Tomoka Basin State Parks – Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park

At nearly 5,000 acres, the Bulow Plantation was one of the largest plantations in territorial East Florida, the main product was sugar, but it also grew indigo, cotton, and rice. It was built and managed almost entirely by slaves, who were very skilled workers and craftspeople.

In 1821, Major Charles Wilhelm Bulow acquired 4,675 acres of wilderness bordering a tidal creek that would bear his name. Using slave labor, he cleared 2,200 acres and planted sugarcane, cotton, rice and indigo. Soon after the plantation was established, Major Bulow died and his 17 year old son John took over operations, the plantation prospered. In 1828, young James Emanuel Ormond III lived on the plantation and wrote a brief account. He said there was an eight oar fishing boat large enough for guns, nets, tents and cooks. The 2 1/2 story plantation house had two separate kitchens, there were 46 slave houses located in a semi circle around the plantation house where the 300-400 slave workers lived. A sawmill, corn house, huge sugar works with steam engine, cotton gins, poultry houses, blacksmith shop, fodder storage and river piers were also on the property. Few of these buildings have been located. Among the crops and produce he mentioned, were molasses, corn, sweet potatoes for the slaves, cotton, indigo for dye, and large rice fields located across Smith Creek to the east. A roadway and bridge was built from the plantation, across the creek and leading to the ocean on the east. Also several extensive coquina quarry were used to cut the valuable building material. 

John J. Bulow reportedly had a good working relationship with his Seminole neighbors, and some accounts claim he resisted the fortification of his plantation home my the militia under Maj. B. A. Putnam in early 1836, by actually firing a small cannon at them. The estate was taken over, and he was placed under house arrest while the militia used the plantation's boats to travel along the creek to raid Seminole camps. In late January 1836, they were forced to flee the Bulow Plantation and about a week later, the Seminole arrived and burned the whole estate. On April 1, 1836 Bulow appeared before a Justice of the Peace in St. Augustine, making a statement of losses due to the army occupation and hurried evacuation, which did not allow anyone to take their personal belongings. He blamed the US Army for the loss of his prosperous plantation. Bulow reportedly died in St. Augustine on May 7, 1836. 

All that is left today are the coquina ruins of the sugar mill, several wells, a spring house, and the crumbling foundation of the mansion. The cleared fields have been reclaimed by the forest and the area looks much as it once did when it belonged to the Timucua Indians, the first inhabitants in the area.

Ruins of the former plantation; the sugar mill, a unique spring house, several wells and the crumbling foundations of the plantation house and slave cabins, show how volatile the Florida frontier was in the early 19th century. Today, a scenic walking trail leads visitors to the sugar mill ruins, listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. In 1954 a dedication ceremony took place and Bulow Ruins State Historic Site was brought to life. Visitors can walk through the ruins of this massive mill site and admire the work of the master stonemasons and appreciate the rugged technology of the remaining stonework, which survived the fires that brought an end to an era. The outdoor museum houses a number of artifacts from the Bulow era as well as written accounts of the historical happenings at the plantation. Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park is one of four contiguous parks in the area.


ADDRESS: 3501 Old Kings Road, Flagler Beach, FL 32136
PHONE: (386) 517-2084
HOURS: Thursday-Monday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

page information credit: Florida State Parks, Friends of the Tomoka Basin State Parks, Flagler Library Friends, Florida Frontiers, Wikipedia 
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors