Brian Martsolf (bigbrian_nc) wrote,
Brian Martsolf

Yo Ho, Yo Ho a fictional Floridian pirates life for me (with apologies to Alan Huffman)

Many of you may already realize that the Grand Floridian owes much of its theming and feel to the development by Henry Flagler in the late 1800's of the East Coast of Florida he built several Grand Hotels starting with the Ponce De Leon Hotel (The hotel was the first large scale building constructed entirely of poured concrete)
in St. Augustine while trying to build it though he had quite a time trying to get materials, he began buying up the few short line railroads that existed along Floridas East coast (using some of the money he had made in his first career building up Standard Oil with John D. Rockefeller) then eventually extending them southward from Palm Beach, to all the places that WOULD BECOME towns and cities as the railroad came through (including Miami which at the time was just orange groves) and culminating in the "eighth wonder of the world" a railroad across the Florida Keys all the way to Key West the first train to Key West travelled in1912 and Flagler died at the age of 83 in 1913.  In fact the original name of the restaurant where Citricos is now was actually named Flagler's. Many of you also may realize that theme was continued with the naming of the lodge  buildings Sago Cay, Sugarloaf Key, Conch Key, Boca Chica and Big Pine Key as these are all islands in the Florida Keys.
but I digress...

But with all that "east coast" Florida history, then how does the restaurant Narcoosees fit in? Narcoossee is a small town southeast of Orlando, and just north of St Cloud, I have to think there was some kind of local connection with that one being SO close by. Now Mizner's lounge makes some sense as I find that Addison Cairns Mizner was an architect who did a LOT of work in South Florida in the early 20th century. , but the one that really breaks that East Coast mold is the Gasparilla Grill and Games, now that sounds like an ODD combination, and well it is, since it's a 24-hour snack bar with an adjacent arcade, well snack bar seems to understate it to me it strikes me more as a counter service restaurant with a tasty and unusual assortment of items!
but I digress...

The reason for that odd combination of game room and counter service dining, I would guess that when the Grand Floridian was being built it might not have been even thought necessary to have a counter service dining location for a resort that seemingly is all about the high-end luxury experience, and that perhaps somewhere along the way someone realized that "uhh, no leaving that option out would  NOT be a good idea" since the high-end experience is in part all about HAVING options.
but I digress...

So we come to the name, no not grill and games (we covered that above), I meant Gasparilla, this restaurant is named for. Now you COULD see this as simply another geographical reference as Gasaprillia Island in southwest Florida.
...but that island is supposedly named for Jose Gaspar, who (according to wikipedia) was known by his nickname Gasparilla, and he a purported Spanish pirate. , Though he is a popular figure in Florida folklore, no evidence of his existence appears in writing before the early 20th century (and since he was supposed to be alive in the late 1700's that's a wee bit late). Several other islands on Floridas gulf coast have had their names woven into the Gaspar legend as well, according to local folklore, Captiva got its name because Gasparilla held his female prisoners on the island for ransom or worse, though Sanibel island appears in actuality to be derived from a Spanish name San Nibel  or Santa Ybel (and there is a point Ybel on the island) in the pirate folklore version it was named by Roderigo Lopez, the first mate of (Gasparilla), after his beautiful lover Sanibel whom he had left behind in Spain.  Similarly an 18th century rancher named his island Josepha which evolved into Useppa isalnd, which was also worked into the Gaspar legend According to these, he named the place after Useppa, a Spanish princess he captured and became enamored with. She rejected his advances until he threatened to kill her. She still refused, and he beheaded her in a rage (alternately, his crew demanded her death). He instantly regretted his actions, and took her to Useppa, where he buried her himself. The island still bears her name. In some versions of the story, the young lady's name was Josefa, and the island's name allegedly evolved into "Useppa" over time, like the other islands the legend doesn't hold much water, but it is probably a nice tale for folks sitting round the campfire. All of this would be moot though if there wasn't another connection to the grand Floridian here right? and so we come to these photos taken by Tom Corless of .

This pontoon boat with the nameplate Lady Useppa is used for the childrens pirate adventure that the Grand Floridian offers you can read about it at
, they actually have a photo of the Lady Useppa too (on the Grand Floridians photo page) , but unfortunately it's from the other end and neither  the decor nor the name is visible.

and for anyone who didn't get the "apologies to Alan Huffman" reference, Alan is the podcaster who came up with the long running Park Hopping Podcast, and he uses the phrase "but I digress..." on a regular basis. his site:

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