By Robert Tolf
Special to the Sun-Sentinel
Then as now agriculture was the main industry in the area, and in 1830 tobacco was introduced as an important cash crop. Later in the century, northern capital was invested in the county's famous crop of shade leaf tobacco, grown in the shade of cheesecloth-covered fields, cultivated, harvested and stored completely by hand. The highly lucrative crop was used only to wrap the finest cigars, and it dominated the local economy until the 1970s.
Lesser, more mass-produced cigars were rolled and shipped out of Quincy, including the first commercial stogies, Robert Burns and White Owl, cured and stored in an 1891 warehouse at 404 N. Madison St. The American Sumatra Tobacco Co. was a couple blocks away at 121 Madison, and 104 E. Washington was the headquarters of May Tobacco Co.
Descriptions and locations of these buildings -- plus many others of note, representing antebellum Classical Revival, Queen Anne and gingerbread Victorian styles, including one with Tiffany stained glass windows -- are given in a handy walking tour guide available in the visitor center at 221 N. Madison.They are all easy to find in the 36-block section of downtown Quincy, officially recognized as a Nationally Registered Historic District. In its heart is the Allison House Inn.
The house was built in 1843 as a one-story double-parlor Georgian on brick pilings for one of the prime movers in the push for statehood, Abraham K. Allison.
Allison served as speaker of the House and president of the Senate, and he replaced the Confederate governor who committed suicide eight days before Lee's surrender at Appomattox. When he went to Washington to ensure his state's future, he was arrested and sent to prison for six months. When he returned to Quincy he moved back into his home where he lived until his death in 1893.
A quarter-century later the pilings and ground floor were enclosed to make an apartment and office space, modernizing the structure to the point where it bears little resemblance to the original. But innkeepers Stuart and Eileen Johnson work hard to provide a distinct English country atmosphere in their five spacious guest rooms.
Each has a private bath, individual temperature control and cable TV. The two original parlors are now named the Governors Room and the Allison Room, the first featuring a queen-size canopy bed and period antiques, the second English floral chintz and pink moire accenting the brass double bed with a dusty pink and green color scheme -- a kind of feminine boudoir.
The Country Room is all blue and sunny yellow with two double beds and an oversize bathroom with a navy claw-foot tub. The Hunt Room is burgundy and hunter green paisley with king-size bed, English hunt memorabilia and another claw-foot tub. The Garden Room is a burst of blooms with white cast iron double bed and giant armoire, one of the many from the British Isles used to great advantage here.
Deluxe continental breakfasts are provided, as is sherry during late afternoons on the weekends. For sustenance later in the day, head to one of the cafes in neighboring Havana, another tobacco town that succeeded in finding alternative means of support -- more than a dozen shops filled with arts and antiques.
For dinner head to the Nicholson Farmhouse. It's seven miles from Quincy and 31/2 from Havana on State Road 12 West (850-539-5931) and is a perfect place to continue your explorations into Florida history.
It's the oldest house in Gadsden County, built in 1828 by slave labor using kiln-fired bricks and timber cut from giant pines on a 4,000-acre plantation stretching along the Little River. It was planted with corn and cotton by a pioneer from North Carolina, Dr. Malcolm Nicholson.
Called the Father of Medicine in Territorial Florida, he was one of three commissioners responsible for choosing Quincy as county seat.
The house is still in the Nicholson family, owned by great-great-grandson Paul, who with his wife, Ann, and another couple, Willard and Carolyn Rudd, opened the historic home with its adjacent smokehouse as a casual country restaurant in 1988.
IF YOU GO
Getting there: Quincy is 23 miles northwest of Tallahassee at the intersection of U.S. 90 and State Roads 12, 65 and 267. The inn is in the heart-of the Historic District.
Rates: Room rates range from $75 to $90 and that includes complimentary breakfast. During special events, a $10 per room surcharge and minimum stay could be imposed.
Information: Contact the Allison House Inn, 215 N. Madison St., Quincy, FL 32351. Phone: 888-904-2511.