Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center
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Stephen Foster wrote many American songs that you'll recognize, such as Oh! Susanna and My Old Kentucky Home. Even though he lived in Pittsburg, he chose locales for his songs that echoed downhome America. He sang about the Suwannee River, a river in the Deep South, rather than the Pedee River near his house that he'd first chosen for his song "Old Folks at Home." The Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center is located on a bend in the Suwannee River and you can walk down to a gazebo that looks out over the chalky banks of the brown river.
This center, in a beautiful building, is magical and music lovers will adore it! The large dioramas of his songs are so lifelike, with moving parts. With moonlit water, campfire, lit-up rooms and steamboat, they are just delightful. Even though there is nothing hands-on, my daughter loved this center. There are also wax figures of ladies in early 19th century attire and plenty of historic pianos.
If you walk directly out the back of the center on the grass past tall moss-hung oaks you come to the bell tower, which chimes automatically every quarter hour. The carillon has three sets of 32 bells, with three bells sounding in unison each time a note is struck by the piano-like console. Several times a day (including at 10am), one of Foster's melodies is played on the carillon by a musician. Carillon melodies never sound that great to me, but it's still fun to hear. Inside the tower there is a small museum with one more diorama and some more exhibits about Foster and the carillon. You can also see the automatic carillon-playing devices.
The ridiculous thing about this park is that there are no walking paths between each attraction. One is expected to get in and out of the car to drive these short distances! I guess they made this place American in every way! There are also no signs to lead you to each spot.
There is a mediocre gift shop with some crafts. Nearby, a nicely-built gazebo looks out over the Suwannee River. The river itself is not very pretty. A large pole with markings shows how high the river comes when it floods- this is interesting.
Many folk festivals plus a craft square are held at this state park.
Just outside the entrance to the park is the Nature and Heritage Visitor Center, a grand yellow Southern building with a pretty, white wrap-around porch. There is not much inside the center but if you park there and walk down the steep driveway you will come to a sign for the ruins of White Sulphur Spring. This was a four-storey bathhouse constructed around the medicinal sulphur spring. A stage coach stop at the turn of the century, White Sulphur Spring would be packed with people and you can see the photos of the spring in its heyday in the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center and on the sign at the ruins. A fire put an end to its popularity, and later, some industry upstream caused the spring to dry out. It has only recently started flowing again, but river water is coming out rather than spring water. You can walk the ruins' entire circle of balcony but it is very scary because the wood is old and about the break, and you can hear the water rushing over the concrete far below your feet.
To visit a spring that's still full of life, head 45 minutes to Ichetucknee Springs and take a blissful dip!
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Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park is located at 11016 Lillian Saunders Dr, White Springs FL 32096, call (386) 397-2733.
Open 9-5 daily. Admission is $5 per car.
This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.
Overall Visitor Rating: Unrated.