Guide to Historic Sites in Florida

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Pre- 16th Century

Crystal River Archaeological State Park

Anthropologists theorize that this Citrus County region held 7,500 Native American occupants 1,600 years before the first Europeans arrived. The six-mound complex contains burial grounds, a temple area, and plaza. Stairs lead to the top of the largest mound for scenic views of the surrounding area. Crystal River (352) 795-3817 or www.floridastateparks.org/crystalriver archaeological

Indian Temple Mound Museum

Displaying more than 6,000 examples of stones, bones, and ceramics, interpretive exhibits document 12 centuries of Native American history in Fort Walton. The adjacent 223-foot-long temple mound was originally built around 1300 C.E. as a ceremonial and political center. Fort Walton Beach (850) 833-9595 or www.fwb.org/museum

Letchworth-Love Mounds State Park

The 46-foot-tall Letchworth-Love Mound, built between 300 and 900 C.E. by members of the Weedon Island Culture, is the highest surviving Indian mound in Florida. Interpretive signs and guided tours explore the mound's history. Tallahassee (850) 922-6007 or www.floridastateparks.org/letchworth

16th Century

De Soto National Memorial

In Bradenton, interpretive signs along the memorial's nature trail describe the controversial 4,000-mile expedition on which Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto and hundreds of other conquistadors died in pursuit of fortune. The mile-long trail leads to beach locations where de Soto might have landed in 1539. At nearby Camp Utiza, visitors can dress in Spanish armor or attend living history demonstrations of Native American and Spanish-colonial heritage. Bradenton (941) 792-0458 or www.nps.gov/deso

Mission of Nombre de Dios and Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche

After landing in St. Augustine in 1565, Spanish admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles kissed a wooden cross and named the location, which became America's first mission, "Nombre de Dios," or "Name of God." The Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, a 2013-foot-tall cross, and an outdoor altar stand on the site of the former mission. St. Augustine (904) 824-2809 or www.missionandshrine.org

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve

Forty-six thousand acres of coastal Florida within present-day Jacksonville were home to Timucuan Indians more than 1,000 years ago. The preserve today contains Fort Caroline, the Kingsley Plantation, and the Theodore Roosevelt trail. The visitor center, located adjacent to Fort Caroline, has displays devoted to Timucuan history, the arrival of the French, and the Spanish assault that destroyed the French settlement. Jacksonville (904) 641-7155 or www.nps.gov/timu

17th Century

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

Since 1672, the 35-foot-high stone fortifications of the Castillo have guarded the northern gateway to St. Augustine along the Matanzas River. The fort is the oldest in the nation and the only 17th-century bastion still standing in the United States. Exhibits inside feature educational panels on the colonial Spanish military and displays of pistols and swords.

Reenactors in colonial dress host cannon firings each weekend, and daily ranger programs on the history of the fort leave on the hour. St. Augustine (904) 829-6506 or www.nps.gov/casa

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Mission San Luis

San Luis is Florida's only reconstructed colonial Spanish mission. Living history presentations and hands-on exhibits illustrate the influence of Spain on the state's colonial history. A council house and reenactments of native ball games bring Apalachee Indian culture alive. Tallahassee (850) 487-3711 or www.missionsanluis.org

Presidio Santa Maria de Galve

The first permanent settlement in Pensacola, Presidio Santa Maria de Galve was founded in 1698 to help the Spanish contest English and French dominance of the area. …