Historic spots in Gainesville where time stands still
By Joe Kukura
Gainesville, Florida, occupies a unique spot as the modern-day cultural nexus of north-central Florida. But one of the neatest things about Gainesville is its array of attractions that are very specifically not modern-day. Between its many museums and restored historical households, Gainesville offers a number of must-see historical attractions that allow you to walk back in time and get a fascinating first-hand look at yesteryear. Here are just a few spots that history buffs visiting north-central Florida need to put on their itinerary.
Historic Haile Homestead
The Historic Haile Homestead provides an immersive step-back-in-time experience like no other. The talking walls of the Haile Homestead contain writings and scribblings dating back as far as 1859, both from the Haile family who lived there at the time and guests and visitors up until the 1930s. These perfectly preserved writings will give you goosebumps of historical enchantment, and tours are available Saturdays, Sundays and otherwise by request.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park
Preserved in time and restored perfectly to its 1930s condition, the former homestead of Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (The Yearling) now serves as a living monument to Florida’s Cracker era about which she wrote. This is the very household in which Rawlings wrote The Yearling and lived throughout the 1930s. The house is part of the larger Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park facility that also offers idyllic hiking trails and orange trees from which guests can pick samples.
A longtime favorite for destination weddings, the Historic Thomas Center was a luxury hotel in 1910 and still preserves its original classical Mediterranean architecture and style. The Thomas Center now serves as an art gallery, event space and cultural center with several period rooms restored and adorned in the style of eras past. Visitors are encouraged to check the Thomas Center program schedule for upcoming exhibits and events.
The most thorough trip through Florida history is available at the Matheson Museum, whose collection of artifacts, exhibits and ephemera contains items dating back more than 500 years. A very detailed look at the history of Gainesville, Alachua County and north-central Florida, the Matheson Museum complex includes Gainesville’s second-oldest residence, the Matheson House, plus the museum itself, the Tison Tool Museum of antiquated and recovered tools, and the Sweetwater Park Reserve, ideal for a Florida hike. The museum is free and open to the public, though guided tours are available only by appointment.
Micanopy Historical Society Museum
Just 12 miles south of Gainesville, you’ll find Florida’s oldest inland town of Micanopy. Founded in 1821, all of Micanopy’s rich history is on display at the Micanopy Historical Society Museum, with a collection of artifacts and historical items from the Native American and Seminole Wars era through the Civil War and the early 20th century. The historic and old-time charm of little Micanopy is highlighted by this trip through Florida’s history.
Gainesville’s attractions from days past are not to be passed up. For a real, authentic taste of the vintage era and times before, be sure to swing through Gainesville for some fascinating attractions from yesteryear.