Hartle’s dream fulfilled; Lynyrd Skynyrd’s history preserved at Hell House site

By Don Coble don@claytodayonline.com
Posted 2/16/23

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Last June, Adam Hartle stood on the old fishing dock at the back of the lot where Hell House once rocked and his mind wandered.

The black water of Peter’s Creek was a few …

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Hartle’s dream fulfilled; Lynyrd Skynyrd’s history preserved at Hell House site

Posted

By Don Coble

don@claytodayonline.com

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Last June, Adam Hartle stood on the old fishing dock at the back of the lot where Hell House once rocked and his mind wandered.

The black water of Peter’s Creek was a few feet behind him. Down at the water’s edge, not up on the ridge where Lynyrd Skynyrd practiced and created much of its iconic Southern Rock classics, is where Hartle found peace.

Hartle bought the property two years ago where Hell House and Ronnie Van Zant’s dock once stood. He did it to make sure the spot where songs like “Swamp Music,” “Simple Man,” “Free Bird,” Gimme Three Steps” and “Saturday Night Special” was written and perfected would never be transformed into another house in a busy subdivision.

“I didn’t want this to be some dude’s backyard,” he said when his nonprofit foundation completed the purchase. “I’m a Jacksonville boy and just want this place to stay special.”

He promised his neighbors the land would be home only to the mossy live oaks, alligators and snakes. Since he believed in the sanctity of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s legacy, Hartle said he would only have a historical marker implanted near the dock, just a few steps away from where the original building once stood.

“January 15th is Ronnie’s birthday,” Hartle said in November. I want to throw a party, invite the neighbors. I’d even love to do the hologram thing. I’m a Jacksonville boy and just want this place to stay special.”

The marker arrived in December, but it was too late for Hartle to appreciate it. At 43, he died a few weeks earlier of a heart attack while he was in Austin, Texas, to perform his comedy standup routine.

His wife reached out to me in January about picking up the marker. Hartle was friends with Bob Kealing, a historian and journalist from the Orlando area, and together we carried out Hartle’s vision on Saturday.

Six students from Florida State University and Tim Fillmon, who also installed the historical marker at the Van Zant family house in Jacksonville, joined us. The marker was placed precisely where Hartle wanted.

It faces Peter’s Creek because Hartle said he heard Van Zant found inspiration for many of his songs in the solitude of the swamp and wildlife. He also liked to wet a fishing line in the creek when the band took a short break from the unairconditioned shack.

The band picked the isolated location because they could be as loud and rowdy as they wanted. They used to practice near their homes on the Westside of Jacksonville, but they got tired of being harassed by the sheriff’s office.

Van Zant paid $50 a month in rent and the band usually played from sunrise to sunset.

D.R. Horton bought the farm to divide it into 158 lots. All but one – the site of Hell House – are either under construction or already occupied.

The developer linked some street names to the band, like Tuesday’s Cove, Free Bird Loop, Noble Court and Southern Oak Drive.

In 2017, Elkay Development spokesman Wayne Lyle said there were plans to install a historical marker on the lot. That proved to be a shallow promise.

Six years later, Adam Hartle turned his vision for the property’s heritage into a reality. Too bad he didn’t see it.

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