This wild and scenic stretch of marshland on the edge of the Matanzas River is a world away from the great palaces of Russia. But the view from the porch overlooking Pellicer Creek was once upon a time a refuge for an exiled Russian prince and his American bride.
Princess Place Preserve in Palm Coast is now a 2,200-acre park that is known for kayaking, hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails. It’s also a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of early 20th century aristocracy.
The modern history of this land began with a Spanish land grant given to Francisco Pellicer in 1791. Pellicer, after whom the creek was named, was from the Spanish island of Menorca. He came to the New World at age 21 and worked as a carpenter in St. Augustine.
This and other local plantations were burned to the ground during the Seminole Wars.
In the late 1800s a wealthy sportsman named Henry Cutting purchased the property as a winter getaway. In 1887 he built the expansive, Adirondack-style lodge with a wrap-around porch that you can still enjoy today. The lodge is famous for it’s unique construction (from local coquina, cedar and palm trunks) and it included Florida’s first in-ground swimming pool.
Cherokee Grove, as it was called at the time, became a hot spot for socialites, who gathered to enjoy the beautiful scenery and rub shoulders with the rich and influential.
Cherokee Grove came to be known as “Princess Place” when Cutting died and his widow, Angela, married exiled Russian Prince Boris Sherbatoff (also spelled Scherbatoff). Though Angela was an American, that made her a Russian princess.
The comings and goings of the Sherbatoffs were regularly reported in the society pages of newspapers around the country. Here they are in the 1930s after returning from a season in abroad. Boris lived in Biarritz, France after fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution, and changed his last name to Scherbatow to avoid assassination.
Apparently, Boris didn’t much like Cherokee Grove, so he stayed in St. Augustine instead. Boris died in 1949, and Angela sold the property in 1954. She died in 1956 at the age of 87. Flagler County purchased the land in 1993 and turned it into a county park.
Prince Place is a great place to spend the day mountain biking, fishing, kayaking Pellicer Creek, or enjoying one of several short nature trails. The park also features equestrian trails, and pets are allowed to visit. Camping and picnicking is also available.
Princess Place is daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. except for Christmas and Thanksgiving. For more information, visit the Princess Place website at Flagler County.