Description - Appropriately situated on the Suwannee River, the 850-acre center honors the memory of Stephen Foster, whose song "Old Folks at Home" memorialized the picturesque stream. It also serves as a gathering place for those who perpetuate the crafts, music and legends of early and contemporary Floridians.
Copyright: Florida Division of Recreation & Parks
Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center
Foster apparently never saw the Suwannee River, but he made it famous nevertheless. The river begins its course in the Okefenokee Swamp of southeastern Georgia and meanders southwesterly for a distance of approximately 250 miles before it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The 1935 Florida Legislature designated "Old Folks At Home" also known as "Suwannee River" the official state song.
The Suwannee River has a unique and diverse history. White Sulphur Springs, located on the banks of the river at Stephen Foster Center, dates at least to the 1700s. The Native Americans regarded the sulphur spring as sacred ground for its curative powers. White Sulphur Springs was promoted as a health resort and the spring water advertised as a cure for almost any ailment. In 1906, the spring was enclosed with a high concrete wall and gates to keep the river out. Buildings on either side of the spring contained shops, dressing rooms, and clinical examination rooms. One of the resort's many famous visitors was Teddy Roosevelt. The springhouse still attracted some visitors into the 1950s. Today, the original concrete wall and gate still exist; and the surrounding area retains much of the culture of that early time.
- The Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center lies alongside the Suwannee River offering the visitor a variety of recreations and educational opportunities.
Dioramas that depict scenes described in some of Stephen Foster's most famous songs are housed in the Stephen Foster Museum and Carillon Tower along with rare pianos and priceless musical instruments. Guided tours of the exhibits are given daily.
The Carillon Tower is also home to the world's largest tubular bell instrument constructed and installed by the J.C. Deagan Company in 1957. The bells of the Stephen Foster Memorial Carillon are of unique design originated by Deagan in 1916. The company installed more than 500 carillons in this country and abroad for nearly 42 years. The carillon at White Springs, the largest and the last system to be installed by Deagan, consists of three full sets of 32 bells with a scale range of C to G, chromatic, plus a fourth high G bell. Three bells sound in perfect unison for each note to produce a strong, resonant tone response. Regular programs of many of Stephen Foster's compositions, which number more than 200, are played by specially trained carillonneurs and at other times from the automatic electric player installed with the carillon.
The newly renovated campground offers 45 new sites with electricity available and two state of the art bathhouses. Pets are now welcome in Stephen Foster's campground, with proof of rabies vaccination.
On-road and off-road bicycling are extremely popular in the White Springs area. Miles of trails are available through some of the most beautiful country in the Suwannee Valley. Canoe facilities and liveries are also available in the community. Detailed recreation information including maps of trails and routes are available in the Nature & Heritage Tourism Center. As of spring 2001, this is a brand new center in the town of White Springs adjoining the Culture Center. This is a wonderful place to orient oneself to the community and all that it has to offer. Materials about the entire state of Florida are also available. Audio-visuals, exhibits, and even Internet access is available to the public. The center is open 7 days a week from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. Summer hours are likely to extend to 7 P.M. Outside the center, picnic tables offer a relaxing shady spot. Restrooms are available.
Rounding out your adventure at Stephen Foster Center, be sure to visit the Craft Square where skilled artisans create crafts from raw materials. Items produced in the Craft Square may be purchased from the crafter or in the craft shop. For the more industrious visitor, craft classes offering instruction on traditional arts and ways are conducted weekly. A schedule of demonstrations and classes is available by calling 386-397-1920.
Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center is also known as a point of entry for the Osceola Trail. This 22-mile trail is actually a segment of the Florida National Scenic Trail which when finished will stretch from Big Cypress National Preserve to Blackwater River State Forest. Beginning at the Folk Center, hikers will be treated to several miles of trail along the steepest banks of the Suwannee River. Hikers will get a view of Florida's only whitewater rapids at Big Shoals at 8.5 miles. The trail enters the National Forest at approximately 14 miles and continues to follow power lines and old timber roads.
Recreation - Camping, hiking, bicycling, picnicking, canoeing, and wildlife observation are popular recreational activities at the Stephen Foster Center. The Stephen Foster Citizen Support Organization provides Elderhostel seminars during the fall and winter months. Elderhostel information is available by calling 386-397-2733.
Climate - The panhandle area of Florida experiences mild, comfortable winters and warm to hot, humid summers. The average summer temperatures reach well above 83 degrees Fahrenheit (above 29 Celsius). Winters are mild with temperatures averaging below 52 degrees Fahrenheit (below 11 Celsius). The average precipitation for the panhandle area is more than 60 inches per year. August and September are peak months of the hurricane season that lasts from June 1 through November 30.
Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center is located in White Springs, off U.S. Highway 41 North.