Spook Hill Earns Spot on National Register of Historic Places
Last updated 4/24/2019 at 12:34pm
Lake Wales attraction Spook Hill has now earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. City Clerk Jennifer Nanek announced the special designation at the Lake Wales City Commission meeting April 16.
City Manager Ken Fields credited Nanek with persistence in seeking the special designation, which needed nomination by the State of Florida and then approval by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The National Register is the official list of the nation's historic places worthy of preservation.
Nanek said she would request funds in the 2019-20 City budget to purchase a special marker to showcase Spook Hill's recognition.
"It fascinates me how drawn to Spook Hill our tourists are," Nanek said. "Zero marketing dollars are spent on Spook Hill these days, well except the new signage lately, but it gets so much attention from press and visitors despite our minimal effort."
Spook Hill is a gravity hill, an optical illusion where cars appear to roll up the spooky hill. According to the Roadside America website, gravity hills – where cars inexplicably defy the laws of science - lurk in every region across America. It says Spook Hill is somewhat unique in that it's officially recognized by the town and prominently marked for uphill-rolling entertainment.
"The period of significance for Spook Hill is 1950-1969, starting in the year with the oldest recorded image of the site as a tourist attraction, and running through the mid-century period in which it had its greatest local prominence," according to the nomination written by Max Adriel Imberman, a historic preservationist with the Florida Division of Historical Resources. The creation of Spook Hill capitalized on the popularity of other area tourist attractions, including Bok Tower, Imberman noted: "While the seeds had been planted for a successful city, boosters wanted to make sure that there were visitors to bring in dollars, and Spook Hill was a significant local example."
Nanek worked 10 years at the Lake Wales Museum and said Spook Hill always was a top question from tourists and writers. She said the nomination describes "how Spook Hill has evolved over the years as part of our community's story the reader can see how important that site has been to our residents, business leaders, school children at Spook Hill and is a constant draw to tourists."
The City installed a new overhead sign at Spook Hill in July 2018. The sign describing Spook Hill has been changed several times over the years with the legend rewritten.
Spook Hill is located at 600 North Wales Drive between Dr. J.A. Wiltshire Avenue and Burns Avenue.
Here is how Imberman described Spook Hill: The southern end of the site is the beginning of a very shallow incline headed north along North Wales Drive, which changes to a high, steep incline ending at Burns Avenue. A white line is painted across the road at this point of transition, at which drivers are intended to park, put their car into neutral, and slowly roll backwards downhill while feeling like they are being pulled uphill. The optical illusion is caused by the view of the horizon being obscured by the high hill. The site is intended to be experienced facing north and is a one-way street.