Sunday, September 1, 2013

Weaver’s Station

Weaver's Station, looking south (watercolor pencil).

It feels good to be back after my break – and I thank you for your patience.  I’d like to catch you up on where we sketched last spring in the Fakahatchee area, starting with our February outing.

For our Saturday meeting in February, our group met on the south side of the Tamiami Trail across from the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk.  Participants sketched both sides of the road: along the boardwalk to the north, and scattered throughout a clearing to the south. 

The area on the south side is historically known as Weaver’s Station, once the site of one of six “comfort stations” completed in 1928.  The stations were created to service motorists traveling the newly constructed 107-mile section of the Tamiami Trail between Naples and Miami.

In the early days of automobiles, horseless carriages of that time were not the comfortable, reliable, and speedy machines we drive now.  Many of them were open to the elements, an unpleasant prospect during our rainy season!  Engines and tires were not always dependable, and the gas tank held a modest 9 to 10 gallons of fuel. 

Those 107 miles were largely unsettled, and I can imagine the wildlife that drivers must have seen.  The canal that was dug for fill in order to raise the roadbed still parallels the highway.  Alligators sun themselves along the banks, much like they did 100 years ago, though not in the same numbers. 
Red mangroves along the canal (watercolor sketch).
Situated every ten miles along the portion of the Tamiami Trail linking Naples and Miami, the stations offered fuel, food, and other necessities designed to provide the “comforts” needed for a driving adventure through the Everglades.  They were established by millionaire entrepreneur Barron Collier, who also financed this section of the road.  

Operated by a husband and wife, the stations also provided roadway security.  The husband (authorized by the county sheriff) would patrol a five-mile stretch on each side of the station by motorcycle during daylight hours to assist motorists in need.  According to Collier County’s Historical and Archaeological Preservation Board, Weaver Station hosted a restaurant with restrooms on the ground floor, and living quarters for the husband and wife team.  Also available were unfurnished cabins to travelers who carried their own bedding. 

The men patrolling the Trail became the Southwest Mounted Police, which in turn was the foundation for the first Florida Highway Patrol.  An article in the November 1928 edition of the Collier County News mentions the first officer at the Fakahatchee station as S. M. Weaver, presumably the namesake for Weaver’s Station.  What a life it must have been, husband and wife living in relative isolation, vast stretches of wet grasslands dotted with hammocks all around them. 

I sketched the grassy areas to the south and east (top image), framed with a stand of tall leather ferns and a cabbage palm.  The small painting was made facing west and a bit south, along a portion of a north-south canal lined with red mangroves and Australian pine.  With a wary eye out for alligators, I sat in a mowed area filled with butterflies, with a cool and clear blue sky overhead.  Looking at these images in my sketchbook today in September, I’m amazed at the detail of memory they bring back.  I can almost feel the February coolness on my skin, see the swallowtail kites kettling high in the sky, and hear the passing traffic on the road.  The buildings are gone now, the land in possession of the Seminoles.  The road remains, our contemporary path across the Everglades.

Super Deluxe Aquabee sketchbook by Bee Paper, 9x6 inches
Daniel Smith watercolors
Kimberly, Derwent, and Inktense water soluble pencils
Prismacolor white colored pencil
Niji Aquabrushes

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A slideshow of our day: