750 North Bass Road, Kissimmee 34746
Admission: Suggested donation, adults $2, children
Hours: Thursday to Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Sunday 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: Just south of Irlo Bronson Highway (US Route 192)
Sometimes referred to as the Pioneer Museum, this open-air venue is a labor of love of the Osceola County Historical Society. The highlights are two old wooden buildings, rescued from oblivion and moved to this site as reminders of Central Florida’s not too distant but nonetheless vanished past.
The Lanier House, which has been dated to about 1887, is a Cracker-style residence made from broad cypress boards that have aged to a lovely cafe au lait shade of beige. The broad, shaded porches and airy central breezeway, or “possum trot,” were designed to let air circulate through the four rooms. The spare interior rooms, including a kitchen with a wood stove, touchingly evoke the rhythms of life in a simpler time. Next door is the smaller, two-room 1890 Tyson Home, now used to re-create a turn of the century general store. Books of local history and locally produced crafts are sold here.
A nearby modern prefab building holds a growing and random collection of antiques and memorabilia donated by the local community. Many of these touchstones to the past seem to have been passed from generation to generation before finding their way here. This is the living, collective memory of Osceola County and reflects not just Florida history but the many ways in which foreign and national events impinged on small towns like Kissimmee.
Across the street from the four-acre site of the museum is the Mary Kendall Steffee Nature Preserve. This 7.8-acre patch of wilderness lies in the very heart of tourist Kissimmee and yet remains remarkably isolated. A short walk on marked trails brings you to a raised boardwalk that juts out into Shingle Creek Swamp. A shaded seating area beckons the footsore. Aside from the intermittent drone of small planes landing at the nearby Kissimmee Airport, this is an oasis of tranquillity where you can glimpse the occasional eagle or other large raptor. You will need a key to the gate, which you can get at the office behind the preserved houses. The office will lend you a trail guide or you can purchase a copy for $2.
Nearby: Medieval Times, River Adventure Golf.
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