Furniture Finds: Florida state park is a gem in the rough

Florida's Torreya State Park located on the high bluffs above the Apalachicola River features the restored antebellum Gregory House, which is filled with a variety of antique furniture.
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 The restored Gregory house sits on high bluff with a magnificent view of the Apalachicola River.

The restored Gregory house sits on high bluff with a magnificent view of the Apalachicola River.

In spite of being such an old cave bear at heart, sometimes I really do enjoy getting out and seeing the sights – or sites. Recently my best friend Gail and I had the opportunity to visit one of the rare gems in the award winning Florida State Parks system.

This time the site was the Torreya State Park located on the high bluffs above the Apalachicola River north of Bristol, Florida, in the Panhandle.

Gail wanted to go to the Park because of the Torreya tree, a rare exotic tree that only grows in China, Japan, another foreign country called California and this part of Florida – and in Gail’s garden. I went to see the antebellum furnished house located at the top of the park.

About Gregory House

clerk's desk

What appeared to be the oldest item in the house was a country made schoolmaster’s or clerk’s desk with 20 inch plus wide boards and mortise and tenon joints secured by treenails. Photos courtesy of Fred Taylor

The house was constructed in 1849 at Ocheesee Landing across the river by a plantation owner named Jason Gregory. After the Civil War the plantation folded but the family lived there for some time after. It gradually fell into a state of disrepair and was abandoned in 1935 when it was donated to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

The Corps disassembled the house, supposedly numbering every piece, and transported it to its current site where it was reassembled by a different crew. The restoration is immaculate and reasonably true to the period. Today the restored house is open for tours guided by a Park Ranger.

The Park brochure says, “The house is currently furnished with articles from the mid 1850s when the house was occupied by Jason Gregory and his family.”

Well, not exactly.

The young Park Ranger who was our tour guide admitted she personally knew very little about the furnishings and relied on information supplied to her by the Park. That information in turn was mostly supplied by the people who generously donated items for the house.

Antique furniture in Gregory House

Gregory House

This was the condition of the house before being disassembled by the CCC in 1935.

But generosity does not equate to historical knowledge and some of the information was okay, some slightly off, some way off and some just plain dead wrong.

What was called Mr. Gregory’s office was certainly in line with a two piece mahogany and cherry plantation desk on one wall and a hand planed Federal era drop leaf table on another. Upstairs in the living quarters was another story.

All in all the Gregory House at Torreya State Park is a magnificent example of one type of nineteenth century lifestyle. It is an inspiring treasure and I do not fault the Park for its paucity of information.

However, the entire experience of visiting a part of Florida’s and the Nation’s past could be enhanced tremendously if the furnishings were correctly identified and put into context with the house, its inhabitants and the period of history.

I have volunteered to help document and identify the furniture but I have not heard back from the Park. 

Antique furniture at Gregory House 

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