Much of the information in this article is taken from “ The 45th Anniversary Commemorative Booklet” compiled by Kathryn Kemp and edited by Ken Mansuy.
Most places happen by chance. Lanark Village was chosen.
Before personal cars became commonplace, members of the middle class, who could afford to travel for pleasure, frequently did so by train.
Even if father remained in the city to work, families frequently spent a month or more in the country where children could enjoy exercise and fresh air. Families traveling to resorts also took along nannies and other servants.
During the 1890s, Tallahassee grew rapidly.
As the town became prosperous, Panacea and St. Teresa grew into popular resorts for the city dwellers, but both were difficult to reach, requiring a train trip followed by overland travel. Also, because of their remoteness, there were no stores and vacationers had to bring their own supplies.
In September 1893, the Scottish Land and Improvement Company was organized in New Jersey. William Clark, of Lanarkshire, Scotland, was president of the firm, whose business was buying, selling and developing land in North America.
Clark and his associates established the Clark Syndicate Companies and purchased large amounts of land in Leon, Wakulla and Franklin counties.
To make their empire accessible, the syndicate built the Carrabelle, Tallahassee and Georgia Railroad vetween Tallahassee and Carrabelle with stops in several timber outposts along the way. At the time, the largest station on the line was McIntyre, a town that no longer exists. The investors also purchased the steamboat “Crescent City” which made regular trips between Apalachicola and Carrabelle.
The syndicate decided a hotel directly accessible by rail would be a good investment. They surveyed the territory along the tracks and settled on a section of coast protected by barrier islands with huge springs to provide ample drinking water. The area contained a freshwater spring that bubbled up through the bay creating a curiosity that some believed to be a healing bath.
Clark named the planned settlement and resort for his home in Scotland and “Lanark On The Gulf” was born.
The choicest waterfront lots, in a section called Paisley, were west of the inn, roughly from the current site of the Lanark Market to Ho Hum RV Park.
‘The jewel of the syndicate’
The Lanark Inn, known as the “jewel of the syndicate,” sat several blocks off the shoreline roughly north of the boat club and marina. According to an old brochure, “Lanark possesses four miles of waterfront land, the whole shaded by oak, pine, hickory and magnolia trees from 40 to 60 feet in height, this affording a cool and delightful retreat from the hot sun…
“The hotel at Lanark is lighted with gas and each room is connected with the office by electric bell. It is also provided with spring beds, hair mattresses and all modern conveniences. A porch 200 feet in length and 15 feet wide affords an elegant promenade. A board platform walk 500 feet long connects the hotel with a spacious dancing pavilion on which is located two large bathhouses for ladies and gentlemen respectively each being fitted with private dressing rooms for bathers. An area for bathing has been fenced off to avoid any mishaps with sharks in the water. A fine fleet of pleasure boats is provided for hotel guests and fishing off Lanark cannot be surpassed on the coast.”
At the time, Lanark consisted of a dozen cottages and the grand hotel; a small store sold soft drinks and candy.
Joe Barber remembers that, when he was a child in the 1920s and 30s, his cousin, George Wakefield, ran a similar concession stand. Barber said the train delivered ice to keep Wakefield’s goods cool.
There was no train station at the resort. The train simply pulled onto a spur of track that ran south from the main line and passengers disembarked near the little candy store. The main tracks were several blocks north of the inn along the same route as Oak Street.
Mary Westberg, of Carrabelle, said her grandfather; John P. Westberg was a machinist for the railroad and later headed the maintenance shop. Fond of Lanark, he moved the line’s machine shop to the settlement sometime in the 1890’s.
“Eventually he retired because he had other businesses and things he wanted to do,” said his granddaughter. “My father brought home all the old tools from the shop and put them under our house. When we were kids, we played with all of those old-fashioned tools.”
The magnolia grove surrounding the inn was fenced to keep out feral hogs roaming in the surrounding country. The property contained cottages that housed the help.
The summer cottages outside the compound were on three sand streets with board sidewalks. When vacationers came to their beach cottages, they often brought cows and chickens to provide milk and eggs and penned them in the yards.
The inn was the center of activity in the little colony. Each day, mail call was held in the lobby after the train passed through to Carrabelle. There was dancing in the evenings, sometimes with live musicians transported by the train or by boat.
During the day, there were bridge games. In the cool of the evening, people gathered along the dock or in the pavilion to chat, socialize or swim.
1899 hurricane flattens Carrabelle
On August 1, 1899 disaster struck the resort. at around 4 a.m., when the second tropical storm of the season made landfall directly over Carrabelle as a Category 1 hurricane.
The bathing pavilion and pier were destroyed. A train carrying passengers to the inn was picked up and blown more than 100 yards from the track and 30 miles of track were destroyed.
During the same storm, the train depot in Carrabelle and most of the town were flattened, and McIntyre erased from the face of the earth.
Eventually, the railroad was repaired and the Lanark Inn reopened but never regained its former glory.
With the resources of timber and turpentine greatly depleted, the syndicate faltered and the railroad went into receivership in 1926. By 1928, automobiles were increasingly common and railroad service to Carrabelle was greatly reduced.
In November 1929, the Apalachicola Times wrote that new roads made the drive from Tallahassee to Carrabelle “a joy.”
By this time, Prohibition was in full swing and this too had an effect on Lanark. During the summer of 1928, the inn was raided for serving alcohol. In Sept. 1929, the sheriff mustered deputies to search the swamp between Carrabelle and Lanark for rumrunners and their merchandise believed to have been off loaded on Dog Island.
The paper never reports the bootleggers were found.
In 1929, a second hurricane damaged the old inn and again destroyed the pier and bathhouses. A new hotel was built around 1930 and remained in business until 1942. Bathing suits could be rented at the concession stand, which sold hot dogs and sodas.
‘Hell by the sea’
In 1942, Lanark took on a new persona when the US Army came on the scene.
Because it was an island, St. James was picked to be the largest training center for amphibious soldiers; men schooled in assault science and the use of landing craft, including seagoing jeeps, amphibious tanks, landing barges and the two-ton DUKW landing craft.
In all, 165,000 acres were leased or purchased for Camp Gordon Johnston developed around Lanark. The rows of one-story apartments that make up much of the village today were officers’ quarters and the inn was commandeered for women’s quarters.
Carrabelle current mayor Curley Messer was among the first Army personnel on the scene. He and seven members of his combat MP unit were dispatched to Florida from New Orleans the day the war broke out in Dec. 1941.
The Army Corps of Engineers was already on the site, surveying and preparing plans. Local people were hired to do the construction and later maintenance and they were glad to have the work, according to old-timers, because the area had not yet recovered from the Depression.
“When I got there it was really nothing but a sand bed,” said Messer. “The train delivered the lumber and nails and all, and we guarded it. The first barracks they built were for us. It was a 60’ by 20’ wooden building with a sand floor. Unless you found a piece of plywood or something to put under your cot, in the morning, you’d be laying on the ground because the legs of the cot sunk into the sand.
“I never knew a man who liked it there. They called it ‘Hell by the Sea.’ We’d have to go across the river at night, in full gear holding on to a rope. The water would be over your head and there’d be snakes and everything else,” he said.
Camp Gordon Johnston was the first training facility to employ live ammunition and booby-traps and some soldiers died in training, including a group that mistakenly walked off a landing barge into deep water one stormy night.
Westberg said her father worked in the painting department at the camp. She said Area 1 of the camp began at about western edge of the current Lanark Village. This was largely barracks. Area 2 was the area around the old Putnal Service Station on US 98. There were offices, a theatre, a commissary and “nice little shops” selling clothing, jewelry and other personal items.
More than 25,000 soldiers trained at the camp and led the landings at Normandy and in Asia.
In 1946, the camp was deactivated. The Army withdrew, leaving only post office personnel to forward mail. The camp fell into disrepair, was looted and vandalized.
‘Live for less’ in Lanark
In 1945 most of the land was purchased by Lanark Estates, Inc., a Miami based firm, with Frank Newman its president. In 1955, the company filed a plat of a planned retirement village.
Putnal’s service station containing a small grocery store was already in operation at that time as was the old Ells Court Motel.
Westberg worked for the company as an office manager. She said the village was being marketed as a self-contained community.
Three community buildings were planned. The Village Mall facing Oak Street is still in existence. It would contain a laundry, beauty shop and an IGA grocery store owned and managed by Ken Foster. The post office was in the mall at the spot now occupied by the thrift shop.
The former commanding general’s quarters was to be remodeled as a clinic, the post administration, and officers’ recreation hall were remodeled as to contain Lanark Village’s administrative offices, a bar, restaurant, dance hall, recreation rooms and a chapel.
The utilities and water and sewer system were refurbished throughout the existing barracks and expanded to include other areas. The buildings were painted inside and out and renovated. Broken windows and doors were replaced and roofs were restored.
Within a year, advertising was in progress and sales began, with ad campaigns in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta and in the Times. The ads read, “Life e in Lanark Village is beautiful and satisfying and you can live for less.”
Westberg said customers began to arrive by the busload. The four salesmen on staff couldn’t keep up with the demand and Westberg took on some sales as well as running the office. She received a 5 percent commission in addition to her salary.
The cost of a unit ranged from $4,995 for an efficiency to $7,995 for a three-bedroom. You could buy on time. An efficiency was $39.95 down and $39.95 a month.
A number of Scots took up residence in the village drawn by the familiar name and the reasonable prices.
Westberg said the first residents arrived before completion of the public buildings and the company took great pains to keep them satisfied.
Every morning there was mail call in Westberg’s office. A bus was acquired and residents signed up for weekly shopping excursions to Apalachicola or Tallahassee. Local churches sent volunteers to ferry village residents to Sunday morning service.
No hanging clothes outside overnight
The Lanark Village Association formed in October 1956 to give residents a say in the management of their home. Hugh Lillie was the first president.
In 1957, the recreation center opened. In 1959, The St. Joe Company donated 11 acres for a church. The Women’s Christian Fellowship formed and began raising money for construction of the building. They sold pavers and Bryan McKissask gave organ concerts. The sanctuary was dedicated on May 27, 1962.
In 1957, American Legion Post 82 was organized along with an auxiliary. The first commander was Melvin Robbins and his wife Alexandria was first president of the auxiliary.
In 1960, a set of rules was drafted and endorsed by petition to govern the activities of residents. Among the stipulations, no antennae could be attached to a building without prior written permission from the developers. No pets could be kept other than dogs, cats or birds and were limited to two to a unit. No trailers or tents were allowed and no clothes could be hung to dry overnight. Washing clothes was forbidden on Sunday and grandchildren could not visit for longer than two weeks.
The Lanark Village Boat Club formed in November 1960.
In 1965, after attempting to expand their holdings, Lanark’s developers went bankrupt. Westberg said there was no wrongdoing involved; the company had simply tried to grow too fast.
The Lanark Village Association took on the task of managing the village. In May 1970, the members purchased the current site of Chillas Hall and that year the village Christmas party was held on the vacant lot.
Henry Chillas, the association president, proposed to sell bonds to finance construction. One hundred bonds were sold for $100 each, each paying 5 percent interest annually. Beginning in 1974, 10 names were drawn each year and repaid in full.
The first meeting in Chillas Hall was held in Sept. 1971.
If you look, you can still see plaques on some of the window frames dedicating part of the new structure to departed friends and family.
In 1981, the association voted to name the hall for Henry Chillas the man who made it possible. His memory lives on in the meeting place that is the heart of Lanark Village.
Christmas Eve in Lanark Village
Editor’s Note: The following poem was written by J. Kenneth Foster, and appeared in the Apalachicola and Carrabelle Times, dated Dec. 29, 1977
Twas the night before Christmas and all through our town,
No noses were frozen, no snow fluttered down.
No children in flannels were tucked into bed,
They all wore their short pajamas instead.
To find wreaths of holly was not very hard
For holly trees sprouted right in the front yard.
In front of the houses were granddads and moms
Admiring the bushes and all of the palms.
The slumbering grandkiddies were dreaming in glee
And hoped they’d find water skis under the tree.
They all knew that Santa was well on his way
In a Mercedes-Benz instead of a sleigh.
And soon he arrived and started to work,
He hadn’t a second to linger or shirk.
He whizzed over the highways and zoomed up the roads,
In a shiny new sports car delivering the loads.
The tropical moon gave the Village a glow,
And lighted the way for old Santa below.
As he jumped from the auto he gave a wee chuckle,
He was dressed in Bermudas with Ivy League buckle.
There weren’t many chimneys but that caused no gloom
For Santa came in through the Florida room.
He stopped at each house and stayed only a minute
And emptied his sack of the stuff that was in it.
Some dentures and hearing aids – and they were quite neat
Were left for old gramps, as a special treat.
Before he departed, he treated himself
To a glass of orange juice left on the shelf.
Then he turned with a jerk and bounced back in his car,
Remembering he still had to go very far.
He stepped on the gas and put it in gear,
And drove through our Village singing with cheer.
And I heard him exclaim as he went on his way,
“Merry Christmas Lanark Village, I wish I could stay.”