By Kaitlyn Hawley
The historical traveling exhibit “Little Slices of Heaven on U.S. 27” made a stop at Seminole State College in January.
The exhibit featured photos, video, memorabilia, artifacts and fine art to show the early tourist attractions that sprung up following the construction of U.S. Route 27. U.S. 27 stretches 500 miles from Tallahassee to Miami.
The curator of the exhibit is Megan Stepe of the Museum of Florida Art and Culture at South Florida State College. She has a profound enthusiasm for each destination and attraction she unburied.
She said she researched stored information from websites and museums for more than a year. Stepe described it as a “labor of love.”
Her research from archived pages such as floridamemory.com led her to such places as Dog Land near Chiefland, Fla. Introduced in 1960 near U.S. 27, Dog Land was a tourist attraction showcasing more than 100 dog breeds.
“Months would go by and I wouldn’t find any information about them at all and then you know, with the internet you just fall into a rabbit hole,” Stepe says. “You just keep going and one thing leads to another, that’s how I found out about Dog Land, and I was like yeah!”
U.S. 27 is often called the “backbone” of Florida because it was the principal north-south highway before construction of interstates. Most of the destinations and attractions that are part of the exhibit existed between 1934 and 1970.
“Unfortunately, a lot of these places aren’t around anymore,” Stepe said. “That is what is so important about this exhibit.”
Stepe has been a staff member at South Florida State College for three years.
“Knowing communities’ or a state’s history brings so much joy,” she said. “It can bring everyone together, I saw first-hand the conversations it brought between people.”
One of the last remaining natural attractions which became a favorite of Stepe’s is Wakulla Springs. Located near Tallahassee, this freshwater spring boasts the world’s deepest spring at around 75 feet, and it thrives right here in Florida.
“Florida has always had this weird, quirky spirit to it and everything that came of it [the exibit], is stemmed from all of that,” Stepe said.