Fort De Soto – Quartermaster Storehouse Museum

Fort De Soto Park, the largest park in the Pinellas County park system, is located in Tierra Verde (FL) at the mouth of Tampa Bay on the Gulf of Mexico and consists of 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands (keys).

The largest island is Mullet Key, where the Quartermaster Storehouse Museum is located.

Battery Laidley was the primary defense and Battery Bigelow was the secondary defense for Fort De Soto. Even though Battery Bigelow was destroyed during the hurricane of 1921, the Fort De Soto batteries were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Visitors can walk through Battery Laidley, home to the last four surviving carriage-mounted 12-inch seacoast mortars in the continental United States.

In the 1990s, historical interpretation was provided to park visitors with the creation of the display room, room descriptions, and a history booklet, about Battery Laidley. Visitors thought the battery comprised the entire post, not realizing that there were 29 wooden buildings and structures as part of the former military post. Construction of the Fort De Soto gun batteries and various post buildings began in 1898 and continued through 1907. The Quartermaster Storehouse building was originally built as a Post Exchange. The army post remained active until 1910. A caretaking detachment was left in charge of the post. During the 1920s and 1930s, hurricanes hit the area, damaging the buildings. The post buildings were sold for salvage and torn down in 1939.

With the reconstruction of the post’s brick roads and cornerstones of the post buildings in the mid-1990s, the historical trail leads park visitors from Battery Laidley to the locations of former post buildings. Park staff, volunteers, and visitors discussed the reconstruction of one or more of these buildings. The concept became a reality in 1999 when the Friends of Fort De Soto, Inc., a citizen support organization, applied for and received a matching grant from the state Historical Museums Grants-in-Aid Program for museum exhibits.

Using historical photographs, Army engineering condition reports, and government documents, the architect worked diligently to duplicate the size, scale, and massing of the original Quartermaster Storehouse building. The reconstructed 833-square-foot wooden building was built entirely by park staff. The head carpenter acted as the site contractor and the park’s mason laid the brick footers. Employees worked to install the cedar shakes on the roof, while others painted the exterior of the building.

At first glimpse, inside the museum, visitors see the post’s quartermaster surrounded by supplies he would have issued to the soldiers. Wall panels reveal the earliest history from the 16th century when Spanish conquistadors encountered the Tocobaga Indians in the Tampa Bay area and several panels on the Spanish-American War and its impact on the Tampa Bay area.

The wall panels are complemented by a touch-screen computer program with information, images, narration, and historical film clips. Visitors can learn about the earliest area history to present day information on the Friends of Fort De Soto, nature trails, and other park features. Three display cases contain Spanish-American War items, recovered artifacts from the park, and World War II military history, including an original practice bomb from the Mullet Key Bombing Range that was found in the park. A porch scene provides a glimpse of daily life with a woman’s dress, a deck of playing cards, a rattlesnake skin, and other items from the early 1900s period. The largest wall panel is a combination of three photographs showing the post buildings. Since most park visitors are unfamiliar with the army’s coast artillery corps, one wall panel provides the history, photographs of soldiers in uniform, and contains patches and pins. The museum officially opened on Veteran’s Day – November 11, 2000.

With this historical addition to Fort De Soto Park, the County hopes to spotlight the historical significance that Fort De Soto played in the history of the United States.

Fort De Soto Park’s Quartermaster Storehouse Museum project received a meritorious award in the category of non-residential restoration/rehabilitation from The Florida Trust for Historic Preservation during the 2001 Annual Statewide Preservation awards program held in Jacksonville on May 19, 2001.

A place of historical significance . . . in Paradise Found!

ABOUT FORT DE SOTO PARK:

The Park is home to beach plants, mangroves, wetlands, palm hammocks, hardwoods and scores of native plants. Each of these species plays a vital role in the preservation and protection of the natural environment.

Whether you are sitting on the beach or kayaking near the still water’s edge at Fort De Soto, you find yourself absorbed in the abundance of natural beauty for as far as the eye can see. The complexity of the ecology is not immediately apparent, but the park offers the greatest diversity of systems just about anywhere. Emerging from the wealth of bird life, sea life, wild life and plant life is the majestic tapestry called Fort De Soto.

Another amazing example of the importance of the park’s natural ecosystems is the more than 290 species of birds that have been documented by ornithologists. The beach also provides refuge to the loggerhead sea turtle, which nests between April and September.

Fort De Soto was named America’s Top Beach for 2009-10 by TripAdvisor, the world’s largest online travel community. In 2005, “Dr. Beach,” named Fort De Soto the nation’s #1 Beach.  Annual park attendance averages more than 2.7 million visitors.  Click here to learn more about upcoming Fort De Soto Park events.

Fort De Soto Park
3500 Pinellas Bayway S., Tierra Verde, FL 33715
Park Office (727) 552-1862
Automated Information Message: (727) 582-2267

FREE ADMISSION! (Donations accepted.)

CREDITS:  www.PinellasCounty.org.  4/24/11.

Florida Botanical Gardens

gardenia1Discover How Florida Grows Everyday!

At The Florida Botanical Gardens!

With spring approaching, Pinellas County gardeners are getting ready for a riot of colorful blooms, including Bougainvillea, Hibiscus, Jasmine, Magnolia, and Oleander, to name a few.  There’s even an array of flowering plants with a uniquely Florida “beach” theme at this time of year . . . including Beach Sunflower, Coral Creeper, Coral Honeysuckle, Shell Flower, and Shrimp Plant!

The Florida Botanical Gardens inspires and educate visitors by showcasing flora, fauna and natural resources in surroundings that promote environmentally friendly techniques.  With over 30 acres of cultivated gardens and 90 acres of natural areas, the Florida Botanical Gardens are a unique local treasure.

The Gardens beautiful outdoor classroom is the perfect place to learn about plants, animals and responsible gardening.

Discover Florida’s wildlife, habitats and why our natural areas are so important.

Home gardeners, as well as flower and plant enthusiasts, will want to visit the Seasonal Garden Display.  These beds are created to show off the best flowering annuals for use in Florida gardens. Plantings are changed three times a year.  This area is a great place to see what’s growing (and what to plant) at this time of year!

For family fun, riddle me this . . . What is yellow and green and fun all over?

The Children’s Trail at Florida Botanical Gardens, of course!

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Follow Flora on this Trail Just for Kids!

Flora will show you weird and wonderful things as you explore the Florida Botanical Gardens.

With the aid of a map (available for download on the Garden’s website or at the Garden’s Welcome Center), start at the Butterfly Garden, hike over to the boardwalk Tree Station, and scan for wildlife with the binoculars near the pond. Then stroll through the Fruit Garden, while the Garden’s mascot, Flora, teaches fun facts about Florida fruits. It is fun for kids of all ages! 

You may wish to visit the Garden’s neighbor, Heritage Village, where you will find a fascinating collection of historical buildings lovingly restored to their original condition with fascinating interpretation including a host of knowledgeable docents to help you understand the buildings you enjoy.

Shopping is made easy at the Botanical Bounty Gift Shop. The shelves are “blooming” with gift ideas to accommodate the wishes of friends and family.

Visit Florida Botanical Gardens website and click on the Seasonal Guide to discover what is blooming in Pinellas County right now!

Many of the website’s featured plants can be found in Pinellas County’s parks and preserves, as well as in backyard gardens!  In addition to the seasonal guide chart, you can find tips and fact sheets on the care and maintenance of popular garden plants from the Pinellas County Extension.

Bring the family and spend a day. The Florida Botanical Gardens are open every day of the year and admission is free!

Discover Paradise in Pinellas County . . . we refer to it as Paradise Found!

Open daily from 7A to 7P.

Located at 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo, FL 33774.

Website:  http://www.flbg.org

For information call:  1+ 727-582-2100

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CREDITS: Images and content provided courtesy of The Florida Botanical Gardens.  Florida Botanical Gardens is part of the Pinellas County Cultural, Education & Leisure Department. www.flbg.org.  February, 2011.

Sunken Gardens

sunkengardensMany of Florida’s once famous tourist destinations have disappeared. Fortunately, Sunken Gardens near downtown St. Petersburg has been preserved. A historical treasure, Sunken Gardens is one of few remaining examples of a typical 1930s Florida attraction. The park is a botanical wonder with more than 50,000 tropical plants, trees and flowers.

sunken_gardens_2Great Explorations, the popular children’s hands-on museum, has recently taken up residence in the Mediterranean Revival building next door. But the main draw will always be the bromeliads, orchids, hibiscus, water lilies, royal palms and bougainvilleas, the waterfalls, flamingoes and butterfly garden, the peaceful green beauty this urban oasis provides to visitors from around the world. The amazing size of many of the specimens is a testament to the age of the attraction, where most of the plants originally were planted over 100 years ago!

sunken_gardens_3Considered one of the finest botanical gardens in the United States, Sunken Gardens is historic, exotic, tropical, and lush … and it’s only in Pinellas.

Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

grandprix_5Once a year street racing becomes legal in downtown St. Petersburg. Well, at least for some. In April of each year many of the walkable and pleasantly urban streets of downtown St. Petersburg become an Indy Car race track. The twists and turns and sharp corners became the first non-oval track where the super-fast monster racers made famous at the Indianapolis 500 compete.

grandprix_6Actually, the Indy Car Race is only one day of a three-day event. The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is a unique city speed-fest. Indy “Lights” and four classes of American LeMans cars also compete. If racing is not your thing, concerts, air shows, and kids’ activities abound. The annual event is scheduled for April since that’s prime time for perfect weather in Florida.

For the excitement and drama of city street racing you’ll need to come to the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and you’ll find that only in Pinellas.

The Pinellas Trail

pinellas_trail_4Built along a former railroad track, the Pinellas Trail offers a respite from traffic congestion, and a way to walk, bike, jog or rollerblade from one end of the county to the other. Extending from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg, a total of 47 miles and with a delightful spur to Honeymoon Island by Dunedin, this paved trail traverses woodlands and urban neighborhoods, passes quiet waterways and groves of live oaks, winds through quaint downtowns and alongside pristine beach preserves.

pinellas_trail_0Take the scenic route from one end of Pinellas County to the other – and leave the car at home. A super training ground for athletes, the trail is also family-friendly, elder-friendly and wheelchair-accessible. It is as enjoyable to stroll a mile or so along this green corridor as it is to bike the length of it. An abundance of parks, cafes and other pleasant rest stops makes the Pinellas Trail an active destination that appeals to just about everyone.

In fact, it’s Florida’s most popular recreational trail.  And, it’s only in Pinellas.

Island Time

egmont1While many of Pinellas County’s communities are, indeed, islands, sometimes you just want to get away to another kind of island. Fortunately, you don’t have to go far: several island experiences are available to you without having to leave the county.

Egmont Key, at the mouth of Tampa Bay, is a wildlife refuge that also happens to be on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to its 150-year old lighthouse and remains of Fort Dade, a relic of the Spanish-American War. A visit there is a step back in time.

Caladesi Island State Park, designated as the 2008 #1 Beach in the U.S., is only accessible by boat – your own, or by taking the ferry with hourly departure. It is one of the few remaining all-natural islands on the west coast of Florida where you can swim, hike, fish, study or just loll on a pristine beach. Explore the mangrove-covered kayak trail. Spot a gopher tortoise. This is the way Florida looked a century ago.

Honeymoon Island is an island, but you can walk or drive there via a causeway from Dunedin. The natural preserve is known for its bird watching – it’s a rookery for eagles and ospreys. Gulf currents deposit a huge variety of seashells on the island’s newly re-nourished beaches, making the island a paradise for shell collectors.

Getting away for a little island time doesn’t require a plane ticket.  For the lucky ones who live here, island time is only minutes away.

honeymoon

Fort De Soto

fortdesoto2Locals have always known that Fort De Soto Park has one of the top beaches in the world and it’s right here in our own back yard. Experts and travelers from around the world agree.

In fact, in 2005 famous beach preservationist Dr. Stephen Leatherman named Fort De Soto North America’s number one beach. For two of the last three years, the world’s largest online travel community Trip Advisor has named Fort De Soto America’s Top Beach. Some 2.7 million visitors come every year to relax in this tranquil, breathtakingly lovely place.

fortdesoto3Fort De Soto Beach is located in Fort De Soto Park, Pinellas County’s largest park, with 1,136 acres spread across five interconnected islands. The 12-inch mortar battery, located at the fort for which the park was named, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, making the place a magnet to history buffs.

In Ft. De Soto Park nature is the real star with over 7 miles of waterfront, including almost three miles of the finest white sand beach in the United States. Visitors from near and far come to launch a boat or kayak, pitch a tent, throw a line in the water or hike the recreation trail. This is one of the few beaches in Florida where you can camp overnight, and fall to sleep to the sound of waves lapping the shore and wind rustling the palms.

Fort De Soto Park is one of the most incredible natural environments in the state, and probably the country.  And it’s only in Pinellas.

Epiphany Day Celebration

epiphany1A year of good luck and blessings. That’s what’s at stake for the over 50 Greek Orthodox teens who dive into the chilly waters of Spring Bayou in Tarpon Springs on January 6 every year.  Each young man hopes to be the one who retrieves the cross tossed into the water by the Bishop, thus securing a blessing for himself and his church. The crowds – numbering in the tens of thousands – cheer as one youth surfaces triumphantly, cross in hand.  And the celebration begins!

The celebration engages the entire community. Local schools and businesses close so that families can join in this annual festival, beginning with a prayer for calm seas, a blessing of the waters, followed by singing, dancing and very fine Greek food. All are welcome, and celebrants come from all over the country and beyond.

For more than 100 years, Epiphany Day has been the most important celebration day in the town of  Tarpon Springs. It is a holiday rich in symbolism and beauty, steeped in the traditions of the church as well as the original Greek divers who brought their strong island and maritime heritage to Tarpon Springs.

Tarpon Springs’ Epiphany Day celebration is the largest in the Western hemisphere. And, it’s only in Pinellas.

Clearwater Jazz Holiday

clearwaterjazzholidayNew Orleans has its Jazz Fest. Montreux has its Jazz Festival. In NYC, it’s the JVC. In Pinellas County we gather for our own world-class musical celebration held every October at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday in the city’s downtown area.

What started as a 10-day series of jazz concerts staged from the back of a flatbed truck has evolved into a major regional jazz festival. For three decades now, the Clearwater Jazz Holiday has brought together some of the greatest jazz talents in the world in front of a large and appreciative crowd of fans. And there’s been a lot to appreciate.

clearwaterjazzholiday2Through the years the Clearwater Jazz Holiday stage has been graced by legends: Herbie Mann, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Woody Herman and the Count Basie Orchestra only to name a few. The festival has also showcased contemporary jazz stars such as Jean-Luc Ponty, Bela Fleck, Buckwheat Zydeco, Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Natalie Cole and many more.

Against the backdrop of the Gulf of Mexico, intense sunsets vie with the music for your attention. Most spectacular of all, the event is free to the public. The Clearwater Jazz Holiday is no doubt one of the most magical musical events in the world. And, it’s only in Pinellas.