Smokey Hollow, a HALS Landscape

Smokey Hollow, Florida image: The Florida State Archives Memory Collection
Smokey Hollow, Florida
image: The Florida State Archives Memory Collection

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) documents significant historic landscapes of the United States and its territories, which can range from gardens and cemeteries to neighborhoods and parks. Using historic ground and aerial photos, land surveys, plats, property records, and oral histories, HALS captures and records the cultural history of a place, the story of people who occupied the landscape, their customs, their landmarks, social traditions, and how the landscape evolved over time. The National Park Service submits completed HALS projects to the Library of Congress, where they become a permanent record of our nation and are accessible to the public.

The Florida Chapter of ASLA established a HALS program in 2007 and has submitted documentation on eight state sites to the Library of Congress so far. Measured and interpretive drawings, photographs, and written histories may be viewed on the Library of Congress website. HALS FL-01 is Barrancas National Cemetery at the U.S. Naval Air Station, 80 Hovey Road, Pensacola in Escambia County. Many Union and Confederate dead are interred there, and HALS large format photographs were produced by the National Park Service. Some of these photos are stunningly beautiful.

Other HALS sites in Florida whose documentation can be found on the Library of Congress’ website include:

The Smokey Hollow Community Historic American Landscapes Survey is the first large-scale project in Florida to be documented. Computer drawn maps, large format photography, and a book-size historical narrative about Smokey Hollow are heading to the Library of Congress. Blueprint 2000, the Tallahassee-Leon County agency building the thirty-million dollar Cascades Park, commissioned this Historic American Landscapes Survey of Smokey Hollow.

image: The Florida State Archives Memory Collection
image: The Florida State Archives Memory Collection

The Smokey Hollow Community HALS, directed by Florida HALS Chapter Liaison David Driapsa, ASLA, documents an African-American community formed through institutionalized racial segregation. After the emancipation, African Americans moving to Tallahassee were “compelled” to live in segregated communities, such as Smokey Hollow, located in areas described as the “city’s dumping grounds.” Many lived in sub-standard rental properties. Others raised capital, bought land, and built modest homes. Prosperous individuals built large homes around the perimeter and a few occupied farms. The community offered churches, grocery stores and juke joints, as well as laundries, auto-repair, barber and beauty shops.

Driapsa employed ethnographic methods of primary and secondary data collection and analysis, fieldwork, and informal and semi-structured interviewing to record the Smokey Hollow Community cultural landscape in measured and interpretive drawings.

The most valuable source of documentation was the memories of the people who lived there, reflecting back sixty years to their childhood. Aerial photography from the years 1938, 1941, 1957, 1960, and 1972 provided primary information about the historic landscape, particularly a 1957 photo, which was of a high and clear resolution, and the Rosetta Stone for data capture, enhancing the interpretation of earlier lower resolution and grainy aerials. Secondary sources included scanned surveys, plat maps, and similar geographic data.

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, state policies of urban renewal resulted in the construction of new office buildings and parking lots that “swallowed up” Smokey Hollow, forcing the residents to vacate their community. The community once encompassed roughly 85 acres and hundreds of residents. Today, approximately fifteen acres, a dozen historic houses (some vacant), and three structures from the original community remain.

The Smokey Hollow Community HALS documentation includes large format photography by William “Bill” Lutrick, ASLA, and a written history by Dr. Jennifer Koslow and Dr. Anthony Dixon. These materials will be available on the Library of Congress website in the near future.

For more on HALS, visit ASLA’s HALS webpage. The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) was established in 2000 as part of the National Park Service’s Heritage Documentation Programs, along with the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS, established in 1933) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER, established in 1969).

  • The National Park Service administers the planning and operation of HALS which includes: selecting and approving landscapes for documentation, standardizing formats and developing guidelines for recording landscapes, catalogs, and/or publishing the information when appropriate.
  • The Library of Congress accepts and preserves HALS documents, furnishes reproductions of material, and makes records available to NPS.
  • The ASLA Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network (HP-PPN) provides advice on identifying, selecting, and documenting historical landscapes. The HP-PPN’s HALS Subcommittee, through its HALS Chapter Liaisons, oversees the nationwide identification of historic landscapes that merit HALS documentation. Beginning in 2014, each ASLA chapter is required to include HALS activities and liaisons in its annual report.

Be sure to check out this year’s HALS Challenge: Documenting Landscapes of the New Deal. The deadline to submit a HALS short format history for the Challenge is July 31, 2014.

by David Driapsa, ASLA, PLA, Historical Landscape Architect

One thought on “Smokey Hollow, a HALS Landscape

  1. Althemese Barnes March 1, 2014 / 12:31 pm

    Great project and writeup. The John Riley Museum Founding Director, native Tallahassean, Althemese Barnes, led the way to: have this former African American thriving community remembered as part of the Smokey Hollow project, recruited former residents to come forward and tell their stories, published the first book of oral histories “Times Remembered”
    established in 1996 the Riley House Museum (the house is in Smokey Hollow and was once owned by former slave John Gilmore Riley) and Ms. Barnes continues to provide assistance to the project. Museums across the United States have an advocacy role to facilitate private and public partnerships as a way to preserve, document and educate about the history of our country and its people. Thanks for the great work and come visit us at Riley House in Smokey Hollow-Cascades Park. Google Cascades Park and read other articles of the March 2014 opening of Smokey Hollow and about the Riley House. Althemese Barnes

Leave a Reply