Florida’s history museums & historic museum houses tell a 3D tale of the state & the land boom of the 20’s that cannot be fully expressed in any book, though I have to admit that I did a pretty good job in the historic documenatry film I produced!
The financial momentum of the times was astonomical! I am not trying to lure you away from my blog, but this page clearly explains the culture of the times. It is a fascinating & enlightening read.
A great many of these homes were bungalows, a style not too different from the houses built by the early settlers, with deep porches, prominent overhangs & an abundance of large windows. After several years of coaxing, American Bungalow Magazine came to Florida & featured homes in 4 neighborhoods in the central part of the state. You can read about them on my Instagram page.
Dunedin History Museum
“Where History Comes Alive”
I love this friendly, quirky little museum. The last exhibit we saw there was “Jagged Lines: America’s Tattoo Tradition,” focusing on the evolution of tattoo art.
The Museum collections contains approximately 2,000 artifacts, 2,500 photographs, & a library of 200 volumes of local & State history. Their permanent exhibits feature statewide topics such as the railroad & citrus industries, but the best ones are regional topics such as Dunedin’s multicultural origins, pioneering families, & even the story of the development of the alligator tank used by the U.S. Marines during WWII in the Pacific.
Explore this 21-acre living history museum located in its natural pine and palmetto landscape. Included amongst the structures & exhibits is the Turner House, built in 1915, of the Florida vernacular bungalow style of that time period.
The house was bequeathed to the County, along with $100,000 in moving costs & the contents of the 1915 bungalow. Now let me explain when I say contents- 6 pages of documented items, including: “furniture, accessory items, lighting, artwork, mirrors, wall pieces, toys, school memorabilia, linens, clothing, shoes, hats, costume jewelry, kitchen furnishings, tableware, cameras, clocks, radios, fans, china sets, glassware, serving pieces, decorative glass, pottery, vases, figurines, Belleview Biltmore items, sporting goods & more.
Some of the notable items include an 1860 quilt, silver plate flatware set from 1921, state license plates from 1949-1953, a child’s pedal car from 1933 and a 1940 Clearwater High School class ring.”
These items are on display at the museum of the grounds & sweep you into the life of this family whose story is told in photos, maps & sign around the museum. The house is not yet open, needing much work to make it safe, so stop by & pitch in a nice donation so that you’ll be able to actually tour the house in the future.
Tampa Bay History Center
A Smithsonian Affiliate museum, the History Center includes three floors of permanent and temporary exhibition galleries in 60,000 square feet, focusing on 12,000 years of Florida’s history, heritage & culture, focusing on Tampa Bay.
It offers many permanent & changing exhibits as well as activities in which you can learn about the area, including:
Docent-guided walking tours of Tampa’s historic sites and neighborhoods,
A monthly book group focused on Florida literature. The event is free with registration,
Florida Conversations is a free, monthly lecture series highlighting research into Florida history,
As well as many activities for children & teens.
I discovered Cracker Country, a living history museum of old rural buildings from the late 19th Century, which were relocated to the Florida State Fairgrounds when we had come to see the fair, but I was much more interested in the old buildings & demonstrations of early settler skills than in rollercoaster rides. (Well, not really. I was there for the gardening displays, the crafts & the corn dogs.)
The key features of living in Florida are the heat & humidity & the resultant awful creatures. The homes of Cracker Country display great ingenuity of design in creating dwellings in which people could experience some degree of comfort through shade, ventilation & elevation.
You can see the bungalow in these early designs. Our homes here in Florida, tend to have large porches, & deep overhangs, tall windows & lots of ‘em!
In 1886, when Tampa was mostly pine scrub. cigar manufacturer & entrepreneur Don Vicente Martinez Ybor came from Cuba via Key West to found Ybor City, the “Cigar Capital of the World.” This museum, housed in the historic Ferliia Bakery, (built by another old Tampa family in 1923 after the original building from 1835 was destroyed by fire) & urban park are dedicated to the preservation of Ybor City’s unique cultural heritage.
In addition to their great collection of artifacts, you can often see demonstrations of cigar rolling but the very best part is the film about the area which sweeps you back to the birth of historic of Ybor City.
The Safford House Museum
Although the main draw in Tarpon is the sponge docks & commercial/tourist area, I enjoy trotting around the historic downtown area & driving through the old residential areas built in the late 1800- early 1900’s.
A great attraction is the 1883 Safford House Museum, restored to its original Victorian splendor, which was the home of one of the city’s original developers. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the house is a fine example of late 19th century Florida vernacular architecture, & complete with period furnishings & family possessions, it provides the full flavor of upper-class living in the state as it was developing.
Take the opportunity to visit Florida’s history museums & historic museum houses. It’s the only way to discover the true flavor of the Sunshine State.
If you’re a local, all these museums & homes need your volunteer skills. Your participation will provide you with a great learning experience & reward you with warm friends as mine did.
TIP: Read my article about the wonderful historic places to visit in Sarasota HERE.
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