FORT CHRISTMAS AND CHRISTMAS FLORIDA
Some twenty miles southeast of downtown Orlando on State Road 50 is the town of Christmas, noticed by people because of the name and a CHRISTMAS POST OFFICE where lots of holiday mail is diverted and sent by local volunteers to kids across the country.� If you are hoping for a photo opp of Christmas decorations and Florida alligators, the modern post office will be a great letdown.
The real photo opp is further down the highway at the FORT CHRISTMAS HISTORICAL PARK, located one mile south of the spot where on December 25th, 1837, some 2,000 U.S. Army soldiers and Alabama Volunteers constructed a fort they called FORT CHRISTMAS.� �The fort saw limited action in the Seminole Wars, but provided protection for neighboring homesteaders and cattlemen moving into the region.
One Blockhouse contains a museum of local history
Fort Christmas is full-scale so kids love to pretend they are back in the 1930�s.
The Museum is filled with historic artifacts of Eastern Orange County.
Fort Christmas contains a record of local homesteaders as well as collectibles.
A full-size replica of Fort Christmas in the main attraction of this Orange County Park (open everyday except Mondays and holidays), but the placement of seven restored pioneer buildings at the park gives the site an added educational interest.
�This was an area of real rural Florida farming and cattle life as recently as the 1940�s so there is nothing fancy about these wooded vernacular structures.� In fact, I believe they provide a wonderful look at plain, practical Florida farmhouses and cattle ranch buildings.
THE UNION SCHOOL started in 1906 as a large one-room schoolhouse in an isolated region has a history typical of a rural area.�� In the 1920�s the school was enlarged with a small room in back and a garage and teacher�s residence.� In 1932 a large lunchroom and meeting-room as a separate structure.� In 1969 the old school was retired.
There are two GEORGE WASHINGTON SIMMONS houses in the park.� The 1880s SIMMONS HOUSE is a simple one-room homestead where added rooms were connected by covered breezeways.� �George and wife Ann raised the Simmons clan and two of the kids (George and Martha) never married and stayed on.
The 1915 SIMMONS HOUSE was built by son George after the death of his parents.� The house has a center living-room flanked by bedrooms with a separate kitchen and dining-room.� With real isolation from anything resembling a firehouse, farmers in this region continued into the 20th century separating the dangerous kitchen from the rest of the house.
The JOHN� BURL YATES III HOUSE was constructed in the 1890�s as a one-room vernacular after �Bud� and his wife Polly left a converted shed where they lived as sharecroppers.�� The kitchen was originally on the front porch and the rear bedroom wasn�t added until 1923 after Bud died.�� This is a real Florida Cracker homestead.
The 1905 EPHHRIAM LEGRAND BROWN HOMESTEAD has a floor of charred logs saved from the first Brown log cabin which burnt down.� The Brown family lived in their barn while constructing this simple frame vernacular.
The WHEELER-BASS HOUSE was constructed in 1905 by Jim Wheeler by converting part of a barn.� The narrow wood shingles were unusual features for a homestead.� During the day Wheeler worked as a day-laborer for nearby ranches and citrus growers, while his wife tended livestock on the 6 acre farm.
The 1917 BEEHEAD RANCH HOUSE was constructed by the Tosohatchee Ranch Company, who gave the housing for the ranch foreman the unusual name due to the large number of honey bees in the area.� In 1925 the ranch was converted to a hunting lodge for the Tosohatchee Game Preserve.� It is rare to see such a well-reserved old structure in such condition.
Built in 1927 the THOMAS JEFFERSON WOODS HOUSE may be the youngest of the farming homesteads at the Park, but it is hardly fancy or modernized.� Tom and his wife Katie lived in a thatched lean-to building until they had the funds from hunting and trapping to construct a full-size house.