Sunday, May 14, 2017

Eldora a Florida ghost town

1980s photo of 19th century building
Known as Eldora House, this structure was built in 1877.
It was a private residence and a boarding house.
Photo credit: Gerri Bauer
We live in a time of change. Pioneer Floridians did, too, especially regarding travel. Changes in transportation could doom a town. The small community of Eldora is a perfect example. Its fortunes rose and fell in a little over two decades in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The thriving waterfront community relied on the river as its main highway. The town fronted the Indian River, which at the time was a main thoroughfare. Eldora lost significance - and population - through a combination of factors. Water transportation faded as railroads expanded. A freeze killed the town's citrus crop, and a year later a hurricane struck. Finally, the Intracoastal Waterway was dug, which meant Eldora no longer sat on the main transit route.

The town faded. It lost people, and even its name. Originally, the settlement had been known as Pumpkin Point.

During its short existence in the last quarter of the 19th century, Eldora had a post office, school, aviary, orange groves and a business that used palmetto berries to make a medicinal syrup. I learned all that when touring the site many years ago in order to write a newspaper article. That's when I took the photo that accompanies this blog post. The crumbling structure in the photo was built in 1877 and called Eldora House. It served as a private residence and then a boarding house.

A park ranger explained the town's history during that visit. That's because Eldora in modern times became part of Canaveral National Seashore. That gives Eldora somewhat of a happy ending, compared to other Florida ghost towns.

One of the few remaining structures there during my tour has been restored. Known as the Eldora State House, it's now a museum and may be visited on weekends. You can learn about the town and the people who lived there. And stand on the waterfront and wonder what it was like to live in a time and place where waterways formed your only link to the wider world.

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