By Anne H. Holt, Ph.D
Located in the heart of north Florida, Historic Monticello is a growing and thriving community of the arts. Monticello welcomes actors, dancers, musicians, painters, novelists, sculptors, woodcarvers, weavers, poets, puppeteers, historians, photographers and other artists and artisans with enthusiastic appreciation. Many artists come here to perform or show their work and decide to become a welcome member of our exciting arts community.
Monticello artists and artisans offer music, theatre and dance in our 1890 Perkins Opera House and a Friday night Jamboree with music and dancing. Main Street Monticello hosts Singer/Songwriting events by local and Nashville songwriters. Musicians and music lovers from all over the country attend and enjoy our growing “Southern Music Rising” festival held every spring. As many as six stages are placed around Monticello’s streets for bands. The Opera House, empty lots and even some front porches are pressed into service to present dozens of performers.
Monticello is the home of The Foundation for the Preservation of American Roots Music, Inc, the creator and organizer of the “Southern Music Rising” annual music festival and other local music events.
Jefferson Arts, Inc is made up of local artists who practice many different forms including sculpture, painting, fiber art, potting, woodcarving and photography. The art center is housed in a historic school building and includes a gallery. The Jefferson Arts Gallery, Rosemary Tree, Tupelo’s and other local venues offer the work of local artists for sale.
Nationally known and local historians, novelists and other writers present their works in reading and signing events and book launches. Several sell their books through local stores. Poets read original work in our library and other venues.
A “different sort” of southern town many of Monticello’s colonial families still live here. Descendants of families who established residence in the immediate area during the late Spanish period still live nearby. Many residents are artists, retired professors and business people who visited, liked what the saw and adopted Monticello as home. These people love the slightly slower, kinder pace of their town, enjoy their neighbors, the art scene and make newcomers welcome.
Officially established in 1827, eighteen years before Florida became a state, Monticello was settled by families from Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. Prince Murat, Napoleon’s nephew was one of our early settlers. James Gadsden, Richard Call and others became Florida leaders.
Filled with beautiful, well-kept antebellum and Victorian homes, Monticello can boast of several exceptionally handsome public buildings as well as three structures designed by Atlanta Architect Joseph Neel Ried. Monticello streets are beautifully shaded by pecan and magnolia trees and great live oaks hung with Spanish moss. Yards are green and filled with azaleas, magnificent heirloom camellias and other flowering shrubs.
Located in north/central Jefferson County at the intersection of the Georgia-Florida Parkway (Rt. 19) and the Old Spanish Trail (Rt. 90) Monticello is conveniently located a short twenty-five minutes east of Tallahassee, Florida’s capital and twenty-two miles south of Thomasville, Georgia.
The Jefferson County land around Monticello is green with farms, great hunting plantations and protected conservation land, bordered by the strange, ancient, occasionally disappearing Aucilla River on the east and drained in the south by the brilliant, spring-fed Wacissa. A good part of the beautiful St. Marks Wildlife Refuge lies in Jefferson County.
At least four Spanish Mission sites are located in southern Jefferson County and Archaeologists have discovered Paleo-Indian sites occupied 12,000 to 14,500 years ago in the same area. Most of this part of the county is full of mysterious sinkholes created by the Aucilla sliding underground and reappearing at random. The wilderness reaches past the hidden Pinhook River to the Saint Marks Wildlife Refuge on the west and encompasses the Ecofina on the east.