In 1958 prominent New York architect-turned-naturalist Henry L. Beadel repurposed his 2,400-acre Tall Timbers hunting plantation into an ecological preserve to conduct conservation studies on the estate’s vegetation and wildlife. Sixty years later, Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy is Florida and Georgia’s largest regional land trust, holding more than 125,000 acres through conservation easements.
With the acquisition of the Livingston family’s 9,100-acre Dixie Plantation near Monticello, Bill Palmer, Tall Timbers president/CEO, stated, “It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand on our research and conservation efforts in the Red Hills.”
Having recently completed Phase I and Phase II for the John Russell Pope-designed Main House funded by private/corporate funds as well as matching grants from the Florida Department of State Category Grants, Tall Timbers has repaired and reconditioned the house’s structural and exterior elements and installed cooling and heating systems, as well as commenced with furnishing the house.
Phase III will address life-safety issues, restore the historic interior rooms, upgrade the numerous bathrooms, and equip the kitchen with commercial catering facilities. In addition, TTRL is planning to bring back the original gardens designed by noted New York landscape architect Robert Ludlow Fowler Jr. Once Tall Timbers completes the makeover, Pope and Ludlow’s work will share the spotlight as one of Florida’s significant cultural attractions.
Almost a decade ago on The New York Social Diary I posted New York in the Old South: The Gerald Livingstons at Dixie Plantation. The feature sketched how the Livingstons, one of New York’s most legendary families, settled in the Red Hills along with Standard Oil swells and Fifth Avenue denizens. Most surprisingly, I was baffled how a 14,000-square-foot Georgian-styled mansion designed by one of the nation’s most significant architects could have eluded recognition as part of Florida’s architectural and cultural history.
At a time when Florida is overrun with housing developments, shopping centers, office parks, and themed resorts, and considering coastal residents are almost entirely walled off from the ocean by condominium towers, private residences, and tourist hotels, Tall Timbers works to conserve what remains of longleaf pine forests, wetlands and waterways, and the state’s flatwoods and uplands. The Tall Timbers Research Board of Trustees officers are Tom L. Rankin, chairman, Cornelia Gerry Corbett, vice-chairman, Daphne Flowers Wood, secretary, and Dr. George W. Simmons, DVM, treasurer. Board members include:Charles M. Chapin III, Rosamond Chubb Davis, Kenneth D. Haddad, O. Mason Hawkins, Redmond Ingalls, Robert H. (Rip) Kirby, John Wesley Langdale III, Rodman R. Linn, Ph.D., Karl Miller, Ph.D., David D. Perkins, Hewitt B. Shaw, Reggie E. Thackston, Remy W. Trafelet, John Thompson, George C. Watkins, George W. Willson, and Virginia Wetherell.
The Livingstons at Palm Beach
Gerald and Eleanor Livingston, their daughters, and extended family members were longtime members of the Palm Beach winter colony. If not ensconced at the Everglades Club or The Breakers, they were likely at The Royal Poinciana Hotel. Following Gerald’s death in 1950, Eleanor, her daughters and their families, and Geraldine, came to Palm Beach for longer periods, traveling back-and-forth from their South County Road lakeside house to Dixie Plantation where they kept their horses and hunting dogs. In 1939, Gerald’s sister Mary Livingston (Mrs. Theodore) Griggs bought Earlham, first known as Otto Kahn’s Oheka I, at the corner of Sunset Avenue and the Ocean Walk, just north of The Breakers. Eleanor Livingston acquired Thatchcote, renaming it Chanticleer, at 758 South County Road.
Described both as an “English cottage” and a “Normandy farmhouse,” Chanticleer was said to be built in 1925 by two women, Countess Denise Dolfin (c.1890-1974)) and companion-artist-Philadelphia socialite Maria Kane Lawrence Wetherill. Known as a designer in Paris and New York, how/why Denise Dolfin was styled an Italian countess remains unknown. Nonetheless, she and Wetherill were credited with designing Thatchcote, living there for several years before they decamped to Greencote in Southampton where they were part of the resort’s artist’s colony. In March 1969, Thatchcote was featured on the Garden Club of Palm Beach’s house-and-garden tour.
At Dixie Plantation
The Staircase at Dixie Plantation
Beadel House at Tall Timbers Research Station
13093 Henry Beadel Drive – Tallahassee
Before visiting Dixie Plantation, I met with Juanita Whiddon, archivist for the historic Beadel House at the Tall Timbers Research Station. Today the multi-building facility is a listed cultural landscape in the National Register of Historic Places, located on 4,000 acres across Lake Iamonia from George Baker’s Horseshoe Plantation on Tallahassee-Thomasville’s Plantation Parkway. New York sportsman-architect Edward Beadel established the hunting plantation in the late 1800s, building a two-story cottage in. c. 1895. Beadel’s nephew Henry L Beadel Jr. visited the Red Hills property as a youngster, sharing his uncle’s interests in hunting and fishing. In 1919 Beadel sold the property to his nephew and wife Genevieve Dillon Beadel who eventually moving to Tall Timbers permanently. Genevieve’s brother Arthur Dillon was her husband’s partner at Dillon, McLellan & Beadel, a New York architectural firm. An ardent conservationist who developed his own theories of forestry management, Henry also became a well-known nature photographer. In 1958, Beadel left his entire estate to a foundation to further fire ecology, game bird management, vertebrate ecology, and forestry. Once a sole voice of resistance to the US Forest Services policies, Tall Timbers has become the recognized authority and advocate for the use of prescribed fires as a tool for land management. In 1990 Tall Timbers formed the Red Hills Conservation Association as a separate platform to conserve working lands used for forestry, agricultural, and recreational hunting. It has focused conservation efforts in the Red Hills region in the Tallahassee-Thomasville-Monticello triangle. Tall Timbers’ acquisition and development of Dixie Plantation increases the organization’s important role in the region’s conservation efforts.
Wakulla Springs, 2018
St, John’s Lively Café 211 North Monroe Street – Tallahassee
English Rose Café 107-7th Avenue West – Havana
From Quincy, we took a scenic 30-minute drive northwest to Havana, Florida, where better to dine at a delicious English café.
South Madison Street Thomasville, Georgia
St, John’s Lively Café 211 North Monroe Street – Tallahassee
Photography by Augustus Mayhew.
Augustus Mayhew is the author of Palm Beach-A Greater Grandeur