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Crowley Museum and Nature Centre, Sarasota
The Crowley Pioneer centre and Nature Trails is only 15 minutes drive west of the I-75 (Exit 210 Sarasota) adjacent to the Myakka River. Set in 190 acres the trails and history area show the visitor how the fist pioneers to Florida used to live.
The land was originally bought by the John Crowley (a blacksmith) and his wife Sylvia (a teacher) in 1880 who were amongst the original pioneers to settle in this area in the late 1880’s. Thanks to their grandson, Jasper Crowley, the area has been preserved to show the history of these early pioneers.
Visitors are able to explore the site with a self guided tour allows the visitors to see an original homestead cabin complete with furnishings and utensils from the late 19th Century. John Crowley had a Blacksmith’s shop near his home. A new working blacksmith shop has now been installed on the site complete with displays of original tools. With no local store available, sugar cane syrup was used to sweeten food. A Sugar Cane Mill and Furnace demonstrate the production of corn syrup.
Amongst the various buildings for the visitor to explore is the Tatum House, one of the oldest cracker houses built in Sarasota County which has now been moved to the site together with the Tatum Ridge Schoolhouse – the only remaining one room school house in the county. The Pioneer Museum contains many objects from the late 1880’s and early 1900’s together with a replica of an old Myakka general store and post office.
Visitors can also walk along the original pioneer road and explore well sign-posted nature trails within the site. All the native Florida habitats from pine Flatwoods, sandy hammocks and swamps and Saw grass Marsh can be found in the area. A boardwalk leads from the pine trees through the swamp to the marsh allowing visitors to catch glimpses of wildlife without getting their feet wet.
At the end of the boardwalk is a two-story observation tower looking out across the marsh and Myakka River in the distance. Visitors may be rewarded by seeing white pelicans, roseate spoonbills and wood storks by the river or flying overhead bald eagles, ospreys and other birds of prey are often spotted.
The site is still being developed and is open to the public between 10am to 4pm Tuesday – Sunday (January to April) and Thursday – Sunday (May-December). With the building and trails set amongst trees it is a very pleasant, and educational, way to spend a few hours. It is also worth looking at their website for many special events held there during the year.
Author: Val Easton
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