Remarks by Bill Ryan during a historical bus tour of Flagler County.
Moody Homestead Park is located at Briarwood Drive going east on Moody Boulevard before you arrive at Belle Terre. A small sign also identifies the location as “Old Brick Road” but you will not see bricks on the roadway.
Early roads were primitive. Some even used crushed shells from ancient Indian mounds. In April of 1914 I.I. Moody announced a bond issue for a new brick paved highway to run south through Hastings in St. John’s County through Espanola and follow the railroad into Bunnell where some went past the Moody Homestead then toward Ocean City (now Flagler Beach) and finally south on what became John Anderson. This was a small section of that early roadway.
When you make the turn onto Briarwood Drive you will see no bricks on the road. A short distance and there were some very impressive, and old live oak trees scattered about an attractive city park called The Moody Homestead.
A display of early bricks is located near the park signage.
“This road was once part of the Dixie Highway system. It once ran from Chicago and also from Michigan to Miami. With the rapid growth of the automobile promoted by Henry Ford, the nation needed better roads. A network of interlinked, connected roads was established by local promoters and called The Dixie Highway. There was no real national or governmental highway program at that time. Often these roads existed mainly on a map so today there are many confusing routes still identified as the Dixie Highway. Carl G. Fisher a power in Indiana promoted the road. (he built the Indianapolis Speedway called ‘the brickyard.’) Special high impact bricks called ‘vitreous brick’ were used, many coming from the excellent clay of Alabama. In western Flagler near Espanola, we still have a short piece of the original brick roadway which today we call The Old Brick Road.
Brave tourists began to arrive in Florida, often towing crude early prototype trailers, thus being called ‘tin can tourists’ or perhaps also they often carried their own canned food.
When the new more modern roads were built such as US1 in 1926, the old highway routes and their wonderful red bricks began to vanish. A multitude of little towns and tourist camps along the original routes then ceased to exist.
“I remember the voice of Diane Marquis who was here when this park was dedicated. Yes, the amazing lady once lived here in what was then Robert Moody’s home which was next to that of I.I. Moody who had done so much to develop these brick roads and bring new settlers into what would become Flagler County.
Commissioner George Hanns gave the keynote speech here in the new park. Its went like this:
In 2007 Moody Homestead was scheduled for commercial development. The proposal was to remove some of the groves of Live Oak trees to make way for commercial development along State Road 100. Members of the Moody family and Flagler County Historians approached the County Commission and asked them to consider purchasing the property as a county park for its historical value and to save the beautiful grove of trees. The park was placed on the list of sensitive areas to be purchased by the Land Acquisition Committee. In 2008 the park was purchased for $950,000 with funds from a special tax.
“In early times the live oak tree was very valuable for use in constructing ships. Many of the stands of live oaks in this area were cut down and sold. Naturalist Audubon visited our area and wrote a paper about his visit with Live Oakers who were little more than tree pirates not caring who owned the lumber they were cutting.”
“Some say these trees might be 400 years old, which takes us back to Spanish times, older than we have existed as a country. These trees have survived and are part of us.”
This is an excellent spot to picnic and contemplate these ancient oaks, few of which still remain, as many were cut years ago for their excellent wood, needed for the building of ships.