Years ago, in Colonial Williamsburg, Va., for example, a tourist was overheard arguing with her companion about which buildings to visit. Most Williamsburg structures date from the 18th century; a few had to be re-created when the city was restored.
But it was clear which kind the unhappy lady valued: "I don't want to waste time on that one! It's been there all along," she sniffed as she dismissed one Colonial-era treasure.
Even in areas with an abundance of historic structures, some folks will still prefer the stage-set versions of history to the real thing.
Of course, we can't preserve everything, and re-creations do have their place. But buildings that "have been there all along" hold great value. Not only can they teach us about the past but they also offer the potential for recycling on a historic scale.
So, in keeping with the National Trust for Historic Preservation's recent "This Place Matters" campaign, I'm asking: What are your favorite local landmarks and why?
They don't need to be grand. A "place that matters" doesn't have to be a stately pile. Last year, many folks in Windermere expressed the view that a modest, one-room schoolhouse mattered greatly to their history.
What matters to you?
Home of hotels
Recently I exchanged emails with local-history fan Chris Harne of Orlando. When I asked what places or episodes especially interested him, here's what he replied:
"I am biased because I grew up in Conway and still live here, but the Conway area interests me because it was home to many of the region's early settlers and the English colony.
"Also, the hotels of Orlando, and their role in the city's culture and commerce throughout history, are interesting. Early ones include the San Juan, the Angebilt, the Summerlin and the Fort Gatlin; they were followed by the tourist hotels and motels, such as the Wigwam Village on Orange Blossom Trail, and the early modern hotels that marked Orlando as an international tourist destination, such as the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World.
"I think hotels would make an interesting study, given the overwhelming presence of the hospitality industry in Central Florida and the record number of hotel rooms here."
Folks often think "history" is what's back home, in the state they left when they came to Florida, but, as Chris suggests, tourist destinations (and we've long been one) have histories, too. So do write, when you have a minute, about the places in Central Florida that matter to you.
Lost books: 'Ezekiel'
Reader Colleen Buss writes: "I look forward to reading about 'old Florida' since I am a sixth-generation Floridian born and raised in Brooksville in 1940. I have a book my mother read to me while I was growing up that was my favorite. It's 'Ezekiel' by Elvira Garner, about a black family in Sanford. Have you ever heard or seen this book?"
Colleen, I found a little information, but I'll bet the folks at the Sanford Museum will know even more. We'll report in a future Flashback. Readers may have information as well.
Moonlight and music
Before his "singing" tower in Lake Wales was dedicated in 1929, Edward Bok often took walks on the tower's future site, contrasting the beauty he found there with the clatter and strife of so many Americans' daily lives.
"I come here to find myself; it is so easy to get lost in the world," he wrote.
Now, visitors can enjoy moonlight and music at Bok Tower Gardens as guest carillonneur Lee Cobb performs a concert January 7 at 7:30 p.m. Other special concerts are coming up on Jan. 9 at 1 and 4 p.m. and Jan. 16 at 1 and 3 p.m. And on Jan. 14, leashed and friendly dogs are invited for one special "Winter Dog Day."
For details, visit boktowergardens.org or call 863-676-1408.
Joy Wallace Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by good old-fashioned letter at the Sentinel, 633 N. Orange Ave., Orlando, FL 32801.