Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 71 - Manatee Village Historical Park

We did finally make it to the park but needed two tries to do it.  We got about a mile from the campground and discovered O'Brien's Farm market.  Though to be fair, the first thing we noticed were the workers out picking in the fields.  Then the signs announcing the market.  We just had to stop.  I did have a grocery list with me so there were legitimate vegetable needs to be satisfied.  I don't think I've met a friendlier bunch of people running a farm stand.  A nice man wanted to know if we'd ever been here before and would we like a tour.  Of course we'd like a tour!  So he described the 500 or so acres that comprise the farm and then showed us the "pick your own" operation which isn't quite ready to go yet.  To me, pick your own involves getting down on your knees in the soil.  To O'Brien's it means walking up to a beautiful raised bed and tenderly pulling a fresh head of lettuce out.  Or walking around these "tower" things where the strawberries grow and just plucking them from eye level.  All the veggies I got today were picked for us just this morning (by those field hands we saw earlier).  Somehow I managed to spend $30.  I got grape tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper, jalapeno pepper, lettuce, strawberries, tangerines, gummy bears (don't know how those got into the basket...), milk and butter.  Also Brett bought a bumper sticker.  This is a very serious purchase because Brett's truck believes in nothing.  The sticker says "NO farmers, NO food".  We took all our stuff back home and then headed out again for the museum.

 Manatee Village Historical Park is a collection of restored buildings and artifacts relating to the area around Manatee.  It is free although they do accept donations.  Honestly, after seeing the amount of stuff and the care that has gone into the displays it would be hard NOT to offer a donation.  The first thing that caught our eye was this 1913 locomotive.  It was built to haul timber in Florida and is called Old Cabbage Head because of the shape of the smoke stack.  We had to play on it and pose for pictures before we moved on to any of the buildings. 

Update:  According to a sign on the grounds, the name "Cracker" comes from the cowboys who drove cattle along the Cracker Trail.  The whips that they used made a loud, cracking sound.

Wiggins Store is the first building we came upon.  It was built on this spot in 1903 and is the only building in the park that is in its original location.  This was one of the area's first brick buildings and features some energy-efficient construction techniques:  air pockets between each two layers of bricks and porches on three sides of the two story structure.  The ground floor held the general store.  Today there is a recreation of the store that contains lots of the products that would have been found there.  I noticed a bottle of Father John's Medicine which made me laugh because my mother used to make us take this stuff.  Guess it was around for a long, long time.  The second floor provided overnight rooms for customers who traveled from remote parts of the county to buy goods.

This is one of the exhibits showing a hotel room.  It looks pretty sparse to us but was quite luxurious at the time.

The boat works building was a busy looking place.  I noticed the machine belts and thought that it was probably also a dangerous place to be when all of them were running.  There were lots of old tools (most of which Brett could identify).

The blacksmith shop is a reproduction of the type that might have been used in this area.  All the other buildings are restorations and buildings that were actually in the area (albeit moved to this location).

This is a sugar cane mill.  A horse or a mule was hooked up to the low end of the log and walked round and round.  Somebody would feed sugar cane into the rollers and the juice was boiled down in a kettle next to the smokehouse.  The house is "Cracker Gothic" style.  It was built to take advantage of shade and insulation and air circulation.

Pine blocks elevate the house 2 1/2 feet off the ground to allow air flow under the house.  The large front porch shades and cools the breeze before it enters the house.  The large central hallway with a high ceiling funnels the cooled air through the house.  I can attest that it felt nice and cool inside.
Although the furnishings are not original to the house, they are typical of the period and represent what most likely would have been found here.

Construction began on The Old Meeting House in 1877 then halted when a yellow fever epidemic claimed the lives of the pastor and many of the congregation.  But two years later the church opened to house the first Christian congregation south of Tampa on the Florida mainland.  It is still a consecrated house of worship and frequently hosts weddings, baptisms and other religious events.

The Court House was built in 1860.  It is the oldest building in the park and the oldest remaining building built as a courthouse in the entire state of Florida. 

The judge's chair, witness chair and bookcases are original furnishings.  The rest are handcrafted replicas.  The interior is lined with new wood that was milled to specification.

The one room school house reminded us of a similar one at the Norlands Living History Museum in Livermore.  We sat here for quite a while.  Brett read me a lesson from McGuffey's Eclectic Reader.
I tried to pay attention and I would say that's a good thing.  It looks to me as though the teacher was losing his patience.

We wandered around the buildings for over 2 hours and had a perfectly wonderful time doing it.  Our timing was lousy insofar as lunch was concerned.  We were both starving by the time we found a Publix where we could do our grocery shopping.  Remember the rule of thumb about not getting groceries when you are hungry?  Good rule.  Oh, but I found Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese which turned out to be the most wonderful thing.

Brett took a walk to the dumpster this evening and stopped to have a conversation or two along the way.  He met our neighbor who is here working a construction job building a stone house here for somebody from Maine (the stone is coming from Maine).  He had been in Maine previously and built a house in Kennebunk.  I guess he and Brett got along because Brett came home with a package of wild boar sausage.  Maybe on his next outing he will meet somebody who will give him a few acres of land!

A busy and educational day was had by us.  More to come.

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