Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park & Other Historical Sites

    By Florida Division of Historic Resources Staff

    Former plantations, museums and schools in Alachua County

     

    Florida has a rich and diverse history.  African American landmarks and legacies exist in various locations throughout the state. The following historical sites, such as the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park, can be found in Alachua County.  While some of these sites can be visited, other listings are marked "private" and are not open to the public.

    Historic Sites in Bland Community

    Damascus Cemetery

    County Road 236, east of I-75 Exit 404
    This cemetery is a landmark in the Bland Community. The old Damascus Church, built in 1900, stood several miles to the northeast on County Road 1491, on a site marked today by a commemorative sign. (352) 373-4062.

    Historic Sites in Cross Creek

    Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park

    18700 South County Road 325
    Many African Americans in rural Florida lived in small tenant houses like the one standing in the orange grove at the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park. Rawlings, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Yearling, came to Cross Creek in 1928 and wrote with wit and affection of those who helped tend her house, grove and garden while she worked. The park interprets her literary legacy and the lives of those who were part of her world in Cross Creek. The tenant house was moved to this site in 2000, replacing the original one which had been demolished. Letters between Rawlings and friend Zora Neale Hurston (who stayed as a guest at the Rawlings home) highlight the changing racial relationships in the rural south during Reconstruction, as well as the trailblazing attitudes of the two women. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006. (352) 466-3672, www.floridastateparks.org.

    Historic Sites in Gainesville

    A. Quinn Jones Center

    1108 NW 7th Avenue
    Opened in 1925 as Lincoln High School and successor to the Union Academy, this two-story red brick school became one of the first accredited high schools in Florida for African American students. The historic school building was renovated in the 1990s. (352) 955-6840.

    Chestnut Funeral Home

    18 NW 8th Avenue
    Established in 1914 by Matthew E. Hughes and Charles Chestnut, Sr., this funeral home is one of Gainesville’s oldest businesses. Chestnut’s grandson and great-grandson continue to run the business today. (352) 372-2537.

    The Dunbar Hotel

    732 NW 4th Street (Private)
    This was the only African American hotel in Gainesville in the early 20th century. The Dunbar family welcomed touring musicians, educators, businessmen and their families. The building has been restored at its original site and houses Pleasant Place Facilities for Single Mothers.

    First Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church

    115 NW 55th Street
    This church was part of a community founded during Reconstruction in Rutledge, an area given to disenfranchised slaves by the Freedman’s Bureau. An exchange of deeds allowed the church to move to its current one-acre location where the present church was completed in 1955.

    Friendship Baptist Church

    426 NW 2nd Street
    Organized in 1888, Friendship’s first building was destroyed by fire, and the present Romanesque-Gothic Revival style church, known for its beautiful stained glass windows, was built of rusticated concrete block in 1911. (352) 376-4302.

    Greater Liberty Hill United Methodist Church

    7600 NW 23rd Avenue
    Historic Liberty Hill United Methodist Church has served as the religious home of many area families since the 1850s. It was the home of the Farmer’s Aide Society, a group of pioneer African American farmers including Joe Duncan, Peter Jonas, the Rev. Chatman Haile and Johnny Roundtree. When families did not have money for health care and burials, this group pooled funds to establish an active association that today still provides scholarships and financial support during illness and loss of life. Mr. Duncan is buried in the Liberty Hill Cemetery. The present church was built in the 1950s. Liberty Hill School (NR), adjacent to the church and cemetery, is one of the oldest educational institutions for black students in the area, listed in Alachua County records as a school in 1869. The present one-room, wood-frame schoolhouse was built by the Alachua County Board of Public Instruction in 1892. (352) 375-5984.

    The Historic Haile Homestead at Kanapaha Plantation

    8500 SW Archer Road
    South Carolina’s Thomas and Serena Haile moved to Florida in 1854. Members of the Haile-Chestnut clan collectively owned large tracts of land predominantly in the western half of Alachua County, the Kanapaha area being just one area. The 1860 census indicates that Thomas Haile owned 66 slaves.  The Haile Homestead included eight ground-floor rooms, with two bedrooms upstairs. The crop failure of 1867 forced the Haile's into bankruptcy in 1868. Though much of the property passed into the hands of Thomas' brother Edward Haile, Thomas reacquired 110 acres in 1873 and continued to rebuild his land holdings. The Hailes operated a successful farm until their deaths in the mid-1890s. The house passed to their son Evans Haile who used the house primarily for parties until the 1930s. The house is believed to be unique in the nation for its "Talking Walls." The Haile family and friends wrote altogether over 12,500 words on the walls of the house dating back to 1859. Completed in 1856, the house stands as a testament to the skill and expertise of the enslaved craftsmen who built it, though the 18 slave cabins have not survived. (352) 336-9096, www.hailehomestead.org.

    Institute of Black Culture

    1510 West University Avenue
    Created in 1971 at the University of Florida, the Institute is home to many historical artifacts and resources related to the African and African American students who have enrolled at the school. ufl.edu

    The Jesse Aaron House

    1207 NW 7th Avenue (Private)
    Jesse Aaron (1887-1979), was part Seminole and African American and began carving wood when he was in his eighties. He was a noted folk artist whose cypress and cedar carvings were widely sought by collectors and museums. Aaron carved on the front porch of the house he built in 1925 in Gainesville’s Fifth Avenue neighborhood.

    Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church

    630 NW 2nd Street
    Organized in 1867, the first church building was a woodframe structure constructed on a site purchased from Charles Brush. That building was replaced by a brick structure in 1887 which was destroyed by fire in 1903. The present building, a Romanesque Revival-style structure, was completed in 1906. The Mount Pleasant Cemetery at 2837 NW 13th Street, was established by the church in the 1880s and is the final resting place of many pioneer African Americans and their descendants. (352) 372-4872.

    The Old Cotton Club

    837 SE 7th Avenue
    Located in Gainesville’s Springhill neighborhood, the large wood-frame building was first constructed in 1940-41 as the Post Exchange at Camp Blanding in Starke, Florida.  At the end of World War II, the Perryman brothers purchased the surplus building, moved it to Gainesville and converted it to a movie theater for African American patrons. It became The Cotton Club and was renamed “The Blue Note Club” in the 1950s. The building can be toured by appointment.

    Pleasant Street Historic District

    Bounded approximately by 1st Avenue, NW 8th Avenue, NW 2nd Avenue and NW 6th Street

    The oldest and largest continuously inhabited black residential area in Gainesville, this district is significant as the religious and social center for black entertainment, commerce and educational life in the city. Blacks built most of the 255 contributing historic buildings in this quadrant of original Gainesville in the post-Civil War era and the early 20th century. When emancipated blacks moved into Gainesville after the Civil War, many settled here, where they could buy land and establish churches, schools and businesses.

    Shady Grove Primitive Baptist Church

    804 SW 5th Street
    One of the oldest congregations in Gainesville, the Shady Grove Primitive Baptist Church stands on land deeded to the elders of the church in 1900. The present coquina block church was built in the Porters neighborhood in the 1930s. “Porters Quarters” as it is still called, dates to the late 19th century when Canadian physician, Dr. Watson Porter, platted the addition and sold land exclusively to African American families, encouraging them to plant and cultivate gardens to become self sufficient. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, Shady Grove Church was the venue for NAACP meetings during the Civil Rights Era.  A historic marker has been placed in front of the church.

    Smathers Library

    University of Florida, Northeast corner of the Plaza of the Americas
    This Library has an extensive collection of documents, photographs and other material related to African American history and culture.

    St. Augustine Day Care

    405 NW 4th Avenue (Private)
    Erected between 1875 and 1889 as an Episcopal mission church for the black community in Gainesville, this building served as a parochial school after moving to its present site in 1895. It became a day care center in 1957 and was integrated in 1964.

    Union Academy

    524 NW 1st Street
    In 1865 the Freedmen Bureau established the Union Academy to educate blacks. Supported by northern friends, the George Peabody Fund, and the Alachua County Board of Public Instruction, black carpenters built the frame building, the second largest school constructed by the Freedmen Bureau in Florida. Originally a one story structure, a second floor was added in the 1890s. Union Academy was the intellectual heart of the African American community in Gainesville and Alachua County, serving elementary through high school grades for almost 60 years. (352) 334-2193.

    Wabash Hall

    918 NW 5th Avenue
    During the 1930s, 40s and early 1950s, Lincoln High School held proms and football victory dances on the second floor of Wabash Hall. On the ground floor, sisters Elzora Gill and Fannie Glover and their husbands operated the Glover and Gill Grocery. The 1932 sign can still be seen on the façade of the two-story brick building, a landmark in Gainesville’s Fifth Avenue neighborhood. (352) 334-5064.

    Hawthorne

    Hawthorne Historical Museum and Cultural Center

    7225 SE 221st Street
    Established in 1907 as home to the New Hope Methodist Church, one of Hawthorne’s oldest black congregations, the building was transplanted from its original location four blocks away. Restored in 1993, the museum displays the original pulpit, pastor’s chair, several pews and many other artifacts. (352) 481-4491.

    Waldo

    Waldo Cemetery

    U.S. Highway 301, a mile north of the center of town
    Pioneer African American families are buried in the town’s black cemetery. Henry Hill, the first black fireman in the City of Waldo, was laid to rest here, as are veterans from the Civil War. (352) 334-5064.

    Adapted from Florida Black Heritage Trail, published by the Florida Department of State, in partnership with VISIT FLORIDA, copyright 2007. For more information on African American sites, please visit dos.myflorida.com.

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