Camera Roll: Olustee and World Golf Village

On the road for a conference. I took these yesterday when I had some free time.

Olustee Battlefield was one of the places that inspired me to be a historian. I was a dorky little kid who was fascinated by the American Civil War–primarily because of a trip to this place some time around the first grade. I was surprised by how small everything is. I remember a full museum and a large battlefield that cast a durable spell on my six-year-old person. What I found now in my thirty-fourth year was a small, one room interpretive center with a 19″ television on repeat and a little field with a couple cannons and a confederate monument tucked into the recesses of the prison complex in Baker County. The past is larger and more majestic than the present in more ways than one.

This time around I was more interested in the beautiful pine woods in back of the interpretation center. The forest was alive with woodpeckers when I visited, the red-hooded birds rapping the trees to a wooden staccato beat in the spaces between the low rumble of timber trucks making their way to the interstate on US-90. Those trucks underline the importance of conservation lands like this. Even a quiet memorial tucked in a rural corner of North Florida offers an oasis of quiet and beauty from the nonstop cacophony of development that leaves no corner of this Dream State untouched.

The World Golf Village feels a bit like a ghost town. Vacant buildings remain where shops and restaurants once ringed the pond in front of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Even the roofs and sidewalks of the businesses that are still open look bad. The putting course for tourists is closed–abandoned and overgrown. Jacksonville tried hard to identify itself with golf when the capital was raised and mobilized for this project in the eighties and nineties. Tiger Woods exploded on the scene right around the time that the World Golf Village opened, and it all must have seemed like a great idea right around the time that my seventh grade class pulled into the parking lot for a screening of The Prince of Egypt on the Village’s IMAX screen in 1998. Now that golf is collapsing on itself, leaving only the dark remains of abandoned courses and the spectral relics of shattered HOAs on their fringe, the Village feels like an enormous folly, as ephemeral as Dog Land or Ancient America in their Florida heyday.

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