A Culinary History of Florida
Juxtaposed against the struggle and hardship of rural Florida after the Civil War, the Gilded Age brought glamorous winter resorts and lavish mansions to the state. Florida went from a tropical wilderness to a tropical paradise, for those affluent enough to afford it.
Gone were the ox-carts, covered wagons and stagecoaches. Instead, railroads and steamboats brought a new era to the Sunshine State, with pathways to and throughout Florida.
In the late 1880’s before rail travel became popular, steam-powered boats on the rivers and waterways brought tourists, travelers and supplies to hotels along the way. Spurred by detailed descriptions of Florida in books and newspapers, more people made their way to the state. Pensacola, Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West were important harbor cities, and the golden age of steamers continued until the railroad made its way into the interior and southern part of the state.
Steamboat tours were trendy with tourists, and dining onboard offered a variety of seafood as well as wines and desserts.
In the 1870’s and 1880’s steamer travel reached its peak. Steamboat navigation on the St. Johns River provided the entry to Central Florida during the 19th century. Tourists and Floridians are still attracted to the waterways of Florida. A replica steamboat with paddle wheel along the St. John’s River in Sanford brings back thoughts of bygone eras when ships plied the waterways of today’s Volusia and Seminole Counties. Master steamship planners were instrumental in the development of towns such as DeBary and Enterprise.
Established in 1871 and listed on the national Register of Historic Places, DeBary Hall was once a hunting retreat accessible by steamboat from St. Johns River near Lake Monroe. Frederick deBary started a commercial steamboat company as did Jacob Brock in the neighboring community of Enterprise.
East of DeBary hall, the charming town of Enterprise is just a few miles down the road. Heading south on Main Street is like stepping back in time for a few moments. As you drive east along Lakeshore Drive in Enterprise, looking out upon Lake Monroe you might catch a glimpse of what is left of the pier pylons that Brock built to establish Enterprise as a tourist destination and bring tourists to his hotel. The hotel once stood where the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home now stands.
The drive from Enterprise to Sanford is one of the most scenic and diverse in Florida. Passing through the hammocks near the shoreline with beautiful Spanish moss hanging from the oaks, its hard to imagine just a few miles away are bustling highways and interstates carrying tourists of today to their destinations. Heading south on Highway 415 after you cross the St. Johns River approaching Sanford the highway becomes Celery Avenue, aptly named as the town was once known as “Celery City”. Henry Sanford developed the town and was instrumental in developing the Valencia orange.
Driving from Sanford to DeLand along Highway 17/92 you will pass the historic 1876 Heritage Inn with a United States Postal Museum, accommodations and restaurant. It is the oldest operating hotel in Volusia County and one of the oldest in the State of Florida. It is a part of the Orange City Historic District.
My brother Patrick lovingly restored this simple fishing boat to pristine condition after GrandFloyd went to that big fishing pond in the sky…. and named it after the street we lived on as children growing up in Parker.