Traveling West on The Old Spanish Trail Highway

Florida:  Starting from Saint Augustine and Ending in Tallahassee [Part One]

The map above(excerpted from the 1926 Auto Trails and Commercial Survey of the United States, National Map Company, with information provided by the National Highway Association) clearly shows the origins of the trail in Saint Augustine(taking advantage of the existence of the recently completed Dixie Highway (U.S.-1) from Saint Augustine to Jacksonville:  the Dixie Highway is marked with a red circle around the number "2" and the Old Spanish Trail Highway is marked with a red circle around the number "4"), but also shows the intention of the OST Association to make the road accessible from Jacksonville, Florida.   When possible, planners of the OST used existing roads, often improving them with pavement.  In some places, they did have to cut through wild areas, but more often transformed sand and shell roads into asphalt ribbons stretching across the country. [Unless otherwise noted all maps and photographs are from the Old Spanish Trail (OST) Archives in Special Collections of the Louis j. Blume library of St. Mary's University, San Antonio, Texas.]

Most of U.S. Highway 90 through Florida follows and overlays the original bed of the the OST though where new bridges were needed when the U.S. government expanded Highway 90, the original highway is left behind.  Should you drive Beaver Road west from Jacksonville (it is also called the Lake City Highway), you will find that most of the route is on top of the original OST.    One way to ensure that you are still on the original road (even if it has been widened and is now called U.S.-90 most of the way, is the ubiquitous railroad that runs alongside the highway.  When you reach Baldwin, Florida, because the railroad and highway diverge, you might be tempted to take Railroad Avenue, but, in truth, the road and the railroad do diverge for a few thousand yards.  They come back together just as you leave the town.  The photo below is of a surveying team working on OST east of Tallahassee, Florida, in 1922.    

A few miles down the highway, you come into Macclenney and the OST becomes Main Street again:  Macclenny Avenue.  As it leaves town, the road name changes to E. Mount Vernon Street.   But it continues to sport both U.S. 90 markers and Florida State 10 signs.   You are, at this stage in Glen St. Mary, headed for the small town of Maretta, Florida, and on to Sanderson.  The highway here is clearly marked all the way to the outskirts of Tallahassee.  A few miles out of Sanderson, the highway crosses under IH-10 (don't be tempted!).  But about a mile past IH-10 there is a strange jog as OST separates for about a mile from US-90 and turns closer to the railroad track.   If you want to zealously follow the OST, you will make a slight right turn and head north to the track before bending west again and then south back to US-90.  The total detour runs about one mile before the two roadbeds become one again. 

The scenery along this stretch of the OST is beautiful as you drive along the edge of the Osceola National Forest.

In Lake City, OST / US-90 / Florida 10 all become Duval Street.    As the OST adventurer gets to the west side of Lake City on US-90, it is essential to look for Oidgo Road.  OST diverges from US-90 and heads north on Oidgo Road and after a mile or two you will see road signs for "Old US-90").  That's the Old Spanish Trail Highway and it eventually, after a mile or two, rejoins the main roadbed of U.S.-90.   Remember:  OST wants to run alongside the railroad (it was easier to get supplies to the work crews) and Oidgo Road does that.   For several miles after that, U.S. 90 and OST are the same road.  It's called Howard Street for most of the route through the City of Live Oak, and it's clearly marked.  You cross IH-10 again just before you get to the Suwanee River. 

If you want to follow the OST carefully, you need to notice a slight jag off the US-90 roadway as you approach the river.  The old bridge is still there, but the US-90 bridge, a much newer construction, now takes you across the river.  Take a moment to drive off the road to the right of the highway.  There's an old, abandoned road bed there:  OST.  You can drive almost to the old bridge and examine it, rust, concrete and all.  In the photos below, the old and new bridges are side by side in the photos on the left.  

 

The photos here are of the bridge over the Suwanee River.  The photo to the left shows the approach to the now-closed OST bridge.  This bridge, along with the bridge over the Appalachicola River, is one of the oldest completed along the OST and was built primarily with county and state funds.  It was heavily publicized by the men of the OST Association as encouragement to other jurisidictions along the highway and because of its tie-in to the Stephen Foster song. 

Bridges were a constant problem for the OST Association, whether the association was lobbying for toll-free bridges or opposing ferry boat lobbyists. 

Florida was one of the states that moved most quickly in bridging its rivers.

 

Few of the extant buildings along OST continue to serve their original functions.  The grocery/general store below (closed many years ago), between Lake City and Live Oak, once provided a brief respite for the driver and a place for guests' cars. The building retains the Spanish colonial architecture designed to reflect the nature of the highway's promotional literature and sports the white brick name of the trail.

As you go farther west, you reach Madison, Florida.  Some of the older buildings you see were there when the OST passed through though they are not labeled specifically as OST this or that.  Check the dates on the old buildings, many of which are from the 1880s and 1890s.  The trip west to Tallahassee from Saint Augustine will continue on the next page.