfast on a picnic bench overlooking the beautiful tranquil waters of Lake Hall in Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State

Park a few kilometres north of town. The lake is a habitat for freshwater fish, alligators, turtles and migrating fowl and is excellent for canoeing and sailing.

Then we made our way south of town to Wakulla Springs State Park, where we boarded glass-bottomed boats for a short trip down the river to view alligators and manatees before heading back to Tallahassee for a hands-on look at the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science exhibits that are changed regularly through its affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution.

Comments

April 1, 2014
Sheryl Smith-Rodgers said:

Hi Sandy! Wonder if you'd remember me from a Texas press trip in the late 1990s. You mailed me a photo album of our trip, and I've never forgotten your kindness. Hope you're doing well! I'd send you an email but can't find an address for you. Best, sheryl

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