The Old Spanish Sugar Mill is a unique restaurant located inside the DeLeon Springs State Park . Opened in 1961 by Peter and Marjorie Schwarze, we have been serving in the same unusual style ever since.
Each of our tables are equipped with a griddle and we bring you pitchers of homemade pancake batters (both a stone ground mixture of five different flours and an unbleached white) and you pour them on and flip them over right at the table.
You may order blueberries, bananas, peanut butter, pecans, chocolate chips, apples or apple sauce to create whatever sort of pancakes you choose. We have sausage, bacon, ham, eggs, homemade breads and an assortment of other treats to accompany your pancakes.
Where are you located? - We are about one hour north of Orlando and about 1/2hour west of Daytona Beach off of 17-92 approx. 7 miles north of DeLand. We are inside the DeLeon Springs State Park.
When are you open? - The restaurant serves everyday except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Monday thru Friday 9 - 4 / Saturday, Sunday and Holidays 8 - 4. We close at 5 PM daily.
Do you serve breakfast all day? - Yes! Until 4 PM.
Are there other things on the menu beside pancakes? - Yes! We have sandwiches and salads in addition to other breakfast items such as French Toast & Eggs. We serve the full menu all day long till 4 PM.
Do you take reservations? - We take reservations on a very limited basis for parties of 10 or more. We can accommodate groups of up to thirty people. Because we are so small we take only three reservations per day and your entire party must be present in order to be seated. We hold these reservations only ten minutes so be realistic when you make your reservations. No reservations are accepted on holidays .
The Fountain of Youth boat tour operates on Spring Garden RUN from DeLeon Springs to Lake Woodruff in the Woodruff Federal Wildlife Refuge and operates 10, 11 12 and 1pm, (minimum of 8 passengers ), trips with special charters available.
What does it cost? - Pancakes are $4.95 per person. Side orders of meats, eggs, fruits, beverages range in price from $1.85 to $2.50 depending on what you order. Sandwiches and salads range from $4.00 to $9.00.
Do we have to pay to get into the park? - Entry fee to the park is $6.00 per car (up to 2 to 8 persons), (additional folks are $2.00 each). Your admission to the park allows you to hike, swim, picnic and enjoy all of the facilities of the State Park.
What else is there to do at the State Park while visiting the restaurant? -
Paddle a canoe or kayak down Spring Garden Run into the Woodruff Federal Wildlife Refuge. The 19,500 acre refuge boasts an incredible 212 species of birds, many of which may be seen along the Run. Alligators abound and the occasional manatee may wonder by.
Swim in the refreshing 72 degree waters of our spring fed pool. Legend has it that this is Ponce De Leon's fabled Fountain of Youth. Tube rentals are also available for use in the Spring Pool area.
Walk the nature trail or explore the Wild Persimmon hiking trail as it winds along the edge of the swamp.
Stroll the grounds or simply sit on a bench and watch the herons, egrets and osprey along the spring run.
Ride the Fountain of Youth Echo History Tour Boat and let Captain Frank fill you in on the history, flora and fauna of our area. Watch closely and you're sure to see wildlife along Spring Garden Run. Tour boat excursions into the Woodruff Refuge on Spring Garden Road available everyday for 50 minutes at 10am, 11am, 12pm and 1pm.
Additional History -
Click Here for a Photo Chronology of the Sugar Mill Building 1885 - 1950's
The Old Spanish Sugar Mill , sits beside the spring named for the legendary explorer Ponce DeLeon.
Originally constructed in the 1830s to crush sugar cane utilizing the power of the 16 – 18 million gallons of water flowing from the spring daily, the mill features a 30 foot. undershot waterwheel.The mill was rebuilt around 1900.
A chimney, which remains on the site, was part of the original sugar mill operation, and displays a 1931 DAR plaque proclaiming the date of 1570 as the year of mill construction. This was based on inaccurate information.
The mill was destroyed twice over the years. It was destroyed during the Second Seminole War in 1835 and again during the Civil War in 1864 when the mill was being used to provide corn for the Confederate troops.
Legend tells of mill stones being thrown into the spring although none have ever been recovered. In 1961 the mill was again scheduled for destruction. Just an old building to many, Peter Schwarze felt quite differently.
A fifth generation grist miller newly arrived in Florida, Peter saw a treasure that must be saved. He arranged to lease and restore the mill, moved his wife and daughter to the 'Fountain of Youth' and began once again grinding flour in the mill building. His gristmill was of his own design, an adjustable underrunner mill with small French buhr stones that was electrically powered.
The setting was perfect and the restaurant and bakery utilizing his flours began. The park in which the mill is situated and the mill building itself are now owned by the state of Florida and are part of the Florida State Park system.
The bronze plaque on the Sugar Mill chimney at De Leon Springs State Park was placed there in 1931 by the Daughters of the American Revolution. It reads,
1570—1763 During this period this chimney and the sugar vats were built by Spanish settlers
Extensive research has proven that these structures were first built by American settlers and slave labor in the early 1830s, starting with Orlando Rees. Thomas Starke purchased the property in 1850 and rebuilt the mill, continuing the operation until the end of the Civil War in 1865.
In 1929, Fred Burt, a local entrepreneur from New York, wrote his version of the area’s history. He had this to say about De Leon Springs, “There seems to be little authentic history of Florida, and practically none of De Leon Springs. We must, therefore, rely almost wholly upon legends…as well as call upon our imaginations to round out our local history.
He certainly used his imagination to create a fictional history of the spring, complete with a fabricated quote from Ponce de Leon. This information would have been readily available to the DAR members when they made the plaque in 1931.
How Old Are the Live Oak Trees?
Not only are there myths about Ponce de Leon but legends also abound regarding the age of the Southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana. It is not uncommon to see a live oak claimed to be hundreds of years old. Live oaks can grow 25 feet in the first 20 years but are seldom over 250 years old.
The 1910 photo of the Sugar Mill shows what appear to be live oaks at the top of the hill, which is now the parking lot. Since
the oaks in the photo look to be about 25 feet tall, we can presume they are now approximately 125 years old. This corresponds with descriptions about land use here in the 1800s. The uplands were planted in cotton during the Spring Garden Plantation period, early 1800s-1860s. George Norris had extensive citrus groves in this area when he owned the property from 1872 to around 1900. The oaks may have become established naturally or were planted as the citrus groves disappeared.
De Leon Springs State Park
6,000 Years of History
First Spanish Period: 1513-1763
British Period: 1763-1783
Second Spanish Period: 1783-1821
U.S. Territorial Period: 1821-1845
6,000 years BP (Before Present )— Native people first lived around the spring and along the spring run. Several shell mounds and middens are located in the park, and in 1990, a 6,000 year old dugout canoe was found in the spring.
1500s — Legend and folklore claim that Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon sought and discovered the mythical Fountain of Youth at De Leon Springs. There is no historical record or archaeological evidence to support this.
1779— Panton, Leslie and Company, the largest British firm specializing in the Indian trade, received a British land grant covering 500 acres that included De Leon Springs. At that time, a group of Seminole Indians lived here.
1804— William Williams received a Spanish land grant after Panton left the area. He named it Spring Garden and was the first to raise corn, cotton, and sugar, using enslaved Africans for labor.
1823— Major Joseph Woodruff bought 2,020 acres from Williams for $3,000. Woodruff owned the property until his death in 1828, while returning from a business trip to New York to purchase sugar-making equipment.
1830— Colonel Orlando Rees obtained the property from the Woodruff family. Rees, with 90 slaves, constructed the only water-powered sugar mill in Florida. The surrounding fields were planted in sugar cane, corn and cotton.
1831— Naturalist John James Audubon visited the Rees plantation for a few days. Rees took Audubon exploring along the waterways, and an island was named after him. He spoke of “beautiful flowers, rich looking fruits, and a pure sky.” Here, he first saw and painted the limpkin.
1836— Seminoles attacked the Rees plantation, destroying the mill and buildings, and stealing slaves and cattle. Joseph Woodruff (nephew) led a militia force against the Seminoles, forcing them from the area.
1838— U.S. troops under the command of General Zachary Taylor occupied Spring Garden. The remaining Seminoles left the area.
1842— The Second Seminole War ended.
1845— Florida became the 27th state.
1849— Thomas Starke bought the Rees property, rebuilding the sugar mill. He continued to grow cotton and sugar, using slave labor.
1864— During the Civil War, the Starke plantation provided grain and produce to the Confederate Army. In April 1864, Union troops commanded by General William Birney destroyed the plantation and sugar mill. This was known as Birney’s Raid.
1872— Major George Norris bought the spring property and possibly rebuilt the mill in the late 1800s. He operated the steamboat Spring Garden, which carried passengers from the St. Johns River to Spring Garden.
1880s— A small tourist resort was built at the spring and the community name was changed from Spring Garden to De Leon Springs. During this time, the railroad reached the town, bringing tourists.
1920— The spring was dammed for use as a power source, generating electricity.
1925— The Ponce De Leon Spring Inn and casino were built.
1953— The resort was developed as an attraction, adding gardens, jungle cruise, and a water circus with an elephant on water skis.
1982— The State of Florida purchased the property and it became
De Leon Springs State Park.