Gainesville and Alachua County are fortunate to have two historic state parks, the home of the writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in Cross Creek and the pre-Civil War era Dudley Farm, just outside Newberry.
Rawlings, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her book The Yearling in 1939, found her writer’s voice in the rural hamlet of Cross Creek that lies between Orange Lake and Lake Lochloosa in southeastern Alachua County. Visitors to the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park can step back in time through guided tours of her home, which has been lovingly restored and is preserved as it was when Rawlings lived there in the 1930s. Visitors will enjoy the farmstead’s chickens, the shade of the rebuilt barn, and the chance to explore a real Florida orange grove and the replica of the house where the hired help lived.
Dudley Farm Historic State Park has been called the best-documented pioneer farm in America. On the National Register of Historic Places, Dudley was farmed by the same family from the 1850s until the 1990s. The farm features heritage varieties of livestock and crops, with planting, harvesting, and cane grinding all still performed in traditional ways with mules and hand labor. Visitors can tour the homestead’s 18 buildings including the farmhouse with original furnishings, an 1880s kitchen, a general store and post office, and a cane syrup complex. A visitors’ center and nature trail enliven the visitor’s experience.
Florida’s rich, fertile history is reflected throughout Alachua County. The naturalist William Bartram visited our area in the 1770s and wrote about it in his book, Travels. Bartram’s exploration of sites such as Paynes Prairie, once home to Timucuan tribes and then to a Spanish cattle ranch, can be retraced through the use of guidebooks.
Micanopy, south of Gainesville, is the oldest inland city in Florida. Newnan’s Lake, just east of Gainesville, is the site of the discovery of the largest number of prehistoric dugout canoes ever found. Bellamy Road, which once connected St. Augustine to Tallahassee, is a designated scenic road in the northern part of the county. Gainesville’s Matheson Museum and the Florida Museum of Natural History document our area’s past through exhibitions, collections, and special programs, while smaller history museums are found in outlying hamlets.
The Duck Pond area of Gainesville is the site of many beautiful historic homes, some of which are opened for an annual tour. The historic Thomas Center is home to the City of Gainesville’s Department Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. The 19th-century building at Boulware Springs Waterworks is the site of Gainesville’s first water supply facility.