Day Trippin’ – Taking a step back in time in McIntosh


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If you ever get a chance to just meander along some of Florida’s backroads, do it. There is an abundance of treasures to be found. One such backroad can lead you to McIntosh, a town with a population of 455, according to the 2013 U.S. Census.

Located off U.S. Highway 441, McIntosh is less than 20 miles south of Gainesville. Not that you would get lost, but it is easy to find your way around town. Avenues are named A to J, and streets are numbered first to 12th. Those streets and avenues are lined with towering oak trees with branches that seem to be reaching out and inviting you to take a step back in time.

A venture off the beaten path to McIntosh will take you back in time. (Photo courtesy of Doris Keeler)

History surrounds the town

This quaint community is home to more than 60 structures that qualify as historic buildings. According to the National Register of Historic Places, the buildings include packing houses, churches, houses and the train depot.

Its history dates back to 1849 when land that included McIntosh was purchased at a government auction held in Micanopy. Development took off after the Florida Southern Railroad was built in 1881. The route covered 81 miles from Palatka to Gainesville and Ocala, and, when the train depot was built around 1895, it became the hub of citrus and vegetable shipping in the area.

McIntosh hasn’t changed in more than 80 years. After the last train passed through in 1974, a local group known as the Friends of McIntosh purchased the depot and restored it. The depot now houses a museum of railroad memorabilia. From the ticket counter to the baggage area, visitors can take that step back in time and experience a slice of life of old Florida railroad history.

McIntosh 1890s Festival

October is the perfect month to visit this town. The McIntosh 1890s Festival, sponsored by the “Friends,” is held every October. The group works to “preserve and enhance the natural and historic beauty of McIntosh” and sponsors the festival to assist in those efforts. Live music, craft vendors and food stands line the streets for this one-day event, which usually draws more than 35,000 people from around the state (the first festival in 1974 drew 4,000 visitors).

Money from the event is used to fund a variety of projects, including scholarships, park infrastructure, funds to the local school and assistance for other community needs. This year, the festival will be on Oct. 26 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Whether you’re attending the October festival or just looking for a relaxing day, a trip to McIntosh is the perfect way to spend a Saturday. Take a detour off the interstate, and enjoy more of the real Florida.

The McIntosh train depot, built in 1895, was a hub of Florida commerce. The depot has been restored and houses a museum of railroad memorabilia. (Photo courtesy of Doris Keeler)

About the writer

Doris Keeler is a freelance writer and blogger from Orlando who travels the state on weekends searching for people and places that represent “old Florida.” If you’re looking for things to do or interested in seeing some of the unique things around the Sunshine State or wanting to make some suggestions for Day Trippin’, visit her blog at www.FloridianaMagazine.com.

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