Not your average play place
Want a place to play a game of Soldiers or Cowboys and Indians? The playground at Fort Christmas, Florida just might be the place you’ll want to go. The PVC log look-alike playground structure in the Fort Christmas Historical Park in Christmas, Florida is in keeping with the authentic recreation of the old log fort once built there.
On Christmas Eve, December 25, 1837, a force of 2,000 U.S. Army Soldiers and Alabama Volunteers arrived near this spot to construct a fort, which was aptly named, Fort Christmas. This was only one of over 200 forts built during the Second Seminole Indian War, 1835 - 1842.
This is not the actual Fort Christmas but a re-creation. The original was built a short distance away in 1837 during the Second Seminole Indian War. Its remains, having been destroyed first by a raging forest fire, have long since rotted away. The re-created fort, with its log cabin-like blockhouses and pointed palisades, is remarkably evocative of a frontier that most Americans associate with the West, not the South.
The original fortification was constructed to protect and shelter a contingent of U.S. Army troops dispatched to the area to help the local settlers in a war with the marauding Seminole Indians.
Christmas, a tiny unincorporated community, is located 23 miles east of Orlando and ten miles west of Titusville on U. S. Rte. 50 in East Orange County. The principal industries of this area, other than the post office, are farming, cattle, and citrus groves. During the month of December, the oranges and grapefruit are being harvested and truly represent Florida’s native Christmas trees with their green leaves and bright orange and yellow decorations.
That original fort was recreated as part of an Orange County Historic and Recreation Park. Today the family park contains the full-scale fort replica, seven authentic pioneer homes, and a commercially built playground built to resemble a miniature fort. There are various outbuildings, softball fields, volleyball and tennis courts, horseshoe pits, picnic areas, grills and covered pavilions.
The playground is used on a year-round basis by locals and visitors alike. But no time of year is it busier than during the month of December. That month attracts visitors to the community’s modern postal facility like a magnet. After all, everyone loves to get their seasonal greeting cards and gift packages with the historic Christmas cancellation and green tree cachet.
After an encounter with the current postmistress, Diane Reed Schmidt, visitors are almost certain to take a side trip to the county park. A permanently decorated living Christmas tree marks the paved road leading to the park and its fort. The tree is gaily lighted during the month of December, beginning with a tree-lighting ceremony held the first Sunday evening. The tree is the community’s gift to all and is its symbol of Love, Good Will, and Peace to the world. The tree probably is one of the most often photographed trees in the nation.
The Fort Christmas Park and its playground are free of charge and open to all, residents and visitors alike. After exploring the full-size replica fort, children often repair to the playground and act out their Indian and soldier fantasies while the adults spend more time at the pioneer homes.