Posted in SmyrnaLife Magazine 2014 Nov/Dec Vol. 2 – Issue 1 under DayTrip
After weeks of driving by the sign for Bulow Plantation, I finally turned down the dirt road to see what it was all about. Out of the car the ruins glowed in front of me in all its glory. The way the sunshined on the stones made it seem so mystical. I just had to go back to the car and get my camera. There was a group of pleinair painters (open air painters) behind easels capturing both the light and the moment. Back at the car I was able to talk with the painters who were finished for the day. I found out they drove down from St. Augustine. I asked one of the painters how she learned about Bulow Plantation. She said, “my friend has asked me for maybe 5 years. He and his wife came to dinner one night and said let’s go painting. I just found it interesting and the history of the sugar mills. I think it’s a fabulous place and more people need to come here and see it.”
I agreed. During a meeting with Libby at Smyrna Life we agreed to follow up with a story.
In the Mid 1800’s
– 1823 John Joachim Bulow inherits Bulowville at the age of 16; ending his schooling in Paris. His job was to run one of the 12 plantations between Cape Canaveral and St. Augustine; Bulowville being the largest and wealthiest. Bulow used one thousand acres for cotton and 1500 acres for sugar cane. Small buildings lined the outer rim in a horseshoe shape. Bulow’s house stood at the open end.
– 1830 a census shows 193 slaves present on the plantation. Bulow believed human energy as well as steam power produced sugar cane faster.
– 1836 According to folklore, Bulow had a relationship with the Seminole Indians and relied on
them to be meat givers. In return he gave them molasses, sugar, and rum. However, Bulow had a disagreement with them and protested.
The Seminoles didn’t like this so they burned the plantation to the ground January 26th.
Fast forward to 2014
At the end of the mile-long one lane, 2-way dirt road you’ll be greeted with a sign stating the park hours and admission fee. Just beyond this is Bulow Creek; a brackish environment meaning half salt water and half fresh water. “It’s a slow going creek,” says Joe Isaacs, “so it doesn’t take a lot of expertise to canoe here. If you time it right you can kind of coast in both directions.” Another interesting tidbit about Bulow Creek is the boat slip area. According to Isaacs, Bulow lined the boat slips with wine bottles stuck into the earth with the bottom of the bottle showing. “No one really knows why he did it,” says Isaacs, “all the bottles have been hunted over the century. We’ve got one or two on display in the museum.”
Continue on the dirt road to the left and head towards the ruins, spring house, and museum. On the way stop and check out the pine trees. These trees have numerous cuts at an angle with metal sleeves to direct the bleeding sap (turpentine) into a clay pot; aka a herty pot. Because these cuts and metal sleeves are at an angle they look like cat whiskers; often referred to as cat faces in the pines.
At this stop you’ll see the stone work (ruins) that has remained after the fires. Sheer manpower built these buildings using block and tack. The men used coquina stones (durable & malleable stone made from periwinkle shells). It reminded me of Europe where a lot of the old structures are still standing. If you follow the path to the right check out the plaque on the backside of the building. Notice the date – the “2” is upside down. “This is so it couldn’t be mistaken as the original,” says Joe Isaacs. Continue your walk around the remaining ruins. Be sure to stop at each interpretive signing (made for vision/hearing impaired) for more information. As my new friend, Linda Holmes (pleinair painter) says, “go pay the $4.00. It’s a beautiful park. It’s got an awful lot of interesting history. It’s a painter’s paradise. The light, the landscape around it, the history – there’s nothing not to like about it. So yes, I recommend that any painter should go there and enjoy it.” I agree. It’s a great day out for the whole family.
Bulow plantation is easily reached by car. It’s about an hour ride straight up I95N to Old Dixie Highway exit in Palm Coast. Take a right off the exit, then your first left onto Old Kings Rd. Follow that approximately 2 ½ miles. You’ll see a sign on your left across from the dirt road.
Remember, you’ll be entering a wooded area. According to Joe Isaacs, use a bug repellent with Deet – just not a whole lot of it.