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Stephen Foster State Park: Glorious river; great cabins, odd old museum

The old general store in White Springs, a historic town next to Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park.

The old general store in White Springs, a historic town next to Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park.

By Bonnie Gross, FloridaRambler.com, Special to EyesOnNews.com, May 27, 2015 – We visited Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park so that we could kayak the Suwannee River and stay in the outstanding cabins in this park.

Once in the park, however, we discovered a strange time-machine that took us back to the 1950s – the museum devoted to the composer Stephen Foster, who in 1851 wrote “Old Folks at Home (aka Swanee River)” without ever visiting Florida. It became Florida’s state song in 1935.

Stephen Foster State Park is located in White Springs, a historic town on the Suwanee River whose heyday was more than a century ago. Today, we found White Springs beyond “sleepy.” It’s not a ghost town (some 800 folks live there) but there’s no working hotel, no grocery store and the only restaurant was closed the night we were there. What it does have is local character and historic buildings.

Back in the 1950s, when love for Stephen Foster apparently peaked, it must have been a coup for White Springs to have a museum built here to honor the prolific composer.

The big building looks like a Southern plantation, with Tara-like columns framed by live oaks. Not far away is an impressive Carillon Tower that plays concerts daily at 10, 12, 2 and 4 p.m.

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