The Small Town with a Big Heart
The best-kept secret in Alachua County is the small town of Hawthorne and its outlying areas. People come here to escape the fast-paced lifestyle of South Florida and other metropolitan areas, but people had already been coming here for over 150 years to enjoy the lakes and simple lifestyle. In this town of about 1600 people there are historic homes and structures, which tell the story of the small town with a big heart.
One of the early settlers, W. S. Moore, started a hunting lodge in 1883 (now Hawthorne Apartments), and it still stands today looking exactly like it did at the turn of the 20th Century. Also located on Johnson Street (SE 221st) is the Hawthorne Museum and Cultural Center. Visitors are often amazed that this 1907 building (former New Hope Methodist Church) has such a large collection of artifacts that tell the story of this small town. Docents from the Hawthorne Area Historical Society open it on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. The exhibits of railroad memorabilia and many other artifacts tell the stories of family histories and Hawthorne’s history, including the turpentine gathering that was important here.
Nature and preservation are important to many in Hawthorne, and in the past year the City of Hawthorne has partnered with the Putnam Land Conservancy to establish the Little Orange Creek Nature Park. This magnificent center located just 1.3 miles east of Hawthorne on State Road 20 will focus on conservation, education and cultural events. The 1300-acre park includes the historic Morrison’s Mill, the original founding site of Hawthorne (circa 1850). The park is a protected natural wildlife corridor and will also feature interpretive displays with hiking and biking trails.
The Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail State Park has a trailhead in Hawthorne and it brings cyclists from all over Florida to experience the beauty of the wooded and scenic trail to Gainesville. Biking and skating are popular activities on this 16-mile paved bike path.
Story presented by Hawthorne resident Bonita Dewiliby-Moore