Rochelle, Fla., wasn’t always called Rochelle.
A tiny town, 20 minutes SW of Gainesville, was once an up-and-coming town fed by a local railroad and bathed in a rich history. Rochelle was originally named Perry junction after Governor Madison Starke Perry, who owned a large chunk of land and was the governor that brought Florida to secede from the union during the American civil war. (Governor Perry)
After the 1840’s Rochelle was named Gruelle, after the man who surveyed the land and brought the Florida Southern Railroad through the middle of the town, making the stop essential to the growing economy of Rochelle (Rochelle history. )The town wasn’t called Rochelle till 1884. Up until the 19th century Rochelle had a population of 175 residents with schools, churches, and agricultural mills and businesses. (Ghost town)
Today Rochelle is a tiny community with less than a dozen homes, most of which are falling apart.
Finding what remains of Rochelle’s past is difficult. Hidden down dirt roads, off County Road 324, most of older Rochelle is beyond recognition and decrepit. The most notable buildings we found were what was left of the Bradly home (which was a large family from Rochelle,) an old masonic lodge and one of the old school houses. These buildings have been largely left to rot.
The old masonic lodge
This building, due to it’s sturdy construction, has fared the elements better than the other buildings we found. It was down an old wagon trail that still had a couple maintained homes as well as some that were falling apart.
This house was directly next door to the masonic lodge. It was beyond recognition. In the back of what was left of the building was an old chimney stack and what looked like a 1930’s era stove and icebox, both were rusted beyond belief.
The Bradley home-stead
There wasn’t much information to be found concerning the Bradley family except that they were of African American decent and that the house is still in their family. Walking around the back, the weeds had grown waist high and were like something out of a child’s fairy tale. There was a structure in the back that was found to be an old out-house (don’t ask.) The house across the street was abandoned as well but seemed to be built in a more modern style (1970’s-esq.) The rusted red tin roof was of the same style as the house down the street that had fallen apart completely, how this building has remained relatively well maintained is beyond me. It doesn’t seem that anyone has been formally living in or maintaining this home for quite sometime.
The old school house
The Martha Perry institute was built in 1885. It was named for the wife of Governor Perry, and resides on land donated by their daughter. Martha Perry institute
I’m pretty sure the under-carriage of my car is damaged from trying to find this place. Of all the places I wanted to find in Rochelle, this was at the top of my list. None of the residents I asked seemed to know about it, including the gas attendant at the corner store of 20th and CR 324. I drove up and down CR324 for two hours, following every dirt country road I could find. When my car got stuck in the mud we jumped out and started to hoof it through swampy Florida backwoods and tree farms, Once all hope was lost and we were convinced it was no longer around we took one more shot in the dark (after rocking my car out of the mud.) Going down one more dirt country road, that’s only landmark was a decorated cross on the side of the road, we eventually found it about a half mile past farm land some well maintained homes.
When we finally found it, it was pay dirt.
Rising though the trees like a shinning beacon of hope, stood our symbol for today’s journey. Walking around the building, it was sealed up and had the extra precaution of wire over the windows (some windows were still broken and boarded up behind the cage mesh.) The grass was maintained and wasn’t as overcome with weeds as our previous finds. Looking inside the windows, the interior was littered with old desks and school furniture circa 1930’s (when the school was closed down ( Rochelle history .)
What’s left of the building is hauntingly gorgeous. Raised on blocks in an old Florida cracker type style the structure stands at two stories with what looks like a widow’s walk from the second floor column. Leaving was heart breaking, and I hope the building is one day restored.
This building was directly across the street from the school and was probably a shed/ carriage house. It still had some type of old mechanical device inside (probably an old lawn mower, but I couldn’t quite tell.)
There were more buildings around the bend, but they were behind a fence with a no trespassing sign, and we wished to comply with the families wishes.