Someone once said, “History is history because someone wrote it down.”
Almost 100 years ago, Dr. Willis S. Blatchley wrote, “I first knew Dunedin in January 1913, when I arrived there from Indiana and made it my headquarters for the remainder of the winter. It was then a town of some 400 people with streets of sand and sidewalks mainly of boards.”
And so began the only personally written narrative we have of life in Dunedin in the early 1900s. Dr. Blatchley called his narrative, “My Nature Nook.”
The aptly named title was derived from the “nook” or perch he constructed in an oak tree situated on his land, once located outside the limits of the town. The book, printed in 1931, is now out of print and the remaining time-worn, discolored copies are extremely hard to find ... but that will change before the end of this year!
The Dunedin Historical Society and Museum, in keeping with its mission and rich tradition of collecting, archiving and preserving the history of our city, has undertaken the project of reprinting the book in a limited number of copies available in time for Christmas. According to Vinnie Luisi, the curator of the museum, “We must always continue to work extremely hard to preserve our history, not just for us, but for our children and their children’s children.”
“My Nature Nook” is filled with the names and anecdotes of people who lived, worked and helped enrich our city in the 1900s. Some names are well known and some names are lost to history:
- The Skinners,
- S.S. Saunders,
- Joe Lowe,
- Old Man Holmes (a confederate sailor),
- Miss Bruce,
- E.P. Young and, of course,
- Henry Scharrer of Hog Island fame.
Beyond the names is the written collection of Dr. Blatchley’s fauna, marine life, insects and birds that surrounded his property and Dunedin. And further beyond that, Dr. Blatchley writes of the Indian burial grounds on Hog Island and those he discovered in Dunedin.
“It’s a fascinating book to read” says Mike Haygood, of Alphagrapics Dunedin, “and we’re proud to be an important part of the project to save the history this book represents.”
The team at Alphagraphics, with Kris Hannon and Paul Evans at the digital-helm, developed a complex method of photographing every page of the book and preserving them in a digital format. Members of the Historical Society Board, collectively, worked many hours assisting Alphagraphics in the photographic process.
As Project Manager and Board Member on the Dunedin Historical Society and Museum, I am enthused about the project. My wife Jackie and I have not lived here very long, but long enough to know our fellow citizens love this city; they love the culture, they love the arts, and for sure, they love the history of Dunedin. This book was written in Dunedin and we are going to save it in Dunedin; as much as is humanly possible, everything associated with this book will be accomplished in Dunedin from raising the money to save it, to printing it, to binding it, and to making it available to our schools and our citizens.
The Society has established two levels of funding, "patron" and "sponsor." Each level will receive a copy of the handsome, leather-bound copy and have the knowledge that they have saved, and own, a part of Dunedin’s history. Patrons and sponsors will receive name recognition in the leather-bound reprinted book and be recognized at private receptions. Both the leather-bound and soft-covered copies will be available for purchase just in time for Christmas 2012.
Through the Society, speakers are available for Dunedin organizations and they are happy to relate the story of Dr. Blatchley, his home, and his book.
The Blatchley House, which survived the hurricane of 1921, can be found at the southwest side of Weaver Park. Not yet open to the public, the Blatchley House will eventually join the ranks of other fascinating and interesting places to visit in Dunedin.
Members of the Board will be soliciting patron and sponsorships in the upcoming weeks.
For more information, please feel free to contact any Board Member, the Museum, or Project Managers George Nigro or Dave Pauley at 727-736-1176.