Palatka Ravine Gardens
Wm. J. Carpenter    1937
Watercolor   7 X 5 inches    Unsigned

This painting depicts some of the thousands of azalea plants blooming in the Ravine Gardens in Palatka, Florida.  It was painted by Wm. J. Carpenter in his studio in Daytona Beach for sale to the tourist trade during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  At the time he and many other architects were struggling to maintain a semblance of the life style they had enjoyed during the boom days of the 1920s in any way they could.  He chose a method he knew well, but had never exploited during his architectural career.

I do not know how many  copies he painted of the same scene but probably not very many.  They were all originals, as he had no fast copy machine in those days.  I do remember he lined up several pieces of illustration board on an easel along a wall of his studio at he same time and went from one to the next, painting similar details in each to avoid having to clean his brush of different colors.

The gardens had been created only a few months before as a  WPA project under the supervision of Captain T. B. Billespie;  Mr. Carpenter was one of the first artists to ever paint the Palatka Ravine Gardens.  The 1930s project was in its infancy when he became enamored with it at first visit and painted many different views within the Park area.  Now known as the Ravine Garden State Park, the facility was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.  We will talk about more paintings of the Gardens in the future. 

In 1937 the gardens were declared “the Nation’s Outstanding CWA Project”.  They are now one of the nine New Deal-era state parks in Florida.  The surviving structures and landscape features-examples of the American Rustic architectural style popular during the mid-20th century-include the main entrance, two suspension bridges, amphitheater, stone terraces and the Court of States with its obelisk dedicated to President F. D. Roosevelt.  Many of these features were captured in Mr. Carpenter’s paintings.

The azaleas may not be in bloom should you visit the park, but it is an unusual bit of natural Florida which is sure to enthrall the visitor at any time of the year.  If you would like a Limited Edition print of this neat little painting to brighten you home or office until your visit take a look at our Gallery.  Click here.


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