Florida Seminole Tourism

Top 5 Spectacular Off-Reservation Chickees to Visit This Summer

The Florida summer is heating up, and what better way to cool off than under a chickee? This week, we highlight the top 5 off-reservation chickees you and your family can visit this summer. Not only can you beat the heat under the breezy open sides, but you can also learn a little bit about Seminole history and culture!

Chickees are traditional Seminole houses, typically constructed with a cypress log frame and densely thatched palm frond roofs. Skilled artisans can erect a new chickee in a matter of days, and they can last decades! Quick to construct and take down, chickees were ideal during the pressures and devastation of the Seminole War period, when Seminoles would have to move often and quickly abandon camps. You can also learn more about chickee construction, how the materials are sourced, and history in a previous blog post.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida constructed the chickee in our featured image at Fort King in 2021. The image shows it after it was just thatched, and is courtesy of Bill Rodriguez, via the Seminole Tribune. Above, you can see all five of our chickee locations! They are in no particular order. Each has unique features that are sure to hit the spot for any summer traveler.


Photo Courtesy of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum

Located in Jupiter, FL north of West Palm Beach, the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum features a number of fun, family-friendly activities in addition to the chickee pavilion. Congress authorized the construction of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse in 1853. Captain Edward Yorke completed construction of the lighthouse in May of 1860. It soon became an incredibly important maritime marker, “saving countless ships from wrecking along reefs and shoals between the Florida coast and the beautiful blue Gulf Stream.”

Now, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also part of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area in the National Conservation Lands, Bureau of Land Management, Department of Interior. The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum complex features not only the lighthouse, but also the Museum and Secret Station J, the Tindall Pioneer House, Keeper’s workshop and deck, and Seminole Chickee. The lighthouse remains an active public aid to navigation, and visitors can still climb the 108’ tower.

Former Chairman James Billie constructed the chickee in May of 2009. Billie constructed it “as a tribute to the history of Seminole people in this area and their trade relationship with early settlers and Lighthouse Keepers.” Seminoles would often trade with the lighthouse keepers and other Jupiter pioneers. This large, spacious chickee features over 3,400 palmetto fronds in the thatched roof. The chickee is used as a place to teach visitors about the long history of Seminoles and Seminole ancestors in the area, as well as their connection to the lighthouse. It is also used for monthly children’s story time and other youth activities.


Photo by Donovan Snell, via The Current

Eckerd College

Eckerd College, a 188-acre private liberal arts college, is located on Boca Ciega Bay in St. Petersburg, FL. It opened in 1958 as Florida Presbyterian College and hosts around 1,800 students. Considered a waterfront or “beach” college, Eckerd is committed to sustainability. They also appeared on the Princeton Review’s list of Green Colleges in 2021. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, under former Chairman James E. Billie, donated four chickees to Eckerd College in 1999. The donation and construction of the chickees was part of a free, two-day festival sponsored by the Seminole Tribe of Florida and hosted by Eckerd College.

The festival, Discover Native America, was “organized by the Tribe, Professor of American Studies and History Carolyn Johnston and Professor Emeritus of American Studies Catherine Griggs.” Discover Native America hosted more than 200 tribes across the Americas, as far as Canada and Peru. It also featured powwow dancers, Native singers and musicians, comedians, vendors, and a children’s village. The event was revived again in 2000 for another two-day showcase, kicking off an 18-month series of art, music, and film. This additionally included a lecture series on Seminole and other Southeastern tribes, with a grant from the Florida Endowment of the Humanities.

Today, these chickees are used for outdoor teaching, studying, and learning. In fact, they are one of the most popular study spots on campus! Earlier this spring, the thatching on the chickees was refreshed and replaced. The chickee refresh was detailed in a recent article in The Current, Eckerd College’s official student newspaper. Native Chickee Builders, led by Danny Johns, was able to rethatch the roofs over the course of three days. Above, you can see an in-progress shot of one of the chickee’s being rethatched around Fox Pond.


Okeechobee Battlefield Historic State Park

The Okeechobee Battlefield Historic State Park is located at the northernmost tip of Lake Okeechobee, and a portion of the historic Okeechobee Battlefield. It is the site of one of the bloodiest, and most significant, battles of the Seminole War Period. Fought on Christmas Day 1837, a group of Seminole warriors, outnumbered 2:1, would go up against a contingent of U.S. Army soldiers led by Colonel Zachary Taylor. Seminole leaders Alligator, Billy Bowlegs, Abiaka (Sam Jones) and the recently escaped Coacoochee commanded the guerilla fighters on the Seminole side. At the end of the battle, the Seminole resistors were able to escape, and continue the fight against Indian Removal. They suffered the loss of 11 warriors, with 14 injured.

Although Taylor would go on to claim victory, the reality was much more complex. In the end, Seminoles would escape the battle. Their goal was survival, and they accomplished it.

Annually, during the last weekend of February there is a historic reenactment of the Battle of Okeechobee. The reenactment features a number of Seminole actors and includes an Education Day for children.

The chickee at the Okeechobee Battlefield Historic State Park includes a picnic pavilion, perfect for cooling down after walking around the park. Made in the traditional way from cypress logs and palmetto thatching, the chickee offers a bit of shade in the relatively open park space.


The Cove Inn on Naples Bay

Looking for something more elevated? The Cove Inn is a waterfront hotel located on Naples Bay in historic Old Naples. In addition to being one mile from Naples Beach, it also boasts a luxurious pool within steps of a large chickee bar. The chickee bar, which you can see above, provides guests with ample shade, as well as fresh cocktails. Relax poolside while you gaze out onto the pristine water of the bay, with the chickee bar mere feet away. The chickee bar at the Cove Inn was the last master chickee builder O.B. Osceola built before retiring in 2018. Osceola built the original chickee bar in 1969, which unfortunately was destroyed during Hurricane Irma.

But, the loss also became an opportunity. The Cove Inn decided to expand the chickee, putting it now at a whopping 46 by 25 feet. Built from the ground up with entirely new materials, the construction used 7,200 cabbage palm fronds for the thatching. In a Seminole Tribune article about the O.B Osceola’s retirement he quipped “It will stay for a lifetime now, if the hotel doesn’t fall on it.”

Born in Ochopee, O.B. Osceola is the son of Cory Osceola, and the father of O.B. Osceola Jr. and Tina Marie Osceola. He has also been mentioned before in previous blog posts! Learning chickee building as a young child, he began building chickees full-time in the 1950s after serving in the U.S. Army. Eventually, he started his own chikee building business out of Naples, FL, where he lives with his family. Osceola, who recently turned 90, was just recently in a video commemorating Hard Rock Hollywood’s 20th anniversary.


Chickee at Long Key State Park, courtesy of Florida State Parks

Fort King

The newest chickee on our list, The Seminole Tribe of Florida donated and constructed a brand-new chickee at Fort King National Historic Landmark in September of 2021. Located outside Ocala, Fort King holds a significant place in Seminole history, particularly in its role during the Seminole War period. Strategically constructed to monitor Seminole movements at Silver Springs, Fort King became the site of Seminole leader Osceola’s defiant stand in 1835. On Christmas Eve 1835, Osceola launched a strategic attack on Fort King, culminating in the death of Indian Agent Wiley Thompson. This event was a major catalyst for the Second Seminole War.

Today, the landmark is maintained by the Fort King Heritage Foundation. They annually host the Fort King Festival, a two-day event that features living historians, crafts, games, workshops, activities, vendors, food, and reenactments.

The new chickee is one part of the intended expansion of the heritage area. Their vision for the future of the fort also includes a blacksmith shop, interior fort buildings, peripheral buildings and structures, a new museum and education center, and an archaeological resource center. In a Seminole Tribune article about the chickee, and the strong relationship between Fort King and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, it notes that the direction of the future 21,000 sq. foot museum has been a collaboration between the Tribe and the city of Ocala.

“The tribe has been instrumental working with us in the way their story is told; it shouldn’t be our interpretation but their interpretation of their history,” said Bill Rodriguez, head of Ocala’s parks division. “We have a very strong relationship with the tribe. We are the first group to come to them before anything was actually done to get their input and participation in the project. It’s extremely important to have all parties involved in the telling of the story.”

Rodriguez also notes that the city and Tribe were very intentional with the master plan for the site, including the signage and even placement of the chickee. “We didn’t want it to be hidden,” Rodriguez continued. “It has equal real estate value as the fort does in terms of its significance to the site. We wanted it to be front and center with the fort.”


The five sites on our chickee journey are scattered throughout Florida. We hope that sometime this summer you and your family take the opportunity to visit at least one of them and enjoy the shade while reflecting and educating yourself on Seminole history and culture.


Author Bio

Originally from Washington state, Deanna Butler received her BA in Archaeological Sciences from the University of Washington in 2014. Deanna moved to Florida in 2016. Soon, she began working for the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office. Deanna was the THPO’s Archaeological Collections Assistant from 2017-2021. While at the THPO, Deanna worked to preserve, support, and process the Tribe’s archaeological collection. She often wrote the popular Artifact of the Month series and worked on many community and educational outreach programs. She lives in Lakeland, FL with her husband, two sons, and dog.

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