When I first visited this state park, I was just a child. But to me it seemed the mansion that unfolded before my eyes was the White House. Beautiful gleaming white columns holding up the front porch, the people strolling about on the lawn and the well manicured gardens made me ask my father if we were at our nation’s capital. Then he pointed to the cannon.
Once we got close enough to the action, I could see many of the people that were strolling about on the front lawn were in period costumes. We had stepped back into Civil War times and I learned about our nations bloody past through the volunteers that taught period arts and crafts, demonstrated working plantation processes and loaded then fired the huge cannon out front.
While that was some time ago for me, Gamble Plantation Historic State Park still holds annual events designed to teach the public about this historical monument. Guided tours of the mansion run six times a day, Thursday through Monday and cost just $6 per person.
This antebellum mansion was once home to Major Robert Gamble and home to one of Florida’s biggest sugar plantations. After some hard times and a few good storms the nearly 3,500 acre plantation went bankrupt and was sold in 1859. By the time the Civil War ended in 1865, the Union troops were ordered to capture Confederate cabinet members. Judah P. Benjamin, then Secretary of the Confederacy State, fled to Florida to escape arrest. He briefly stayed at the mansion before sailing to England where he eventually became a Barrister and escaped treason charges.
The sugar mill was destroyed by Union troops and the fields destroyed. Today, restoration has taken place of the mills historic ruins and occasionally demonstrations are made as to how it once worked. This crucial part of the plantation can be seen in various areas on the property and in various stages of repair and disrepair.
Located directly off of US 301 on the south side of Tampa Bay in Ellenton, Florida, the Gamble Plantation Historic State Park is free to visit, except for the plantation house tour. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the shaded oaks and beautiful views. To find out more about this historical Florida state park, visit the website here.