Friday, 5 March 2010

Micanopy a Small Town in Florida

This is the oldest inland settlement in Florida and was discovered by the Spanish in the 17th century then in 1774 the American naturalist, William Bartram, discovered a Seminole Indian Village. Soon after Florida became a US territory in 1821 a settlement was established here and Edward M. Wanton was hired to promote it. In 1823 Moses Elias Levy established a trading post called Wanton, after the first post office established in the County in 1826, not for its proclivities! The name was changed in 1834 to Micanopy after a Seminole Indian Chief.

To visit Micanopy is to step into a serene corner of Florida. With its antique shops, the oak trees dripping Spanish moss and giving plenty of shade, it is a delight to stroll and browse. As well as antiques the shops also offer collectibles.
There is a small Museum which is in what was originally the Thrasher Warehouse. The warehouse was built in about 1890 and was a stop for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad until the 1950s. It was used to store farm equipment, hardware, lumber and supplies.

Across from the museum is the Herlong Mansion which looks like a typical “Deep South” plantation house complete with balconies and pillars and set in a lovely garden. Originally it was a simple two-storey “cracker style” farmhouse built in about 1845 by the Simonton family who were some of the original settlers in Micanopy.
In 1910 Natalie Simonton married Zeddy Clarence Herlong. He was a prosperous entrepreneur and rich enough to remodel the original house into the present day Greek Revival mansion. Although the outside of the house looks like a model for “Tara”, inside it is of the Arts and Crafts style with leaded-glass windows, wood panelling and beautifully patterned floors in various woods.

When Natalie died in 1950 she left the house to her children but their father was to be allowed to live there until his death which occurred ten years later. The house fell into disrepair, none of which was helped by the ensuing eighteen year family feud until Inez Herlong Miller inherited her husband’s estate and was able to buy out her brothers and sisters. The money also allowed her to restore the house to its former beauty. Inez was a diabetic and at sixty-eight was found in a coma in her old childhood room. She died a month later.

It is a rumoured that her ghost is in the house.

Her son inherited the house but let it fall into disrepair until, in 1986, it was purchased and converted into a bed and breakfast. In 1990 a local businessman bought and restored it, including the attic and the cottages.

Visitors frequently feel that they already know Micanopy. That may be because they have seen it in films. It has been the backdrop for films such as “Doc Hollywood” (Michael J. Fox, Woody Harrelson, David Ogden Stiers, Bridget Fonda), and “Cross Creek” (Mary Steenburgen, Peter Coyote, Rip Torn).

Incidentally, I never did see the ghost!

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