Florida CCC Museum
At the Florida CCC Museum in Highlands Hammock State Park

When I told friends that our wedding was being held at an old Civilian Conservation Corps Camp (CCC) in the Ocala National Forest, I was surprised to find that a few of them had never heard of the CCC.

As luck would have it, part of our honeymoon found us visiting Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring, home of the Florida CCC Museum. Taking a stroll through the museum gave me an opportunity to remind you of the important role that the CCC had played in Florida.

Tools used by the CCC in Florida
Display of tools used during the CCC program

The CCC was established in 1933 as one of the “New Deal” programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It provided employment for many of the millions of young men across the country that could not find a job during the Depression years.

The mission of the CCC was to give young men employment without interfering with “normal employment,” confining the scope of work to forestry, prevention of soil erosion, flood control and other similar projects. In its first year, 275,500 men were encamped across the US, in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Replica CCC tent
Replica of a CCC tent on display. Most participants in the program camped out while working.

Here in Florida, enrollees reforested wastelands, developed recreational facilities, aided in the control of erosion on farms, and improved conditions for wildlife. Over 49,000 men from the state were enrolled across 31 camps statewide.

Luckily for us, eight of these “recreational facilities” built by the CCC became the first parks of our Florida State Parks system. At Highlands Hammock, Myakka River, Hillsborough River, Gold Head Branch, O’Leno, Fort Clinch, Torreya, and Florida Caverns State Parks, the CCC constructed buildings, visitor centers, cabins, bath houses, picnic pavilions, and a fire tower.

CCC built lodge at OLeno
CCC-built lodge at OLeno State Park, today

They built trails, camping areas, roads and bridges, and relocated a historic structure – the Gregory House, now on top of the bluff at Torreya State Park.

The CCC dismantled and moved the Gregory House to Torreya State Park (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)
Cabin under construction by the CCC in 1936 at O’Leno State Park (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory Project)

When you visit one of these parks, look around closely and you will find the rustic style construction and craftsmanship of these talented CCC workers.

CCC cabin at Gold Head Branch
You can still stay in a CCC-era cabin at Gold Head Branch State Park
CCC lodge built at Doe Lake
Our wedding was held at this CCC lodge at Doe Lake, Ocala National Forest

Visit the parks

The Florida CCC Museum at Highlands Hammock State Park is located in a 1939 CCC structure. On display are CCC memorabilia, photos, and a video of old footage telling a short history of the program.

CCC workers learned trade skills
Diorama of how the CCC built log and stone structures we associate as state park architecture today

Visit the other parks mentioned in this article to see their CCC-built facilities.

Florida Caverns State Park
Fort Clinch State Park
Hillsborough River State Park
Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park
Myakka River State Park
O’Leno State Park
Torreya State Park