Welcome to the Waldo Historical Society website.
With this website, we hope to keep you informed of our projects and our progress.
History of the Waldo Historical Society
by Penny Dodd
In 2002, Ann Enck formed a group in Waldo which she called Historic Waldo, with members Lucy Roe, Mary Jackson, Glenn Gay, Jim Powell, Bonita DeWiliby and Penny Dodd. Historic Waldo was never incorporated, nor were there any elected Officers, although Ann referred to herself as President in interviews. Ann had at least two different groups of members. Some of us were never aware that others were attending separate meetings with Ann. She asked me to type some letters on behalf of the group, which I delivered to her at the two or three meetings I attended at the Yerkes Center. After a few intermittent meetings with both groups, meetings finally tapered off. Ann's group seemed (to those of us of the "membership"), to be disbanded.
A few days before a scheduled December 16, 2004 Christmas Walking Tour Ann had planned, she was unexpectedly hospitalized. She asked Lucy Roe to take over the tour. Lucy agreed, and invited me to accompany her. I knew nothing of the history of Waldo at that time, so figured I was along to be the photographer, which I was happy to do.
The Christmas Walking Tour consisted of Lucy leading the group through the historic downtown streets, telling the history of each home and its occupants during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The historic district is about an eight block area within walking distance of the Caboose. Less than a mile to walk.
The tour began at 7 p.m., during the annual "Christmas at the Caboose" festivities at Waldo City Park. Twenty-seven people were entertained and educated by Lucy's historic knowledge and expertise.
The United Methodist Church was decorated for the Christmas season, complete with a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Coffee and cookies were served, and a small boy, along on the tour with his parents, was allowed to ring the church bell.
After walking through the 6 block historic area, several of our "tourists" formed a caravan using their personal vehicles, and followed Lucy and me to the Granger house, located in the section of Waldo referred to as Cracker Hill. There, we were welcomed by the Holcomb family, current owners of the Granger house. We were offered cookies and cider, and were told us the history of their home.
From the Granger home, the caravan drove north to the Ambrose house, located on the north side of the 301 overpass. Owner Jeannie MacDonald was there to perform a guided tour through her 14-room home, including a trip to the attic. I took several photos up there, hoping to catch a few "ghosts," but alas, they must have been in hiding that night. Jeannie explained how her grandfather, George Ambrose, had built the home in the late 1800s.
In spite of the 20 degree weather, everyone enjoyed the tour, and told us they hoped we’d do it again the following year. That was the "seed" that sparked our desire to form the Waldo Historical Society.
A few months later, Lucy was contacted by Phil Denton regarding the upcoming Yulee Days celebration, a multi-city event being planned to include all of the towns along the railroad from Cedar Key to Fernandina. Lucy mentioned his plans to me, and I agreed that Waldo should definitely be included in anything having to do with the railroad. At this time, Lucy and I had been making plans to do another Christmas tour. We thought we could do one during Yulee Days in Waldo as well.
Wanting input from other history-oriented people in Waldo, email notices were sent out to everyone we thought might be interested in participating in Yulee Days. The first meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, January 19 at Hardee's restaurant on US 301 in Waldo. After several weeks of meetings, with just one or two attendees at each, we changed our meeting dates to Tuesday, thinking Wednesday nights might be the reason for the lack of interest. Each meeting resulted in having the location of the tour changed from City Park to the Flea Market, or to the Community Center, depending on who showed up at the meeting, and no one volunteered to get involved personally, Frustrated by the lack of interest, we gave up the meetings, and decided to go with what we thought should be done. We planned to do an historic tour of Waldo during Yulee Days at Waldo by ourselves.
In the meantime, another event was being planned in Waldo, called Waldo Community Homecoming. It would be held on April 30. Yulee Days was scheduled for June 3, 4 and 5. We attended a Homecoming meeting on February 21, and I was impressed with the organization that had already gone into the Homecoming event. We decided then, that our tour should be held during Homecoming rather than Yulee Days.
So - that decision having been made, we began working to create our historic tour of Waldo. We spent almost every waking moment looking at maps, the historic district, driving from here to there, identifying the historic homes and businesses. We wanted to create the best tour of historic Waldo. One that would impress even the most die-hard Waldonians. Since I was still working full time, we could only actually work on the tour after I got home from work.
We weren’t even sure where all the historic homes and businesses were, but with the aid of the Internet, Murray Laurie’s booklet, and our own perseverance, we located over 40 historic sites in Waldo. When we finally got the list together well enough to actually drive it, we found it would take over two and a half hours to complete. That was way too long for most people to endure. We had to cut it. There were a few places we knew we could not cut: The Waldo Canal, the Flowing Well, and The Yerkes Center.
Ann Enck was still in the hospital, so we contacted Brady Crom, who updated his CD for us, added a few photos, deleted a few, and made us a copy that we could run at the Yerkes Center during the tour. Kim Worley, Waldo City Manager set it up on her projector to run continuously. When our tour vehicle reached the Yerkes Center, our tourists were led inside to watch the CD, while Lucy narrated. We are so grateful to Brady for his contribution.
The Waldo Canal portion of the tour is a relaxing fifteen minute round-trip drive along a narrow stretch of dirt road that takes you back to days before automobiles, telephone poles and litter.
Visiting the Flowing Well is a part of the tour that few people have experienced, so we furnished each tourist with a small Dixie cup to sample the constantly running fresh cold water.
After getting our historic route laid out in a driveable order, and down to a workable 90 minutes, we practiced it almost every day, going over the history of each site, as if we had people in the vehicle with us. Lucy was the Narrator, so she needed to recognize each site and remember who lived there and what their affect on Waldo was. I was the driver, so needed to know where to turn, without referring to written directions. We needed to eliminate passing the same site twice. This meant practice, practice, practice!!
Then came the hard part. The original addresses listed on the historic district map and in Murray Laurie's booklet were no longer valid. Waldo had recently changed all of its addresses to 911 addresses, so all of the old street names need to be updated. That sounds a lot easier than it was. Because of the change of street names, we had difficulty even locating some of the historic places at first. All in all, we spent at least three months getting the tour route in workable order. When April 30 arrived - we were confident that we could conduct a memorable tour.
Many people made this tour a success
To conduct a tour, one must have a vehicle. We wanted to be able to transport enough people to be a reasonable fund raiser for the Society, so determined that a 12 passenger van would be best. That would allow ten paying passengers. A 15 passenger van would require a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License), and neither of us had one. We decided to contact one of the new car dealers in Gainesville to see if they would "loan" us a vehicle for the day. After checking with the Homecoming Committee on the possibility of offering a free spot in exchange for a van to use, we headed for Gainesville.
The first dealership told us that due to insurance considerations, they could not allow anyone but their employees to drive their vehicle, and that no dealership would allow it. Not to be easily discouraged, we continued on up Main Street to Gainesville Ford. I walked up to Mark Wyeth, General Sales Manager, and said "Have we got a deal for you."
I handed him my Waldo Historical Society card, (printed on my home printer), told him that we were with the Waldo Historical Society, and that Waldo would be having a Homecoming Celebration on April 30. There would be spaces available for car dealers to display their vehicles during the event, for which the cost would be $200. For this $200, they could display up to ten vehicles. We told Mr. Wyeth that if Gainesville Ford would allow us to use one of their 12 passenger vans to do historic tours for that day, Gainesville Ford could bring ten vehicles up to the event at no charge.
Mr. Wyeth was very interested in that "deal," and agreed to let us use their "Courtesy Van" for the day. He said we could pick it up on Friday, April 29, and bring it back on Sunday, May 1. He also told us to give him a call a week before the event to remind him to have the vehicle ready. We did call, and on Friday when we picked up the van, it had been completely detailed and filled with gas. Gainesville Ford is a great community-oriented Dealership, and we can’t say enough good about them.
Now that we had a vehicle lined up, we created our "Tour Booklet" which included a photo and brief history of each of the stops on our tour. We priced the booklets at $1.00 each, planning to sell the booklets along with the tour tickets. We also acquired a battery operated "megaphone" (found on eBay), which would allow Lucy to speak into a small hand-held microphone, describing each home as we passed it. Her voice was directed through the megaphone, which was on the floor between the driver's and narrator's seats, facing the rear of the van, so that people in the back could hear.
We had two magnetic signs made for the van that said "Historic Tours of Waldo" by Signs Galore in Gainesville. Bobby Cook, Lucy's husband, painted a sign that said "Waldo Historic Tour Starts Here," which he stuck into the ground beside our borrowed van. Things were starting to come together.
On the day of Homecoming, we did three tours, with close to a full van load each time. Several native Waldonians said they were surprised to learn so much about Waldo that they never knew. You can’t ask for a better compliment than that.
Since the first Homecoming, many things have changed and now, with a website, we can share our ongoing activities with you.
Our monthly newsletter, The Waldo Phoenix, will be posted here each month (just click on Waldo Phoenix above) for those of you who prefer to get their newsletter online rather than try to find a paper copy before they're all gone. We hope you enjoy reading it, and please feel free to give us feedback in the Comments section.
Here on our website, you can book an historic tour of Waldo, get your Spaghetti Dinner tickets early, or purchase our annual calendar.