Sunday, December 9, 2012

Historic Haile Homestead

December 2, 2012
Nan and I visited here during their "Homestead Holidays" event. The old mansion was decorated for Christmas, and costumed docents provided a history lesson in every room of the tour.  
Located on a 40-acre remnant of what was once a 1500 acre Sea Island cotton plantation, the homestead, built by slaves in 1854-56, is the only building still standing.
We arrived at the newly built, partially finished, Visitor Center. The Rest Rooms, the most important part, were operational.
Then we followed this paved accessible walkway through the woods to the historic homestead.
The house is said to be a "unique Classic Revival style plantation home with Cracker influences."
The slave plantation was short-lived due to the coming of the Civil War 5 years after the house was completed. But the Haile family farmed the site until the latter part of the 19th century, and many slaves stayed on as hired workers.
You can see the Cracker influence in the breezeway.
Original furniture has been donated back to the homestead by members of the Haile family.
One unique thing about this homestead is that the plaster walls were never painted. The family had the habit of writing on them...and so the walls do talk, a living history that has been preserved for over a century.
There was a fireplace in every room, and photos of the Haile family members were prominently displayed.

I thought the key ring was interesting.
Some of the writings on the wall were like a diary. This entry mentioned a citrus-killing freeze in 1886. 
There were scriptures and other quotations.
Financial notations
Letters received (or written?)
Grocery lists
The family dining room. The kitchen was a separate building, no longer standing.
Dining room inventory on a closet wall.
Thomas and Serena Haile had 15 children, 10 of them born here.
This room was identified as the school room. Looks like some lessons going on today too.
On the wall of the school room was a circa 1800s map of Florida.
The upstairs was divided into two large rooms with a landing between.
The landing area between the bedrooms.
Dresser in the boys' bedroom.

There were photos and information about the Haile children.
Writing on the boys' bedroom wall.

And in the girls' bedroom, this announcement of a marriage.
Costumed docent talking about the girls who shared this bedroom.

Thomas and Serena Haile died in the mid-1890's, leaving the property to Evans Haile, the 14th of their 15 children. Evans was a prominent defense attorney in Gainesville. On weekends and holidays, he entertained his friends and family at the Homestead with parties, dances, and hunts. Lists of party goers adorn the walls of the main parlor and music room.
Signature of Evans Haile.

By the early 1930's, the house was boarded up and sat abandoned. In the mid-1970's, the house was rediscovered by movie producer, Victor Nunez, who filmed the movie "Gal Youngun" at the Homestead. This wall note identifies a hole in the wall made during a scene of the movie. The movie was based on a novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings of nearby Cross Creek.
Behind the house this chimney is all that remains of a caretaker's house. The slave cabins, barns and other out buildings have all been reclaimed by the forest.
After our tour I followed Nan to find the Kanapaha Cemetery where the Haile family is buried.

The Haile family plot.

The Haile House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. With a grant from the State of Florida, the House was restored in 1996. Since April 2001, the house has been open to the public for tours.


  1. Thanks for a great guided tour, Liz. Someplace else to put on my list of places to go see.

  2. Interesting tour. Very unique that they wrote on the walls and it survived.

  3. The bucket list gets longer and longer thanks to you and other sistahs.
    Thanks for a great tour.