The historic Haile Homestead is located at Kanapaha Plantation in Gainesville, Florida. Visitors to this homestead will get to explore the time period and the lives of the plantation owners and their slaves. Thomas Evans Haile and Esther “Serena” Chestnut Haile, his wife came to Alachua County in Florida with their children in 1854 from Camden, South Carolina.
They founded the one thousand five-hundred-acre cotton plantation. The plantation was named Kanapaha, which means “small thatched houses” in Native American. The house is six thousand two hundred square feet and is built of sturdy pine used to brace the construction frame with cypress siding. The Haile Homestead was finished in 1856 and stands as a representation of the expertise and skill of the slave craftsmen who constructed it.
In the mid-1890s Serena and Thomas Haile died. The property was left to Evans Haile on of their fifteen children. He was an important defense attorney that resided in the Duck Pond part of Gainesville. He spent his weekends entertaining family and friends at the Homestead, utilizing it for dances, hunts, and parties.
The house was abandoned and boarded up in the early 1930s. It was discovered again in the mid-1970s by Victor Nunez a movie producer. He filmed “Gal Youngun” there. In 1986 the Haile House was put on the National Register of Historic Places. The State of Florida gave a grant to have the Homestead restored in 1996. Tours began in April of 2001.
The Haile Homestead has a few different attractions and exhibits for visitors to learn about the Haile Family and the slaves that built and worked their plantation.
Allen ad Ethel Graham Visitors Center- The Visitors Center contains several exhibits that tell the story of the enslaved laborers at Kanapaha Plantation as well as the other four plantations owned by the Hailes and two Chestnut Plantations. The names of the slaves have been researched thoroughly through deeds, oral history, wills and other materials. These names can be found on a special display. Another display has artifacts that were discovered close to the outbuildings of the property. These artifacts include a slave ball. This slave ball acts as a reminder to visitors of the gruesome truths of slavery. Inside the Haile Homestead, a two-sided display has photos of some of the slaves mentioned like William Watts, Johnson Chestnut, Henry Gaines, the Kelley Family, Bennet Kelley, and Edmund Kelley Jr. Other slaves are mentioned by name in the journal of Serena Haile in the years between 1874 and 1893.
Talking Walls- The Hailes had a unique habit of writing on the walls of their house that were unpainted. These walls have more than twelve thousand five hundred words along with artwork in every room of the house, even the closets. The oldest writing was discovered upstairs in the Trunk Room. A young Benjamin inscribed is name in the year 1859 just a short time after the house was finished. Some of the writing done by family members were personal observations, growth charts for children and grandchildren, visitors’ names, linen, china, and silverware inventories, household solution recipes, prose, and records of business. People that attended the house parties on holidays and weekends during the early twentieth century were the most creative writers. The Music Room and Parlor walls are covered with more than one hundred and fifty messages from different individuals. A new wall covered in writing was discovered recently that had been plastered over during the restoration of the Haile House during the 1990s.
Haile House- The Haile House itself is open to the public for tours.
The Haile House offers a Docent Program for volunteers. Docents are historical interpreters. Volunteers wishing to become docents must go to three comprehensive training conferences as well as quarterly meetings. It requires the volunteers to commit to giving house tours of the Historic Haile Homestead at least one Saturday or Sunday a month. Docents are also required to help at events that are held at the Haile Homestead. All docents must be members of the Historic Haile Homestead, Inc. Most volunteers wear Victorian dress to give the tours and events a more authentic feel.
The Historic Haile Homestead offers special events throughout the year.
Candlelight Visits- During these visits, is the only time the Haile House is open at night. It usually takes place around the holidays. Visitors are treated to the House being decorated for the holidays and lit by candlelight.
Annual Homestead Holiday- The Haile House opens to the public with free admission, free carriage rides, and a chance for the kids to visit with Santa.
The Historic Haile Homestead offers reproductions of some of the most creative and fun writings from the Talking Walls of the house.
8500 SW Archer Road, Gainesville, FL 32608, Phone: 352-336-9096