Saturday, March 24, 2007

If Only These Walls Could Talk,,,,
Historic Haile Homestead at Kanapaha Plantation, Gainesville, Florida

You may have heard people say "If only these walls could talk..." Well, at the Haile Homestead the walls actually do talk, but perhaps not in the way you think.

Probably one of the most unique records of family history in the United States are the "talking walls" at the Historic Haile Homestead in Alachua County, Florida. Every room and closet in the 6,200 square foot house has writing on the walls done by the Haile family who resided there. The family started writing on the walls when they first moved into the house in 1856 and continued to write for over 50 years. The writing includes recipes, names of visitors, heights of their children, business records, and personal thoughts - all together over 12,500 words - a written testimony to the Haile family life in an earlier century.

Today the Haile Homestead is one of the oldest surviving houses in Alachua County and is listed on the National Register. The 10 room house was home to Thomas Evans Haile, his wife, Serena Chestnut Haile, and their 15 children. The Hailes came to Alachua county from Camden, South Carolina in 1854 to establish a 1,500 acre Sea Island Cotton plantation which they named Kanapaha - a Timucua Indian word for palmetto leaf. The home is a typical South Carolina style Classic Revival plantation home. The Homestead later became the site of house parties attended by some of Gainesville’s most distinguished citizens who also contributed to the "talking walls".

Rumor is that one of the Haile children started the tradition by writing his name on the wall. Maybe we shouldn't be as quick to scrub our own walls when our children do the same. It could be the beginning of a unique family history to be enjoyed by future generations.

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