Florida Finds: Historic Micanopy

Micanopy sightseeing map and guide and artist Josh Dissell
Artist Josh Dissell recently designed the Historic Town of Micanopy Sightseeing Map and Guide.

Anyone who’s been there knows that Micanopy, the small Alachua County town located at the intersection of highways 441 and 234 on the outskirts of Gainesville, is enchanting. Some call it the town that time forgot.

Plenty to do and plenty to see and for those who are interested, this weekend might be a good time to do so as Micanopy celebrates its 47th annual fall festival Saturday and Sunday.

It is home to 39 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, something that the Micanopy Historical Society Museum highlights in its home at the entrance to town in the Thrasher Warehouse.

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Micanopy artist Josh Dissell at woodworking bench
Courtesy of Josh Dissell Micanopy artist Josh Dissell.

Micanopy is well worth a walkabout anytime of the day or year, charming visitors and residents alike. Micanopy’s unique appeal already has a hold on artist Josh Dissell, who designed the recently released Historic Town of Micanopy Sightseeing Map and Guide for those who want to know more about the town’s offerings.

Micanopy born and bred Megan L. D’Andrea Beckham, president of the Micanopy Historic Preservation Trust, commissioned Dissell to create a new storybook map.

“They had previously a kind of walking tour map…and they wanted something nice that would showcase for the town,” Dissell said. “Megan knew me, and I got the ‘in.’

“I think there were two other artists, but artists are notoriously flaky. I showed up so I got the job,” Dissell said with a self-deprecating laugh.

It was late 2019 when talks about the map first initiated, but it took more than two years to produce what is really a two-side pictorial tale of Micanopy, with delays both due to the pandemic and the discussions and debates that can occur around a commissioned art project.

“If you look at the back, it’s got a collection of houses,” Dissell said.

That was the initial thought process for the map. Micanopy has one of the most diverse collections of architectural styles in Florida, Dissell said.

“That is our dual focus,” he said. “We wanted to highlight the architecture. People get to walk around the town, see the sights, and on the flip side we have the nature aspect, so I wanted the border to feature natural wildlife and flora and fauna.”

Micanopy historic sightseeing map - back
The back of the Micanopy historic sightseeing map.

Beckham liked Dissell’s ideas. She had worked in different places around town and was struck by the lack of a map that would show people how to get around.

“He and I both shared vision of highly detailed map that people will want to keep looking at,” she said. “We knew it would take time. Then Covid happened and we knew we had all the time in the world. Through lockdown he was working on the map, and I was working on fundraising.”

Beckham did most of her fundraising through Facebook, while Dissell worked on his illustrations, dozens of which are part of the map.

When you talk with either of them, their love for this historic town shines through. Beckham talks about historic oaks and historic homes, which can be found sometimes side by side.

“If you are an architecture buff, you can see one of those prime examples you can’t find anywhere else in such a succinct collection of Florida vernacular through the years,” she said.

 Micanopy was founded in 1821 and is believed to be the oldest inland town in Florida, taking its name from Chief Micanopy of the Seminole Nation. The latest U.S. census count lists the population as 647.

Not much in demographic numbers perhaps, but certain a lot in history and appeal.

The map is available at the museum and at several stores around town for $3.

Micanopy sightseeing map and guide
Micanopy sightseeing map and guide.

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D Holt

Interesting and informative article! I’m somewhat new to Gainesville and am looking forward to venturing out to discover new nearby places. I’ll be sure to put Micanopy on my list!