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wikimedia.org

 

Florida is a state with much more history than we usually give it. As the 27th state, joining the U.S. on March 3rd, 1845, the history just as a U.S. state is significant. Take events and people that occupied the land before it joined the union and you have a land full of mysteries, wonder and legends.

While we see it now as the home of a giant mouse, beautiful beaches, and snowbirds, the stories are still hidden if you know where to look. Some of these stories have to do with failed attempts at creating something new, others have to do with people that had a run of bad luck.

From Cape Romano to Homestead and even Fort Jefferson, there are plenty of sites to see if you are looking for a less traditional trip to the sunshine state. The stories that follow, the locations that tell these stories, and the people that lived in these places at one time all looked at Florida in the same way – home.

While Florida has had more recent rumblings in the news, very few of which have been pleasant, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the state, like many other in the nation, has a rich history and culture to share for those willing to find it. Just keep in mind that none of these locations are likely on the top of the list for your travel agent.

The Abandoned UFO House, Homestead

Via Urban Ghosts Media

The first stop on this trip down freaky Florida lane brings us to Homestead, home of an abandoned UFO house. While the house was the middle of plenty of rumors and conspiracy theories it wasn’t until Hurricane Andrew came along that the house was condemned.

Unfortunately, this is not a house you can visit now as it was torn down in August, 2013. The House started construction in 1974 in an isolated area of Homestead. With only around 15,000 residents at the time, the home never had a close neighbor.

The most common legend of the home was that the owner used the home to traffic drugs. To keep them hidden, he would import exotic animals and hide the drugs beneath the cages in which they were kept. In addition, stories are told that mysterious men would chase away anyone that would wonder by.

The house was purchased and repainted shortly before 1992 when Hurricane Andrew swept through the area. While the house, at that point, had none of the drugs, animals, or mystery men, it still held the tales that had been told for decades. Even now, with the building destroyed, locals seem to have a story to tell about the house that once was.

Kerr City

Via Wikipedia

Founded in 1884, Kerr City lasted little more than a decade before it was all but abandoned. With crop destroying weather in 1894 and 1895 the city could not recover. While the city still stood in the Ocala National Forest on the shore of lake Kerr, it was the very definition of a ghost town.

Fast forward to 2013: Kerr City, Population 1. Art Brennan, great grandson of Kerr City’s founder still remained. The home in which he and his wife lived was one of the original homes built in Kerr City. He stays to keep tabs on the ghost town, ensure that modern buildings stay out and the stories stay alive.

Kerr City: The Aftermath

Via Wikimedia Commons

If you are able to visit, make sure to check out the post office as it is rumored that Sarah, a postal worker from the early days of Kerr City, still haunts the post office. Drama is ripe in the city as well with the story of a preacher living in a local hotel with part of his congregation disappearing one night with their money. The congregation then burned down the hotel as they felt it was the only way to purge the evil.

Kerr City is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the country and Art Brennan is happy as can be with the label.

Stiltsville, Miami-Dade

Via Wikimedia Commons

During prohibition, “Crawfish” Eddie Walker wanted a place for he and his friends to enjoy their illegal vice without interference from the government. With prohibition in full swing, and moving out of the country an unlikely answer, they took the party off the land.

Stiltsville is an abandoned group of buildings about a mile off the Florida coast. Only accessible by boat, the view is often from afar. While many consider Walker to be the founder of the “city” others say that many of the buildings were there before Walker moved in.

Since the buildings are outside of U.S. jurisdiction it had, according to legend, become a popular home to pirates. In the 40’s the site was used as a high end gentleman’s club, but again a hurricane put an end to that in the 60’s. With about 20 buildings destroyed by Hurricane Donna, the Florida courts let the leases expire. This lead to the Stiltsville Trust to try to preserve the remaining parts of the ghost town.

Old Parramore, Two Egg, Florida

Via Florida Memory

Old Parramore just six miles east of downtown Two Egg, Florida is a historic ghost town if every there was one. The history of the location can be traced back to 3,000 years ago, as unique circles were destroyed during timber clearing operations, but artifacts were recovered from the site which point to that time period.

More artifacts were found later dating back to 400-900 A.D. These artifacts are shell middens and mounds from the Weeden Island period. It wasn’t until the 1600’s that more history came alive as the Spanish explorers first arrived in the area.

Also located in the area that the pirate William Augustus Bowles came to seek food and shelter. The warriors of the town also joined in the American revolution fighting along side the British to protect the Florida colonies. They joined the British again in the War of 1812, but five years later it was clear the they would eventually be part of the United States.

As the town did not keep up with the technology of the early 1900’s, plus the flu which lead to the Great Depression, Parramore had little hope of surviving the poor planning and the lack of income. Today, visitors can see remnants of the town. A monument stands in the center and a few buildings still stand, but all that is really left is the stories of the land.

Aladdin City

Via Sears-Homes

Easily one of the most interesting ghost towns on this list, Aladdin City a planned community was just one of the many that came to be during the 1920’s Florida land boom. The Aladdin Company of Bay City, Michigan was creating mail-order kit homes to compete with Sears and Roebuck. Through their industrial catalog they marketed their vision of a city of 10,000 people that would begin dawn to dusk construction around 1925.

With crowds gathered to see the supplies delivered to Ft. Lauderdale on January 14th, 1926, the company boasted that on their first day they sold nearly 900 homes. Unfortunately, with an embargo from railroad companies, the sinking of a ship full of supplies and a hurricane which killed 370 people, the prospects of living in Florida dwindled.

Aladdin City: The Aftermath

Maybe it would have looked something like Dubai's Aladdin City you see here via covetedition.com

Maybe it would have looked something like Dubai’s Aladdin City you see here via covetedition.com

Still the company was optimistic, continued work on a train station, built a town hall, and started forming the roads through the city until 1929 when the stock market crashed and a year later the Great Depression was reaching its heights.

Today, not much of the city is left, outside of a few roads. While most have been renamed, Ali Baba Circle, Baghdad Street, Ali Cogia Circle and Aladdin Boulevard have kept their original names. The others have been changed as Miami has started to expand into the area. If you wish to see this unlucky attempt at a planned community, do so sooner rather than later.

Flamingo, Florida

inwanderlust.weebly.com

inwanderlust.weebly.com

Located in the Everglades National Park, Flamingo has had a bumpy ride from Native American land to a growing city, back to a ghost town, and now a bustling – if not yet completely rebuilt – national park.

After the Tequesta Indians, who had lived in the area, had taken refuge in the Everglades from Europeans things went downhill from there. Spain surrendered the state to Britain in 1763 and relocated the Tequesta tribe to Cuba leaving Flamingo abandoned until the late 1800’s when settlers arrived.

The settlers made their living by selling fish, charcoal and vegetables to Key West, the closest trading area. It wasn’t until 1893 when a new post office was built in the area that it became an actual town.

The name Flamingo came from the birds that were abundant in the area, but unfortunately, the birds also were part of the reason the town fell into disarray. Flamingo allowed illegal hunting of the birds as one of the main industries in the area, but when a game warden came to put an end to it, some of the poachers he confronted murdered him – and it wasn’t clean kill.

The murder lead to tougher hunting legislation, negative media attention and by 1902 flamingos were a rare site due to the continued hunting of the population.

Flamingo, Florida: The Aftermath

Via Flickr

Fast forward eight years and only three homes and families still lived in the community. Ten years later it was abandoned save the moonshiners that took over some of the area. Finally, in 1940, the federal government purchased the land to make it part of a national park.

 

Now, the area is larger than ever due to the park constructing a hotel, cabins, a marina, store, campground, gas station, gift shop and cafe. But, as is the common threat in each story, Hurricane Wilma struck in 2005 leaving only the marina and store to reopen. Plans are underway to restore the other buildings, so if you want to see it in a less than perfect state, now is the time to visit.

Koreshan Unity, Florida

Via Florida Memory

Koresha Unity was founded by those that came to this land for religious freedom. In the late 1800s, a group of believers established a place that they felt could be the “New Jerusalem.” Koreshan Unity was a religion that incorporated a communal utopia ideology. Founded in New York City by Cyrus Teed in the 1870s, the religion consisted of a belief in immortality, reincarnation, alchemy, and celibacy.

More unsettling was that this group was a cult with beliefs such as Cellular Cosmogony. This system of beliefs stats that the sun is operated by batteries, that humans live inside a hollow Earth, not outside, and that the sun revolves around our planet.

Koreshan Unity, Florida: The Aftermath

Via Florida Memory

When Cyrus Teed died in 1908, the cult went into decline. Factions within the group moved to other areas nearby as a split divided different factions within. Still, a bit of history survived until 1981 when the last member of the group died. She was the only one buried in the park partly because the gave up much of the land to the state in 1961.

Now a national park, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. You can find many of the buildings still standing and being used as an educational part of the state park.

Though it seems it had a clean break, some of the land is now being held by the College of Koreshan Life Foundation. The College maintains the sect’s archives and while it is not comprised of believers, it is instead historians or individuals with family ties to the sect. They work together to preserve the pictures and documents related to the early settlement and run a blog dedicated to those who believed the unique teachings.

Rosewood

Via Blogspot

Our final stop on this journey is Rosewood, Florida. originally a community that acted as a safe space for former slaves and their descendants, the area was all but wiped from the map in one of the most tragic events in Floridian history.

After Jim Crow, Rosewood was razed and deserted after an accusation by a white woman that is still highly disputed. To make matters even harder to swallow, efforts were made to hide the legacy of this town due to the cruelty and racism that was enacted on the people here.

As the poll taxes made it harder for poor whites and black to vote, the black families started to move north. Before that, the white community in Summer, a nearby town, and those in Rosewood, had a fairly friendly relationship.

Rosewood: Part 2

Via Rare Newspapers

With several politicians, including Park Tramwell (governor), ignoring the lynchings and mob violence towards the black community, Rosewood started losing inhabitants at an alarming rate.

It was in the 1920s that four men were accused of raping a white woman in Maccleny, Florida. The same year, two black men brought weapons with them to vote in Ocoee and when denied shot two officials. Due to these actions, a mob of white individuals destroyed most of the town, burning down many of the buildings. A race riot in 1922 lead to a black man being burned at the stake, many buildings being destroyed, and two men hanged.

Rosewood: Part 3

Via Flickr

The following year led to constant accusations and violence between the black and white population eventually leading to the “Last Negro Homes Razed In Rosewood” being reported. Things were so tense and racially charged that the Attorney General at the time declined to investigate the multiple attacks on the town.

Rosewood: Aftermath

Via Pinterest

We only have this story because of the oral tradition in which it was passed down. Many have determined that survivors of Rosewood suffered from PTSD. Eventually, Florida compensated victims with scholarships and dedicated a Florida Heritage Landmark plaque on the site in 2004.