Irish American Heritage Month is almost here—and this March, we’re taking a closer look at one of Gainesville’s most beloved destinations, Morningside Nature Center, and its connections to the Emerald Isle! Just read on to learn more.
Step into living history
Nestled among the thicket of lush pine woodlands Gainesville is known for sits the Morningside Nature Center—and a slice of life 150 years in the making. Morningside’s Living History Farm simulates life in 1870 via the Hogan Cabin, built by Irish immigrants the McCarrolls in the 1840s. They, like many of the Irish families who came to call Florida “home,” operated a farm here, complete with animals and fresh produce. The site is also home to a one-room schoolhouse, barn and board-and-batten kitchen to give visitors an up-close, personal idea of what life was like in 19th century Florida.
A lush, natural escape
Of course, as its name might suggest, Morningside Nature Center also boasts a beautiful outdoor escape. There are 278 acres of natural Florida to explore, from vibrant wildflowers to more than seven miles of tree-lined trails featuring flatwoods, cypress domes and more—plus, of course, all the wildlife that calls Morningside “home!” This includes deer, gopher tortoises, wild turkey and a wide variety of feathered friends. You can also visit the Living History Farm’s heritage breed farm animals, as well as live reptiles and amphibians located in the nature center itself. (Plus, on Wednesday afternoons from September through May, you can even help feed the farm animals hay and veggies!)
With so much to do and see at Morningside Nature Center, you’ll want to come back for a repeat visit (or two, or three, or four…). And each time you do, you’ll be charmed by the serenity of nature and the beauty of Florida’s flora and fauna all around.
Irish heritage in the Sunshine State
The McCarrolls weren’t the only Irish immigrants to make Florida their home. Though most flocked to more northerly cities we today associate with Irish culture, like New York or Boston, others opted for the rural slice of nature and farming opportunities provided by Florida’s more remote, southern setting, especially during the Irish Potato Famine.
We can still see touches of Irish culture in Gainesville and throughout the Sunshine State today! Our city is home to the Hogan School of Irish Dance, for example, and numerous cities throughout the state—including nearby Ocala—have Irish sister cities.
For an Irish-inspired meal…
A day of learning about nature and Florida’s pioneering Irish calls for some serious fuel! Kick off your day with a trip to Peach Valley Gainesville, where you can savor hearty, Irish American-inspired favorites like our Corned Beef Hash or classic Canadian Bacon—though you wouldn’t know it by its name, this back bacon is closest to the kind enjoyed back on the Emerald Isle! We can’t wait to see you during Irish American Heritage Month and all year long.