In 1843, Major Robert Gamble, Jr. established a sugar plantation along the Manatee River, a region then remote from civilization. His mansion took six years to build. Gamble accumulated almost 3,500 acres, but natural disasters and a fickle sugar market drove him into debt by 1856. He sold the plantation in 1859. At the end of the Civil War (1865), the U.S. Government ordered Confederate cabinet members arrested. Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Secretary of State, fearing trial for treason, escaped by traveling through Florida. He is thought to have briefly sheltered at the mansion. Benjamin escaped and traveled to England, where he became a Barrister. In 1925, the United Daughters of the Confederacy purchased the property and deeded it to the state of Florida. Gamble Mansion and Patten House have been restored to the appearance of their respective historic periods.
The Gamble mansion was built between 1845 and 1850 by Major Robert Gamble and was part of an extensive plantation where sugar cane was cultivated and refined into sugar. This photograph of the brick and tabby mansion, taken in 1902, shows the mansion vacant and in a state of neglect and disrepair.
The acquisition of the mansion and 16 acres of the plantation by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1925 and their subsequent donation to the state of Florida the following year helped to assure the preservation of this important antebellum site. This 1927 photograph shows a large crowd gathered for a reunion of Confederate soldiers at the newly restored mansion.
The Patten House was constructed in 1872 as a residence for George Patten, who then owned the land on which the Gamble plantation had been located. He intended the house to be a replacement for the Gamble Mansion which was then in a poor state of repair. This 1972 photograph shows the Patten House 100 years after its construction.
House tours have been a popular activity at Gamble mansion for many years. In this 1975 photograph, a park ranger leading a house tour pauses to speak with visitors in front of the parlor piano.
The sugar mill at Gamble plantation was destroyed during the Civil War and large segments of the brick walls of the destroyed sugarhouse were removed in subsequent years. The mill site was acquired by the state in 2002 in hopes of preserving what remained of this important component of the Gamble plantation. Vegetation has been removed from around the ruins and a fence has been erected to allow viewing of the site while providing for its protection.