In 1854, Thomas Evans Haile, his wife, Esther "Serena" Chesnut Haile, and their four children, arrived in Alachua County, Florida from Camden, South Carolina and established a 1,500-acre Sea Island cotton plantation. The home was named Kanapaha, Indian for "small thatched houses." The 6,200 square-foot house was solidly built of heart pine and cypress (siding is cypress), using braced frame construction and mortise and tenon joinery. Completed in 1856, the house stands as a testament to the skill and expertise of the enslaved craftsmen who built it. Tours of the Homestead tell the story of not only the Haile family but also of the enslaved laborers who worked on the plantation.
Thomas and Serena Haile died in the mid-1890s, leaving the property to Evans Haile, the 14th of their 15 children. Evans was a prominent defense attorney who lived in the Duck Pond area of Gainesville, FL. On weekends and holidays, he entertained his friends and family at the Homestead with parties, dances, and hunts. Lists of party goers adorn the walls of the main parlor and music room. Writing on the walls by family and friends dating back to the 1850s have become uniquely famous as "The Talking Walls." Well over 12,500 words were found in most rooms and closets.
By the early 1930s, the house was boarded up and sat abandoned. In the mid-1970s, the house was rediscovered by movie producer, Victor Nunez, who filmed the movie "Gal Youngun" at the Homestead. The Haile House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. With a grant from the State of Florida, the House was restored in 1996. Since April 2001, the house has been open to the public for tours. We are open on Saturdays from 10 AM to 2 PM and on Sundays from 12 PM to 4 PM. Tours at other times may be arranged by calling (352) 336-9096.
A book about the Homestead entitled "The Historic Haile Homestead at Kanapaha Plantation: An Illustrated History, " written by Karen Kirkman and Kevin McCarthy is available for sale at the Homestead and on Amazon.com.