Pine Level Townsite makes it to the National Register of Historic Places!
Originally published in the Arcadian
Date: Oct 9, 2014; Section: Arcadian; Page: AS11
For images from the original story click this link

By CAROL MAHLER
DESOTO CO. HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The Pine Level townsite was listed on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 17. A ceremony to celebrate this honor — and unveil a commemorative marker— will be held at 2 p.m. on Oct. 18 at the Pine Level United Methodist Church, 9596 N.W. Pine Level Street. The ceremony will be the conclusion of the Pine Level Public Art and Archaeology Day, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., cosponsored by the DeSoto County Historical Society, DeSoto Arts and Humanities Council, and Florida Public Archaeology Network West Central Region. The events are free and open to the public.

The historical marker at the Old Pine Level site will soon be joined by a plaque commemorating its listing to the National Register of Historic Places!

The Historical Society will offer guided walking tours of the townsite and an exhibit of artifacts. The Arts Council will display landscapes and streetscapes of Pine Level between 1866 and 1900, as imagined by children and adult artists, as well as “fat quarter” quilts made from fabrics reproduced from the same era. FPAN will provide hands-on archaeological activities. Crowley Museum will feature the “Pine Level Trail” which bisects their property in Myakka. Food and beverages will be available.

Pine Level was founded in 1866 as the new county seat of old Manatee County. Established in 1855, the county extended nearly 5,000 square miles, including the modern counties of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee and Sarasota. Although no settlement existed at that time, Pine Level was chosen as the county’s geographical center. It was conveniently distant from the Village of Manatee, the former county seat and ally of the Confederacy. An African-American family was one of the first four to live at Pine Level, and it may have been considered a freedman’s town. It was a frontier “wild West” settlement with saloons and shoot-outs as well as a courthouse, jail, school, churches, stores, boarding houses and a newspaper. Union Veteran John F. Bartholf served as the first postmaster in 1871.

This two-story structure was first used as a school and then the sanctuary for the Pine Level United Methodist Church. Image courtesy of the DeSoto County Historical Society.

When DeSoto County was founded in 1887, Pine Level became the county seat. Voters did not choose Arcadia as the government center until November 1888. It had the advantage of transportation by river or rail. The first train arrived in 1886 — the same year that the town was incorporated. Bypassed by the railroad and abandoned by the county government, Pine Level declined. The only physical witnesses of the town are a Florida Historic Marker and the original Pine Level School. The Pine Level Methodist Church purchased the school in 1923, and after a 1930 hurricane damaged the second floor, the church was re-roofed as a one-story structure. It has since been remodeled, and other buildings have been added.

Archaeologists and volunteers work to find evidence of the historic town of Pine Level in DeSoto County.

Members of the Historical Society participated in the archaeological field work in Pine Level conducted in 2010 by Jana Futch, a student seeking a Master of Arts degree in anthropology from the University of South Florida. Now a professional archaeologist with Brockington and Associates of Atlanta, Ga., she prepared the National Register application. It was financed in part by a grant from the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State, assisted by the Florida Historical Commission. The Florida National Review Board unanimously approved the Pine Level nomination, noting that the town is one of only seven Reconstruction-era sites recognized in the state.

For more information, call Carol Mahler at 863-445-0789 or email carolmahler3@gmail.com.

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