Historic “Mess Hall” At O’Leno State Park to Get Needed Restoration

May 30, 2014

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s O’Leno State Park has begun restoration of its historic mess hall. Built in the 1930s, this building became known as the Rec Hall in 1958 when a new dining room and kitchen were built. Ajax Building Corporation, with offices in Florida, will manage the construction with a maximum budget of $319,000.

The restoration, which began this week, will include replacing the structural roof framing and stone pier foundations, installing new floor framing to carry more capacity, and renovating the historic wooden floors to provide a smooth dancing surface.

This building was built by the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and has served as a community gathering place and continues to be popular for weddings, dances and retreats.The need for restoration was determined in 2012 after staff members requested an analysis of the nearly 80-year-old heavy timber structure.

“We are proud to support projects like this that safeguard and preserve Florida landmarks for future generations to enjoy,” said Donald Forgione, director of the Florida Park Service. “This project is a great achievement in historic preservation for the community and the state.”

With an estimated completion date of Sept. 1, 2014, the construction will include new materials and new construction techniques not available in the 1930s. This will provide an interpretive experience, as the new materials will clearly contrast the historic wood construction techniques against modern wood construction techniques.

More than 70,000 people visit O’Leno State Park each year for camping and hiking, as well as canoeing and kayaking on the Santa Fe River. Built in the 1930s, the park features one of three group camping facilities in the Florida State Parks system. The group camp accommodates 120 people and includes 16 cabins, a full-service dining hall with kitchen, a recreation hall, a BBQ pit and two centrally-located bathhouses.

Florida’s state parks and state trails offer many opportunities for outdoor recreation. In Florida, visitors and residents will find beaches, freshwater springs, lakes and rivers where swimming, canoeing, kayaking and fishing are very popular. Trails offer the opportunity for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding. Most state parks offer playgrounds where children can play and parents can sit in the shade to keep a watchful eye. Most parks also offer picnicking facilities with tables, barbecue grills and shelter.

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