Ancient America
Indian Springs Museum
Indian World Museum and Trading Post

Attractions List
Poster Gallery

Postcard of Ancient America.

E. G. (Esmond Gerrard) Barnhill was born in the Carolinas in 1894. His father taught him photography and by the age of 19 he was running his own photography business in St. Petersburg, where he specialized in scenic views of Florida and published and sold his own hand-colored photos and postcards.

Barnhill was fascinated by American Indian culture, which he studied and collected in his spare time. In 1953 he opened a museum, Ancient America, on twenty-five acres on US 1 in the area that is now the upscale Sanctuary community of Boca Raton. The grounds included an ancient Calusa Indian mound and burial ground which he excavated, with the help of archaeologists, and prepared for display to the public by tunneling into the mound and installing glass walls so that the contents could be seen. The museum also included murals depicting Indian life and many Indian artifacts and items from the Spanish conquest of Florida that he had collected over the years.

Ancient America only lasted a few years. When visitors didn't show much interest in his museum Barnhill sold the land and packed up his artifacts, grousing that "all these tourists are interested in are dog tracks and nightclubs." He also operated an Indian trading post in the summer at Wisconsin Dells; that site closed around 1959.

Indian World brochure.

A few years later he tried Florida again, opening the Indian Springs Museum on US 1 near Palm Bay. When that one also failed to excite the tourists he packed up and moved to 4611 West Space Coast Parkway (Highway 192) in Kissimmee to be in the thick of tourist traffic headed to Walt Disney World. His Indian World Museum and Trading Post was described by Sehlinger and Finley (in Central Florida Attractions: A Consumer's Guide, Menasha Ridge Press, 1983) as "... a hodgepodge of genuine artifacts, ordinary antiques, and personal keepsakes, put together without regard for interpretation or authentication." E. G. Barnhill died in 1987, at 93 years old, and that museum closed as well.

Return To Florida's Lost Tourist Attractions

Postcard image (yes, photo by E. G. Barnhill) and brochure from the author's collection.

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