|by Augustus Mayhew
For more than a century, the rustic Tallahassee-Monticello-Thomasville terrain, known as the “Quail Capital of the World,” has been the cultural vortex for the customs and constructs of antebellum plantation life that once defined the Old South's allure, with many of its traditions still evident today as illustrated by available historical images, the area’s house museums and private landholdings.
|Udo M. Fleischmann, a New York banker and sportsman, seen at a Red Hills field trial, amassed a vast plantation near Tallahassee, where his sister and her husband, the Alfred B. Maclays, had a plantation, Killearn, today known as Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park.||Mrs. Henry Ludlow Beadle at Tall Timbers Plantation.|
|By the time Gilded Age Northerners, Park Avenue swells and Standard Oil titans among them, bought nearly 100 cotton plantations and converted them into game preserves, more than 300,000 acres of Red Hills pineland had been secured exclusively as quail habitats for the three-month winter hunting season. Silk-stocking tycoons became double-barreled sportsmen, as South Georgia and North Florida became the Long Island kennel clique's preferred setting for fashionable bird-shoot parties and elegant field lunches.|
|Proper attire for the hunt.||Shotgun at the ready.|
|And yes, there are the Palm Beach connections. Pebble Hill’s principal architect, Abram Garfield, designed Casa Apava on South Ocean Boulevard for Chester Bolton; the Great Room’s murals were created by J. Clinton Shepherd, a longtime Palm Beach artist who served as the first director of the Norton School of Art. The images of the Seminole Indian mural at Honey Lake are believed to be the first published photographs of Shepherd’s work created more than a half-century ago. Lyndhurst’s owners, Dr. and Mrs. William Bippus, were Palm Beach residents, Everglades Club and B&T Club members as well, who lived in the North End before moving to their antebellum plantation near Monticello.
Here is a glimpse of plantation life’s past, portrayed by photographs from the Florida Photographic Collection at the State of Florida Archives, and its existence today, as depicted by my visits to Goodwood and Pebble Hill plantations, now house museums and gardens, and Honey Lake and Lyndhurst, two privately-owned plantations. Many remain off limits, such as Greentree Plantation, the former John Hay Whitney property deeded to the Nature Conservancy. Each place has its own architectural and historical perspective.
|Goodwood Plantation, Tallahassee|
|Although Goodwood Plantation’s main house was originally built during the mid-19th century, its existing façade and improvements were the work of Mrs. Alexander Tiers, an avid quail hunter who bought the property in 1911 and proceeded to modernize it. For the next twenty-five years, Mrs. Tiers left Farmlands, her New Jersey estate, and opened Goodwood for the winter, as she was kin to the Udo Fleischmann family, whose plantation was adjacent to Goodwood. Refurbishing but keeping the formal center-hall interior floor plan, she added electricity, indoor plumbing, installed the area’s first swimming pool and built several cottages, making for much of what visitors experience today. After several owners, with most of the property’s extensive landholdings supplanted by subdivisions, in 1990 the Goodwood Museum and Gardens was organized to assume stewardship for the property, thus its transformation into a house museum.|
|The original staircase at Goodwood.|
|The parlor set for a séance or a late morning sunbath.|
|Never too many candlesticks.||Dinner for eight.|
|The same view in October 2009, an idyllic spot for meditative reflection.|
|Pebble Hill Plantation, Thomasville|
|In the 1950s, Elizabeth “Pansy” Ireland Poe established the Pebble Hill Foundation so that after her death the 3,000-acre plantation her grandfather, Howard Melville Hanna, first bought in 1896, would be maintained as a museum. First opened to the public in 1983, the house was furnished with a century of Hanna family furnishings and collections.
Kate, and her husband, Robert Livingston Ireland, lived at 740 Park, their lives chronicled in Michael Gross’ bestseller, 740 Park Avenue, and worked with Abram Garfield, a Cleveland architect and son of President James Garfield, to design new additions, especially after the 1934 fire that destroyed the 1850 antebellum part of the Main House.
The loggia wing, previously added in 1914, was saved from the fire and was included in the plans for the new house. Constructed in 18 month, the new house was finished a few months before Kate Ireland died tragically in 1936. Pansy’s brother, Robert Livingston Ireland, Jr. was also an avid sportsman, who co-owned two nearby quail hunting sanctuaries, Ring Oak Plantation and Forshala Plantation, the one-time Harry Payne Whitney property.
After seeing artist J. Clinton Shepherd’s Everglades mural at the US Sugar Company-owned Clewiston Inn, Pansy Poe commissioned the Palm Beach artist to cover the walls of the Great Room and the Indian Room with murals representing the wildlife and the Native American life found in the surrounding habitats.
|A view from the garden of the west elevation's Palladian window.||The loggia hall connecting the central pavilion with the Indian Room and the Great Room, rebuilt after a 1930s fire destroyed much of the antebellum Main House.|
|In addition to the family's Pebble Hill Plantation located along the scenic Plantation Parkway linking Monticello and Tallahassee, the family owned Honey Lake Plantation, a 3,600-acre hunting preserve with a 70-acre lake and a small day house adjacent to the Gerald Livingston’s Dixie Plantation.
Honey Lake Plantation, Greenville
|Set amidst stands of southern pines on the shore of Honey Lake, the boathouse-cottage was built by Pansy Ireland Poe, as a day house for hunters, located east of Monticello and about a 30-minute drive from Thomasville. Here, Mrs. Poe again commissioned J. Clinton Shepherd to design the decorative art work. Shepherd created an approx. 40-foot mural along the boathouse’s back wall. Nearly, sixty years later, the mural is one of Florida’s mid-century aesthetic treasures.|
|Northwest corner panels.||The northeast corner panel.|
|Lyndhurst Plantation, Greenville, Florida|
|Located south of Honey Lake Plantation, Lyndhurst Plantation is known as the only Jefferson County plantation with its original house that has been in continual use since its construction. It is one of the area’s only remaining authentic Greek Revival antebellum houses, constructed of hand-made bricks with a wood-frame upper floor. Completed in c. 1850 with a large central hall flanked by two rooms on each side, each room measures 25-by-25 feet with 18-foot ceilings.
Surrounded by a stable, corn crib, tobacco barn and other outbuildings, Lyndhurst was owned by the Bailey family and their descendants until 1965 when the 3,500-acre plantation was bought by Palm Beach residents, Dr. and Mrs. William Bippus. The late Mrs. Bippus was the former Myrtle Henry, of Monticello, a descendant of Florida's first elected governor, William Mosley. Having moved from West Virginia to Palm Beach in 1939, Dr. Bippus was a popular surgeon at the area’s hospitals. After selling their 748 Hi-Mount Road house to builder Robert Gottfried, who built his own home on the site, Dr. and Mrs. Bippus moved permanently to Lyndhurst in 1980.
|The portico.||A few steps and into the center entrance hall.|
|If you go:
1600 Miccosukee Road
Pebble Hill Plantation
1251 Plantation Parkway
US 319 South
|Photographs by Augustus Mayhew. Historic photographs courtesy of the Florida Photographic Collection at the State Archives of Florida.|