TallahaSEE! By Lynn Jones (December 1 – 7, 2011)
It’s late and I’m on the road to Tallahassee for a weekend media tour of Tallahassee, Florida. As a transplant I understand that every family member, friend or foe in Florida and across the nation has ties to FAMU, that’s the historic FAMU (an HBCU) or its massive counterpart FSU. I never really had a reason to visit the state capitol, little did I know the many treasures that lied just two hours away.
My home for the weekend was the Aloft Hotel, a loft type hotel that has an airy swanky, eclectic feel, with bright décor and urban flair, while mixing NYC with European chic. The main leg of the tour was centered on visiting the many African American historic museums along with diverse cuisine opportunities and other attractions.
My first stop was the Tallahassee Museum in downtown Tallahassee which was filled with African American artifacts including photos and antebellum artifacts. The museum is designed as a walking tour through a schoolhouse, church and even a plantation house. The home was home to plantation mistress Catherine Murat, George Washington’s great-grandniece. The accompany exhibit explores the areas plantation communities, free and slave, and includes two reconstructed buildings–the plantation kitchen and a slave cabin. The grounds also recreate a small town filled with moonshine makers, sugarcane syrup boilers and countrywomen in their 1850s garb. There’ also a dinosaur exhibit from African American sculpture Jim Gary.
My next stop was nearby to the John G. Riley Museum. Greeting guests is an animated mannequin of John Riley himself! Riley was an entrepreneur and pioneer of Tallahassee. His living mannequin audio boats his rich history which includes learning to read and write in the 1860s. The museum is his actual life and gives a true depiction of African American life of a freed man in the last 1800s.
Every weekend a vendor fair opens up on South Adams Street downtown. Vendors with everything from food to arts and crafts are available. One delightful vendor to visit is Gloria Nicholson, proprietor of the “Dew Drop In”. The former Tallahassee restaurateur sets up shop weekly to sell out of delicacies such as cupcakes, grits and quiche. My next stop is the Ash Museum, owned Annie Harris, a creative and eccentric jeweler, artist and painter. After browsing through the Gallery it was off to the FAMU Rattler Hall of Fame football game at Bragg Memorial stadium. Tallahassee literally shuts down and every orange and green shirt head over to the game! For those that have never witnessed black college football, it is food for the soul. Everything from fellowship and the halftime show to edible goodies and fashion are in your eyeshot.
Another Tallahassee highlight is the Museum of Florida History. The treasure trove of history is filled with artifacts and recreations of Florida’s past, present and future. Of the multitude cultural exhibits, there is even an African display of the Tuskegee airmen and the huts, steamships and history that uprooted American heritage.
On the way back to Jacksonville I drove in amazement and peace as I reflected on my full weekend. Who knew that all of that was just right up the road. I was so full of history, knowledge and exquisite cuisine, I felt like I was much further than 160 miles away. Tallahassee is a city filled with rich African American culture that crosses cultural barriers to create a city whose history extends from the Indians, to slavery, the civil war, civil rights and football. Best of all, they have the proof to show it! For more information on planning your day trip for a rich cultural experience visit: www.rileymusuem.org; www.tallashaseemusuem.org; www.facebook.ashgallery.com or call Ms. Gloria at 850.322.6697 Come See TallahaSEE!!! Tip (save my columns and revisit when you ready to make a move!!)