Saturday, December 6, 2008

Gamble Mansion and Plantation

This Saturday I went to the Gamble Mansion and Plantation. This is the only surviving antebellum plantation left in south Florida. Although, it almost didn't. The picture below is an image of the mansion shortly before renevation. In 1914 it was auctioned off for taxes and was turned into a storage facility for fertalizer. In 1925 it was deed to the state.
The pictures make this house look huge, but in all reality, it really wasn't that big. The walls of the house are nearly 2 feet thick. There is a U shaped balcony all the way around the top and a U shaped porch around the bottom. So when you look at the core of the living space, it's much smaller than the average US family home nowadays. Of course, I'd give up all my living space for that beautiful balcony.

The downstairs consists of 3 rooms. The livingroom, office and dining room. The upstairs had 3 bedrooms. The warming room was attached to the house in the back and under the same roof, but was seperated by an outside hallway. Each room has direct access to an outside door due to Floridas lightning storms. The exception is the living room, but a previous owner was quoted as saying that the outside was just a window kick away. The kitchen was in a seperate building behind the house, but it is no longer there.
Also on the property was a home built by the Patten family. Appartently once they purchased the property, the mansion was to difficult and expensive to maintain, so they built a more modern house a few hundred feet away. The building has since been moved to the far corner of the lot to allow for a full view of the Gamble Mansion from the road. They were the last family to actual take residence in the main house.

Most of the house is built by a material called "Tabby". For people familiar with Florida history, you'll know many structures in the olden days was built out of cocina - a combination of sand, water and seashells. Tabby is a combination of sand, lime and oystershells. The difference is that cocina is made by nature and tabby is created by man. The display below shows how they made the pillars. They made coarse tabby bricks and put the chunks in a mold and pored wet fine tabby over the top of it. When it hardened, they had another piece of the pillar. The pillars were smooth and beautiful. They surrounded the house on 3 sides.

The house has been furnished by the Daughter of the Confederacy. Most of the furnishings were not Gamble originals. When Gamble sold the house, he cleared it out and put all his furnishings in storage. The storage building was struck by lightning and many pieces were lost. The Gamble family (current generation lives in California) has donated a handful of pieces to be displayed. The warming kitchen is still used today when they do occasional reenactments. There is a woman that comes and uses all the old fashion cooking supplies and creats meals. The piano was actually purchased at a Good Will for $25.00. It took some hard work to make it as pretty as it is now, but it's still an amazing piece of history.

All drinking water was gathered from rain water. This cistern would gather rain water from the roof of the house and could hold 40,000 gallons of water. All water used for the house residence was taken from this cistern with a bucket. Back when this was a working plantation there were other cisterns available for the slaves that worked the fields.
Other interesting things:
* This was originally built as a sugar plantation. In 1850, Robert Gamble owned 1208 acres. By 1855, he owned 3500 acres.
* The plantation sat on the Manatee River which leads to the Gulf of Mexico. This allowed them to easily bring in new equipment and to ship product to New York and New Orleans.
* Although Robert Gamble owned slaves (this is the south afterall), he had such a good relationship with his people that every man in the field was armed to protect themselves and the property from hostile Seminole Indians.
* In the 1880's sugar prices dropped and the cost of production no longer made it profitable.
* The plantation was owned by Captain Archibald McNeill during the duration of the Civil War.
* Judah P Benjamin (Secretary of State for the Confederacy) hid out here after the fall of the south. He eventually caught a ship back to England where he became a barrister and eventual worked for the queen.
* The plantation stopped producing on the eve of the civil war and the sugar works was destroyed in 1865.
* Major George Patten bought the property in 1873. He subdivided the property and sold it off as smaller farms. This area is named Ellenton, after his daughter Ellen.


Redd Family History said...

I've heard of this place but didn't know anything about it. Very cool looking and no doubt someplace I'd enjoy. I like how you always include some history of the places you post about and not just photo descriptions.

YOu're right the house does look really big and I would agree about the balcony. That would be great.

Christina Baldwin said...

Wow - this is pretty cool! They fixed everything up so nicely - and can you imagine living in a house with that porch and balcony? So gorgeous!!