Quick Stop at Ray Charles Childhood Home, Greenville, Florida
I’m proof billboard advertising works. On a recent trip through Florida’s Panhandle, I spotted one advertising the Ray Charles Childhood Home in Greenville, Fla. Huh? First, I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know there was a town called Greenville and second, I didn’t know Ray Charles had Sunshine State connections.
Last month, my friend ZeldaMae had the idea of driving 7+ hours up to Florida’s Panhandle to attend a conference. She said it would be easier and more fun than flying. She promised we could stop somewhere for an adventure, although I had no idea what that would be. Driving along Interstate 10 just west of Tallahassee, I spotted our billboard to adventure, the Ray Charles Childhood Home.
About the Ray Charles Childhood Home
The house was purchased by the town of Greenville (pop. just over 830) in 2006 because the home was falling down and in pretty bad shape. In 2008, the State of Florida awarded Greenville a$48,000 historic preservation grant to restore the home. In Sept. 23, 2009, on what would be Charles’ 79th birthday, the house was formally dedicated as a museum. (Source: National Trust for Historic Preservation)
Visiting the Ray Charles Childhood Home
We pulled off I-10 exit 209 and I immediately spied the Dairy Queen billboard promoting free Rays Charles tour maps. We didn’t stop because we figured we’d be able to find the house and pick the map up on the way back. If we had picked it up, I would have learned somewhere in the area was a life-size bronze statue of the musician. Unfortunately, the map didn’t say where the statue was so guess what we didn’t get to see? Yeah, would have been an awesome Kodak moment.
Driving through Greenville, it looked as though many of the homes could use some tender loving care. It’s obvious they were from the early twentieth century and looked like old Florida Cracker houses sans roofs. Many homes were accented with vibrant Bougainville. One house was burned out and the inside revealed a trailer home. Yes, looked as though a trailer home was stuffed into a house.
The people we passed looked happy. Kids were outside playing and the adults looked at us curiously because it was obvious we weren’t from around those parts.
We arrived at the 900-square-foot house to find a black fence around it and locked up. It was well after 5 p.m. so maybe it was open earlier in the day, since it was a Saturday. Not sure when it’s open and if tours are offered. I didn’t have much time to ponder and reflect, ZeldaMae kept the car running, in fact, it was still moving when I hopped in the backseat to grab my camera.
Perhaps over time programs for the home will be developed and someday I’ll get to see the interior. I’d love to see a food trailer serving soul food or BBQ set up nearby to add to the Ray Charles era. For now, I’ll rent “Ray” to learn more about the soul man, although, Wikipedia has my curiosity peaked – says Mr. Charles was married twice and fathered 12 children with nine women. Yowza!
Ray Charles Childhood Home
443 SW Ray Charles Ave.
Greenville, Fla. 32331
Tel: (850) 948-2251
Greenville is located about 45 minutes west of Tallahassee.