Monticello Christmas

by Anne Haw Holt

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A Story for Santa – Anne Holt

Christmas starts this Friday evening — that’s December 2! Monticello Downtown Christmas is always the first to celebrate this beautiful season. Starting around 5:00 or 5:30 PM the streets just north of the festively decorated Courthouse will be full of families hurrying to the garden at the Wirick-Simmons House to see the lighting of the community Christmas tree and hear the choirs singing old fashioned carols.

Carolers by Anne Holt

Shoppers will be visiting the interesting displays of gifts in our town’s unusual collection of specialty shops. Children will be watching for Santa to arrive on a fire truck.
East Dogwood Street will be full of colorful booths offering everything from the Monticello Women’s Club’s fabulous “Old Fashioned Christmas Fruitcake” to handmade jewelry, books and unusual gifts.
Carolers will stroll by. You may even hear someone reading “T’was the Night Before Christmas.” Children will sit in Santa’s lap as parents take their picture. Many will pose to take a family photo in front of the Community Christmas tree—ask someone to help, you’ll make them happy.
A little later, right in front of the public library on Water Street (two blocks south of Washington St. or Rt. 90) our beautiful live nativity scene, “Bethlehem in Monticello” will open. Children will marvel when they men, women and child actors with live animals bring the real Christmas story to life.

Bethlehem in Monticello Photographs by John Hicks

Bethlehem in Monticello - photo by John Hicks

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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 Road to Monticello, Florida

THE ROAD TO MONTICELLO, FLORIDA

By Anne Haw Holt

Fred Mahan Drive links historic districts in Monticello and Tallahassee, Florida. This road started as a tribal path—became known as the Old Spanish Trail and is now Route 90, once the main east-west route across the state.

Wild woods on west Rt 90 near Lake Miccosuki

Wild woods on west Rt 90 near Lake Miccosuki

In 1935 Mahan’s Nursery of Monticello, one of the largest nurseries in the Southeast, donated thousands of shrubs and trees to beautify the right-of-way along this drive. Jefferson County employed thirty-five men at 30 cents an hour to plant the shrubs, providing desperately needed jobs at a fair rate of pay for the height of the great depression.

The plantings included pyracanth, arbor vitae, crape myrtle, ligustrum and some palm trees. Recent plantings of smaller crape myrtles, from the intersection of I-10 and US 90 east of Tallahassee, to the edge of Monticello, present a spectacular range of brilliant colors throughout the summer months. For most of the year the shrubs are lush and green. In winter their bare cinnamon branches seem a work of art.

Crepe Myrtles in Blossom

Crepe Myrtles in Blossom

By late April and into May each year crape myrtles are covered in deep green leaves. In May the shrubs begin to produce large clumps of conical white flowers followed by old-fashioned “watermelon pinks” and later the gorgeous dark reds. When the crape myrtles are blossoming this two-lane road running east from Tallahassee to the historic City of Monticello, Florida is a never-to-be-forgotten treat, easily the most beautiful drive in Florida.

Local people love this highway. Once a road crew, apparently tired of mowing around bushes, started to use a huge chipping machine to “clear” the shrubbery from both sides of Rt. 90 east of Tallahassee. Late on a Friday afternoon after they cut down and chewed up a few crape myrtles, the men cut the machine off and left for the weekend.

Luckily, a reporter saw the machine devouring the crape myrtles and submitted a story to the local paper. The public outcry was unbelievable. Telephone lines seemed to catch fire from Monticello to Tallahassee to Washington, DC. Angry people called to demand help from their elected representatives to stop the destruction of the crepe myrtles.

Sometime Saturday or Sunday evening, someone cut the hydraulic lines, rendering the valuable machine useless. This action and subsequent news stories plus the frantic, angry telephone calls stopped the destruction and saved this beauty for us.

Please slow down a little and enjoy the show. You will see an occasional sturdy-looking palm tree tucked in behind the crape myrtles. You will even see a few overgrown and badly misshapen arbor vitae, but not a single pyracanth.

Jefferson County’s Aucilla River

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By Anne Haw Holt

 

Today, in autumn, the river is dry under the Ashville Highway Bridge. In early spring I spent more than three quiet hours in the bow of a friend’s canoe, wandering among the channels, wide pools and small bays created by the overflow. I snapped photograph after photograph of water birds, the pale new leaves of rampant undergrowth and gently greening cypress forest.

In the hot Florida summer, from Lamont south to our landing near the lost town of “Cash Money” we paddled a wide, strong and full-flowing river. The water sometimes tumbled and rushed over rapids, cutting into high banks. We found fallen trees blocking our canoes, forcing a portage through the underbrush alongside the stream. Once we pushed lightened canoes across a partially submerged log. Wide-winged birds flew off into the forest at the sound of our paddles. The sun sparkled on water rippling over hidden stones and swirling around cypress knees.

The Aucilla disappears underground near Goose Pasture. Rushing, it dives into the depths of a limestone labyrinth for somewhere between four and five miles. The water intermittently surfaces through windows in the rock to create tiny ponds and graceful lakes, some with floating islands made of lily pads. The “Aucilla Sinks” are bordered by a well-known hiking trail.

Near Nutall Rise the water comes back to the surface where it is joined and augmented by the spring-fed Wacissa River. From there the Aucilla flows wide and deep to wander around Ward Island, curve into Apalachee Bay and race out into the Gulf of Mexico. On the far side of Apalachee Bay, hidden in the sawgrass, we found the narrow channel of the lost Pinhook River.

 

 

Bed & Breakfast Directory

The John Denham House– The Magnificent Mansion

Perhaps the most recognizable of the Bed and Breakfasts, the John Denham house is set apart by the beautiful cuppola that crowns the building. This mansion was built around the 1870’s. Visit their website here for more information.

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The John Denham House

Pat Inmon, Proprietor

555 West Palmer Mill Rd.

Monticello, FL 32344

(850) 997-4568

The Avera-Clarke House– The Southern Belle

Elegant in architecture and atmosphere, the Avera-Clarke house is sure to delight. This Victorian beauty has been lovingly remodeled by Gretchen and Troy Avera. Visit their website here for more information.

Avera-Clarke House, Exterior

French Country Bedroom, Avera-Clarke House Parlor, Avera-Clarke House

The Avera-Clarke House

Gretchen & Troy Avera, Proprietors

580 West Washington Street

Monticello, FL 32344

(850) 997-5007

The Daffodale House– The Paranormal Paradise

The Daffodale House, built in 1897, is said to be incredibly haunted, much to the delight of ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts. Flowers bloom in the estate’s garden and the rooms are large and tastefully decorated. Visit their website here for more information.

Exterior, Daffodale House  Interior, Daffodale House

The Daffodale House

Cathy & Scott Ebberbach, Proprietors

620 West Washington Street

Monticello, FL 32344

(850) 997-1111

The Cottage– The Designer’s Dream

The Cottage has a remarkable rating of 4.6-4.8 stars on all major travel websites. Themed rooms are the glory of this sprawling and beautiful establishment, exceeded only by its gardens, which are the most lavish of all the area Bed and Breakfasts’. No website is currently available.

Entrance Cottage B & B

Venetian Gardens Romeo & Juliet Room

The Cottage

Martha & Jean Michel, Proprietors

295 West Palmer Mill Road

Monticello, FL 32344

1 (866) 342-3541

 

Monticello Stage Company Offers “Dearly Departed”

Dearly Departed Poster

The Play

Dearly Departed is a play that follows the antics of a dysfunctional Southern family following the death of their patriarch. When patriarch Bud passes, all sorts of family come out of the woodwork to make his funeral special. What ensues is a comedy of hilarious proportions with characters to match.

The women prepare to serve "dinner" at the viewing in Dearly Beloved. Dinner, unfortunately, involves questionable-looking corn dogs.

The women prepare to serve “supper” at the Daddy-Bud’s viewing in Dearly Beloved. Supper, unfortunately, involves questionable-looking corn dogs.

Monticello Stage Company member, Jan Williams reports that the actors are all doing an excellent job on this production. They have been rehearsing for several months, though “fortunately, there has been a lot going on at the Opera House.”

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“Unfortunately,” Williams continues, “that has not given us very much time to practice on set. We have very great actors—some of them are Stage Company veterans and some are new to us—and they are working well with whatever they’re given.” From adaptable, larger-than-life actors, believable and hilarious characters are born: this play is sure to be a must see.

She also praises the writers, David Botrell and Jesse Jones, for capturing the stereotype of Southern families. “If you’ve been in the South for any length of time or have met a Southern family, you’ll recognize the characters,” Williams laughs.

The Food

Catering is provided by local restaurant gem, Carrie Ann & Company.

Carrie Ann & Co.

The night’s meal will include Caesar salad, white chicken lasagna with mushrooms and fontina cheese, sautéed vegetables, rolls, and a tasty dessert of sour cream pound cake topped with whipped cream.

Carrie Ann & Company is a local restaurant with a café-style lunch including fresh salads and sandwiches and a pleasant atmosphere. Their dinners are delicious, hearty fare including local favorites like shrimp and grits, and more elaborate dishes from quiche to ham, herb-stuffed pork loin to crepes and everything in between. They also cater events.

Carrie Ann & Company is in the process of moving to the Mays House, an historic downtown home. The Mays House was built in 1922.

Carrie Ann & Company is in the process of moving to the Mays House, an historic downtown home. The Mays House was built in 1922.

When you visit Monticello, this is a must-visit dining experience. It is convenient, then, that they are catering Dearly Departed so that visitors might taste their delicious cuisine.

The Venue

The Monticello Opera House is nestled into the large brick building commonly known as the Perkins Block. John Perkins, a remarkable entrepreneur of Victorian Jefferson County, built the Perkins block in 1890.

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The building and Perkins’ businesses, which were operated out of the building, flourished for nearly a decade. Downstairs, Perkins sold general goods, sewing machine parts, farm implements, horses, carriages, and more.

Upstairs, the theatre crowned the building.

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This became a regular venue for local and traveling performers. It was popular, acoustically perfect, and the largest theater in the area. Perkins showed particular foresight in building the Perkins block, which thrived with much thanks to the tourists that flocked to the area. Perkins was able to capitalize on their business by providing for their needs.

The Perkins Block is generously sprinkled with Romanesque Revivalist style elements. These Corinthian columns that stand sentry along the front of the building are among these elements, which provided a cosmopolitan feel and showed off Perkins' wealth.

The Perkins Block is generously sprinkled with Romanesque Revivalist style elements. These Corinthian columns that stand sentry along the front of the building are among these elements, which provided a cosmopolitan feel and showed off Perkins’ wealth.

Unfortunately, Perkins could not have foreseen the tragedy that affected Jefferson County at the turn of the century: it was at that time the railroads were rerouted such that they bypassed Jefferson County and especially Monticello. Tourism went from a flood to a trickle, and even winter residents became less pervasive. This downturn was Perkins’ downfall—financially ruined by the large investment he put into the building and the lack of income from the razed tourism industry, Perkins business career was over. Fewer and fewer performers came to the venue and he eventually shut it down.

Since that time, the building has been used as a great number of things, including a movie theater, all with little success. In the 1970s, the dilapidated and abandoned Perkins Block was set to be put to the wrecking ball—and would have, but for a group of concerned citizens and public outcry against such a travesty.

It has since been restored and the Monticello Opera House Inc. was formed as a non-profit organization that facilitated and will continue to ensure the treatment and business of the historical landmark. Various local performing groups use it as a venue—the Monticello Acting and Dance Company, The Monticello Stage Company, and Southern Music Rising name only three of many.

The Night Away

Bed and Breakfasts are tastefully and lovingly decorated by the proprietors of the establishments-- forget boring and impersonal hotels.

Bed and Breakfasts are tastefully and lovingly decorated by the proprietors of the establishments– forget boring and impersonal hotels.

While a night out can be nice, busy parents and professionals need a night away sometimes—let Monticello be that place for you.

Convenient to Tallahassee residents, Monticello offers fine opportunities for food and entertainment and charming Bed and Breakfasts for a romantic night away. The Cottage, the Avera-Clarke House, and the John Denham House are just a few examples of the beautiful accommodations you will find in Monticello.

See our Directory Post of our local Bed and Breakfasts for more information about the luxurious accommodations Jefferson County has to offer!

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