We broke tradition for my birthday, choosing to explore somewhere new to us instead of one of my most favorite traditional spots, Myakka River State Park. We headed to Osprey to see what Historic Spanish Point had to offer.
We started off down the quiet trail toward Mary’s Chapel and approached just in time to hear the chapel bell ring. I think two of my children just about jumped out of their skin when it started ringing, haha! We found a volunteer inside and he told us a bit about the history of this building and the woman for whom the chapel was named. Mary was only in her early 20s when she was brought to Florida from Louisville, Kentucky, in the hopes that the sun would cure her tuberculosis. Unfortunately, she passed after just 5 weeks, in 1892. Her family sent $441 to the property owners to construct a chapel in Mary’s memory. In 1895, the bell for the chapel arrived on the same day that the property owners welcomed a baby girl. Mary’s family asked that the child be named Mary Bell, but the parents decided instead on May Belle. The child later changed her name to Mabel and in 1916 was wed in Mary’s Chapel. What a sweet full circle that was!
Sadly, the chapel fell into disuse by the 1960s and all was destroyed except the stained glass windows, the bell and the pulpit chairs. It was reconstructed in 1986, original windows and pulpit chairs included, and that is what we can see today. The original bell is in the visitor’s center so the bell in the chapel is not original.
Here is one of the gorgeous original stained glass windows:
After our visit to the chapel, we continued down the path which led us to a citrus packing house where the kids could send plastic oranges down the sizing planks and learn about the history of citrus packing in this area. Of course, Florida is renowned for its fresh and delicious citrus so this was an interesting insight into how oranges were moved from grove to market and even individually wrapped for shipping.
As we ventured on toward the Sunken Garden and Pergola, my reptile-loving boy “rescued” a Cuban brown anole from inside the screened patio of the White Cottage. The anole initially tried to scurry away but eventually decided there was no option but to turn and attack his predator. He hung on, bravely and gallantly, while causing no harm whatsoever, until he was gently released into the mulch outside the home. I’m sure he feels he was quite the victor in this match since he escaped unscathed and his catcher retreated!
There is a delightfully active butterfly garden with many colorful flowers and multiple species of butterflies. We don’t particularly know much about plants except that I have a remarkable ability to kill them but even we delighted in seeing a variety of native and non-native plant species including gumbo-limbo trees, mangroves, bamboo, ferns and epiphytes as we walked along the roughly mile and a half long paths on this 30-acre property.
The Window to the Past was especially interesting and well done. The air-conditioned space allowed us a view into an ancient midden, or shell mound, left by the early Floridians nearly 5,000 years ago. There is an audio-visual program about these inhabitants and the archaeological significance of middens. The lighting that highlighted various parts of the midden made for a very engaging program that kept the kids’ attention.
My daughter and I were impressed to read about Bertha Matilde Honoré Palmer, a visionary and successful land developer who also worked to elevate the status of women in education, business and society. She gave a famous gender equality speech at the inauguration of the Woman’s Building at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, which includes this quote that resonates with me:
“Freedom and justice for all are infinitely more to be desired than pedestals for a few.”
Moving back to the outdoors, I had originally hoped to paddleboard from Historic Spanish Point but it seems they only offer “eco-tours” which are guided and cost $55 for 2 hours – per person! With a family of six, that’s just not going to happen for us. We eventually rented them again elsewhere for less money (and twice the number of hours). That’s too bad, because the surrounding waters of Little Sarasota Bay looked beautiful from the paths and the boardwalk!
Speaking of family budgets, the Sarasota County Public Library system offered families free tickets to several local attractions for the 2017 summer, including Sarasota Jungle Gardens, Mote Marine, Big Cat Habitat, and Historic Spanish Point. We were lucky to snag free entrance to Historic Spanish Point. Look out for this sort of offer and others – like the free solar eclipse glasses we got – from your public libraries! I also really liked that the papers they gave us for our free ticket included recommendations for books to read with kids before going on these field trips. Thoughtfully done, and I look forward to seeing what they offer this summer!
Since our couple of hours of exploring Historic Spanish Point ended around lunch time, we checked our phones for a restaurant in the area and found a family-friendly open air tiki bar only half a mile away. Evie’s at Spanish Point was perfect for a delicious lunch with a great view over the water.