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Back to the Future: The Havana Springs Resort

For all who mourned the loss of the Nicholson Farmhouse Restaurant of national fame, good news is here.

John and Jennifer Heal moved here from St. Louis, Missouri in June 2018 and closed on this 60-acre property with its village of historic buildings in July. They will continue some of the functions of previous owners such as a bed- and-breakfast with four beautifully-appointed guest rooms in the 1800 Salem House, two in the 1828 Nicholson Plantation House and the planned addition of six in the Littman House.

The Shady Rest Event Center, formerly a 1925 honky tonk, will continue to serve as the event center and has already booked 30 events between now and 2020. Such events include but are not limited to weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, dances, proms, fundraisers, holiday celebrations and corporate events.

Shady Rest has a rather shady history, as it once housed an illegal still, a dance hall and a gambling den. Although it is elegant now, Jennifer, owner and event planner, says, “Oh, if only these walls could talk.”

The 1916 Patrick General store will remain as a store with snacks and gifts and the place where guests check in. An ice cream parlor will be added as well.

The Heals feel so honored to have the place and to ride on the Nicholson coattails. They want to honor the past and the Nicholson dynasty (five generations of Nicholsons lived in that house). Their restaurant will have a Mr. Nicholson’s Steak Night two nights a week, for example. They will follow his menu right down to the boiled peanuts. They will have featured desserts from Katie’s Cakes and catering in Havana – and pork chops and chicken for those who do not want beef.

On Sundays, they will have family-style meals of fried chicken or carved roast beef with 8 or 9 sides from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. This will be an all-you-can -eat feast. They also hope to have a murder mystery theater at dinner once a month.

Yes, there will be a chance to revisit the nostalgic past when this property opens in late November, but it also will lead us into the future with a myriad of new enchanting features.

Take the new name – The Havana Springs Resort. A resort is so much more than just a restaurant. Even though the resort will honor the past, it is not sitting still but preparing for the future.

On the additional 46 acres of land, there will be hiking trails; a playground; a game park with 25 games people can play (like giant chess, croquet, badminton, etc.); a mushroom garden made from vintage glass vases and upside-down glass bowls strung with lights inside; and a sculpture park with vintage wagons, syrup bowls, carriages etc.

If you have any such items that you’d like to donate or sell, contact the Heals at 850-508-1477. There also will be a high-end RV park and a waterfall swimming pool. The Havana Springs Resort at 200 Coca Cola Avenue will be a unique getaway where one can celebrate our southern past as well as enjoy the amenities of the present and the future.

The Havana Springs Resort is located off of Havana Highway (FL-12) – across the street from the Tallavana Christian School.

By Judy Conlin


All photos courtesy Havana Springs Resort