Historic Haile Homestead at Kanapaha Plantation
SW Archer Road & SW 85th Street, Gainesville, FL
One of the oldest houses in Alachua County, the Historic Haile Homestead was the home of Thomas Evans Haile, his wife Esther Serena Chesnut Haile and 14 of their children. The Hailes came here from Camden, South Carolina in 1854 to establish a 1,500-acre Sea Island Cotton plantation which they named Kanapaha. Enslaved black craftsmen completed the 6,200-square-foot manse in 1856. The 1860 census showed 66 slaves living here. The Hailes survived bankruptcy in 1868 and turned the property into a productive farm, growing a variety of fruits and vegetables including oranges. Serena Haile died in 1895; Thomas in 1896. The Homestead, which passed to son Evans, a prominent defense attorney, became the site of house parties attended by some of Gainesville’s most distinguished citizens. The Hailes had the unusual habit of writing on the walls; all together over 12,500 words with the oldest writing dating to the 1850’s. The Homestead was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. A restoration was completed in 1996. Still partly owned by descendants of Evans Haile, the Homestead is one of the few remaining homesteads built by Sea Island cotton planters in this part of Florida.
The Thomas Evans Haile family immigrated from Camden, South Carolina, to Alachua County, Florida, about 1854 to establish a Sea Island cotton plantation; the spacious house which they called “Kanapaha”. Its veranda with detached columns, the central doorway with its glazed transom and sidelights, and the classic symmetry of the design echo features which were part of the architectural tradition of antebellum Camden.
Family history indicates that after flooding ruined four successive cotton crops. In South Carolina, Thomas Halle packed up his wife and four children and 56 enslaved laborers, traveled by wagon to Charleston, and chartered a boat to take them to Florida. Among the Haile enslave laborers were experienced carpenters and cabinetmakers, and their skill is evidenced in the quality and finish of the Haile plantation house.
Alachua County, Florida was on the threshold of prosperity when the Hailes moved to Kanapaha, eight miles southwest of Gainesville. The production of Sea Island cotton by settlers from Georgia and South Carolina had begun with the removal of the Indians after the Second Seminole War and the opening of the Bellamy Road in 1826. By 1860, the railroad which ran from Cedar Key to Fernandina, gave planters ready access to their markets.
Thomas Haile was the fourth son of a prosperous Camden planter, Benjamin Haile, who had amassed a substantial fortune as the result of the discovery of gold on his property. Benjamin Haile’s will, dated May 9, 1849, reveals that, in addition to 1,500 acres of land near Camden, Thomas inherited $4,000 in cash and an unspecified number of enslaved laborers from his father’s estate. Thomas’ wife, Esther Serena Chesnut Haile, also was descended from a prominent and wealthy Camden family. She was the neice of General James Chesnut, whose wife Mary Boykin Chesnut, wrote the famous Civil War diary entitled Diary From Dixie.
Kanapaha is on the National Register of Historic Places and Historic Haile Homestead at Kanapaha Plantation is a Florida Historical Marker.
The Historic Haile Homestead and the Florida Department of State