Friday, December 25, 2015

RonnieAdventure #0184 - Florida, 2015 Part II

There were more thing on my St. Augustine "to see" list than there were "days" on my vacation list, so we decided to take Coastal Highway A1A south across the famous "Bridge of Lions" over to Anastasia Island. The 1927 bridge is 1,545 feet long, but only about 30 feet above the water, so the bridge must be opened to allow tall boats to pass. 

The name "Bridge of Lions" comes from the two lion sculptures that are placed at the west-side bridge approach. Both lions were sculptured from Carrara marble (the same quarry the Michelangelo used for his David sculpture) and made to resemble the Roman lions at the Loggia de Lanzi in Florence, Italy.

After crossing the Bridge of Lions, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is located on the ocean side of the road. A Spanish watch tower was built on the island in the late 1500s and converted to Florida's first lighthouse in 1824. However, due to shoreline erosion, the old lighthouse succumbed to the sea and the current lighthouse was constructed in 1874. The lighthouse is 162 feet high and, if you feel energetic, it is 219 steps to the top.

The St. Augustine Alligator Farm is directly across the street from the lighthouse, but we did not tour the facility.

Fort Matanzas National Monument is located a short distance south of St. Augustine, but on the date we stopped at the visitor center we were informed that the fort was closed due to bad weather. (The only way to reach the fort is by a guided boat tour.) The fort was built in 1742 to defend the City of St. Augustine from the south and contained five cannons - four six-pounders and one 18-pounder.

Photographer Unknown

There is an interesting old pier on the ocean side of the road just south of Fort Matanzas National Monument, but I could not find any informational signs as to what the pier was used for.

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park in Palm Coast was the winter home of Owen D. and Louise P. Young. Owen Young was the Chairman of General Electric and founder and Chairman of RCA and Louise Clark Young developed a cottage industry in the Philippines manufacturing delicate lingerie and table linens. Just before her death in 1965, Louise donated the property to the State of Florida with the stipulation that it be maintained as a garden-park for the enjoyment of the public. Their home is now the visitor center.

While visiting with a craftsman that was demonstrating his whittling skills at the Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, he highly recommended that we drive one mile down the road to the Baliker Gallery to see another woodcarver's sculptures. We did and it was really worth the stop. The artisan's wood carvings were amazing! His carvings reminded me of a story about a little boy that was watching Michelangelo carve David from a large chunk of marble and the little boy finally ask Michelangelo "How did you know that statue was in there?"

The Mala Compa Plantation Archaeological Site is located just south of the Baliker Gallery and was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places March 5, 2004. Mala Compra belonged to Joseph Marion Hernandez and was one of the largest cotton plantations (2,265 acres) until 1836 when the Seminole Indians burned it down near the beginning of the Second Seminole War.

Across the street from the Flagler Beach pier we learned that Santa also visits this part of Florida! There were even a group of pirates sitting on the roof of one house waiting for Santa!

One of my guide books recommended that we visit the Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park east of town, but did not give a lot of specific directions. All I can say is that I am really happy that I had my GPS with me because we had to follow a one track road through the jungle for several miles to reach the site. The road was in good condition, but not well used (we did not ever see any other people) and it appeared that most visitors only use the site as an access point to Bulow Creek.

In 1821 Major Charles Bulow acquired 4,675 acres of wilderness land and using slave labor he cleared about 2,200 acres and planted sugar cane, cotton, rice and Indigo. It was the largest plantation in East Florida. However, during the Seminole War of 1836 the plantation was burned and since then the land has been mostly reclaimed by the forest. The property and ruins were acquired by the State of Florida in 1945 and dedicated as a State Historic Park in 1957.

During WWII about 15,200 watch towers were constructed along the coasts and staffed by civilian volunteer "spotters" who were part of the Ground Observation Corps (the Army Air Forces Aircraft Warning Service/Civil Air Patrol and the Coast Guard Auxiliary). The towers were constructed about six miles apart and the "spotters" that manned the towers were armed only with binoculars and a telephone. In May of 1944 the towers were abandoned and this tower is one of the few watch towers left standing in Florida.