Thursday, October 16, 2014

Stephen Foster at the State Park

Besides being a very nice State Park, there are some great things to do here at the Stephen Foster Culture Center State Park.

We like this place and here are some reasons why:

The camp site:
- Plenty of space
- Easy to get into and long enough to actually maneuver a bit so we could get our TV dish pointed in the right direction without trees.  Baseball and NFL game possibilities.
- The campground is clean, tidy and well maintained.  Nothing like having a good first impression that lasts.

Another item about the park is the hiking trails.  There are some service roads/trails in the area that are a good way to get in a little hike.
And down near the Swanee River the trails join up with the Florida Trails

The Trail and Stephen Foster Culture Center State Park is near White Springs
which is about 1/2 between Tallahassee and Jacksonville just north of I-10.

I wanted to see the Swanee River.  The area down near the Florida Trail was also a canoe/kayak boat access area that we checked out first.
There was no real good place to view large sections of the river.  The area had a lot of brush and trees lining it.  But down near a primitive camp site we saw a little bit of an opening.
Like some other rivers in Florida, this is known as a Blackwater River that gets its dark color from the vegetation lining the river which decays and turns the water black.  It did not look too inviting.

The park is also known for the Culture Center which has a quite a few items about Stephen Foster in the museum.
The museum also includes a number of dioramas depicting scenes from his songs.
Interestingly enough, Foster was from Pittsburgh and only visited the South once during a honeymoon cruise down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.

Of his more than 200 compositions, some of Foster's famous works include:

  • Oh! Susanna
  • Camptown Races
  • My Old Kentucky Home
  • Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair
  • Old Black Joe
  • Beautiful Dreamer
  • Swanee River (Old Folks at Home)
Among the displays, we learned he only lived to be 37.  Tragically, he fainted in his room during a period of illness and broke his wash basin and gauged his neck.  He lay bleeding for three hours until he was discovered and died a few days later.

He is known as the "Father of American Music" and his works were most popular in the mid 1800's although they continue to generate interest 150 years later.

On the grounds, the State of Florida built a large Memorial Carillon to commemorate.  I didn't even know what a carillon was before we saw this.  It basically is a 200' tower with large tubular bells - the largest of its kind in the world.
Throughout the day in the park, portions of his songs are played from the automatic electric player.  Throughout the day you can here the pleasant tones throughout the campground.

At the base of the structure, there is another large room that has more artifacts.
I think my favorite was a display and model of the inside of the 97 - bell carillon.  It was built in 1958 at a cost of $500,000 by the State of Florida.
The high cost of maintenance of the bells led to silencing them in the 1980's.  They were partially (32 of the 64 bells) turned on again 1993 after funds were raised.

It was a nice visit to another great Florida State Park!

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles.


  1. Thanks for showing us a very interesting place to visit when we get down to Florida for the Winter. I really would like to see and hear those bells. Happy to hear you are enjoying the area.

  2. We stayed there in 2008 but didn't get to explore because we were on our way to WDW to meet up with the grandkids...I love those dripping trees...and the history!!