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Fort Christmas – a touch of Pioneering Florida
If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to be a pioneer in the United States then take a visit to Fort Christmas. Way back on Christmas Day (hence the name) in 1837, 2000 US Army Soldiers and Alabama volunteers arrived to build a fort. Only 200 forts were built during the Second Seminole Indian War, between 1835 and 1842.
At Fort Christmas you can look at a replica of the original Fort Christmas as well as seven restored historical homes creating a unique museum. These show the ‘Cracker’ design and architecture found in East Orange County, Florida. You can pioneer life from the 1870s through to the more modern 1930’s, viewing citrus, cattle, homesteading, hunting, fishing and trapping. There are blockhouses with exhibits on the soldiers, the Indians, and the pioneers together with a video presentation explaining the History of the Seminole Indian Wars.
At Fort Christmas there are many old, restored buildings to see. Union School was established in 1906. It got its name because it united several small family schools into a central location – it only closed in 1969. A Lunch Room was built around 1932 to be used by the children who attended Union School. (Up until then all meals were eaten outside. ) Every child’s birthday was celebrated with a home baked cake in the Lunch Room – can you imagine that now?
There’s a family house from the 1870s to see. Another house, around 1915, was built and owned by two of the children of the first house occupants.
There are other homes to view including Yates house built around 1890. Often houses grew and developed as the family grew and their needs changed. Additionally there are three further houses to view – all with owners doing different jobs – citrus, bee keeping and one which started as a barn. There’s a cow camp and a trappers house.
During the year there are events. January sees old cowboys come back and tell their many tales whilst at weekends of the time change in March and November Militia Encampments are performed with soldiers in 1840 period uniforms demonstrating musket and cannon firing of various guns.
In spring there is a weekend of traditional bluegrass music, homemade crafts and barbecue to enjoy and in May an Old Timer’s Day – music to honour senior citizens with the perk of over 65 year olds eating free!
A pleasant day in October is the Pioneer Homecoming Day where friends of the Christmas community gather and share in the history and background. And being Fort Christmas it would inappropriate not to have a Christmas event! The first weekend of December has a ‘cracker’ of activities including pioneer demonstrations, a large craft fair, exhibits, food!
As well as the fort and the events, Fort Christmas has a gift shop run by the Fort Christmas Historical Society - all proceeds go back into the Fort Christmas Historical Park.
This isn’t your hi-tech Floridian attraction but offers some local history for guests to Florida and the USA.
If you’d like to visit the fort its open in the summer, 8am – 8pm and in winter 8am – 6pm. Hours can be subject to change so it may be worth telephoning ahead of a visit - telephone: 407-568-4149
And here’s the address to find your way there: Fort Christmas Historical Park, 1300 Fort Christmas Road (C. R. 420), Christmas, Florida 32709 - just twenty miles east of Orlando.
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