Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ghost roads to nowhere (Fallschase)

Dateline: Tallahassee

Disclaimer: I was provided these personal photos by a friend of mine and ghost hunter who did not want to be named for obvious reasons. The photos credited to Anonymous Donor are his property and are used with permission on condition of anonymity.

Photo credit: Anonymous Donor
There are ghost roads in Tallahassee that wind through moss-draped live oaks, heritage oaks and pine trees. They meander through an area stuck in time, it would seem, a reminder of what the east side of town used to look like before the urban sprawl. These long abandoned, curbed thoroughfares descend from Buck Lake Road through what promised to be Tallahassee's premier, luxury home neighborhood in the mid-1970's. It was the brainchild of would-be developer E. Lamar Bailey. Fallschase. Even the name conjured up images of pine forests with babbling creeks that cascaded over rocky falls and into a pristine lake.

I drove by the brick entry sign that spelled out Fallschase in block capital letters many times before ever venturing down those forgotten streets.
The sign but a mere memory now, razed when the development of a town center mall and new Fallschase Parkway were laid out in the first decade of the new millenium, was a landmark along Buck Lake Road. It pointed towards a never-realized promise of peaceful living among the massive trees, on sleepy, canopy-like roads, on a hill overlooking two lakes.

According to my research, it's now been 40 years since real estate developer/swindler E. Lamar Bailey laid out a master plan for a residential neighborhood in the forested, rolling hills between Buck Lake Road and Lake Lafayette. There's no need for me to document the entire sordid history, as you can read Bob Rackleff's timeline here (through 2003). Suffice to say, there was corruption, lawsuits, bankruptcies, bank foreclosures, federal grand juries and plenty of legal wrangling over this jewel on Tallahassee's east side. Sadly, nothing ever became of the residential part of it, but it wasn't for a lack of funding. There were millions in defaulted loans and somehow Bailey and his son have kept their hand in the proverbial pot the whole time.

Aerial view of Fallschase looking south, Photo credit: LAI Engineering 

As you can see from the aerial photo above, borrowed from the LAI Engineering website, this is what's become known as the Fallschase Town Center at the corner of Mahan Drive (US 90 East) and Buck Lake Road. The large white-roof on the right side is a Wal-Mart Supercenter and the building in the furthest corner is Costco. The dirt patch in-between those two giant retailers is now home to a Bass Pro Shop. Look to the back of Costco and you'll see a rectangular holding pond, a dirt patch and what looks like a small landing strip. That's the end of a road in the old Fallschase Development that still winds through the western half of the property over to Davis Road, where all the luxury homes were to be built.

The old house that served as E. Lamar Bailey's residence and home office, 4475 Buck Lake Road, is boarded up and stands along one of the paved, one-lane roads leading into the old development. You can still access this private drive off Buck Lake Road just past Fallschase Parkway. A team of ghost hunters entered the boarded-up residence in January 2013.

There is much evidence of vagrancy and vandalism in the last decade. That's unfortunate.

The residential section as drawn up by Moore Bass Consulting in June 2008
Through the years, many proposals have been submitted to the powers that be in Leon County, including the above drawing done for AIG Baker by Moore Bass Consulting in 2008. None of the proposals ever made it past that stage. And in the special taxing district's sordid 40-year history, only four homes were ever built. (See another AIG Baker conceptual design for the site, here.)

When I was driving through the mostly wooded neighborhood in the early 2000's, you could still drive up to a couple of the magnificent brick homes, one of which now lies in charred ruins (see below).
Photo credit: Anonymous Donor
Photo credit: Anonymous Donor
Photo credit: Anonymous Donor

WCTV reported a fire at an abandoned plantation house in Fallschase on the afternoon of March 31, 2010.
The Tallahassee Democrat posted an update that morning about the Fallschase house fire and provided a great photo. It was a sad end for one of the only traces of what Fallschase wanted to become in the 1980's. That's what those brick homes reminded me of...upscale subdivisions like the ones built near Carmel while I was attending a parochial high school on Indianapolis' north side (1982-86).

According to my friend, some of the curbed, tree-lined streets are still in good condition. The wooden bridges, for the most part, are as well.
Photo credit: Anonymous Donor
There are still brick walls along the main thoroughfare, a divided, two-way street, now covered with graffiti. When I drove those roads in early 2000, I noticed that the brick in those retention walls (and bridges) didn't exactly match the brick from the old entrance, photo'd above. I didn't really see the need for them, either, but it seemed to go with the mostly brick motif of the few houses and cul-de-sacs.

Urban Tallahassee reported in October 2012 that Columbus Pacific had bought out the property, including the town center mall and the proposed housing addition. Almost two years prior, it was reported that previous owner AIG Baker had filed for bankruptcy protection on the property. The company had posted to their website, "Residential ground breaking is scheduled for Fall 2008." No idea what Columbus Pacific plans, but AIG Baker had proposed more than 1500 homes in the Lake Lafayette watershed.

In early 2013, someone posted this ad to Urban Tallahassee forums. Apparently, the residential-zoned piece of Fallschase is again up for sale. It's now gone undeveloped for 40 years, since Bailey & Associates vision in the early 70's.

Unless someone buys this property, is environmentally responsible with it's development and actually builds some homes there, this land will remain unused and abandoned. From my friend's photos, it looks like a ghost town, a mere shadow of the prosperity of the 80's. And all those ghost roads, now blocked from Buck Lake and Davis Roads, as well as the parkway, continue to deteriorate as they lead no one to nowhere.

Here are more photos from the Tallahassee Explorations page on, as well as an online presentation from Rachel Cohen, below.

UPDATE (3/18/14):
Yesterday, I found an old Tallahassee street map from 1987 that not only shows the original Fallschase Boulevard, but names all the residential streets as they were orignally laid out in the 80's.

Notice, the original alignment of Buck Lake Road (and I had forgotten this), was further east on Mahan than it currently sits. I can remember, there was a dead-end segment that came off Mahan near the current day intersection of the two roads, but in the 80's you had to go past that to the flashing yellow light (I believe the stoplight came later), turn right, curve south and the brick Fallschase sign was one of the first things that you saw.

Looking at a current Google Map, you can still search these street names and the pointer will show you where they are currently. For example, Sperrit Boundin would've run through the middle of the commercial property where Costco is, and Hidden Nest-Gardens End cross streets would now be underwater, thanks to the commercial property's large holding pond. The first visible roads off the main road are Hahnsum (or Hahnslim) Kerridge and Thorough Brace. From that portion eastward, the roads are still pretty much intact including an arm that runs north to the old Bailey home and Buck Lake Road, while the boulevard runs east to a ridge, just feet from the unpaved portion of Davis Road. Wish the old maps showed those roads, however the branch connecting to Buck Lake seems to be a private drive for the residence at 4475 Buck Lake Rd (i.e. the old Bailey home). Not sure yet who owned the home back in the woods at the end of Davis Rd, or if it still exists. You can zoom in on Google Earth and see the home and an unkempt property, obviously abandoned.


Chris said...
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Unknown said...

I lived on the property where Wal-Mart is now. The property that the old house sits on bordered our farm.

MartyTate76 said...

The house at the end of Davis Rd is owned by a friend who uses the property to store lawn care equipment. The house itself is frozen in the 70's. I have worked on some of the equipment and vehicles at that house, but it has no utilities. I remember hearing a radio broadcasting a football game coming from the FallChase neighborhood, but I never found the source as it was getting dark.

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