Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Florida History / Sightseeing’ Category

Lake Worth’s Street Painting Festival: Cloudy Skies & Brilliant Streets

This year, the 18th annual Lake Worth Street Painting Festival was hosted on a cloudy weekend — but despite the constant threat of rain (and downpours to the north), Lake Worth’s vibrantly-colored streets were spared, save for a brief chilly rain on Saturday. Each February, over 400 artists from as far away as California and New York — even the United Kingdom — transform the streets into original art and masterpiece reproductions with just chalk and the pavement as their canvas. This year, more than 200 street paintings were created by 600 featured and amateur artists, covering more area than any other festival of its kind in the U.S.

As always, the crowds on Sunday were fierce, to view the fully emerged art and colorful concrete, as well as the street performers, musical entertainment, Food Courts, and Lake Worth’s shopping — fabulous consignment and antique shops line the streets. The artists are always lovely and open, despite the frantic schedule to complete their artwork during the two-day festival; there’s a friendly and communal atmosphere among them, as they participate and visibly enjoy the process and performance of street painting.

The Lake Worth festival began in 1994 by a small group of local residents, who wanted to revitalize their city — it is now touted as the country’s largest annual Street Painting Festival, attracting well over 100,000 visitors each year. Street painting however, can be traced to 16th-century Italy. Itinerant Renaissance artists, hoping to advertize their works and attract critical attention and crowds, used chalk and the streets as their makeshift canvas.

For More Information:

Feathers, Fur & St. Francis at the Ancient Spanish Monastery

During our recent visit to the most sublime historic site, the Ancient Spanish Monastery — also known as the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, or the Spanish Monastery — we encountered an unexpected amount of wildlife in this tiny sanctuary, tucked away in North Miami Beach’s expanse of concrete. A significant cultural and religious monument, the Ancient Spanish Monastery remains one of the most important monasteries in North America, and the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere. It’s more than a tourist attraction or a premier wedding venue; this historic site includes peaceful gardens, a setting to meditate and worship, and an opportunity to enjoy Romanesque architecture from the twelfth century — offering you the chance to feel the medieval stones beneath your hands, truly a unique experience in south Florida, let alone the United States. Amidst the 870-year-old architecture (1133-1144) and winding gardens, we startled a hawk at the fountain; being in the middle of our annual South Florida winter drought, animals vie for water wherever they may find it. And the kitties! It seems as though — at least, to a casual observer — that the monastery is doing a superb job with TNR (trap-neuter-release) to control feline overpopulation, especially in (but by no means limited to) city centers. Most everyone knows how useful a few kitties can be to control rodent populations…. So kudos! And another thanks to publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who bought and shipped the abandoned Cloisters and monastery from Spain stone-by-stone (despite the fact that it was intended for his private California estate of San Simeon). Without the whims and extravagances of these fabulously wealthy magnates, we wouldn’t now have this serene and lovely spot to enjoy.

St. Francis watches over the critters in the gardens of the Ancient Spanish Monastery in Miami

A resident kitty relaxes and tries to hide in the gardens of the Ancient Spanish Monastery

A resident kitty in the gardens of the Ancient Spanish Monastery

For More Information:

Miami’s Own Ancient Spanish Monastery

An absolute must for anyone interested with sightseeing historic sites in North Miami Beach includes the Ancient Spanish Monastery, a significant cultural and religious monument we’ve had the fortune to visit a few times. At nearly 870 years old, the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, or the Spanish Monastery, remains one of the most important monasteries in North America, and the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere. It’s more than a tourist attraction or a premier wedding venue; this historic site includes peaceful gardens, a setting to meditate and worship, and an opportunity to enjoy Romanesque architecture from the twelfth century, offering you the chance to feel the medieval stones beneath your hands — truly a unique experience in south Florida, let alone the United States.

History

Built in the province of Segovia, Spain, from 1133-1144, the monastery was originally dedicated in honor of the Blessed Mother and named the “Monastery of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels.” It was quickly renamed in honor of the famous Cisterian monk Bernard of Clairvaux upon its canonization. For nearly 700 years, Cisterian monks occupied the monastery, until the Cloisters were seized, sold, and converted into a granary and stable in the mid-1830s, to help feed troops fighting Spain’s revolution.

In 1925, publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst purchased the Cloisters and the monastery’s out-buildings — he had been searching Europe for unique art and architecture to adorn San Simeon, his California estate. Upon finding the abandoned monastery, he dismantled it, and shipped the buildings stone-by-stone to America (nearly 36,000 stones in total), packed in protective hay in more than 11,000 numbered wooden crates. Ah, the whims of these exceptionally wealthy magnates — thank goodness for their crazy escapades, because they’re now being enjoyed by all, ironically. Unfortunately, hoof-and-mouth disease had spread in Segovia, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, fearing contagion, quarantined the sprawling shipment upon its arrival to the U.S., and burned the protective hay. During the re-packing process, however, the stones were misplaced in the previously numbered crates, and Hearst’s financial problems compounded the situation. For the next 26 years, they sat untouched in a Brooklyn warehouse — until they were purchased in 1952 for $19,000 by W. Edgemon and R. Moss. It cost $80,000 to transport the stones to Florida, and another 19 months and $1.5 million to re-erect the monastery. Today, some unmatched stones remain in a back lot; others were used in the construction of the present Church’s Parish Hall.

Museum & Exhibits

Although there is no museum in the strict sense, the monastery hosts a permanent exhibit of objects celebrating the history of this important cultural and religious landmark, including:

  • Markings of the freemasons who built the monastery
  • Life-sized statue of Spanish King Alfonso VII
  • Stained-glass windows
  • Medieval French altar
  • 16th century Spanish hearse
  • Chapter house
  • Historic coat of arms of patron families

Contact Information:

St. Bernard de Clairvaux Church
16711 West Dixie Highway
North Miami Beach, FL 33160
(305) 945-1461

Hours & Pricing:

Monday – Saturday, 10 AM – 4 PM (closed due to special events)
Adults: $8 / Children: $4 (5 and under are free)

For More Information:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mounts Botanical Garden

In a somewhat interesting section of Palm Beach resides the county’s oldest and largest public garden: Mounts Botanical Garden. The gardens cover a serene 14 acres, with 18 plant collections. Tropical and subtropical plants and trees from six continents make their home at Mounts with more than 2000 species, from cacti and succulent plants to edible herbs, citrus, palms, and exotic trees. Beyond the flowers and trees, there are butterfly gardens; herb and vegetable gardens (a favorite of visitors, mine included); lovely gazebos and arches dotting the trails; and ponds with aquatic plants and fish. The occasional plane roaring overhead is in striking contrast to the serenity of this space — the gardens neighbor the Palm Beach International Airport.

The gardens were hit especially hard by the dual impact of Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004, but reopened to the public in early 2005. While 150 trees were lost, more flowers were planted and the ensuing growth has proved healthy.

Mounts was conceived as a 3.5-acre county site for pasturing 4-H horses, and was named for Palm Beach County’s first assistant agricultural extension agent, Marvin Umphrey “Red” Mounts. A native of Oklahoma and 1925 graduate of the University of Florida, Mounts was hired to educate farmers in modern farming methods. The gardens continue to draw on experts for their educational programs due to their association with the PBC Cooperative Extension Service, and affiliation with the University of Florida. A leader in providing horticultural and botanical information related to South Florida’s unique plants and environment, Mounts hosts a variety of events and programs, including plant sales, festivals, workshops, and auctions. The Garden Shop at Mounts further offers a wide range and hard-to-find selection of books geared to the region’s gardening, wildlife, and environment.

For More Information:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

%d bloggers like this: