The last time the family and I were in Jacksonville, we saw quite a few “brown signs” pointing in the direction of Kingsley Plantation. We happened to be looking for a quick place to stop and enjoy a picnic lunch, but were distracted by another park along the way. When I got home I was curious to see what exactly the Kingsley Plantation actually was. I was surprised to discover that the Kingsley Plantation was part of a national park that I didn’t even know about!
As part of the Timicuan Preserve national parks complex, the Kingsley Plantation is a wonderfully preserved plantation from the 1800’s. The history of the plantation isn’t a shining moment in our national history, as this was a operating slave plantation, but it made for a glimpse into a past that is not easily forgotten.
Because we had stopped off at Fort Caroline previously, we knew exactly how to get o he Kingsley Plantation thinks to a great map. After a short Ferry ride across the St. John’s river and a side trip to the Ribault Club, we had arrived at our destination. As you drive into this park complex, it’s difficult not to notice the ruins of actual, and fully resorted slave cabins. We were lucky to find a spot that day as the park was a bit crowded that afternoon, but we unloaded the little man and headed off for adventure!
I was thrown off a bit, because really the only other national park I have visited was Canaveral National Seashore which had an admission charge. So far on our day’s outing we hadn’t spent a dime on attractions and the Kingsley Plantation was no different. The was no admission charge, but if you would care to make a donation to the National Parks Service you can do so at the gift shop.
We went straight to the barn! This large outer building was where much of the slave labor took place and was a bit eerie at first. There were a handful of displays that introduced visitors to what life was like for the residents of Kingsley Plantation, and I can say with certainty that I would not have wanted to work there, or be a slave there for that matter. The working conditions were hot and tedious, but the barn itself seemed to bring at least a bit of relief from the blazing Florida sun. The stone construction actually seemed to make it fairly cool inside, but back in the day when the Kingsley Plantation was actually in operation, I would be very uncomfortable when you add the animals and the smells they generate into the mix. We were interested to find though that there were differ slave labor systems that were utilized in different areas throughout history. The Kingsley Plantation utilized the task system, where once their allotted portion of work was completed for they day, slaves were able to do whatever they wished including growing their own food, fishing, hunting, or socializing.
Heading twords the main house we were ale to stop by the plantation kitchen where meals were prepared for the Kingsley Family. Most of the kitchen has been restored, but a small section has been left to show not only how it aged, but how truly primitive the facility was. In the next room over Mrs. kingsley’s parlor was where the lady of the house would entertain guests as well as conduct the business of her plantation. That’s right, the Kingsley plantation was owned and operated by a woman, which is something else that makes the Kingsley Plantation very unique! Not to mention she was a previous slave who was married to the plantation owner! Her parlor was more like a business office with more displays reflecting not only slave life, but also how many of the slaves came to live at the plantation.
Unfortunately the main house was closed for renovations, but they are still opened during the weekends. Guided tours are offered of the main house by reservation only. I don’t recall if there is a cost associated with the tours, but I would have loved to experience how the other half lived during the same time period. In the gift shop located right next to the plantation house, you can actually check out a guided audio tour of the property. We would have done this ourselves but we were running out of daylight at this point. This free audio tour takes visitors all over the property discussing the history of the area, the plantation and it’s inhabitants. We took a quick stroll down to the docks before heading out and were treated to a great riverfront view.
On the way out, we had a chance to check out the slave quarters ruins. One of the tabby constructed buildings has actually been restored. Visitors have the opportunity to actually walk through the ruins and experience them first hand. The restored quarters seemed to be a bit larger than the surrounding ones, but you’ll certainly get the feeling of what it was like to live in them. We did find the arrangement of the slaver quarters curious though. Laid out in a crescent shaped design, these slave quarters were the outskirts of Kingsley Plantation. According to the documentation on the National parks Service Website, many African towns are laid out in a similar manner, and the bigger the quarters, the higher the status in the slave hierarchy. Overall, the Kingsley Plantation was a great educational experience. There were plenty of spots to sit down and enjoy a small picnic lunch, but not pavilions or grills, so be sure to pack your lunch for this one. The location is beautiful, and if you enjoy history, you definitely won’t want to pass of this cornerstone of the Timucan Preserve.
Kingsley Plantation Details:
|Date(s):||365 Days||Time(s):||9am to 5pm|
|Address:||11676 Palmetto Avenue Jacksonville, Fl 32226|
|Estimated Cost For A Family of 4:||FREE|