Scenic USA - Florida

Eden Gardens State Park

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Wesley House - Eden Gardens State Park, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Photography

   Florida's Panhandle was once covered in virgin forest, Garden Fountain - Eden Gardens State Park, Florida with thick stands of longleaf pines and hearty cypress. Here in the Panhandle, about halfway between today's Fort Walton and Panama City, William Henry Wesley set up a lumber company during the late 1800s. The operation utilized the area's dense forests and took advantage of nearby access to Gulf of Mexico ports to transport lumber. A small city grew up around the mill, with crews and their families living in 20 company owned houses.
   The Wesley House, located in Point Washington, is all that's left of the Wesley timber business. The 5500 square foot mansion is the centerpiece of Eden Gardens State Park, a wonderful reminder of the region's past history. The 163 acre park, preserving the Wesley home and surrounding gardens, is bordered with old oak trees draped in Spanish moss. Built of southern yellow pine, the mansion is surrounded by a two story wrap-around porch, supported with two dozen columns. Falling into disrepair during the mid 1900s, the mansion was "rescued" in 1963 by publishing magnate Lois Genevieve Maxon. Not long after the house and gardens were completed, Maxon fell ill and donated Wesley House Library - Eden Gardens State Park, Florida the home and grounds to the State of Florida in memory of her parents.
   Just a short drive from Florida's Emerald Coast, the park is open daily from 8 am until sunset. Visitors may enjoy a tour of the mansion, showcasing its priceless collection of Louis XVI furniture, as well as its surrounding gardens. Shaded with immense live oaks, the gardens are brightened with flowering plants, a heritage rose garden, reflecting pools and statuary. Springtime blossoms of camellias and azaleas provide beautiful color at this southern estate.

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