By Lynn R. Mitchell
Florida’s historic Eden Gardens State Park, located in Walton County, features the antebellum-inspired Wesley mansion that was built in 1895 by wealthy lumberman William Henry Wesley. Local legend claims that the original design was inspired by an antebellum plantation house where the builder was given shelter on his way home from the War Between the States.
Wesley’s lumber partner and father-in-law, Simeon Strickland, had an identical house nearby, of which a portion still stands. Traces of their mill, where lumber for the two houses was cut, may still be seen on the Eden grounds.
The focal point of this 161-acre park, originally the family’s estate, is the beautifully renovated, two-story Wesley house with its elegant white columns and wrap-around porch. The moss-draped live oaks and ornamental gardens inspire visions to wander the grounds, perhaps imagining an earlier age of genteel life on the Florida Panhandle.