This post was authored by Sarah “Moxy” Moczygemba, the former Outreach and Social Media Assistant for this project.
It’s spooky season once again so we’ve collected more clippings about ghost towns in Florida. Why are there so many ghost towns in Florida? Christopher Strain explains that the waves of development in the state result in a “spatial and temporal paradox: the more Florida builds and grows, the more it degrades and devolves” (Strain). Economic downturns, agricultural failure, depletion of natural resources, and disaster all contribute to towns shifting from booming cultural centers to shadows of their former selves. That said, some of these towns have fascinating histories worth discussing.
Romeo, Florida and Juliette, Florida were both towns in Marion County that were a few miles apart from each other. The Shakespearean nature of their names caught our eye and we were able to locate stories and advertisements about both towns.
Eureka, Florida, in Lake County, is another town with a rather striking name. According to an article from Ocala Style, the post office in the town operated from “1873 until 1955, then moved to Citra.” Today there’s a boat ramp at the Eureka Dam that offers access to the Ocala National Forest.
Estero, Florida is another fascinating ghost town. According to the village website, “Estero’s most noted pioneer was Cyrus Teed, leader of the Koreshan Unity.” The Koreshans moved to the area from Chicago in the 1890s to found what they called their “New Jerusalem” to escape the persecution and ridicule they faced in the city. By 1904, they were “able to incorporate 110 square miles into the Town of Estero” (Estero). A story for a longer post, Estero continued to exist even after Teed’s death and non-resurrection in 1908. Estero appears to be making a comeback, but the Koreshans no longer exist. However, you can still visit their settlement, which is now Koreshan State Park.
Yamoto Colony, located in what is now Boca Raton, was a Japanese community of farmers founded by Jo Sakai in 1905. Supported by Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway, the immigrant farming community wanted to “introduce new crops and farming techniques to the state” (Morikami Website). The crops they farmed included pineapples! Yamoto ultimately disappears in 1941 due to the wartime hysteria that resulted in Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans undergoing forced relocation by the U.S. Government.
The last two ghost towns we’ll cover this year are Viking and Oslo Florida. Despite being around 4 miles apart, Oslo is in Indian River County while Viking is in St. Lucie County. Apparently, the names of the towns were chosen by the Scandinavian families who moved to the area in the 1890s. Like Yamoto, the citizens of Viking and Oslo also engaged in agriculture, including growing pineapples. We’re not entirely sure what led to the declension of these two towns but their names are certainly interesting.
Citations and Additional Sources:
Anonymous. “Ghost Towns of Marion County.” Ocala Style, July 6, 2010. Accessed October 25, 2018. https://www.ocalastyle.com/ghost-towns-of-marion-county/.
Capero, Laura. New Collection: Viking Cemetery Collection. RICHES at the University of Central Florida. Accessed October 17, 2018. https://riches.cah.ucf.edu/?tag=viking-cemetery.
Florida Memory. The Koreshan Unity Exhibit. State Library & Archives of Florida. Accessed October 25, 2018. https://www.floridamemory.com/exhibits/koreshan/.
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Yamoto Colony-Pioneering Japanese in Florida. Accessed October 24, 2018. https://morikami.org/our-history/yamato-colony-pinoeering-japanese-in-florida/.
Lake County Florida. Ghost Towns: Lake County, Florida. Lake County Board of County Commissioners. Accessed October 17, 2018. https://www.lakecountyfl.gov/pdfs/gis/maps/GhostTowns_22x34.pdf.
Pike, Jim. “Oslo.” Ghost Towns. Accessed October 19, 2018. http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/fl/oslo.html.
Pike, Jim. “Viking.” Ghost Towns. Accessed October 19, 2018. http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/fl/viking.html.
Strain, Christopher. “Ghost Towns, Vanishing Florida and the Geography of Memory.” Journal of Florida Studies Volume 1, Issue 2 (Spring 2013): accessed October 15, 2018. http://www.journaloffloridastudies.org/0102ghosttowns.html.
Village of Estero. Estero History. Accessed October 25, 2018. https://estero-fl.gov/estero-history/