New York financier Alfred B. Maclay bought the land in 1923 and created this masterpiece of floral architecture for his family's southern retreat on the rolling hills overlooking Lake Hall. The Maclays entertained many prominent people here, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Originally named Killearn Plantation and Gardens for Maclay's ancestral home in Scotland, the park was later renamed to honor their creator. After Maclay's death in 1944 his wife, Louise Maclay, continued developing the gardens and in 1953 donated it to the state. The Lake Overstreet property was acquired in 1994. The gardens and park were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
Louise Fleischman Maclay, widow of Alfred B. Maclay, and their daughter, Georgianna M. Bowers, formally presented the Maclay Gardens property to the state of Florida during a ceremony held in January 1954. Doak S. Campbell, then president of Florida State University, accepted the gift on behalf of the governor. The 307-acre property encompassed a treasure trove of historic structures and sites of cultural or historical significance. The property's many structures included tenant-farmer cabins, well-equipped horse stalls and the family's winter residence, the historic Maclay House. The park was originally named Killearn Gardens State Park and renamed Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park in the 1970s.
Louise Fleischman Maclay died in 1974. Her daughter, Georgianna M. Bowers, asked that the Walled Garden be dedicated to Mrs. Maclay. Florida Governor Rubin Askew spoke during a memorial ceremony dedicating the Walled Garden to Louise F. Maclay.
Consisting of 873 acres, the Lake Overstreet addition to Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park is comprised of mixed pine and hardwood forests, hammocks and ravines. Lakes Hall and Overstreet are examples of area upland lakes. The Lake Overstreet property was acquired in 1994 through a Trust for Public Land purchase with assistance from private individuals and the city of Tallahassee. The property is part of the Maclay-Phipps Cultural Heritage Greenway. The Lake Overstreet Trail allows visitors on foot, bicycle or horseback to experience this parcel of wilderness tucked away within the state capital of Florida.
Recently retired, Maintenance Mechanic Wilburt Gillam was a part of Alfred B. Maclay's resource management team for decades. The Gillam family name has been involved in caring for the natural and cultural resources since the 1920s. Family member, Edmund Gillam Sr., lived onsite and worked on the Maclay Plantation (circa 1920s-1940s). Since becoming a park, staff and volunteers work to maintain the 28-acre ornamental gardens, historic buildings and natural areas.
Volunteers are crucial to a park's success. Alice Pfluke has been a volunteer at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens since 1999. Alice has logged hundreds of volunteer hours in the gardens and regularly works special events. From horticulture to administration, volunteers lend their skills to assist staff in accomplishing management goals.