Inverness is a charming city on Florida’s Nature Coast. With a population of about 7,000 and a thriving downtown district with many small shops and restaurants around its historic courthouse, Inverness Florida is a wonderful day trip from anywhere on the Nature Coast.
There is a Depot District which anchors two City parks, an open-air market building, Lake Henderson and rowing club, boat rentals, and the Withlacoochee State Trail offers bicyclists and hikers a connector to other Nature Coast cities. The Valerie Theatre offers classic movies and live performances in a renovated 1920s silent movie theater.
Inverness is the Citrus County seat, with not only a historic courthouse, but also a modern courthouse and the various government services that go along with that, but it is the community and small businesses that draw me back time after time.
The Historic Courthouse Museum
What do you do with a historic courthouse when times change and a new one is built? Inverness has made a wonderful historic museum in this iconic building. When looking at the courthouse, one may be reminded of the movie Back to the Future because of the clock in the cupola above the museum, but a different movie was filmed here in 1961.
Inside are county archives and special collections, as well as the offices of Citrus County’s Historical Resource Officer. It is also the site of the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum.
In 1978, a new courthouse was built and this 1912 was restored to its previous glory. To quote the Citrus County Historical Society, “After peeling off layer upon layer added over the years, workers uncovered terrazzo floors and marble wainscoting. Transom windows that had been painted over and nailed shut were refinished and re-hinged. Old photographs of the courthouse gave clues to what the hidden walls, floors, and ceilings looked like.”
Exhibits and Activities
The museum housed in the courthouse has several permanent historical exhibits, including displays and artifacts devoted to Citrus County’s pre-history and its pioneer days, and to more recent developments, such as the impact of the citrus and film industries on Central Florida.
In 2013, there was an archaeological project to clear the headsprings of the Chassahowitzka River that produced a 2,000-year-old Native American bowl ― the only one of its kind ever found intact in Florida – and it is on display at this museum.
One of the fun things on display is an old clock face from the courthouse cupola. On the back of the clock are many names and dates from the WWII time period when citizens would go up in the cupola to look out for enemy aircraft.
There is a new exhibit in the Courthouse Museum quarterly. A recent one was on manatees, including the Citrus County history of studying this marine mammal – featuring Jacques Cousteau and his son.
Activities include Music at the Museum series and Coffee and Conversations. A walking tour of the downtown area is available on at scheduled times for a $5 donation.
Elvis was Here
People in Inverness still talk about the magical summer of 1961, when Elvis Presley came to Citrus County to film his ninth movie, “Follow That Dream.” The climactic courtroom scene was filmed entirely in the Courtroom and included many townspeople as extras.
When you look at the courthouse from the street, Elvis’ lookalike may be staring at you from an upstairs window. Inside, you may want to stand by a life size cardboard Elvis for a quick selfie.
Meanwhile, here is the trailer for the movie, and you can see the entire thing at the amazing Valerie Theater Sunday, February 10, 2019 at 3pm. Buy your tickets in advance here.
The Valerie Theater
Mrs. Pearl G. Maddox built the theatre in 1926-27 during the silent movie era, naming it the Valerie after her daughter. The first movie shown was “The Only Woman” in 1927; the last was “The Untouchables” in 1987.
The building was vacant from 1987 and the City purchased it in 2009. A grand reopening was held for the Valerie Theatre Cultural Center in June 2015.
The Valerie Theatre hosts concerts, plays, movies and more to the residents and visitors to the City of Inverness. They have classic movies most Sunday afternoons, as well as a Friday Night at the Movies series. Tickets are inexpensive ($6) and there is even balcony seating, popcorn, and drinks available. The schedule can be found here.
Shopping and Dining Downtown Inverness
The courthouse square and nearby streets of Inverness house many lovely shopping and dining options.
When you are in the mood for a good cup of coffee, a custom blended coffee drink, a special fresh-brewed loose-leaf tea or a fantastic meal, Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters on Tompkins Street is my go-to place. Feel like getting a little caffeine-happy? Try their coffee flight, featuring fresh roasted espresso and nitrogen infused coffee. The four little “shots” will pick anyone up and get them soaring! And the almond horns are another of my favorite things here.
Along Tompkins Street are several wonderful retailers, including an art gallery, nature store, clothing store and gift shop. Additionally, the Hen House restaurant is certified dementia-friendly and serves some great home cooking breakfast and lunch with special service.
Next to the Valerie Theatre is another great place, Nicole’s House of Cakes. OMG – get a “better than anything” cupcake and tell them NatureCoaster told you to. This giant, chocolate cupcake infused with fudge and caramel (literally) and topped/stuffed with Nicole’s patented cream cheese filling/frosting yumminess then drizzled with caramel and fudge and topped off with toffee crumbles.
There is a wine bar, salt lamp store, and variety of small shops. It’s a great walking destination.
Another restaurant I really enjoy is Motor City Pasta. Although the owners are not from Detroit and I am, their chef more than makes up for the misnomer. The Tuscan tomato soup is so rich, with chunks of tomato and fresh basil – and mozzarella cheese melted on top with two crostini sticking up in the center. The sandwiches are made-to-order and the pizza is baked in a brick oven.
Next door to Motor City Pasta is Stumpknockers-Inverness and Coach’s, a sports bar. Additionally, there is an ice cream shop with a great reputation and a couple of popular pubs.
Parks and Gardens
Interestingly, Inverness has several nice parks in the walking downtown area, from Cooter Park (after the cooter turtle – get your head out of the gutter) to Wallace Brooks Park on Dampier Street and Liberty Park, along the Withlacoochee Trail.
The Depot District was recently opened, integrating Liberty Park and Wallace Brooks Park, the Withlacoochee Trail and an open-air market building with the rowing and boating amenities on Lake Henderson.
There is a Visitor Center located at 203 E Dampier Street, where visitors and residents can find out the latest local happenings.
This progressive city also has a City Garden, where residents and groups can use a plot to grow vegetables and flowers without the hassle of tilling their own dirt.
An additional city park, Whispering Pines, is outside the courthouse area but offers 293-acres of recreation from pickleball and disc golf courses to a splash pad and city pool. Many events are held here.
Fort Cooper State Park is also nearby, with 706-acres and a national register of historic places recognition. The park is dog-friendly and is located along the shores of Lake Holathlikaha. The fort built here during the Second Seminole War was used between 1836 and 1842. Many events are held here throughout the year, including a battle reenactment.
Biking and hiking the Withlacoochee Trail is easy from Inverness, as the trailhead of this wonderful 46-mile paved trail is located at the Red Caboose at 315 N. Apopka Avenue. A cyclist can ride 20 miles north to Citrus Springs or 26 miles south to Trilby on a level path with amenities and stops throughout the journey.
Inverness has been awarded a Bronze Bicycle-friendly Community from the League of American Bicyclists.
Sister City to Inverness Scotland
Inverness was originally a settlement called “Tompkinsville,” named for A. D. Tompkins, in the 1860s. His brother-in-law, Frank M. Dampier, Sr., is credited laying out the town. Tompkinsville was sold to a firm in Jacksonville, who changed the name to Inverness because the blue water of the Tsala Apopka Lake reminded them of the headlands and lochs of Scotland.
Inverness was incorporated March 6, 1919 and turns 100 this year. There are 14 plaques on downtown buildings telling their history to those who will stop and read it.