Driving Through Old Florida - Kenansville

 Heartbreak Hotel - Kenansville, Florida
© 2010 by Michael A. Pancier

It's really wild when you drive through parts of the state to find interesting ghost towns and towns that are virtually a shadow of what they were 80 years ago.  In my last post, I took some images from the old Florida ghost town called Pinecrest which  sits on what used to be the old Tamiami Trail in the middle of Big Cypress.  This past weekend, I discovered a similar town while driving along Canoe Creek Road in search for birds from Cypress Lake in St. Cloud onto the famous crossroads known to folks as Yeehaw Junction.   I got out of my car to take some photos of a swallowed-tail kite then I saw this old building called the Heartbreak Hotel, seen above and below, and I had to take a picture of it. 
© 2010 Michael A. Pancier

The place seemed like a working hotel, but it was closed. Upon turning around, I saw a historic looking bank and had to take a picture of that as well.
Kenansville, First State Bank
© 2010 Michael A. Pancier

So where the heck was I? I looked it up to learn I was in a near-ghost town called Kenansville, which has a population of less than 1000 with a majority of the folks being over 50. It's located on CR 523, (Canoe Creek Road) in Osceola County.  The place was named in 1914 after the wife of Florida pioneer, Henry Flagler and was a big cattle town with the old Florida Eastcoast Railroad running smack through the town. 

I also learned that the Heartbreak Hotel got its name, not from Elvis, but from being being a very out of the way place where people from nearby cities would sneak away for illicit love affairs. It supposedly is still a working hotel though it was closed when I was there.  I've found that legend has it that the Elvis hit was inspired by this hotel. Below is an image, not mine, of how the place looked in its heyday.
Image courtesy Florida State Archives.

At the end of the drive heading south you will run smack into SR 60 and US 441 otherwise known as Yeehaw Junction.  Most folks only know of that place because of the Turnpike Exit with that name and the tourist traps there that try to sell you discount attraction tickets.  There is a historic place at that famous crossroad though, it's called the historic Desert Inn.
Desert Inn © 2010 by Michael A. Pancier

Of course, I wondered, why this dive in the middle of nowhere is famous.  Apparently, before there was a Turnpike and when these towns were booming,  according to town historians and several original newspaper articles that are displayed at the Desert Inn National Historical site, the town was originally named "Jackass Junction". This name was given to the four corner site back in the early 1930s, when local ranchers rode on burros to visit the Desert Inn (then the local brothel). 

The place looks like a real dive. I didn't have a chance to go inside, but I've since learned there are a bunch more historic and abandoned places there worth taking photos of so I'm going to have to go back and maybe then I'll actually order a beer in this place. 
  Image courtesy Florida State Archives
Just above, is an archival image I found on the Florida State Archives website showing what the old Railroad Depot used to look like.  The Turnpike and the elimination of the Railroad, made this area a pseudo ghost town.  As it stands though,  it's certainly a place worth exploring for photographic opportunities as well as it's an amazing drive through Central Florida especially if you stop along the big lakes in the area such as Three Lakes WMA,  Lake Kissimmee/Joe Overstreet Road, and Cypress Lake which are an amazing area if you are into wildlife and birds.

See you out in the field.