Florida Ghost Towns

Florida Ghost Towns
Most people associate ghost towns with Old West America, where towns were abandoned after mines went bust. But Florida also has its share of ghost towns.

The definition of a ghost town varies from narrow to broad. Some consider only towns that folded for economic reasons to be ghost towns. Others expand the definition to include towns that disappeared because of natural or man-made disasters. A town or city that hosts a population many times smaller than its peak can also be considered a ghost town. And, of course, deserted buildings and other structures only add interest to these historic places.

Florida has over 100 places that can be called ghost towns. Some of them are said to be haunted. Here are just a few of these interesting and publicly-accessible historic spots:

North Florida

  • Ellaville was a thriving town of around 1000 people in the 19th century. It was founded in 1861 by George Franklin Drew, who became the first governor of Florida after post-Civil-War Reconstruction. He named the town to honor his African-American servant Ella. The town had a steam-powered sawmill which was the largest in the state, a train station, a steamboat dock, a Masonic lodge, two churches, two schools, and a commissary. After suffering a series of misfortunes, the town was abandoned after its post office closed in 1942. Little remains today of the once prosperous town. The Drew mansion burned down in the 1970s. But you can still visit the site in Madison County, just west of the Withlacoochee River (North) above its confluence with the Suwannee River.

Central Florida

  • Fort Dade, located on Egmont Key in Hillsborough County, was established during the Spanish American War in 1898, but was subsequently abandoned. It was again used by the military during WWII as a harbor entrance patrol station and ammunition storage facility. Today, it is part of Egmont Key State Park. Park personnel have reported hearing phantom gunfire at the fort and seeing the old lighthouse operate by itself. Access to the island is by private or commercial boat, or by island ferry from Fort De Soto State Park.

South Florida

  • Koreshan was founded as a utopian religious community by Dr. Cyrus R. Teed in 1894. The settlement of around 200 residents was committed to Teed’s Koreshanity religion and to communal living. The community had its own farm, botanical garden, print shop, boat works, cement works, sawmill, bakery, store, and hostel. After Dr. Teed died, the population of the town began to dwindle. The last 4 residents donated the land to the state in 1961. It is now a state park. Unlike most ghost towns, the site boasts 11 restored and nationally registered historic buildings. It is said to be haunted by the spirits of Dr. Teed and his followers. Koreshan Historic State Park is located at 3800 Corkscrew Rd. in Estero.

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Egmont Key State Park

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