The mansion that lies in the center of Heritage Park and Gardens was originally built by T. T. Scott, a local timber man who owned one of the last large sawmills in Suwannee County. He also owned the First National Bank in Live Oak. In 1951, he sold the property to Porter Claude Crapps, Jr. who had moved to the area after retiring from the timber business. Part of the deal included the purchase of First National Bank. Thus Mr. Crapps became a banker and investor.
The original mansion was a two and a half story brick Georgian Revival home with a semi-detached one and a half story cottage. Being parents of eight children, Mr. and Mrs. Crapps found the multi-roomed home ideal. However, near tragedy struck in November, 1954, when fire broke out in the middle of the night. All of the family barely escaped with their lives. However, all that remained of the house was a few walls and the adjoining cottage.
The traumatic fire influenced the rebuilding of a fascinating, nearly fire-proof structure. The exterior walls are solid brick, not face-brick (brick on the inside with wood on the inside) like the old structure. The rest of the house, floors and even the inside walls, are structural steel and concrete. Firewalls are everywhere. Even the roof is structural steel and concrete. The kitchen (where fires often begin) is tiled both on the walls and ceiling. The gas stove has a heavy steel cover that can close over it. Interestingly, the exit from the kitchen to the main house has a heat sensor, drop-down, steel door that automatically closes in a fire. As another precaution, a fire hose was also located outside in front of the house. The electrical system (that can be seen in the basement) is beefed up enough for a small factory, thus minimizing the chance of electrical fires. So about the only thing that could burn would be wood paneling, trim and furnishings.
Security was also a concern. Exterior doors have four locks on them and all windows have keyed locks. Even the upper bedrooms are secured with a stair-top door with multiple locks. The basement was also a bomb shelter. The Cold War was heating up in the 50’s and bomb shelters and fallout shelters were becoming popular.
The house was very modern for its day and is not overly ornate or pretentious. There appears to be separate drinking water faucets in each bathroom. The house is well maintained and frozen in the time of the 50’s. The main dining room has the original large dining table. Mr. Crapps’ desk is still in the office and the chair has birdshot holes in it (a reminder to his sons of the dangers of fooling with loaded guns.) The living room has an ornate porcelain chandelier. Most all the closets are lined with cedar to protect against moths and beautiful wood paneling is found throughout the house.
The landscape surrounding the house was originally designed by renowned landscape architect Richard Foerster who designed projects such as the Ravines State Park in Palatka, Florida. The landscape is a tribute to the North Florida landscape and its blend of colors and textures. In working with Max Gooding of the University of Florida, landscape renovations to the Heritage Park landscape will honor the work of Richard Foerster as well as provide a setting that will enhance private event venues such as outdoor weddings and receptions, family reunions, and corporate events.
The landscape of Heritage Park and Gardens is divided into two distinct parcels, the western and eastern parcels. The western parcel is slated for active recreation and the eastern parcel is planned for passive uses (meetings, weddings, and other celebrations.)