Welcome back to Paradise

A busy day in a Florida orange grove. (Matheson Historical Center)

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:09 p.m.

Each issue, Gainesville Magazine's new Key to the City will introduce you to a valuable Gainesville resource that you may have otherwise overlooked.


If You Go

The Matheson Historical Center,
513 East University Ave.,
offers more than 500 years of Alachua County history; a tour of the second-oldest home in Gainesville; the Tison Tool Barn, with a collection of more 600 tools, and the native Botanical Gardens, with more than 120 species of plants.
Hours: Monday to Thursday 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., open until 6 p.m. the second Wednesday of the month. Weekend and evening hours by appointment, (378-2280, www.mathesonmuseum.org)

Can you count the miles from your house to Paradise? Probably not.

Many of us can name the towns that make up Alachua County today. But turn back the hands of time to 1824, when the county was created with borders extending from the Georgia line to Port Charlotte to the southwest, and you'll discover more than 100 communities, many of which no longer exist.

Established by small groups of families, these communities sprung up around industries of the day — from cotton and citrus to turpentine, phosphate and lumber — and were linked by railroad spurs built to transport the goods to the greater world.

Now you can rediscover these lost communities — including Paradise — thanks to “Communities That Have Come And Gone,” a new permanent display at the Matheson Museum. Displays will introduce you to their location, families and history, including dates they were established and faded away.

The exhibit was inspired when the Matheson staff decided to create a map of Alachua County showing the locations of the Bellamy Road, the Alachua Trail, and Bartram's Trail.

A geographer hired to examine old maps discovered these lost communities — Paradise, for example. Located near Highway 441 in Alachua, Paradise faded after the freezes of 1889 and 1895 destroyed its citrus industry and the boll weevil infestation in the 1890s put an end to the cotton crops.

Now, thanks to this exhibit, Paradise is back.

— Information supplied by Alicia A. Antone, executive director of the Matheson Historical Center

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