market drove him into debt in 1856. The plantation
stopped producing sugar on the eve of the
Gamble turned the plantation over to his major
creditor, his brother-in-law, and the property was
sold in 1859. Gamble moved back to Tallahassee,
eventually married, started a family and inherited
his share of his father’s holdings.
During the Civil War the Gamble Mansion was
used as a commissary for the Confederate army.
Capt. Archibald McNeill, a famous Confederate
blockade-runner, took refuge on the property in
1865 after being accused of having arranged for
U.S. President Lincoln’s assassination.
At the end of the Civil War the U.S. government
ordered Confederate cabinet members to
be arrested. Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate
Secretary of State, fearing his safety, escaped to
Florida. He is thought to have briefly sheltered in
the mansion in 1865. He later fled to England.
In 1873, Major George Patten bought the
property for delinquent taxes for $3,000.
“He and his wife raised 11 children in this
house,” Toney said. “His oldest daughter was
named Ellen, and the community they grew up in become
known as Ellenton.”
After he died, the land was subdivided 11 ways and
distributed to his children. Unable to maintain the
property, it was eventually sold.
In 1925, the United Daughters of the Confederacy
purchased the property and immediately deeded it
to the state of Florida as a historic site. The property
has been restored to the appearance of its respective
The park also includes the restored wood-frame,
two-story, Victorian-style Patten House, built in 1872
for owner George Patten. Also on the grounds is the
Confederate Veterans Memorial Monument, erected
October 10, 1937.
The mansion was listed on the National Register
of Historic Places as the Robert Gamble House on
August 12, 1970. In 2002, the state of Florida acquired
the property, which holds the ruins of one of the
South’s largest sugar mills, and added it to the historic
The Gamble Plantation Historic State Park is located at
3708 Patten Ave. in Ellenton. A visitor center and museum
also exists on the property. Guided tours are offered
Thursday through Mondays. Closed Thanksgiving Day,
Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Group tours of 10 or
more can be arranged by calling the park ahead of time.
Special events are held throughout the year including open
houses, reenactments and demonstrations. Hosts wear period
clothing and interpret the lives of people who lived and
worked at the Plantation. The park and mansion can also
used as a wedding venue.
For more information, call (941) 723-4563