Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Historic Spanish Point

Sunday December 31, 2012
Site 6 Oscar Scherer State Park
Osprey Florida
Hi 70  Low 46


Exploring Osprey’s Past

Today promised to be bright sunny and warm so we use our ‘Rain Checks’ to return to Historic Spanish Point and wander around.

This 30 acre site has an interesting past from pre-history up to 1980 when it was opened to the public.

What a gorgeous location.  This point was home to Pre-Columbian peoples for over 5000 years.  Later owners built their houses on the shell mounds left by these people and there is a unique archaeological exhibition located inside one of the middens.



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There are two shell mounds and a burial mound all of which have been excavated.  In the burial mound human bones and ceremonial objects were placed on the mound and then covered with sand.  The layers of burials built the mound. An exhibit entitled “A Window to the Past” tells the story of the Pre-Columbian peoples.    It is housed inside one of the shell middens which was cut into in the 30’s to make a garage for someone’s car.  Can you believe it???


At this exhibit, we are  actually inside the shell midden.


It was quite difficult to take pictures inside due to the lights and reflection from the exhibits on the glass.   But you can see tools and jewelry in the layers of shells.  There is an interesting DVD on the archeology of the site which plays on the screen you see hanging from the ceiling.



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We found this rope making exhibit particularly interesting.  Rope made from different palm barks and leaf fiber.  Very ingenious and tedious I imagine.  Everyone had to be pretty clever back then it seems.  Now I just buy the things the clever people invent.  Although in former years I was a quilter, a canner, a gardener, a basket maker, a chair caner, and all around general homesteader.  Wears me out now just to type it.


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Over 800 years later the Webbs show up.

Apparently the site was abandoned shortly after 1000 AD.  Or at least there were no consistent residences there until John and Eliza Webb came with their 5 children in 1867 looking for a homestead.  

Over the next 40 years the family farmed more than 10 acres of this site shipping their crops, citrus, sugar cane and vegetables, to market in Cedar Key and Key West on their own schooners built on the property.


The paths through the site are made entirely of shell and are shaded and lovely.  Some were narrow and others wide, clearly formerly used as roads by the residents.

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We visited the darling little Mary’s Chapel and beside it the graveyard where many members of the Webb Family are buried.   These days the chapel does a brisk business in weddings and I can see why.  As long as what you desire is something very small and intimate.

There was what appeared to be a small art class painting the chapel at the time we visited.  They are standing in front of the iron fenced grave yard.

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All of the buildings, including the chapel were decorated for Christmas.

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Mary’s Chapel is right on the shore of Little Sarasota Bay.

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The Webb's major business was their orchard and the packing and shipping of its fruits. 

The restoration done on this building is fabulous.  Right down to the sizer in the front of the first picture below.  They roll the oranges down a graduated shoot and the smaller ones drop through the top of the shoot into the wooden shipping bins,  medium size drop through the middle and larger near the bottom of the shoot.   Really cool I think.


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The citrus was shipped right outside the large door in the first picture above from this  dock.

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I’d love to make one of these oyster shell wreaths. 

Unfortunately there is not a place in Winnona to store it or even to display it.  But I really think it is lovely


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White Shell Cottage is one of the homes built on the Shell Midden.

On down the road and the shoreline from the packing shed is White cottage.  Originally built by Jack Webb in 1884 it became the dormitory in the 1890’s for Webb’s Winter Resort which came about as former neighbors and friends came to visit during the winters.  He charged $35 a month for room and board.


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I especially like the beautiful sun room and the view from the house.

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I’m head over heels for this house….if it weren’t for Winnona.  Well and some other minor issues.


John Webb deeded 20 acres of his land to his daughter Lizzie and her husband Frank Guptill.  Frank hand crafted their house in 1901.  It reminds David and I so much of Greenfield Mountain Farm.  It is the same era and we had it furnished in period pieces.


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No morning commute for Frank.


This is the view from the porch.  Frank’s boat building shop is to the right.  He worked in his own front yard making, with one of his brother’s in law, the ships used to take the Webb’s goods to market.  Frank had been a seaman in Maine before moving to Florida.

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I could stay right here soaking in that view for hours.

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The drive circle lined with beautiful old live oaks and the rear of the house.


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On the rear porch looking toward the separate kitchen building on the left.  The workmanship on the house is very fine.

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The last owners of this point were Mrs. Potter Palmer and her family.

In 1910, Mrs. Potter Palmer of Chicago relocated to the area after the death of her real estate magnate husband.  It is said his estate was $8M.  In 1910!  Bertha purchased a great deal of land in the still small town of Sarasota including all of the Webb property building herself a grand home which is no longer standing.  She used the Webb homes as cottages for her guests.  The main things left from Mrs. Palmer’s tenure are the gardens.  


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Here are some examples of her “Gilded Age” landscaping.  An aqueduct, a fern walk, a butterfly garden, a “jungle” walk and the sunken garden and pergola.    This post is obviously getting WAY out of hand so I’ll speed it up and finish with pictures of some of these. 


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The aqueduct and its water flowing over a seashell cascade.


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Mrs. Palmer’s heirs donated these 30 acres of her Estate to Gulf Coast Heritage Association in 1980.  They had previously donated her ranch lands which became Myakka River State Park.  If you take the Ranch House road hike there, you’ll learn about Mrs Palmer’s daily hands on  involvement in her cattle ranch.  There as here, she held a tight reign.


There is even  more to see at Spanish Point than I’ve shown here. 

It is very worth visiting when you are in the area.   Their web page, there often has discount coupons for entry.



Thanks for bearing with me through all of this. 

It was a great day but I’m sorry this blog was so long and so full of too many but only a fraction of the pictures I took.  

Tomorrow is our last day here at Oscar Scherer.  On Wednesday we head to Kissimmee Prairie State Park.  A very different landscape for sure.


  1. It sounded very much like you were talking about your home in VA!! See you on the porch rocker made me think you were home;o))

    Lovely day in a lovely place...

  2. Loved the Oak Tree with the moss. So would one of the minor details for living in the house be the cost of purchase??? I can well imagine! I am amazed at how different each stop all the way is of your journey. I look forward to each days sights.

  3. That oyster shell wreath is really interesting. Incredible view from that front porch!

  4. Definitely not too long. Very interesting place filled with history and all those beautiful gardens. Safe travels to the new site and please share some more.

  5. This just got added to our must see places list. Thanks for the tour.

  6. Never too long, Sherry... love all the pictures - I feel the same way about my stuff sometimes too but jeeez it's hard to pick and choose when you see so much beautiful stuff!

    That oyser wreath? look like the oysters are still in the shell ... very pretty. Love those green paths ...

  7. Lovely place! There seem to be so many interesting things to see & do in Florida :)

  8. That was really beautiful!! Loved those houses... that wreath was wonderful!!

  9. A lovely visit ... thanks for taking us along. Someday -- when/if we settle down -- I want a screened-in sunroom.

  10. Really neat place to visit. Another great Florida place we have never visited. It's on the list now!

  11. You must have super internet to be able to make a post with so many pictures in it. I'm not complaining, just jealous. Your visit was certainly worth using that rain check!

  12. Beautiful home and I loved the oyster shell wreath too. Some crafters are so imaginative!

  13. Loving to see your perspective of Flordia....such wonderful hideouts you have been finding! Keep'em coming....

  14. I could feel your enthusiasm for this place coming through all the great photos and heartfelt connections to the farmhouse. I am sad to learn you are moving east just when we arrived to the Gulf Coast in the Sarasota area. We will definitely plan a day at Historic Spanish Point while we are here.

  15. So glad you shared Spanish Point. I've been trying to decide whether or not to go there, and after reading the blog, it's a YES! Looks beautiful! And you are a talented lady with all those things you used to do. My kind of person, a crafty crafter! :-)

  16. Sorry I missed that! I would have loved the house too and the grounds - wonder what happened to Mrs. Palmer's mansion - did Mrs. Palmer have a name besides being her husband's Mrs.?? What a pretty place - from the house, to the gardens, to the chapel, to the views. Wow!


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