Monthly Archives: July 2012

High Springs, Gateway to Great Florida Rivers and Springs

In 1884 the Savannah, Florida, and Western Railroad extended their tracks from Live Oak, south to Gainesville, passing through the little community of Santaffey (twenty-five miles north of Gainesville). The railroad put up a depot and a post office. Five years later the townspeople changed the name to High Springs­—apparently, at one time there was a spring on top of a hill, in the middle of town. The phosphate boom of the 1890’s increased traffic, and a new rail connecting High Springs with Tampa, opened in 1893. Two dozen trains were passing through each day. In 1896, the Plant System Railroad Line (later merged with the Atlantic Coast Line) built a roundhouse, where railroad cars could be pulled off the tracks. They built a steam engine repair-and-maintenance shop, a boilermaker shop, a carpentry shop, and an ice house for icing down produce in the freight cars. The town’s population swelled to over 3000. High Springs had become a major railroad repair depot.

Today the town of High Springs is a jumping-off point to some of north-central Florida’s most beautiful springs and rivers. The Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers, Poe Springs, Blue Springs, and Ginnie Springs are all close by. O’Lena State Park is just north of town. For canoeists, kayakers, tubers, scuba divers, and cave divers, it’s the ideal bivouac.

Two weeks ago I passed through High Springs and spent a night at the Grady House Bed & Breakfast, a charming, two-story arts-and-crafts bungalow, built in 1917. Their inviting twin-gabled-roof front porch is furnished with wicker chairs and a bench swing. Hidden from the front are the lush and extensive backyard gardens, with winding brick pathways, fountains, a koi pond, and a gazebo—a genuine secret garden.

The main house has five rooms, each named for its color theme: the Yellow Room, the Peach Room, the Green Room (overlooking the gardens), the Navy Room (with a nautical theme and a sitting room with a daybed), and the Red Room (a romantic room decorated with paintings and lithographs of classical nudes). All of the rooms are filled with early 20th century antiques. Some have claw-foot tubs and sitting rooms. The living room and dining room continue the warm early 20th-Century bungalow ambiance. Next door is the 1896 Easterlin House, which they call Skeet’s Cottage, with two large bedrooms and a bath—ideal for a family. It all feels very much like someone’s grandmother’s house (except for the nudes in the Red Room). I stayed in the bright and cheerful Yellow Room. In the morning owner Lucie Regensdorf served us a magnificent breakfast that began with fresh strawberries, blueberries, black berries, and two kinds of coffee cake. I thought that was plenty when she brought out the sausage, egg, and potato strata with smoked bacon and buttermilk biscuits.

Lucie and Paul Regensdorf purchased the Grady House in 2006 from Tony Boothby and Kirk Eppenstein who remodeled the house into a bed & breakfast in 1998. It had previously been a bakery, a boarding house, and an apartment house. Lucie and Paul have maintained the houses and grounds in immaculate condition. It’s their home too, along with their four rescued dalmatians.

Bruce Hunt

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

5th Annual Highlands, North Carolina Motoring Festival

The motorheads are out in full force this weekend in Highlands for the 5th Annual Highlands Motoring Festival, to benefit The Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society. It’s been raining non-stop for six days straight but the sun finally came out late this morning just in time for the car show portion of this event. There’s a wide assortment of beautiful classics, a few exotics, and some great 60’s muscle cars. All proceeds go to The Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society—and of course they brought out a bunch of their rescue pups!

Bruce Hunt

1950 Riley Roadster
1941 Willys and 1956 Cadillac

Rescue pup Sierra, a dachshund-Jack Russel mix

Rescue pup Kate and Humane Society volunteer Chandra Spaulding, founder of The Underground Tailroad

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Micanopy Cemetery

I’ve run across some creepy cemeteries in my small-town-Florida explorations, but the creepiest has to be the Micanopy (about fifteen miles south of Gainesville) Cemetery, down Seminary Road just east of town. Ancient oak trees form an overhead canopy of branches and Spanish moss that darkens the place, even in mid-day. The earliest burials here date back to 1826 when it was owned by the town’s physician, Dr. Lucious Montgomery. It became Micanopy’s public cemetery in 1905. If you visit in the summer, bring mosquito repellant (I didn’t last week when I was there, and had just enough time to shoot this one picture before they swarmed on me).

Bruce Hunt

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pass-A-Grille is Back!

On Sunday night, a week and a half ago, a tornado with 100 mph winds–an offshoot of Tropical Storm Debby, ripped through Pass-A-Grille. Roofs were blown off, one whole side of the Pass-A-Grille Marina was torn away, at least two cottages were lifted up and slammed to the ground like Dorothy’s house in The Wizard of Oz, and dozens of other homes and businesses suffered major wind and flooding damage. Just ten days later I am happy to report that Pass-A-Grille is back. When I visited this afternoon I found all the restaurants and shops open, and the beach busy with 4th-of-July vacationers. Congratulations to the community of Pass-A-Grille for wasting no time in cleaning up the storm debris, getting repairs underway, and helping get everyone open for business again.

Bruce Hunt

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized