Joseph Neil Reed, Architect in Monticello, Jefferson County, Florida

Hidden along the quiet streets of small towns in south Georgia and north Florida are forgotten treasures—unique and beautiful houses and buildings designed by the south’s great architect, Joseph Neel Reid. Atlanta and Macon Georgia boast many Reid buildings, but the tiny towns of Quitman, Georgia and Monticello, Florida have their own examples of Reid’s genius.

Built in  frame in 1838, rebuilt in brick 1852, remodeled by J.Neel Reid in 1914

Built in frame in 1838, rebuilt in brick 1852, remodeled by J.Neel Reid in 1914

Reid is described by author William R. Mitchell, Jr., as a “champion of architecture, gardens, and interior decoration, of fine arts and antiques, a leader of charm and style who helped to establish architecture and landscape architecture as professions in his region.”

A native of Alabama, Joseph Neel Reid began his career as an apprentice in Macon and Atlanta Georgia. He studied architecture at Columbia University in New York and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His first partnership included Hal Hentz of Gadsden County, Florida and G. L. Norman. Adler joined the firm after the first year. Their earliest projects included homes in Colonial Revival style with Reid’s signature classical details and Italianate touches.

Reid redesigned and rebuilt the Jefferson Academy in Monticello Florida in 1914. Built first in the 1930s in frame, the school was redone in bricks handmade by slaves in 1852. In 1914, Reid added east and west wings and integrated them into the building’s new design with the sweep of wide steps and massive neo-classical columns across the front portico. Smaller columns cross the ground level entrance at the back of the building.

Known by many residents as the old Monticello High School, this building sits high above the south side of Washington Street near Monticello’s town center. On a corner, the location offers a clear view of this perfect example of Reid’s eclecticism, a graceful mixture of Greek-Revival and neo-Georgian.

The Turnbull House was designed by Joseph Neel Reid 1918

The Turnbull House was designed by Joseph Neel Reid 1918

A few blocks down Washington Street from the old Monticello High School building is Reid’s T. T. Turnbull house with its long Italianate loggia. This home was built for a representative to Florida’s legislature who later became a representative to the United States Congress. Complete Hentz and Reid drawings for both of these buildings are housed in the Georgia Tech archives in Atlanta.

Rear View of remodeled Old Monticello High School

Rear View of remodeled Old Monticello High School



The Wonder of Small Town Shopping

I Found It campaign logo - on or T shirts, and decals for merchants to place on bags and packages

I Found It campaign logo – on Main Street T-shirts, and decals for merchants to place on bags and packages

It is amazing sometimes, what you can find to buy in a small town. Monticello has some particularly interesting examples. Take, for instance a store called “The Naked Ewe.” Well now. What do you think that means?

It is actually a yarn and related gift shop. I’m not kidding. They have yarn and thread, all you need for knitting or crocheting, and many handmade gifts. You can buy a handmade sweater, bonnet and bootees for a baby gift for a reasonable price. They even have handmade adult clothing.

The Naked Ewe is over on Cherry Street, just one block off North Jefferson (Route 19 just north of the courthouse round-about) near Dogwood Street. It sits right beside Mattco – our dance and exercise studio – peep in the window if you’re interested.

We also have a fascinating place called Huckleberry’s. That store is over on West Washington Street (Route 90, one block west of the courthouse) right beside Tupelo’s. Never heard of it? Imagine finding antiques, re-furbished and re-purposed furniture and gorgeous flowers right on the corner at Mulberry Street—the flower garden beside the store is lovely and changes all the time..

West Washington St. in Monticello FL in front of Huckleberry's.

West Washington St. in Monticello FL in front of Huckleberry’s.

If you never visited Tupelo’s you are in for a treat. They are open Tuesday through Saturday for breakfast and lunch with an occasional evening celebration with music. They serve real food beautifully prepared—they call it “slow food” because they use real organic ingredients. I am addicted to one or two of their specialties including a cinnamon roll that is beyond delicious.

That’s not all – you want interesting shopping? – Tupelo’s sells local goodies such as honey, jams and similar items, even art. They also sell bee-keeping supplies–that’s right–they have a whole room of those things.

That is only a few of the interesting shops to find in Monticello, Florida. We even have a couple of new ones in the works. Every time I check on their progress they tell me SOON. I’ll tell you about it.

Monticello’s Ecological Park

Monticello Ecological Park Committee meeting on the bridge

Monticello Ecological Park Committee meeting on the bridge


Located on south Water Street, at the top of the hill beyond the old school buildings, our city council purchased 26+ acres of old growth forest to give Monticello our own “urban forest.” Volunteers removed truck-loads of trash from the acreage, scoured it for invasive species and removed many—helped design trails and picnic grounds. The city found grant funding for building walks and bridges to provide access to the entire park and protect its wetlands.

Young Hawk

Young Hawk

If you haven’t visited yet, take your children or grandchildren with you, bring your Home School group. The Ecological park a great experience. You will hear or see more than 30 species of birds including turkeys, warblers, and owls. Bird watchers have certified sightings of every ordinary bird you can imagine and a few surprise visitors. Main Street and the Chamber are working to help the City get the park on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Birding groups from Tallahassee and the surrounding area are already visiting.

This child found butterflies and other interesting thing on the park trail

This child found butterflies on the park trail

A Monticello Ecological Park visit is a learning experience even for many adults but it is especially so for children. You will find signs naming trees and shrubs and signs explaining why we were so careful to protect the wetlands that actually help provide the clean, sweet water we drink right here in Monticello. I was fascinated to learn that the contractor who built the walks and bridges pushed the construction ahead of his tractor, never running a wheel into the wetlands.

There is fun in the park, not just education and exercise. You could host a luncheon on the bridge—turn left as you enter the park to find it. I attended a “brown bag” lunch hosted by Katrina and the Chamber. She placed folding tables and chairs on the bridge and we ate and discussed Monticello’s needs and our future for more than an hour.

The Park’s picnic area is used by the Boy Scouts on a regular basis, but it is open to you and any citizen. This area is to your left as you enter the park. The cleared picnic area boasts tables with benches and other things for your enjoyment. Extra parking is provided by our friends at the American Legion Post.

Go straight at the entrance and look to the left for the picnic area.

Go straight at the Park entrance and look to the left for the picnic area.

Jefferson County Florida Slave Canal

My friend Ed Green took me through wilderness of the famous Jefferson County Slave Canal in a small boat. I wanted to take pictures, and he knew I was worried about my camera and believed the boat would provide more stability for me than a canoe.

The canal was beautiful, breathtaking at times, but believe me, it was a kayaking or canoe trip, not a boat trip. Although Ed’s boat was small and light, it was too much for the obstacles encountered along the trail.

Slave Canal dug by slaves in 1850s to connect the Wacissa and Aucilla Rivers

Slave Canal dug by slaves in 1850s to connect the Wacissa and Aucilla Rivers

We slid under fallen trees, pushed over big sunken logs and made portages. Someone had done some cutting of fallen trees to open the trail, but they were obviously providing for a small canoe or Kayak not even a boat as small as ours.  I’d go back any time, but I would have to go in a kayak or a small canoe. I’ll just buy a waterproof camera so I don’t have to worry about it.

We put the boat in at Goose Pasture. The sky was brilliant blue and the clouds were mysterious snow white shapes. We had to push through heavy grass just under the surface of the water as we moved the boat along the Wacissa toward the turn to the canal. There are signs where the trail branches off, but you have to watch carefully, it would be easy to lose your way. I was thankful to be with someone who knew the turns.

Wacissa River at Goosepasture

Wacissa River at Goose Pasture


I started taking pictures immediately. Shots from the shore alone were worth visiting Goose Pasture landing. As we drifted along the river every scene we passed seemed to be waiting to be photographed. Thank goodness for a digital camera. I would have been sick under the constraints of film.

As we entered the actual Slave Canal Ed pointed out areas of Indian mounds explaining that in this area many of the mounds are very ancient, some even Paleolithic. It was very quiet. We began to see water birds and an occasional gator. There were two or three places where it would have been easy to take a wrong turn, but we managed to stay on the trail.

Great piles of stones, many probably two feet square line one part of the canal. These were piled along the waterway by the hands of men working in this humid, jungle-like environment in the 1850s. It is an impressive sight, worth making the trip through the canal.

We came to the Aucilla along a stretch of water bordered by banks of wildflowers then the cabins and houses of Nutall Rise came into view and we were out of the wilderness.


Jefferson County, Heart of the Red Hills of Florida

Water bird flying up as we passed the Cypress stand.

Water bird flying up as we pass


Jefferson is the only county in the state that reaches from Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico. We are Florida’s keystone. We are separated from Madison and Taylor Counties on the east by the Aucilla River – as beautiful and varied a stream any kayaker or canoeist could find.

The river wanders from cypress forests in the north through miles of live oaks and brush to a tropical paradise in Apalachee Bay. This mysterious stream slips underground for several miles near Goose Pasture to reach the surface in tiny ponds and lakes through openings in the Karst to create Aucilla Sinks.


On the west Jefferson County’s red hills and flatwoods border Leon County. Along Route 90 west, the Old Spanish Trail, you see miles of crepe myrtle’s offering an unmatchable show when they blossom during June and July.

Cold and clear, the Wacissa is spring fed

Cold and clear, the Wacissa is spring fed


A paradise for the hunter, fisherman or photographer, lower Jefferson County boasts the clear cold, spring-fed Wacissa River. Full of birds and wildlife, this pristine river includes magnificent Blue Spring and a canal dug by slaves in the 1850s.  Down in the flatwoods is the wild, hidden Pinhook River. You’ll need a guide to find it.

Before and during the Civil War there was a Salt Works along this river bank

Before and during the Civil War there was a Salt Works along this river bank

Southern Music Rising

Southern Music Rising Festival April 9, 2016

By Anne Haw HoltSouthern Music Rising

Saturday April 9th was be the ninth celebration of Monticello’s Southern Music Rising Festival. This celebration of Southern Music was presented by The Foundation for the Preservation of Historic American Music. Some say this Festival is Florida’s best kept secret. The Foundation supports and offers performances in every musical genre from Funk to Country-Western, Blues, Pop, Ragtime, Jazz, Bluegrass, Classical and everything in between. Every Festival offers a variety so you will be able to find music you love.
This year the music began at eleven in the morning, right after the Great Monticello Bike Fest. The offerings included performances by newcomers such as Chris Henry and the Hardcore Grass. These musicians were followed by old favorites such as Slim Fatz, Brian Smally and Sam Pacetti. Headlining the evening show was Atlanta’s Bill Sheffield, followed by Tallahassee’s The NMonticello Opera Houseew 76ers.
Capping off this amazing collection of performers was a gala evening of dancing to the tunes of the Allie Cats in the elegant garden of Monticello’s beautiful old Opera House. The garden is located just across the circle from the Jefferson County Courthouse.
So even if you come early there’s something to do in Monticello all day long on this special day. Bring your dancing shoes, your favorite partner and join the fun. Restaurants and stores will be open to welcome you. Monticello Bed & Breakfasts are elegant and reasonable. For more information contact Cliff Miller at 850-464-2819 or email –


The Page-Ladson site in Jefferson County Florida


 Aucilla River

Located on the southern edge of Florida’s Red Hills, the Page-Ladson archaeological dig has attracted exploration by scientists since the 1960s. In the January 2015 issue of National Geographic Magazine an article includes Page-Ladson as one of only ten sites important for studying early human settlement in the Western Hemisphere.

Recognition of the possibilities of this site was slow in coming. S. David Webb and James Dunbar were early investigators. Michael Waters of the Center for the First Americans at Texas A&M University and others have continued studying into 2014. Several remarkable finds in the 1980s and 1990s kept scholarly interest high. An artifact found in 2013 is 14,400 years old. Subsequent discoveries verify these discoveries.

In 2012 a gathering of scientists and scholars met to discuss the meaning and possibilities of the site in the First Floridian First American Conference in Monticello, Florida. Pre-Clovis artifacts were displayed and studied increasing lay and scholarly interest in the Red Hills Region.

Inspired by the First Floridian Conference, several scientists who were speakers in the conference and  Monticello/Jefferson County community leaders formed a committee to create a local institute to support scholarly study of the Aucilla Basin.Upper Aucilla

The new Aucilla Research Institute (ARI) provides logistical and research support for visiting scientists. ARI founders expect the Institute’s work to gradually spark an economic resurgence in the area. With grant funding support, the institute is involved in several explorations of the Aucilla and the nearby Gulf of Mexico.

ARI participated in planning the Second First Floridians First Americans Conference held in Monticello on October 1, 2, 3, 2015.  A book of scholarly papers rising from this conference is in the process of publication by the Florida Press. A third conference, First Floridians First Americans III is planned for fall of 2018. Because of the stature of the Page-Ladson site, speakers will include some of the foremost Paleolithic scholars in the World.


 Jefferson County’s Rivers: Florida’s Frontier

We drove to Mandalay at dawn, sliding an open boat into the Aucilla. Charlie Ward handled the tiller with Jack Carswell beside him. I rode amidships to take pictures.

Charlie picked out his route along the curved riverbanks. “Sharp rocks hide under the surface of this water. One of them can rip this boat to pieces.”

We entered a maze of channels between curving stretches of marsh grasses dotted with palms, twisted cedars and willows. At Apalachee Bay Charlie pointed out Saint Marks Lighthouse and the almost hidden mouth of the Pinhook.

Charlie said the Pinhook is mostly limestone under the reeds and grass. Trees rooted directly into slabs of moss-covered limestone hang over the water, closing out the sun.

The river narrowed and banks came closer until our boat stopped, the keel caught on a tree fallen across the water. Grabbing a nearby limb in one hand, Charlie yanked on the side of the boat and gunned the motor, sliding us across.

We finally turned to head back through the tunnel of trees. When we came out in the open the sky was dark. As soon as we ran clear of the narrow part of the river we sped up, ignoring the danger of hidden rocks. We were unsure whether to head back to the Aucilla or make for Saint Marks by open water where we would be safe.

We ran into a storm on Apalachee Bay just as we left the Pinhook River

We ran into a storm on Apalachee Bay just as we left the Pinhook River

The sky turned purple and black, and a strong wind picked up. After a few miles of wind blowing in our faces the clouds moved on to our west. The sun came back out.

As we turned north back into the Aucilla, we saw a gathering of Wood Storks resting on the limbs of a dead tree. One turned his back and spread his wings to show his eight-foot wing span.

Overhanging tree limbs cast intricate patterns on the water. We turned left at Ward Island where Charlie stopped at a floating dock. Pointing to a path up the hill he said, “Climb up there and you’ll see a real family fishing cabin. Those folks hauled every stick of lumber in here on a boat.”

The weathered structure looked shabby but sturdy. A covered porch protected a line of chairs backed up to the wall. I could picture a family enjoying the solitude–adults resting on the porch and children yelling as they played in the woods nearby.

Fishing Shack on Ward Island on the lower Aucilla

Fishing Shack on Ward Island on the lower Aucilla

Leaving the river, we followed the same route back to Monticello. Soon Charlie turned onto a narrow lane to show us the headwaters of the Wacissa River.

The Wacissa is pristine—as clear as the springs that feed it. Narrow and twisted, it is land-bound and finally disappears into the earth. Its waters connect with the Aucilla through a “Slave Canal,” cut by hand in antebellum times.

A large part of Jefferson County is like these rivers, still unchanged in hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. Much of the route we covered on this trip is a land and waterscape untouched and undamaged, rare and beautiful.

Cold and clear, the Wacissa is  spring fed

Cold and clear, the Wacissa is spring fed



The Aucilla Sinks Trail is part of the Florida Trail – accessible from Monticello, Florida via Route 19 south and Route 27 to Lamont, Florida in Jefferson County

The Aucilla River emerges from swamps a few miles below Thomasville, Georgia and flows southwestwardly, passing over the Aucilla Rapids (referred to as “races” by locals) and then disappears underground a half mile north of Goose Pasture Road. This underground portion of the river is known as the Aucilla Sinks Trail and designated by USA Today as one of the ten best hiking trails in the United States.

These "sinks" are small ponds and lakes formed by windows in the limestone where you can see the underground river.

These “sinks” are small ponds and lakes formed by windows in the limestone where you can see the underground river.

Windows in the limestone to see the underground river

Windows in the limestone to see the underground river

For approximately eight miles the river appears and disappears in a series of small ponds or lakes called “rises” or “sinks.” The river continues this pattern until the great rise at Nutall 0.5 miles north of the US 98 bridge. The Aucilla is joined by the Wacissa near Nutall Rise and flows well straight south, around Ward Island and out into Apalachee Bay and the Gulf.

On Goose Pasture Rd., look for the Florida Trail kiosk on the south side of the road, just before the cattle grate; the Aucilla Sinks Trail follows along that portion of the river that rises through limestone windows and enters the woods to the south, just west of the kiosk.  There are many sinks to follow along this trail. The trail along the River portion enters the woods on the north side of the road, a bit further west of the kiosk; the “races” are about 4 miles north of this kiosk, along the River trail.

Watermelon Festival 2016

by Anne Haw Holt

Monticello and Jefferson County Florida will celebrate their sixty-sixth annual WatermelonHeaderWatermelon Festival beginning with beauty pageants on June 4, 2016. The pageants will be followed up with events such as a great kick-off dinner (must be counted as part of the famous, deliciously satisfying Monticello Food Trail) followed up by a Bed Race on June 10.  Yes I said…Bed Race….you don’t want to miss it. This traditional race is silly, funny and I found it absolutely delightful.DSC_0357

Have you ever thought of entering a watermelon seed spitting contest? Or have you run a race wearing watermelon Shoes? Don’t miss the Watermelon Patch, watching your friends seriously try to win one of these events is as much fun or more than participating.

In addition to all the fun events, the town will be full of interesting vendors selling everything from cotton candy and Kettle Korn to hot dogs and handmade handbags. You’ll find pottery, jewelry, wood carving, books and other works of art all along Cherry, Dogwood and Pearl Streets in front of our gorgeous historic buildings.

Most small town festivals are hokey and old fashioned, but infinitely charming. This one is also surprisingly entertaining and definitely worth attending every event. Wear comfortable shoes and plan to stay late. No one does this better than Monticello….you’ll be charmed.

Watermelon Festival Schedule

June 4th  Pageants
June 10th Kick -Off Dinner, Bed Race, and new this year – Rodeo
June 11th – Rodeo
June 16th – Woman’s Club Fashion Show
June 17th Arts & Crafts, Rotary BBQ, Street Dance, Kids Show – Tale of Peter Rabbit
June 18th Kiwanis 5K Run, FMB Breakfast, MADCo. Kids Show – Tale of Peter Rabbit,  Platform Events, Parade, Arts & Crafts and new this year Watermelon Contests in the Watermelon Patch