Ask the Expert: Commemorating 500 Years of Florida

Question: “2013 marks the 500th anniversary of Ponce de León’s landing on Florida’s east coast. A momentous milestone, especially for us northeast Floridians. If I am trying to achieve a look that shows pride in this heritage, what type of antiques, decor or furnishings can I incorporate into my home?” – Heather Houston

Answer: What a great question! As a fourth generation Floridian, I am so glad you asked me this! Where do I begin? Florida is a rich and diverse state, and there are so many great things that reflect “Old Florida”. The first thing that comes to my mind are cows. The Spanish brought cattle, horses, and oranges to La Florida. You know, Jacksonville used to be called Cowford because they forded cows across the river. The first cowboys were in Florida and the middle part of our state is still big cattle country. Cows are not only a unique piece of our northeast Florida history, but in décor they are also so English. If you are looking for a neat iconic piece of Florida history that also overlaps into a traditional, English Country style….think cows. Here are a few ideas.

If you like Black Forest carvings, which you can always find at the Wolfson Show, these Black Forest cows would be an excellent addition to any collection and fit with any style.

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 Old prints and lithographs stacked on a wall can be a dynamic focal point in any home. You could frame them rustically for a den or mat them and dress them up for your living room. Of course, the classic bovine oil painting is always a staple. Here are a few from 1stdibs

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 Although most of these are English, sometimes the landscape looks just like Ocala to me.

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 The other piece of Florida history that comes to my mind are the Native Americans, particularly our very own Timucuans. Consider some of these antique lithographs as a way to honor those who were here first.

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Here’s a den that has incorporated this collection very well.

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Here is a piece depicting the Timucuans hunting alligators. It was done by the French artist, Jacques le Moyne, while staying at our very own Fort Caroline, when it was controlled by the French. Le Moyne’s drawings of the Timucuan Indians were first published in Frankfurt, Germany in 1591. Finding reproduction prints of Le Moyne’s ‘Timucua’ series would be another unique way to celebrate northeast Florida history.

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For those of us who love the beach and the ocean, but don’t want our homes to look like a beach house, using an antique clam shell is a fabulous way to embrace Old Florida. These little gems are hard to find and not cheap, but are a beautiful addition to any home.

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 Shells, like nautical prints, also harken back to our coastal roots.

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 Ballard Design makes an excellent reproduction for those of us on a bit more of a budget.

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 If you are looking for something on a smaller scale, maybe a stocking stuffer, be on the lookout for little vintage remnants of Florida’s bygone days. Old-school souvenirs and postcards are a great start for the young collector.

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A grouping of framed, vintage postcards can make a statement in any small corner and allow you to celebrate your favorite pieces and places in Florida’s history.


 Here is one of my favorites from my stomping grounds!


Manatees, dolphins, alligators, and cows have all been iconic animals for our state. Flags, maps, and other artifacts are also great ways to incorporate all the different cultures and countries that have influenced our neck of the woods. And no one captures our northeast Florida landscape like Jacksonville’s own C. Ford Riley. Take a stroll through the historic streets of Fernandina or St. Augustine and you’ll be flooded with inspiration. Whether it’s a Florida Territorial map, an Audubon flamingo, or a piece of Spanish Mission furniture, this year’s Show is the perfect place for those seeking Old Florida in their homes and collections.

Our northeast Florida coast has had so many dynamic influences. Throughout 2013, it has been fun to reflect back on our Spanish, French, English, Native American, and Southern roots! To learn more about Florida history and efforts to mark the 500th anniversary of Ponce de León’s landing, visit

Thanks for the question! Hope this helps!


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