Grand Opening of Smokey Hollow Commemoration in Cascades Park Brings Former Residents Back Home
By Travis Milton
The grand opening of the Smokey Hollow Commemoration took place on Sept. 25 in Tallahassee’s Cascades Park.
The commemoration was a homecoming as former residents of the Smokey Hollow community were able to return back to their Tallahassee roots to remember a place they used to call home.
Smokey Hollow was once a community in the Tallahassee area, filled with a tight knit of thriving working-middle class African Americans that has now become extinct.
Now in the place of this extinct community lie various state buildings and Tallahassee’s Cascades Park.
Leon County School Board member, Maggie Lewis-Butler, who says she first came to Tallahassee back when she was 21 years old and had the opportunity to visit the Smokey Hollow community and then unexpectedly it all soon became just a memory.
“All of a sudden, one day it was just gone,” Lewis-Butler said.
The commemoration ceremony began as community leaders spoke and welcomed everyone to a site that had value and a rich history.
“Words that described Smokey Hollow are words that we can’t find throughout most communities in our country. Words like pride; words like tight-knit, bonds of kinship and solidarity. Those are things that communities should be aspiring to that we just fall short of sometimes,” says Leon County Commissioner, Nick Maddox.
“History is not a burden on a memory, but an illumination on the soul. We are standing here today in a place that has become just that: an illumination on the soul,” Maddox adds.
Following County Commissioner, Maddox was Tallahassee Mayor, Andrew Gillum.
“It’s so often when new revitalization projects are done that you kind of pave or what was there before, and nobody thinks twice to look back, in this case with Smokey Hollow, we’ve not only looked back, but we’ve resurrected what was once here,” Mayor Gillum stated.
“It’s so important for us to know what our history was like in order for us to fully appreciate the future that’s ahead. This is just a jewel that I think people from across the country would want to come and learn a little bit about,” Gillum added.
As the commemoration further commenced the incorporation of the “spirit houses” which are replicas of the shotgun houses that were once products of the Smokey Hollow community began.
The three spirit houses all represented the essence and true meaning of what the Smokey Hollow community possessed, which were the Family and Home Spirit, the Community Spirit and the Enduring Spirit.
“It’s a great day to see a project like this come into fruition. It’s something that the city of Tallahassee can be proud of,” says former chairman of the Smokey Hollow working group John Lawrence.
Many people from all over the country who are products and descendants of the Smokey Hollow community came back to reflect on their roots and honor their former community.
Of those many people was Velma Larkins, who was born and raised in the Smokey Hollow community.
She says it was touching to return back to the area in which she grew up for the commemoration of her displaced home.
“This has been so nostalgic for me, and it’s heartwarming to come back, Larkins says.
The ceremony closed as the community was able to tour the beautiful site of the Smokey Hollow Village in Cascades Park and reflect on its rich history in the Tallahassee community.
“Honored, Remembered and Celebrated. An illumination on the soul,” says Commissioner Maddox.