Right before the arrival of our second son, I had a special weekend planned for our our growing family. We were heading to St. Augustine to let our little guy “Feel The Wheels” and then maybe a Hyppo Popsicle or two. It was going to be a great day! The Mrs. however seemed to have reservations about heading that far away from not only our home on what was forecasted to be a bad weather weekend, but also our local hospital where we planned to deliver our next addition. Never one to just derail plans without some sort of peace offering, she did mention that Cracker Creek was hosting their annual Cracker Day in conjunction with MOAS in Port Orange. My adventure radar pinged immediately, as I knew that Gamble Place is right next door and owed by MOAS. Sure enough Gamble Place was going to be opened during Cracker Day!
So what’s the big deal and why am I so excited about Gamble Place? The fact that we can’t always go there of course! I discovered Gamble Place about a year or so ago while driving through Port Orange. Of course there was a “Brown Sign” that we drove by and were on a spontaneous adventure. When we arrived we were greeted with closed gates and discovered it is not always opened to the public. After researching, I discovered that Gamble Place is opened to the public on a limited basis around once a month for discussions, nature walks and smaller events that are available by reservation only. I’m usually working when these front port talks take place so I have never been able to check it out. Finally Cracker Day was my chance!
Cracker Day sponsored by Cracker Creek and MOAS was a great compromise for that weekend. The weather was raining off and on all day, and I’ll admit that the Mrs. was right, we really shouldn’t have traveled very far. If anything we were actually closer to the hospital in the event she went into labor. Cracker Day featured FREE admission with a $5.00 parking charge. It’s probably much easier to manage from a logistics view-point, and $5.00 was reasonable, so we were happy to pay it. At first Cracker Day looked deserted, but it turns out we were in a parking lot pretty far away from Gamble Place and Cracker Creek. It was nice though, since a courtesy golf cart came to pick us up.
When we got closer to the main events, the first thing we did was make a B-Line for Gamble Place. Although the main gate was closed, there was a pedestrian gate that goes between Gamble Place and Cracker Creek. I can tell that the two organizations have a great relationship, as it’s mutually beneficial for both to be good neighbors. I have a few more details on Cracker Day a little later on, but wanted to acknowledge that is how we were able to checkout Gamble Place.
Alright, so what’s so special about Gamble Place? Well, I’m a bit of a history buff, and of course the Mrs. loves anything having to do with the mouse, so it was a nice fit. Gamble Place is named after James Gamble. Yes that Gamble, from Proctor and Gamble fame. It turns out he was one of Florida’s first seasonal residents. Much like other rich pioneers like Henry Flagler, James Gamble setup a seasonal residence, this time in Port Orange Florida and created what would become Gamble Place. Being an avid outdoorsman, he wanted to create a place that he could entertain guests and share his love for the outdoors. He discovered this scenic location while traveling down Spruce Creek. What he found was a small Orange Grove complete with a Citrus Packing House right on Spruce Creek.
Not only did he purchase a rather large plot of land measuring 175 acres, but he also purchased a large area of what would become the Spruce Creek Fly In sub development. On this beautiful property he built his “Cracker Style” house that at the time was very fancy! We loved the large front porch that at one time overlooked Spruce Creek! Even thought it was hot and muggy due to the weather, you could feel a calm breeze on the porch. I could only imagine what it would have been like in 1907 to sit on this porch right after it was built. You can go inside and see period furniture and get a feeling of what it would have been like before televisions overtook the living rooms of America. Although it has been updated with modern electricity and air conditioning, the main house at Gamble Place is great to visit.
We also checked out the Orange Packing house. I found it interesting that Gamble actually used the orange groves to help feed the less fortunate. That’s right, with all of his money he would ship citrus to his friends around the world, and then donate the rest to food banks and charity all over the place! The packing house is mostly closed off, but you can see “the business” end of the area where you can still see hand written citrus orders on the walls, and some of the original equipment used to harvest oranges. Although the orange grove has been lost to nature over the years, it would have been great to see this packing house in action.
OK so what about the Disney tie in? I’m glad you asked. After Gamble passed away, the property fell to his daughters who loved the location. Gamble’s son-in-law actually constructed a Disney style play house on property for his nieces to play in. This playhouse was inspired by the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves movie, and was constructed a year or two after the theatrical release of the movie. Despite being a playhouse, it’s very well equipped, featuring a kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom, and loft where the dwarves are said to sleep! Located inside an old cypress stump right next door is the Witch’s house where she once was known to plot against Snow White. It has been rumored that Walt Disney once visited the site but this cannot be independently verified.
Despite the Disney rumor, you will no longer find anything Disney related at Gamble Place or in the playhouse cottage. I have read that the Disney company has chosen to enforce their copyright of their intellectual property by requesting the removal of the witch, Sow White and even the Dwarves images. If you do a google image search you can see how they once fit together inside this beautiful play house. You can still however see the foot of the dwarves’ beds in the loft with their names on them. Even though there is no Disney connection, it was really cool to be inside a replica of the house. Right next door there is even a mock-up of the mine, which I believe is used for storage.
Over the years Gamble Place has gone though many transitions from being open to the general public, then limited hours, and now only opened for special engagements. Because it isn’t used much, some of the property looks overgrown. There is a fairly modern dock that would be perfect to reach the location by kayak or canoe, and a few picnic tables throughout he property as well as hiking trails. I have no idea how long the trails are, or even a map of them. It’s really a shame that Gamble Place is under utilized. I would love to see this humble location turned into a state park or even a county park, then maybe it could be more accessible to the general public. There is so much potential at Gamble Place that is just going to waste.
Now that we had our chance to checkout Gamble Place, we went back over to Cracker Creek to see what other festivities were offered for Cracker Day. Because of the weather, many of the vendors and community groups were packing up or had left for the day. We did notice though that there was an animal petting area complete with little goats, demonstrations of whip cracking, and exhibits on bee keeping, and much more. For a quick snack, we grabbed a hotdog which was reasonably priced and sat down for a few minutes to enjoy some great music.
Cracker day seemed to be more like we were just hanging out in the woods for the afternoon, which was a great way to unwind from our fast paced lives. People of all ages were enjoying the discounted canoe, kayak, and hydro bike rentals from Cracker Creek, as well as their pontoon eco tours. Because our little guy was getting a bit overheated, as well as my very pregnant wife, we decided to head out for the day. Because our visit to Cracker Creek and Gamble Place was a last-minute change, we didn’t really plan ahead. I did see visitors who decided to bring their own lunch in a cooler as well as lawn chairs to just hang out and enjoy the afternoon.
Our visit to Cracker Creek and Gamble Place was awesome! The unplanned change of venues for that day was an adventure in and of itself. Because we have been wanting to checkout Gamble Place for a while now, it made it even more special. If you would like to go be sure to checkout the MOAS website for more details. Cracker Day is an annual event at Cracker Creek in Port Orange, so I’ll try to keep everyone posted when they are opened to the public again. If you want to make your visits even more special the night before, cuddle up with your family and watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Your little ones will be amazed that they get to step into a Disney movie without going near a theme park! We plan on heading back to Cracker Creek one day soon to take a kayak trip down Spruce Creek!
Gamble Place Details:
|Address:||1819 Taylor Road in Port Orange|
|Phone:||MOAS: 386.255.0285 Cracker Creek: 386.304.0778|
|Estimated Cost For A Family of 4:||$5 Parking at
Cracker Day – Parking is FREE if you go to a MOAS Event (Admission May
Apply to a MOAS Event)
|Social Media Gamble Place (MOAS):|
|Social Media Cracker Creek:|