2 02 1-2 02 2 ED IT IO N
THE O F F IC IA L R E LOC ATIO N G UID E
HISTO RY n HE A LTH n ARTS n PARKS n DI RECTORI ES Park Avenue Blue, Orit Reuben
AURORA AWARD WINNER FOR NEW CONSTRUCTION & REMODEL
FROM CENTRAL FLORIDA TO COASTAL VOLUSIA, THE CHARLES CLAYTON CUSTOM HOME COLLECTION REFLECTS YOUR PERSONAL STYLE.
©Cucciaioni Photography, 2021
PALM HILLS Coming soon to Winter Park’s booming shopping and dining district along U.S. Highway 17-92 is an extraordinary and upscale new destination, brought to you by the developers of Park Hill Townhomes on North Park Avenue. It’s a commercial project that will feature all the design sensibilities you’ll find in Hill Gray Seven LLC’s magnificent custom homes. It will be the gem of what was once called Winter Park’s Million Dollar Mile. Palm Hills will offer 25,000 square feet of luxury dining and retail space. The opportunity exists now to lease space in these stunning new buildings, which are destined to become landmarks. Palm Hills is yet another legacy project from Hill Gray Seven LLC.
Leasing Broker: James Mitchell, CBRE
Hill Gray Seven LLC is a family owned company that develops high-end residential, retail, office, medical and industrial projects in more than 17 states. The company is a preferred developer to many firms such as DaVita Dialysis, a Fortune 500 company. Visit hillgrayseven.com for more company details.
Alice’s Pond at Mead Botanical Garden.
Randy Noles EDITOR AND PUBLISHER Theresa Swanson GROUP PUBLISHER/DIRECTOR OF SALES Phyllis M. Miller DIRECTOR OF ADMINISTRATION Dena Buoniconti ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER/SENIOR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE
94 | WELL, NOW
One-of-a-kind center offers a holistic pathway to health and happiness under one warm and welcoming roof. By Jackie Carlin
16 | OUR TOWN
It’s no accident that Winter Park is such a beautiful and gracious city. Its founders planned it that way. By the Editors
42 | MUSEUM WORLD
“The City of Culture and Heritage” is more than a slogan in Winter Park. It’s an integral part of who we are. By Michael McLeod and Randy Noles
6 | MAYOR’S WELCOME 8 | WINTER PARK CHAMBER WELCOME 10 | FAST FACTS 12 | DIRECTORY
70 | FIAT LUX!
Rollins College, with one of the most gorgeous campuses in the country, retains top rankings, and embarks on a huge building campaign. By Randy Noles 74 | CANAL ZONE
Winter Park’s Scenic Boat Tour highlights the area’s beauty — but the skippers are a big part of the show. By Greg Dawson 82 | SAY “I DO”
14 | JUST ACT NATURALLY 40 | SO, WHY PEACOCKS? 54 | ARCHITECTURAL ADVENTURE 58 | BACH FESTIVAL HAS A BRAVURA BACKSTORY
Carolyn Edmunds ART DIRECTOR Jackie Carlin, Greg Dawson, Patricia Letakis, Michael McLeod CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Dylan Baker, Alan Fraebel, Rafael Tongol Winter Park Pictures/winterparkpictures.com CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Will Setzer at Circle 7 Studio, Chip Weston CONTRIBUTING ILLUSTRATORS Harry Wessel CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Special thanks to the Winter Park History Museum, the Winter Park Public Library History and Archives Collection, the Orange County Regional History Center and the Rollins College Department of Archives and Special Collections.
WINTER PARK PUBLISHING COMPANY LLC Randy Noles CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Allan E. Keen CHAIRMAN, BOARD OF MANAGERS
64 | THERE’S CAUSE FOR APPLAUSE
Jane Hames VICE CHAIRMAN, BOARD OF MANAGERS
67 | GOLFERS FIND TIME FOR 9
Theresa Swanson VICE CHAIRMAN, BOARD OF MANAGERS
106 | LET’S MARK OUR CALENDARS 108 | ENDURING AND ENDEARING
Michael Okaty, Esq. GENERAL COUNSEL, FOLEY & LARDNER LLP
If you put your wedding on hold in 2020, better act now to snare one of Winter Park’s popular venues. By Patricia Letakis
ON THE COVER
Orit Reuben is the cover artist for this year’s edition of Living in Winter Park. And her subject is, appropriately, a peacock in an image called Park Avenue Blue. Reuben, a native of Israel who now lives in Baldwin Park, is a renowned pastel artist whose many awards include a recent Best of Show from the Pastel Society of Central Florida’s Fall Exhibition. A former interior designer, she comes from a family of artists and trained at the Crealdé School of Art, where she is now an instructor. Her work may be viewed at Be On Park, 152 South Park Avenue, and Park Avenue Contemporary Art, 348 Park Avenue South. Visit her website at oritreuben.com.
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Sandi Daugherty ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER/SENIOR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE
Larry and Joanne Adams; The Albertson Company, Ltd.; Richard O. Baldwin Jr.; Jim and Diana Barnes; Brad Blum; Ken and Ruth Bradley; John and Dede Caron; Bruce Douglas; Steve Goldman; Hal George; Michael Gonick; Micky Grindstaff; Sharon and Marc Hagle; Larry and Jane Hames; Eric and Diane Holm; Garry and Isis Jones; Allan E. and Linda S. Keen; Knob Hill Group (Rick and Trish Walsh, Jim and Beth DeSimone, Chris Schmidt); FAN Fund; Kevin and Jacqueline Maddron; Drew and Paula Madsen; Kenneth J. Meister; Ann Hicks Murrah; Jack Myers; Michael P. O’Donnell; Nicole and Mike Okaty; Bill and Jody Orosz; Martin and Ellen Prague; Serge and Kerri Rivera; Jon C. and Theresa Swanson; Sam and Heather Stark; Randall B. Robertson; George Sprinkel; Philip Tiedtke; Roger K. Thompson; Ed Timberlake; Harold and Libby Ward; Warren “Chip” Weston; Tom and Penny Yochum; and Victor and Jackie A. Zollo.
Copyright 2021 by Winter Park Publishing Company LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Winter Park Publishing Company LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without written permission of the copyright holder. Winter Park Magazine is published four times yearly by Winter Park Publishing Company LLC, 201 Canton Avenue, Suite 125B, Winter Park, FL 32789.
FOR GENERAL INFORMATION, CALL: 407-647-0225 For advertising information, call: Theresa Swanson, 407-448-8414; Dena Buoniconti, 407-832-9542; or, Sandi Daugherty, 407-399-1595
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WELCOME TO WINTER PARK W
elcome! Whether you’re new to the area or just relocating within the city, welcome to your new home in Winter Park! Our city has been welcoming residents since 1882 (and students since 1885). Like you, we value our community’s rich history and heritage. Over nearly 140 years, the City of Winter Park has become known for many things, especially its neighborhoods, its historic homes and its first-class shopping and dining experiences along Park Avenue, Hannibal Square, Orange Avenue and other areas. We’re also known for our beautiful chain of lakes, vast parks system, top ranked golf course, extensive tree canopy, popular spring and fall art festivals, “Dinner on the Avenue” and other exciting annual events. We’re proud to be the home of Rollins College, the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, the Rollins Museum of Art (formerly the Cornell Fine Arts Museum), the Albin Polasek Museums & Sculpture Gardens and, opening in late 2021, our new Winter Park Library & Events Center designed by Sir David Adjaye. We’re very proud of our city and the high-quality services that we offer to residents, businesses and guests. We’re also proud of our city staff that delivers those services with one of the lowest property tax rates in the region. I hope that we exceed your expectations as you live, work and play in the best city in Florida — Winter Park. For more information about Winter Park, please visit cityofwinterpark.org or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Nextdoor, Vimeo and YouTube. If I can be of service to you in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. And again welcome.
Winter Park Mayor Phil Anderson
PHOTO BY RAFAEL TONGOL
PHIL ANDERSON Mayor, City of Winter Park
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Food. Wine. Fun. Leave our Publix Aprons® cooking classes full of delicious food, exciting inspiration, and wonderful memories. Whether you prefer to learn hands-on or through observation, you’ll discover new techniques and unique flavor pairings with the guidance of our expert chefs. To find your nearest cooking school location and learn more about our social distancing policies, visit publix.com/cookingschool.
Drink responsibly. Be 21.
CONVENING PEOPLE, IDEAS W elcome, friends and neighbors. The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce is here to help newcomers settle in and to meet the needs of longtime residents as well. The chamber’s mission is to convene people and ideas for the benefit of our businesses and community. Our goal is to provide leadership by bringing everyone together for the betterment of the whole. Newcomers and others are welcome to join the chamber and enjoy the many advantages of membership, including heightened exposure of businesses to potential customers, networking at a wide variety of events, using dynamic social media opportunities and submitting items for our newsletters. We’re here to help share your message with the region at large. Our team also works with each member to match opportunities with the message, budget and timing that are an ideal fit for their organization. You should know that the chamber hosts more than 110 events and programs each year that connect our member businesses to the community. Be sure to go to winterpark.org to check out these programs and opportunities, including:
n Leadership Winter Park. A must-do program for people looking to increase their
leadership presence and become involved in the decision-making process within the community.
Winter Park Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Betsy Gardner Eckbert.
n Relaunch: Career Reentry for Professional Women. This dynamic curriculum is
for women who have taken a career pause and are ready to go back to work. We help you build your resumé, confidence and network.
n Youth Leaders. We host Central Florida’s premier leadership program for high
n Government Affairs Platform. We help lead the conversation on issues that affect
And we invite you to join us at our annual events, such as the Autumn Art Festival, Taste of Winter Park and Ye Olde Hometown Christmas Parade. We encourage you to support our local businesses, including our charming boutiques and bistros. And we encourage you to reach out to the chamber and its staff, who have many years of collective experience living and working in Winter Park. You can count on us to help you make crucial connections.
BETSY GARDNER ECKBERT, IOM President/CEO, Winter Park Chamber of Commerce
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The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce offers a variety of programs. Among them are Leadership Winter Park (top), in which participants learn about every aspect of civic life and city operations; and Relaunch: Career Reentry for Professional Women (above), which helps women who’ve taken pauses in their careers and are now ready to reenter the workforce.
PHOTO (BETSY GARDNER ECKBERT) BY RAFAEL TONGOL
our businesses and community.
Winderweedle, Haines,Ward & Woodman, P.A. History. Experience. Tenacity. Vision.
Back – Ryan Davis, Brad Saxton, Craig Minegar, Randy Rush, Mike Carolan, Jennifer Yasinsac, Brandon DeGel Middle – Tim Kiley, Jeff Deery, Rusty Carolan, Mya Hatchette, Harold Ward, Lionel Rubio Mike Caborn, Greg Holzhauer, Rich Weinman, Andrew Roy, Haylee O’Dowd Front – Allison Turnbull, Jere Daniels, Jessica Espiritu, Heather Moraes, Amy Maitner, Heidi Mitchell Graham White, Vanessa Skinner, Trippe Cheek, Nikki Carolan, Lauren Reynolds Not pictured – Aizaz Chaudhary
Founded in 1931, the law firm of Winderweedle, Haines, Ward & Woodman has been going strong for 90 years, serving the legal needs of past and present generations in Winter Park and throughout Central Florida. The firm provides sound legal experience to help clients navigate the future by paving the way with dedicated service and care.
329 Park Avenue North
WINTER PARK FAST FACTS
Year Founded..................................................... 1881 Year Incorporated............................................ 1885 Logo.............................................................. Peacock Slogan...........The City of Culture and Heritage Size.............8.68 Square Miles or 5,5555 Acres Property Tax Millage Rate........................ 4.0923
Employment White Collar........................................................94% Blue Collar.............................................................. 6% Self-Employed....................................................20% Private Companies.............................................61% Governmental Workers....................................10% Not-for-Profit Companies................................ 9%
Total...................................................................30,522 (Male, 47%; Female 53%) Median Age.........................................................45.7 Age 0–4............................................................................ 4% 5–9............................................................................ 5% 10–14......................................................................... 5% 15–24.......................................................................14% 25–34...................................................................... 12% 35–44......................................................................10% 45–54...................................................................... 12% 55–64...................................................................... 15% 65–74....................................................................... 12% 75–84........................................................................7% 85–Plus.................................................................... 4% Ethnicity White Alone........................................................82% Black Alone........................................................... 11% Hispanic Origin...................................................11.1% Asian Alone........................................................... 3% Two or More Races............................................. 2% Others...................................................................... 2% Educational Attainment Less than 9th Grade........................................... 2% 9th–12th Grade, No Diploma........................... 3% High School Graduate...................................... 12% GED/Alternative Credential............................. 2% Some College, No Degree..............................14% Associate Degree............................................. 7.5% Bachelor’s Degree............................................. 32% Graduate/Professional Degree....................28%
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Units Total Units........................................................ 14,614 Median Year..............................................Built 1969 Owner Occupied............................................... 67% Renter Occupied...............................................33% Average Home Value $633,637
Shelter................................................. $380,317,453 Health Care...........................................$117,731,566 Food at Home.................................. $102,186,440 Food Away from Home..................$73,242,768 Entertainment and Recreation.....$65,044,701 Support Payments/Cash Contributions/Gifts in Kind............ $52,011,468 Travel..................................................... $46,293,843 Household Furnishings and Equipment ................................ $42,665,682 Apparel and Services.......................$42,633,552 Education..............................................$32,951,623 Vehicle Maintenance and Repairs.........................................$24,004,472
WEALTH INDEX: 169
Households by Income Less Than $15,000.............................................. 9% $15,000–$24,999................................................. 9% $25,000–$34,999................................................7% $35,000–$49,999............................................... 11% $50,000–$74,999.............................................. 15% $75,000–$99,999................................................ 8% $100,000–$149,999........................................... 12% $150,000–$199,999............................................ 9% $200,000–Plus...................................................20% Average Household Income $130,283
The Wealth Index is based on indicators of affluence including average household income and average net worth, but it also includes the value of material possessions and resources. It represents the wealth of the area relative to the national level. Values above or below 100 represent aboveaverage wealth or below-average wealth compared to the national level.
Information on this page is primarily from ESRI, a mapping and data analytics company based in Redlands, California, and the United States Census Bureau. Data refers to 2019 except where indicated otherwise.
The table below compares Winter Park to the other 919 incorporated cities, towns and Census Designated Places in Florida by rank and percentile using July 1, 2020 data. The location ranked No. 1 has the highest value. A location that ranks higher than 75% of its peers would be in the 75th percentile of the peer group.
Median Household Income
Housing Affordability Index
Per Capita Income
PHOTO BY WINTER PARK PICTURES/WINTERPARKPICTURES.COM
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205 W. Fairbanks Ave. 122 S. Park Ave. Winter Park, FL 32789
DIRECTORY n AdventHealth Winter Park: 200 North Lakemont Avenue; administration, 407-646-7000; emergency department, 407-646-7320. n City Commission: City Hall, 401 South Park Avenue; 407-599-3399; Mayor Phil Anderson, 407-599-3234; Commissioner Sheila DeCiccio, 407-5993234; Commissioner Marty Sullivan, 407599-3234; Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, 407-599-3234; Commissioner Todd Weaver, 407-599-3234.
TIFFANY at the MORSE The Morse Museum houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, including his chapel interior from the 1893 Chicago world’s fair and art objects from his Long Island estate, Laurelton Hall.
n City Manager: Randy Knight, 407-599-3235. n City Clerk: Rene Cranis, 407-599-3277. n Building & Permitting Services Department: Director George Wiggins, 407-599-3426; automated inspection line, 407-599.3329; permits and licenses, 407-599-3237; Keep Winter Park Beautiful, 407-599-3364; solid waste and recycling (Waste Pro), 407-774-0800. n Center for Health & Wellbeing: 2005 Mizell Avenue, 407-644-2492. n Fire-Rescue Department: Chief Dan Hagedorn; 407-599-3299; emergency, 911.
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445 north park avenue winter park, florida 32789 (407) 645-5311 morsemuseum.org
n Parks & Recreation Department: Director Jason Sealy, 407-643-1613; Farmers’ Market, 200 West New England Avenue, 407-599-3397; Winter Park Tennis Center (privately managed), 1075 Azalea Lane, 407-599-3445; Winter Park Golf Course, 407-599-3419; Winter Park Community Center, 721 West New England Avenue, 407-599-3275; Azalea Lane Recreation Center, 1045 Azalea Lane, 407-599-3395; Lake Island Hall, 450 Harper Street, 407-599-3341; Cemeteries Division, 407-599-3252. n Planning & Community Development Department: Director Bronce Stephenson, 407.599.3665. n Police Department: Chief Michael Deal; 407-599-3272; emergency, 911.
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n Public Works & Electric Utility Departments: Director Troy Attaway, 407599-3242; power outages, 877-811-8700; utilities customer service, 407-599-3220 or 407-599-3280 (Monday–Friday 8 a.m.– 5 p.m.); Lakes Division, 407-599-3546. n U.S. Post Office: 300 North New York Avenue, 407-647-6807. n Water & Wastewater Utilities: Director David Zusi, 407-599-3335. n Winter Park Chamber of Commerce: President and CEO Betsy Gardner Eckbert, 151 North Lyman Avenue, 407-644-8281. n Winter Park Public Library: 460 East New England Avenue, 407-623-3300. (New facility slated to open in December 2021.) n Winter Park YMCA: 1201 North Lakemont Avenue, 407-644-1509.
JUST ACT NATURALLY Winter Park boasts 11 major parks and 14 mini-parks, ranging from large, amenity-packed sites to cozy places tucked away in neighborhoods; from manicured showplaces to a vast botanical garden encompassing wetlands and other untamed natural areas. Here they are:
DINKY DOCK Ollie Avenue 407-599-3397 This 1.6-acre park on the shore of Lake Virginia features two docks, boat ramps and a fishing pier. Swimming is also allowed. With grills and picnic tables, it’s an ideal spot for a whole day on the water. Wheelchair accessible. HOWELL BRANCH PRESERVE 1205 Howell Branch Road 407-599-3334 Surrounded by wetlands, this 10.4acre park offers a boardwalk and observation deck perfect for nature lovers, as well as a fitness trail with exercise stations and a playground. There are also picnic tables and a rental pavilion. Wheelchair accessible. KRAFT AZALEA GARDEN 1365 Alabama Drive 407-599-3334 If Central Park is the city’s crown jewel, then this is its hidden gem. Sometimes referred to as the “secret garden,” this secluded and shady 5.2-acre park on the shore of Lake Maitland features a grand Exedra and even grander cypress trees as well as, of course, azaleas galore. Wheelchair accessible.
LAKE BALDWIN PARK 2000 South Lakemont Avenue 407-599-3334 The whole family can romp and play along the sandy beach of Lake Baldwin — including Fido. This 23acre park, known locally as “the dog park,” is the only one in the city where man’s best friend may be legally off-leash. A playground, picnic tables, dock and boat ramp complete the fun. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. PARK 1050 West Morse Boulevard 407-599-3334 With a magnificent castle-like playground, this park is certainly fit for a king (or a little prince or princess). The northeast corner is occupied by the new Winter Park Library & Events Center. The park’s 23 acres also include a variety of sports facilities. Lake Mendsen, which features a fountain and a communitybuilt bridge, also provides a tranquil walking path and spots for fishing. A smaller lake — more of a pond, really — known as Lake Rose was formed when a massive sinkhole opened in 1981 and swallowed a home and parts of several businesses along Fairbanks Avenue. Wheelchair accessible. MEAD BOTANICAL GARDEN 1300 South Denning Drive 407-599-3334 A wild, wonderful oasis, this 47.6acre park is known for abundant bird life, natural wetlands and lush foliage. The greenhouse and butterfly garden have recently been revitalized, while the Discovery Barn and community garden encourage all ages to become involved. Boardwalks have been expanded and repaired, and two amphitheaters are available for concerts and special events. Wheelchair accessible.
PHELPS PARK Phelps Avenue 407-599-3334 This 5.9-acre park offers a variety of facilities for all ages, including two large playgrounds, and basketball and tennis courts. With two rental pavilions, it’s especially suited to family get-togethers. Wheelchair accessible. SHADY PARK 721 West New England Avenue 407-599-3275 Located in historic Hannibal Square, next to the Winter Park Community Center, the park features a “spray play” water feature as well as benches and a walking path. It is adjacent to the Winter Park Community Center. Wheelchair accessible. WARD PARK 250 Perth Lane 407-599-3334 Bisected by the popular Cady Way Trail, this park is an athlete’s dream. Most of the 66.44-acres are dedicated to sports facilities (baseball, soccer and football as well as multipurpose fields). A state-of-the-art, disabled-accessible playground is also on the property. CADY WAY PARK 2525 Cady Way 407-599-3397 (park) 407-740-7956 (pool) Showalter Field, where the Winter Park High School Wildcats play football, is located within this park, which also includes picnic tables, tennis courts, baseball/softball fields, soccer fields, a playground, a pavilion, a fitness trail, a bike trail, a walking path, a Little League complex, an Olympic-sized pool and a state-of-the-art rubberized running track.
MINI-PARKS Alberta Drive Mini Park, Alberta Drive; Alberta/Cortland Mini Park, Alberta Drive and Cortland Avenue; Alfred J. Hanna Mini Park, Holt and French avenues; Bonnie Burn Mini Park, Bonnie Burn Circle; Fawcett Road Lakefront Mini Park, Fawcett Road; Hooper Mini Park, Orange and Orlando avenues; Jay Blanchard Mini Park, Aloma Avenue and Sylvan Drive; Lake Knowles Mini Park, Lake Knowles Circle; Lake Wilbar Mini Park, Wilbar Circle; Lasbury/Maiden Mini Park, Lasbury Avenue and Maiden Lane; Orwin Manor Mini Park, Orange Avenue; Smiley Mini Park, Phelps Avenue; Sunset/Chestnut Mini Park, Sunset Drive and Chestnut Avenue; Tyree Lane Mini Park, Tyree Lane; Via Bella Mini Park, Via Bella.
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PHOTOS BY WINTER PARK PICTURES/WINTERPARKPICTURES.COM
CENTRAL PARK 251 South Park Avenue 407-599-3334 Known as the crown jewel of the city, this 11-acre park in the heart of the vibrant downtown shopping and dining district is the site of many popular annual events, including the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, the Autumn Art Festival and Christmas in the Park. But the beauty of its fountains, rose garden and oak tree canopy make any visit a special occasion. Wheelchair accessible, Wi-Fi enabled.
PHOTOS BY WINTER PARK PICTURES (WINTERPARKPICTURES.COM)
Winter Park boasts an abundance of beautiful places for relaxation and recreation. Shown is the fountain at the McKean arboretum in Central Park on Park Avenue and (below) the iconic Exedra at Kraft Azalea Garden.
TOWN It’s no accident that Winter Park is such a beautiful and gracious city. Its founders planned it that way.
PHOTOS BY WINTER PARK PICTURES/WINTERPARKPICTURES.COM
BY THE EDITORS
The Rose Garden in downtown Winter Park’s Central Park features the Peacock Fountain, a project spearheaded in 2014 by a local Eagle Scout to honor a deceased friend. Also shown are (facing page inset, top to bottom): Park Avenue and Hannibal Square business districts; the Venetian Canal as it approaches the Palmer Avenue Bridge; and Hamilton’s Kitchen at the Alfond Inn.
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LI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
I have been to many places in Florida for many years, and I know few places that have the combination to be found in Winter Park. It is on attractive lakes good for fishing and rowing; it has beautiful shaded streets and well-paved roads for the autoist; it has fine orange groves; it has two good libraries and a college that gives an intelligent flavor to the place; it has pleasant people and good hotels. It has no malaria that I have heard of. Has it poor points? Possibly. Do I know them? Perhaps. Do I intend to tell you what they are? If you want to know them you may find them out for yourself.”
hat letter, written to a Northern friend by one D.M. Cammann is 1915, remains a pretty accurate description of Winter Park today — except, of course, for the orange groves. A modern reader wonders about the “poor points” that Cammann teases, but nowhere is perfect then or now. Still, Winter Parkers have always been proud of their city. It remains lush with foliage and, at certain times and in certain places, the warm air still carries the scent of citrus despite the absence of large groves. It’s a place where a professor and a poet can sip coffee at a sidewalk café alongside a developer, a stockbroker, an activist, an actor or an athlete. Founded as a getaway for Northeastern tycoons, today’s Winter Park is considerably more egalitarian than its developers probably expected or intended. Although a Winter Park address carries considerable panache, most residents aren’t millionaires.
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In 2020, the median household income in the 32792 zip code, which includes Winter Park as well as portions of unincorporated Orange County, was $79,759 versus $58,254 in Orange County and $53,368 in the state of Florida. It’s an impressive number, to be sure. But a neighboring community in Southeast Orange County, Windermere (34786), is far ahead at $153,348. In fact, the median household income in that entire zip code, which also encompasses Bay Hill and Gotha, is $105,075. Money, however, isn’t the only measure of a community’s worth. Although Winter Park was advertised as a refuge for “men of means,” early promoters also envisioned a place that was enlightened, welcoming and, to use a more modern term, livable. In that regard, today’s Winter Park remains remarkably true to their vision.
PIONEER DAYS Prior to the 1850s, the area that would become Winter Park had few permanent settlers. A rough-and-tumble character named David Mizell Jr., large family in tow, arrived in 1858 from Alachua County, near Gainesville, and bought an 8-acre tract between present-day lakes Virginia, Mizell and Berry, where he built a cabin and began farming and raising cattle. Mizell named his homestead, appropriately, Lake View, which was also adopted as the name of the fledgling settlement that formed around it. In 1870, Lake View got a post office and a new name, Osceola, in honor of the Seminole warrior who had died in American captivity more than 30 years earlier. In the late 1860s, Mizell was elected to the Orange County Commission and the state Legislature. His eldest son, also named David, was appointed Orange County sheriff, while another son, John, was an Orange County Court judge.
COURTESY OF THE WINTER PARK PUBLIC LIBRARY/RESTORATION BY WILL SETZER AT CIRCLE 7 STUDIO
Florida frontier towns like Winter Park owe their very existence to railroads, which in the 1880s offered vacationers and relocators relatively easy access to the state’s alluring but untamed interior. Trains also allowed local commerce to flourish, providing a means for growers to ship their citrus crops north. A train station of one kind or another has abutted Central Park, in the very heart of the city, since 1882.
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The legendary sheriff, who was killed in 1870 while trying to settle a dispute over the sale of two cows, is buried in a small family plot just beyond the entrance to what is now the Harry P. Leu Botanical Gardens in Orlando. Father and son are often confused in local histories, but it is the elder Mizell who was arguably Winter Park’s earliest nonnative pioneer. A few years later, Wilson Phelps of Chicago visited the area and was entranced by its thick woods and shimmering lakes. In 1874 he bought a sizable tract, including a large part of the Mizell homestead, built a rambling cracker farmhouse in the midst of a 60-acre grove and began selling lots to fellow Chicagoans. Wrote Phelps in 1874: “I found myself one beautiful afternoon on the east bank of Lake Osceola, and as I looked into its clear and crystal waters and caught glimpse through the forest of tall and graceful pines, of beautiful lakes Virginia and Maitland, and seeing that the soil was good, I exclaimed in an outburst of enthusiasm to my son, ‘Here is the spot I have been looking for and here if anywhere must be my future home.” Interestingly, part of the Phelps home survives as a wing of the Queen Anne-style Comstock-Harris House, otherwise known as Eastbank. It was built in 1883 by William Comstock, a wealthy grain merchant who also hailed from the Windy City. Eastbank, on Bonita Drive, is today the city’s oldest home, and one of only three listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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NORTHERN EXPOSURE The 1880s were pivotal years that saw the reshaping of a haphazard frontier settlement into what today would be called a master-planned community. A major catalyst was completion in 1880 of the South Florida Railroad, which connected Sanford with Orlando and continued through to Tampa. The effort to snare the state’s first post-Civil War rail line was led by developer Edward Henck, one of Longwood’s first settlers and a tireless advocate of the town’s growth. The project was bankrolled by R.M. Pulsifer of Pulsifer & Company, owner of the Boston Herald, whom Henck had personally solicited for support. But it wasn’t Longwood that fired the imagination of Loring Chase, a New Hampshire native who was raised in Massachusetts and lived in Chicago. Harsh winters didn’t agree with the hard-working real estate broker, whose doctors had advised him to seek a warmer climate to alleviate his chronic respiratory problems. Chase, who first visited the area in February 1881, was particularly smitten by the land surrounding lakes Osceola and Virginia. “Never will the delightful impression of that first visit be obliterated from my mind,” he recalled in a speech 10 years later. “Before me lay these beautiful rolling plains, covered everywhere by majestic pines, forming, not an impenetrable forest but a vast grove through which we could drive our team at will.”
COURTESY OF THE WINTER PARK PUBLIC LIBRARY/RESTORATION BY WILL SETZER AT CIRCLE 7 STUDIO
The nerve center of early Winter Park was the Pioneer Store, with John Ergood and Robert White as proprietors. The second floor of the generalmerchandise emporium was used for social functions, church meetings and civic gatherings. As a result, locals soon began referring to the first-floor general mercantile store as Ergood & White and to the building in its entirety as Ergood’s Hall. It’s the location where Winter Park citizens, after much controversy, voted to incorporate as a town.
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The land, although beautiful, was basically wilderness. “Save two faint streaks of iron, over which a box car went slowly once a day between Sanford and Orlando, and a rude platform and two or three windowless cabins of the original homesteaders, no sign of civilization greeted the eye,” Chase recalled. Still, once a real estate man, always a real estate man. Where some saw wilderness, Chase saw a winter resort for wealthy Northerners. “The idea of a town … on this delightful spot took full possession of me,” he said. Chase believed his boyhood friend, Oliver Chapman, would be an ideal partner in such a venture. Chapman, a Massachusetts-born importer of luxury goods, had moved to Florida in 1880 and lived in Sorrento, a small settlement in what is now Lake County. The pair met in Sanford and set out to visit the property, which was then owned by B.R. Swoope, superintendent of the South Florida Railroad. Chapman, like Chase, recognized an opportunity when he saw it. By July 1881 they had formed a company — called, appropriately, Chapman & Chase — which bought 600 acres between present-day lakes Maitland, Virginia, Killarney and Osceola. The cost: $13,000, the equivalent of about $353,000 today. Then, while in the vicinity, they sought validation from none other than Phelps, who had already enjoyed success marketing the area to out-of-staters. Phelps, who undoubtedly saw in Chapman and Chase an opportunity to increase the value of his own investments, could hardly have been more enthusiastic and encouraging. He claimed that, prior to relocating to Central Florida, he was “nearly dead with bronchitis of 30 years standing” as a consequence of living in New York, Ohio and Illinois. In a four-page, handwritten letter dated August 12, 1881, Phelps raved about “the beneficial effects of this climate” and even offered to provide the names of other residents who would confirm his statements about the area’s health benefits. A one-man chamber of commerce, Phelps, then an energetic 59 years old, also provided Chapman and Chase with an almanac of information, including average year-round temperatures. He described the soil as well-suited for growing citrus, noting that Central Florida was “below the frost line.”
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE WINTER PARK HISTORY MUSEUM/RESTORATION BY WILL SETZER AT CIRCLE 7 STUDIO
The Seminole Hotel (above) opened in 1886 and was, at the time, the state’s largest hotel. Winter Park didn’t yet have a golf course, but the Seminole offered a driving range, as well as tennis courts and a bowling alley. There were two yachts, one of which launched on Lake Virginia and one on Lake Osceola. Two presidents — Grover Cleveland (1889) and Benjamin Harrison (1890) — were among the guests. The original hotel burned to the ground in 1902, and was replaced by a smaller (but no less posh) version in 1912. Loring A. Chase and Oliver Chapman (left) were the entrepreneurs who decided to develop the area into a resort community for “Northern men of means.” A newspaper article called Chapman “cool, quiet, level-headed and judicial in his makeup, but once his mind is made up, he never relaxes his grip until his end is accomplished.” Chase, however, was described as “a rustler, quick to grasp, vigorous to act and relentless in his efforts.”
COURTESY OF THE ROLLINS COLLEGE DEPARTMENT OF ARCHIVES AND SPECIAL COLLECTIONS/RESTORATION BY WILL SETZER AT CIRCLE 7 STUDIO
Minneapolis businessman Frederick Lyman, who retired to Winter Park in 1882, led the effort to found what is now the First Congregational Church of Winter Park. Congregationalism is a progressive denomination whose New England roots appealed to Winter Park’s substantial Northern contingent. The church’s first pastor, Dr. Edward Hooker, arrived from Massachusetts in 1883 and quickly mobilized an influential flock. Led by Lyman and Hooker, funds were raised to build a sanctuary, the town’s first, on New England Avenue in 1885.
The land was beautiful and, in his opinion, would continue to rise in value. Their confidence bolstered, the entrepreneurial New Englanders officially named their holdings Winter Park — a logical decision, since they felt that the words “winter” and “park” would be appealing to potential relocators — and quickly had the land surveyed, platted and mapped. Chapman and Chase clearly made an effective team. A newspaper article from 1886 called Chapman “cool, quiet, level-headed and judicial in his makeup, but once his mind is made up, he never relaxes his grip until his end is accomplished.” Chase, on the other hand, was described as “a rustler, quick to grasp, vigorous to act and relentless in his efforts.”
MASTERFUL PLANNING The two promoters, unlike some others touting Florida real estate deals, were genuinely passionate about creating a special place. The town plan, designed by civil engineer Samuel Robinson, included a central park fronted by lots for commercial buildings as well as tracts for schools, hotels and churches. Curved streets radiated out from the town center. Remarkably, the heart of Winter Park today looks very much like the original town plan envisioned that it would. Indeed, Robinson’s work could serve as a template for present-day planners responsible for so-called New Urbanist communities such as Baldwin Park and Celebration. There is, however, one key difference. Establishing a precedent for segregation that would endure for generations, the plan designated a west side tract, dubbed Hannibal Square, for African Americans. After all, “men of means” would need a labor force to
work in their groves, homes and hotels. So, 38 small residential lots were made available to “Negro families of good character.” In fact, Winter Park was a relatively enlightened place, particularly for the Deep South. Many of its early boosters, well-educated Northeastern Republicans, would have held views on race relations that were liberal for the time. In the aftermath of Reconstruction, given the limited options open to them, many displaced former slaves considered it an attractive place to live and work. Chase, especially, strongly advocated education for all races and was outspoken in his belief that African Americans should be active participants in local government. In 1890, during dedication ceremonies for a school in Hannibal Square, he delivered a speech that would have sounded just as timely during the civil rights movement of the next century. “Knowledge is power,” Chase thundered. “Get knowledge and you shall command the respect of those who would count you out. Then you may stand erect, though your skin may be black, and say, ‘I, too, am a free, intelligent citizen with a thought of my own in my head and a ballot in my hand and I demand recognition and a voice in the management of affairs.” In the meantime, the marketing campaign orchestrated by Chase and Chapman was working. Winter Park’s population grew from about a dozen scattered families in 1881 to more than 600 people by 1884. The first commercial building, a railroad passenger depot, was completed early in 1882, followed by the town’s first hotel, the Rogers House, located on Interlachen Avenue. Park Avenue’s first commercial building came next. The two-story structure, which is still standing at the corner of Park Avenue and Morse Boulevard, housed the Pioneer Store, with John Ergood and Robert White as proprietors. LI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
The second floor of the general-merchandise emporium was used for social functions, church meetings and civic gatherings. Consequently, locals soon began referring to the first-floor general mercantile store as Ergood & White and to the building in its entirety as Ergood’s Hall. Shortly thereafter, downtown Winter Park encompassed a bakery, a watchmaker, a sawmill, a wagon factory, an icehouse and a combination livery stable and blacksmith shop. Judge Lewis H. Lawrence, a wealthy boot and shoe manufacturer from Utica, New York, sent the first telegraph message from Winter Park on January 1, 1883, to his friend, President Chester A. Arthur. It read, “Happy New Year. First message from office opened here today. No North. No South.” Prominent people began making the trek southward to visit their wealthy friends. One was President Arthur, who visited Lawrence and declared Winter Park to be “the prettiest spot I have seen in Florida.” He had said essentially the same thing about Sanford the day before, but the sentiments likely were sincere. Some stayed and made more enduring civic contributions. Minneapolis businessman Frederick Lyman, who retired to Winter Park in 1882, led the effort to found what is now the First Congregational Church of Winter Park. Congregationalism is a progressive denomination whose New England roots appealed to Winter Park’s substantial Northern contingent. The church’s first pastor, Dr. Edward Hooker, arrived from Massachusetts in 1883 and quickly mobilized an influential flock. Led by Lyman and Hooker, funds were raised to build a sanctuary, the town’s first, on New England Avenue in 1885.
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Congregationalists, who consider education to be as much a part of their mission as spreading the gospel, founded some of the first colleges in the U.S., including Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth. Adhering to that tradition, the Winter Park church and its members, many of whom were driven by both financial and altruistic motives, acted quickly to bring an institution of higher learning, the first in Florida, to their small but ambitious town.
AN EDUCATED GAMBLE The opportunity came in 1884, when the General Congregational Association of Florida met, prophetically, in Winter Park. Among those pushing for a church-related college in Central Florida was a remarkable woman named Lucy Cross, an Oberlin College graduate who lived in Daytona and founded the Daytona Institute for Young Women in 1880. Cross discussed her notion with the Rev. C.M. Bingham, a congregationalist minister in Daytona. At the assembly, Bingham presented a paper written by Cross on the formation of a college “for the education of the South, in the South.” In it, Cross posed a challenge disguised as a question: “I ask you gentleman to discuss thoroughly the question, ‘Shall an effort be made to found a college in Florida?’” In response, delegates asked Hooker to prepare a report on education in Florida, to be presented at the 1885 annual meeting in Mount Dora. Hooker, who had been appalled at the crudeness and ignorance he had encountered in Central Florida and worried about the role the church should play in “building a wholesome order” in the area, took his assignment seriously. The paper, read by Hooker at the subsequent association meeting in
COURTESY OF THE ROLLINS COLLEGE DEPARTMENT OF ARCHIVES AND SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESTORATION BY WILL SETZER AT CIRCLE 7 STUDIO
When the General Congregational Association of Florida announced plans to found a college somewhere in Florida, competition among cities was intense. An article in the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, at the time the state’s largest city, suggested that it was a bad idea “to locate colleges in out-of-the-way places, and in sparsely settled communities.”Nonetheless, Winter Park won — and in 1885 the inaugural class of Rollins College met in the First Congregational Church until campus buildings were constructed the following year. By the 1930s (facing page), the college was well established and attracted students both for its academics and its beautiful campus that hugged the shores of Lake Virginia, a popular recreation spot.
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COURTESY OF THE ORANGE COUNTY REGIONAL HISTORY CENTER/RESTORATION BY WILL SETZER AT CIRCLE 7 STUDIO
January 1885, was entitled “The Mission of Conbecame known as “The Mother of Rollins,” and gregationalism in Florida.” He began by summariztoday the college’s Lucy Cross Center for Women ing what he called “Congregationalism’s mission of and Their Allies keeps her name at the forefront Christian education.” Then he directly and forcein a way that surely would have pleased her. fully addressed the issue Cross had raised. Rollins himself, who ironically never earned a No area of the nation, Hooker insisted, was more college degree, attended two annual meetings of in need of a college. Europeans had arrived in Florida the Board of Trustees before he died in 1887. The 50 years before the Plymouth settlement, he noted. fledgling college’s first buildings were still under Why, then, should Florida be so far behind New construction when the first class of 53 students England? showed up on November 4, 1885. Hooker also argued that the growth and prosperity of Florida depended just as much on education as agLyman, not content to rest on his laurels, riculture. Businesspeople from other parts of the counquickly set his sights on another opportunity. He try would not invest in Florida if there were no eduapproached Chase and offered to buy his holdcational opportunities for their children, he warned. ings through a combination of cash and stock in Spurred to action by Hooker’s presentation, the a new entity, the Winter Park Company. Chase, association adopted a resolution agreeing with its who had bought out the ailing Chapman in 1885 premise and appointing a committee of five memfor $40,000, agreed. bers, including Hooker and Lyman, to receive “inShareholders in the new Winter Park Company ducements” for the location of a college. Those inincluded prominent citizens whose names will still ducements, it was determined, would be unveiled and be familiar to anyone who drives regularly along the evaluated at a special meeting in April. city’s streets: In addition to Lyman, Chase and RolChurch leaders then solicited offers from civic leadlins, partners included F.G. Webster, William Comers who wanted the institution in their towns. Among stock, J.F. Welbourne and Franklin Fairbanks. the respondents: Mount Dora, Daytona Beach, JackAmong the company’s powers were laying out sonville, Orange City and Winter Park, where the inderoads, buying and building hotels, and “the sole fatigable Lyman was already hard at work raising funds. and exclusive right to build, equip, maintain and The competition was fierce. An article in the Florioperate a street railway or railways.” da Times-Union in Jacksonville, at the time the state’s One of its first acts was to borrow $150,000 largest city, suggested that it was a bad idea “to lo— the equivalent of about $4.3 million today — cate colleges in out-of-the-way places, and in sparsely from Francis Knowles, a retired Massachusetts insettled communities.” Perhaps, but Winter Parkers President Chester A. Arthur (top), dustrialist, to build the 400-room Seminole Hotel, visiting his friend Judge Lewis H. knew that their town would not be an “out-of-theLawrence, declared Winter Park to a luxurious resort between lakes Osceola and Virway place” for long, and that a college would boost be “the prettiest spot I have seen ginia boasting steam heat and private bathrooms. its profile and its prestige immeasurably. in Florida.” Gus Henderson (above), The hotel, which was the largest in the state when When the association reconvened, it reviewed the a prominent African-American it opened in 1886, was served by two yachts — the five proposals. Lyman’s and Hooker’s membership on entrepreneur, moved to Winter Park from Lake City in 1886 and founded Alice, which launched on Lake Osceola, and the the committee worked to Winter Park’s advantage; they the South Florida Colored Printing & Fanny Knowles, which launched on Lake Virginia. arranged to have their proposal presented last, so they Publishing Company. Guests could listen to an orchestra, use the bowling could gauge the strength of the other inducements. alley or play tennis and croquet. Fishing on the surMount Dora offered cash, lumber and land in a rounding lakes was also a popular pastime. package valued at $35,564. Jacksonville and Daytona offered $13,000 and The Winter Park Company also built a mule-drawn streetcar line, known $11,500, respectively, along with tracts of land for a campus. Orange City as the Seminole Hotel Horse Car, along New England Avenue west to the committed about $25,000. railroad depot. That first winter season, there were more than 2,300 regisLyman would later write: “As one proposal after another was read, it betered guests. President Grover Cleveland visited in 1889, followed in 1890 came evident to me … that [the] other towns were hopelessly outdistanced, by President Benjamin Harrison. and I was correspondingly elated but managed to maintain a calm exterior, Northern newspapers were taking notice. In an 1896 dispatch headlined perhaps even to assume an aspect of gloom, which was misleading,” “A Bright New England Town in Central Florida,” an unnamed New York Winter Park’s offer, which encompassed stock, land and cash in a package Times reporter described Winter Park as “one of the neatest, cleanest and valued at $114,180, shocked its competitors. Some $50,000 — the equivaprettiest towns in Florida, with street after street lined with handsome, lent of about $1.4 million today — was pledged by Alonzo Rollins, a Maine modern cottages and larger homes.” native who made his fortune in Chicago selling dyes to woolen mills before The scribe, who stayed at the Seminole Hotel and was accorded red-carretiring to Winter Park for health reasons. pet treatment during his visit, took special pains to mention that Winter Competitors howled that Winter Park’s Lake Virginia site was basically a Park’s homes were painted, unlike those in other Florida cities “where the swamp, prompting delegates to visit and see for themselves before making use of paint is apparently totally unknown.” a final decision. Three days later, after judging the land to be high and dry, As a growing cadre of moneyed Northerners built homes and opened the association voted to accept Winter Park’s offer and to appoint 21 charter businesses, Hannibal Square was becoming a vibrant community in its own trustees. Shortly thereafter, the trustees adopted a constitution and bylaws right. A Black Congregational church was built in 1884, followed by Methand named the institution for its primary benefactor. odist and Baptist Missionary churches. There was also an elementary school Hooker, as he had likely hoped, was appointed the first president of Rolland a bustling commercial district. ins College. Cross, who had presented Daytona’s case before the association,
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RESTORATION (GUS HENDERSON) BY CHIP WESTON
MAKING IT OFFICIAL
Traffic wasn’t much of a problem in early Winter Park, but town boosters wanted to make it easy to get around. The Winter Park Company built a muledrawn streetcar line, known as the Seminole Hotel Horse Car, along New England Avenue west to the railroad depot. Shareholders in the new company developing Winter Park included prominent citizens whose names will still be familiar to anyone who drives regularly along the city’s streets: In addition to Lyman, Chase and Rollins, partners included F.G. Webster, William Comstock, J.F. Welbourne and Franklin Fairbanks.
COURTESY OF THE WINTER PARK PUBLIC LIBRARY/RESTORATION BY WILL SETZER AT CIRCLE 7 STUDIO
THE FORGOTTEN FOUNDER One prominent African American entrepreneur, Gus Henderson, moved to Winter Park from Lake City in 1886 and founded the South Florida Colored Printing & Publishing Company. He became involved in Winter Park civic affairs, founded a weekly newspaper called The Winter Park Advocate, and encouraged his friends and neighbors to support the Winter Park Company’s newly announced plans to incorporate. Gustavus Christopher “Gus” Henderson was raised solely by his mother, who died when he was 10 years old. As a young man, Henderson worked for a White tinsmith and, hungry for knowledge and with a passion for self-improvement, taught himself to read from the Bible and the works of Shakespeare. He joined a New York-based company as a traveling salesman, becoming perhaps the first Black “commercial tourist” in the state. But his employer was pressured by its other salespeople to let him go when his performance routinely outstripped that of his White colleagues. Henderson relocated to Winter Park in 1886, where he started a printing business in Hannibal Square and later became editor of the Winter Park Advocate, a newspaper that attracted both Black and White readers. In addition to covering community news, Henderson and the Advocate (at considerable personal risk to Henderson) took stands on local political issues — including incorporation. Nearly everyone thought that incorporation was a wise step. The issue became mired in controversy primarily because some White residents opposed having Hannibal Square included in the town limits. An article in Lochmede, another Winter Park newspaper, noted that there was considerable consternation over the idea of “residents who did not own land — and
who were primarily Black — levying taxes upon landowning residents from which they themselves would be exempt.” Some Hannibal Square residents did indeed rent land from the Winter Park Company, which also employed them as laborers. Others, however, were homeowners and taxpayers. Henderson argued that it made no difference. Every registered voter had a right to be heard on this important issue. Further complicating matters, local Democrats feared that the inclusion of Hannibal Square and its solidly Republican voting bloc would skew the balance of political power. In fact, at the time there were more Black voters (64) than White voters (47) in Winter Park. Surely the idea of African Americans holding a voting majority was unsettling to some, even in a community where racial harmony generally prevailed. On the afternoon of September 10, 1887, only 57 registered voters — mostly White — showed up at Ergood’s Hall for a meeting to decide on incorporation. A quorum, however, required a minimum of 73 attendees. Only five more registered voters could be rounded up for a second meeting later that evening. Because no action could be taken, another meeting was called for October 12. Why had Black voters stayed away? Winter Park businessman J.C. Stovin, a native of England who favored incorporation but opposed including Hannibal Square, had convinced many west side residents that incorporation was a ruse to make them pay high taxes and lay bricks on city streets. Henderson and others went to work, going door to door and pleading with their friends and neighbors to exercise their rights as free citizens and attend the next incorporation meeting. It was certainly pointed out that the principals of the Winter Park Company, particularly Chase, had treated Blacks fairly, and should expect their support in return. LI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
A curfew forbade Blacks from crossing the railcourse that no one shall go home without seeing road tracks that divided east from west after nightWinter Park — those who have not been here before fall. But on the evening of October 12, Henderto satisfy a natural desire to see a place that everyone son led a group of Black registered voters from talks about, and those who have not been here — Hannibal Square directly to Ergood’s Hall. Some well, somehow their visit to Florida … never seems accounts — likely exaggerated — claim that a band complete until they have made a short visit to the and children waving banners accompanied the west place which, of all others seems most like home to side delegation. them. In fact, Winter Park is becoming recognized In any case, a quorum was achieved and incoras the Florida home par excellence, and not to have poration — with Hannibal Square included — was seen it is to not have seen Florida.” approved on October 12, 1887 by a vote of 71 to 2. In addition, two Black men, Walter B. Simpson In a region that was supposed to be below the and Frank R. Israel, were elected aldermen. They frost line, two freezes hit in consecutive years, 1894 were the first, and thus far the last, Black elected ofand 1895. The first was damaging but the second ficials in Winter Park. White, of Ergood & White, was ruinous, wiping out citrus groves and devastatwas elected as the first mayor. ing the economy. During the second freeze, temperThe union of Hannibal Square and the Town Charles Hosmer Morse, a Chicago industrialist and widower, enjoyed atures dipped to the coldest ever recorded up to that of Winter Park was to be temporary, however. In passing icy winters ensconced at the time. Sap froze inside tree trunks, splitting many of 1893, Comstock led an effort by Democrats to reSeminole Hotel in Winter Park. them open with pops sounding like gunshots. move the west side neighborhood from the town Even the financial wizards who comprised the limits. Although Winter Park officials refused to Winter Park Company were not immune. After dechange the boundaries, the Florida Legislature did faulting on loan payments to the estate of Knowles, who had died in 1890, so over their opposition. they were forced to transfer ownership of roughly 1,200 lots to satisfy the “It is, in my opinion, a scheme originated by those who desire to run the debt. Adding insult to injury, the Seminole Hotel, which had been financed town government and feel that their only chance is to take out the mass of the by a loan from Knowles, burned to the ground in 1902. colored voters,” said a letter writer to the Advocate. Enter Charles Hosmer Morse, a Chicago industrialist and recent widHannibal Square was not a part of incorporated Winter Park again until 1925, ower who enjoyed passing icy winters ensconced at the Seminole Hotel. In when local leaders sought to change its status from town (fewer than 300 regis1904 Morse bought the Knowles estate’s vast holdings — plus 200 acres tered voters) to city (300 or more registered voters). that encompassed half of the Mizell homestead — for roughly $10,000, the equivalent of about $311,000 today. Immediately upon the heels of incorporation, the Town Improvement That fateful transaction was colorfully recalled by H.A. “Harley” Ward at Association, later renamed the Winter Park Village Improvement Associaa 1954 dinner commemorating his retirement from the Winter Park Land tion and ultimately the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, was organized Company, which Morse formed to purchase the Knowles properties. with the goals of planting trees, repairing sidewalks, maintaining parks and Ward was working at the Pioneer Store, which sold real estate as well as encouraging residents to be sociable. provisions. Here’s how he told the story of perhaps the most important busiAlso in the active 1880s, a reading circle of nine women led by Hooker’s ness deal in Winter Park’s history: wife, Elizabeth, began an effort to establish the Winter Park Circulating “Well, as I had said, Mr. Morse came into the store and asked if I had the sale Library Association. The small collection of books was placed in the home of the Knowles estate property. I said, ‘That’s correct. Would you like to buy a of a reading circle member until the library got its own facility, on an Interlot?’ And we talked a little, and he said, ‘What will they take for the whole shelachen Avenue site donated by the Knowles estate, in 1902. bang?’ That’s the way he expressed it. It like to have knocked me down.” In 1889, J. Harry Abbott debuted the Orlando-Winter Park Railroad, Ward blurted out “the low price they’d given me” and Morse said he’d more commonly referred to as the Dinky Line, a nickname sometimes given take it under one condition: “Provided you can get released from your presto short-haul rail operations. The bumpy, smoky 6-mile trip between Orent work here and take charge of the property for me.” lando and Winter Park took about a half-hour and cost 15 cents. The two After all, Morse noted, his primary home was still in Chicago, and he’d engines were known as the “Tea Pot” and the “Coffee Pot,” and the train need year-round local management. So Morse — along with his son, itself was the “Little Wiggle.” Charles H. Morse Jr. (who lived full time in Chicago) and Ward — became Cute and quirky though it was, the Dinky Line’s popularity waned as the original directors of what would become the Winter Park Land Comroads were improved and automobiles proliferated, although it managed to pany. Suddenly, one very rich Chicagoan owned half the town. hang on until the last tracks were removed in 1969. Today, the site of the (The Winter Park Land Company was Winter Park’s oldest continuing Dinky Line’s depot is a public park and swimming and fishing pier on Lake business until it was bought in 2019 by Fannie Hillman + Associates, a wellVirginia known as Dinky Dock. established local real estate brokerage.) As the 1880s drew to a close, Winter Park had attracted 250 families and Clearly, had Morse been a less enlightened person, Winter Park would 600 residents, many of them seasonal, from 29 states and five foreign countries. The Massachusetts and Illinois contingents were the largest, but New York and Georgia were also well represented. Park Avenue was, and remains, the vibrant heart of Winter Park. In fact, According to an 1889 promotional brochure for the Seminole Hotel, ocas these images demonstrate, the city’s signature street looks much cupations of those residents included “lawyers, judges, army and navy ofthe same today as it did in the 1920s and 1950s. A few buildings even ficers, civil engineers, college professors, journalists, physicians, ministers, date from the turn of the last century or earlier. Consequently, the entire manufacturers, bishops, merchants, bankers, millionaires, etc.” Downtown Winter Park Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. Observed a writer for Lochmede: “It seems to have become a matter of
COLD AND COLDER
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RESTORATION (MORSE) BY CHIP WESTON PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE WINTER PARK HISTORY MUSEUM/RESTORATION BY WILL SETZER AT CIRCLE 7 STUDIO
A TIME OF BECOMING
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likely be a very different place today. Fortunately for future generations, however, the Vermont native was a visionary who insisted that enhancing Winter Park was far more important than profiting from it. He quickly strengthened his personal connection to the town by remodeling and expanding a home at the corner of Interlachen and Lincoln avenues and using it as his personal winter residence. Under Morse’s supervision, the aptly named Osceola Lodge was transformed into a textbook example of Craftsman-style architecture and filled with custom Mission Oak furniture, walls of books and an array of rustic Indian artifacts. From this cozy and comforting setting Morse supervised development of his properties and quietly supported community causes. Osceola Lodge still stands on New England Avenue and is owned by the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation, which was later formed by Morse’s granddaughter, Jeannette Genius McKean. Until recently, it had been used as office space for programs affiliated with Rollins College. In 1906 Morse deeded the land that is now Central Park to the town, but only so long as it was open to the public and not developed. He helped form the Winter Park Country Club and, for $1 a year, leased the organization land on which to build a clubhouse and golf course. The recently renovated course, now owned and operated by the city, is still in use today. Morse also donated an Interlachen Avenue site on which the Woman’s Club of Winter Park built its headquarters. He paved roads, funded a citrus packing house, gave property to churches and even provided start-up capital for a second Seminole Hotel. He funded numerous civic improvements out of his own pocket, anonymously paying for construction of a town hall in 1916 and for years routine-
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ly covering operating deficits as a member of the Rollins Board of Trustees. Morse, who retired and moved to Winter Park permanently in 1915, also personally selected who could buy lots. He refused to sell to speculators, for example, explaining in no uncertain terms that he would do the speculating in Winter Park. Only people who planned to build homes could buy lots. And, of course, the homes had to be of acceptable quality. The city’s benevolent autocrat also recruited potential residents whom he admired, among them novelist Irving Bacheller (Eben Holden: A Tale of the North Country and D’ri and I had been among his bestsellers.) “Now, Mr. Ward, I’ve got to get Irving Bacheller to come down here,” he told his manager in 1918. “He’ll be a real asset to Winter Park, and I want you to land him no matter what you have to do.” Bacheller, though, drove a hard bargain. Morse ended up taking the author’s Connecticut farm in trade and loaning him the money to buy a large lakefront tract on the Isle of Sicily, where he built a handsome Asian-style home he dubbed Gate O’ the Isles. “I think Bacheller missed his calling,” Morse grumbled to Ward. “He should have been a horse trader.” But Bacheller did, indeed, prove to be a great asset — in ways that Morse couldn’t have predicted. In 1925, as chairman of the search committee for a new Rollins president, he pursued a progressive New York magazine editor who had published his poetry. At the author’s behest, Hamilton Holt took the job — and turned Rollins into a nationally acclaimed institution. Morse died in 1921, at Osceola Lodge, secure in the knowledge that his investment had been a wise one in every way possible. In 1937, Morse’s sonin-law, Richard Genius, built a vacation home on the Genius property. It was first dubbed Casa Genius, but later renamed Wind Song. (Genius’ wife
COURTESY OF THE WINTER PARK HISTORY MUSEUM/RESTORATION BY WILL SETZER AT CIRCLE 7 STUDIO
Winter Park had a significant citrus industry in it early history. But in a region that was supposed to be below the frost line, two freezes hit in consecutive years, 1894 and 1895. The first was damaging but the second was ruinous, wiping out citrus groves and devastating the economy. During the second freeze, temperatures dipped to the coldest ever recorded up to that time. Sap froze inside tree trunks, splitting many of them open with pops sounding like gunshots. The Temple orange was later introduced by a grower in Winter Park.
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and Morse’s daughter, Elizabeth Morse Genius, had died in 1928.) Jeannette Genius McKean, daughter of Richard and Elizabeth, moved there with her husband, Hugh McKean, in 1951. The McKeans brought with them the now-iconic peacocks, the descendants of which still preen noisily around the estate and the adjoining neighborhood. Today the Morse name is on Morse Boulevard and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, which was founded by Jeannette and Hugh. It wasn’t until 1986 that a memorial was erected in Central Park commemorating Morse’s contributions to the city he was instrumental in shaping. The two-sided brick structure, designed by legendary architect James Gamble Rogers II, is impressive. But Morse, “the most modest man I ever knew,” according to Ward, would undoubtedly have considered the thriving, culturally rich city that Winter Park has become to be the only monument to his memory that really mattered.
A NEW CENTURY By the early 1900s, Winter Park’s founders were either dead or in their final years. Many of them ended up in the Palm Cemetery, resting beneath ground on West Webster Avenue donated by none other than Chase, the man without whom there might not have been a Winter Park. The cemetery, which was for Whites only when it opened in 1906, is notable for the fact that golfers on the adjacent municipal course must sometimes hit errant shots from around tombstones. Pineywood Cemetery had been established in 1890 for black residents. Both are now operated by the
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city of Winter Park. In 1908, Jerry and Mary Trovillion and their 16-year-old son, Ray, arrived in Winter Park from Harrisburg, Illinois, where Jerry, a medical doctor, had operated a sanitorium. The couple bought Maxon’s Drug Store, located in Ergood’s Hall, and renamed the business Trovillion’s Pharmacy. The mercantile store founded by Ergood and White, now owned by William Schultz Jr., had moved in 1900 to Park Avenue and Morse Boulevard. The Trovillions prospered. Jerry installed a modern soda fountain in the pharmacy and began assembling an impressive portfolio of investment property. High-spirited Ray, meanwhile, tried to acclimate himself to living in what he found to be a rather stuffy community with an absurdly rigid code of behavior. In a 1978 interview with the Winter Park Sun-Herald, the 86-year-old raconteur recalled running afoul of the law by playing horseshoes with friends near the railroad depot. “Up rides our little town marshal on his big bay horse to inform us that we were under arrest … for pitching horseshoes on Sunday,” Ray recalled. “It was rough in those days. No golf or fishing on Sundays. Another law was you couldn’t buy gasoline or kerosene after dark.” In 1912, a second Seminole Hotel was built at the foot of Webster Avenue. With 82 rooms, it was smaller than the original, but still attracted a discerning clientele. Among them: President Calvin Coolidge, who appears to have been characteristically silent about his Winter Park sojourn. The hotel stood until 1970, when it was demolished, and homes were built along what is today Kiwi Circle.
COURTESY OF THE WINTER PARK HISTORY MUSEUM/RESTORATION BY WILL SETZER AT CIRCLE 7 STUDIO
Mead Botanical Garden opened on January 15, 1940, in a formal ceremony that included local dignitaries and elected officials. Edwin Osgood Grover, the professor of books at Rollins College, masterminded the project with student Jack Connery. The pair laid out a grand vision for the project of unspoiled natural areas, ornamental plots, greenhouses for exotic plants and even aquariums. The 48-acre tract never developed into the kind of traditional botanical garden that Grover and Connery envisioned, but it nonetheless remains a bastion of unspoiled Florida and offers an array of programming, including community gardening, summer camps, guided bird walks and classroom field trips.
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Also in 1912, brothers B.A. and Carl Galloway were awarded a franchise for the Winter Park Telephone Exchange. In 1913, there were a total of 35 operating telephones in Winter Park and Maitland, and phone rates were $1 per month. (By 1926, the company had sent its customers a short notice that spoke volumes about how Winter Park was changing: “Winter Park is no longer a small town and we must therefore discontinue small-town methods and practices. Please do not expect the local operator to remember your name and number and don’t call for other subscribers by name.”) The First Baptist Church of Winter Park was founded in 1913, and a new railroad depot opened along the west side of the tracks facing Morse Boulevard. In 1915, the fire department bought a fire wagon pulled by a single horse. The horse lost its job the following year, replaced by a motorized vehicle. The Woman’s Club was organized in 1915, and the building that the club still uses was completed in 1920. The red-brick Winter Park Grade School, later known as Park Avenue Elementary School, opened in 1916 at the southeast corner of Park Avenue South and Lyman Avenue. Initially there were 150 students in 11 grades. Twelfth graders attended classes at the Rollins Academy until the school, which was for whites only, was expanded several years later. The building was bought by Rollins in 1961 and used for the college’s continuing education programs until 1988, when it was razed despite emotional appeals from former students and local history buffs. Today the 400 block of Park Avenue encompasses a Mediterranean-style office and retail complex. A plaque installed by Rollins is the only indication that a school ever stood on the site. By the early 1900s, the citrus industry was finally recovering from the catastrophic freezes of the 1890s. Just as growers were regaining their footing, one Winter Park rookie found himself in possession of a history-making tree that produced a different sort of fruit and attracted worldwide notice. In 1910, while New Yorkers John and Mary Hakes were vacationing in Winter Park, John became fascinated with the area’s citrus groves and resolved, to his wife’s chagrin, to invest in a 17-acre tract of orange and grapefruit trees. Their son, Louis, and his wife, Ethel, later relocated from New York to Winter Park to manage the business. Although neither had any experience growing citrus — Louis had worked in a real estate office and Ethel had been a schoolteacher — the couple made the grove a success. In 1915, Louis noticed that one particular tree produced a different sort of fruit, its color deeper, its pulp more tender and its flavor more exotic. He took one of the curious, sunset-colored orbs to William Chase Temple, a onetime Pittsburgh steel magnate who was now a Winter Park citrus grower and president of the Florida Citrus Exchange. Temple, recognizing that the fruit was unique and potentially valuable, advised Louis to send a box to D.C. Gillett, owner of the Buckeye Nurseries in Tampa and, in Temple’s opinion, the best citrus man in the business. Gillett examined the fruit and concluded that it was likely a hybrid of an orange and a tangerine. He also recognized its commercial potential and rushed to Winter Park, where he made a deal with the Hakes family to secure exclusive rights to all the budwood from the parent tree. His nursery would then grow and sell new trees, for which the Hakes family would receive a $2 per tree royalty for three years. The savvy Gillett also applied for and received a patent for the fruit, which he proposed naming the Hakes orange. Louis and Ethel demurred, and Temple suggested that it be called “the Winter Park Hybrid.” Ultimately, The Florida Grower magazine recommended that it be named for Temple, who first recognized its potential. As the Temple orange became popular nationwide, the tree from which it sprang became something of a tourist attraction, prompting the Hakeses to erect a wire fence around it. But who came up with the idea of crossing an orange and a tangerine? Surely the Winter Park tree, from which millions of others have descended,
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could not have been the first and only one like it. Tangors, a comparable hybrid, were being grown in the West Indies at the time, and some historians believe that a Florida fruit buyer sent a tangor seedling to Oviedo friends in 1896. About 1900, Allan Mosely, a caretaker in Winter Park, may have obtained budwood from one of those friends, J.H. King. Mosely, then, may have grafted the budwood onto a tree in the grove owned by John Wyeth, who would later sell the property to Hakes. But this is impossible to document with certainty. At the time the Temple orange was patented, Dr. David Fairchild, head of the Bureau of Plant Introductions in Washington, D.C., had definite ideas: “This tree is undoubtedly an accidental hybrid,” he declared. In 1920, Winter Park’s population topped 1,000 for the first time — it would top 4,000 just five years later — and city officials adopted the slogan “City of Homes” as its municipal motto. But the big news two years later was about a hotel, when Ohioans Joseph and Anna Kronenberger completed the 80-room Alabama Hotel on the south side of Lake Maitland. The Alabama changed hands several times and was finally closed in 1979. But in its heyday, it hosted such luminaries as authors Margaret Mitchell and Thornton Wilder, and conductor Leopold Stokowski. Today, the impressive old building is a luxury condominium complex. Mediterranean Revival-style Winter Park High School, “the most complete and architecturally perfect school buildings to be found anywhere in the state,” according to an article in the Winter Park Post, was built in 1923 on Huntington Avenue. The school remained in that location until 1969, when the present campus, on Summerfield Road, was completed. The original campus remains in use as the Winter Park High School Ninth Grade Center. Also in 1923, Austrian-born hotelier Max Kramer opened the 50-room Hamilton Hotel on Park Avenue South. The building, with balconies overlooking Park Avenue and Central Park, replaced a circa-1880s frame office built by the Winter Park Company. Today, it’s the Park Plaza Hotel, a boutique property that charms visitors with its elegant, wood-paneled lobby and posh, antique-furnished rooms. Rollins began getting national attention during the 24-year presidency of Hamilton Holt, which got underway in 1925. Holt’s innovative teaching method, dubbed the Conference Plan, discouraged the rigid classroom lecture format and encouraged student-teacher interaction. Holt, a Brooklyn native who published a liberal magazine called The Independent in New York from 1897 to 1921, made many changes during his long tenure and forever altered the look of the New England-flavored campus by adding 23 buildings in the now-familiar Spanish Mediterranean architectural style. In 1926, Holt and Edwin Osgood Grover, the college’s “professor of books,” created the Animated Magazine, a live program in a magazine format that brought speakers on a variety of topics to the college every February. Drawing on his contacts, Holt was able to attract such diverse figures as actress Mary Pickford, novelist Faith Baldwin and RCA Chairman David Sarnoff. Holt served as editor in chief for the Animated Magazine, often sitting on stage with a giant pencil and eraser to “edit” verbose presenters. During the 1930s, the University Club was organized as well as the Hannibal Square Library. Mead Botanical Garden, named for renowned horticulturalist and Oviedo resident Theodore Mead, was also opened. Its amphitheater, completed in 1959, remains a favorite venue for weddings, concerts and other special events, as does its more recently built outdoor venue called The Grove and its renovated Azalea Lodge (previously known as the Clubhouse). In 1932, the Annie Russell Theatre was built on the Rollins campus in honor of popular stage actress Annie Russell, who had retired to Winter Park in 1918 and had become a professor of theater arts at the college. Construction was made possible by a $135,000 donation — the equivalent of about $2.6 million today — from Russell’s friend Mary Louise Bok, a patron of the arts
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LI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
The city’s signature event, the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, debuted in 1960. The idea appears to have originated with Darwin Nichols, an artist and owner of Park Avenue’s Barbizon restaurant, and his friends and fellow artists Don Sill and Bob Anderson. Community activist Jean Oliphant headed a planning group, and funds were raised from Park Avenue merchants. This image appeared on the cover of the 1960 Winter Park telephone directory.
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gaudy reminder of a simpler time. Like communities across the country, Winter Park supported the war effort in numerous ways. A variety of relief groups were organized, and Rollins offered courses in War Problems, Literature, and Psychology of Propaganda and Radio Communications. In 1945, architect James Gamble Rogers II was hired by developer Raymond Greene, who would be elected mayor in 1953, to design a fashionable retail complex on Park Avenue South. The result, Greeneda Court, set the stage for the European ambience that would come to define Park Avenue in the decades to come.
MODERN TIMES As World War II concluded, the Showalter brothers, Howard and Sandy, along with their cousin, Ford “Buck” Rogers, opened the Showalter Airpark on 100 acres south of Oviedo Road (now Aloma Avenue) and west of present-day S.R. 436. The land had been part of the golf course at the longdefunct Aloma Country Club. For the trio, building an upscale airpark where flying lessons and charter flights could be offered was the fulfillment of a longstanding dream. The Showalter family later opened similar airparks in Sanford and Orlando, where Showalter Flying Service is still in operation at what is now the Orlando Executive Airport. The final Winter Park landing took place in 1963. Real estate developers bought the airpark property, which today encompasses the Winter Park Village Apartments and much of the Winter Park Pines subdivision.
COURTESY OF THE WINTER PARK HISTORY MUSEUM
and wife of Ladies Home Journal editor Edward Bok. The first performance at the new theater, directed by Russell, was Romeo and Juliet. The Bach Festival Society of Winter Park was founded in 1935 by Isabelle Sprague-Smith, a former New York artist and school principal, who was the president and driving force behind the organization until her death in 1950. The future of the festival was in doubt until John Tiedtke, a Rollins vice president and the first dean of the college’s graduate programs, stepped in to serve as chairman of the board of trustees, a position he held until the year before his death in 2004. During the Great Depression, Winter Park benefited from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s various recovery programs. For example, workers from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration widened and deepened the canals connecting Winter Park’s lakes. Still, hundreds of properties went into foreclosure during the depths of the downturn. The Bank of Winter Park and the Winter Park Building and Loan Association closed, while the Union State Bank transferred its assets to the newly organized Florida Bank at Winter Park. In 1932, the city defaulted on $134,000 in bonds and interest, slashing its budget to remain solvent. As the economy began to improve, activity in Winter Park picked up. Between 1940 and 1950, the population increased nearly 75 percent, to more than 8,000 people. Many of them saw the latest movies at the 850-seat Colony Theater, which opened on Park Avenue in 1940. During World War II, matinees at the Colony cost 39 cents and evening shows cost 44 cents. Although the theater closed in 1975 and was converted to retail use, the iconic Art Deco sign has been preserved as a delightfully
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Also on the site is Showalter Field, where Winter Park High School plays its home football games, and Ward and Cady Way parks, which feature softball fields, tennis courts, a playground and a swimming pool operated by the YMCA. Winter Park’s stature as an upscale retail mecca was bolstered in 1948 with the arrival of Eve Proctor Morrill, a former fashion buyer for major department stores in Philadelphia. Morrill enlivened Park Avenue with The Proctor Shops, one offering sporting goods and the other offering stylish women’s attire. She also championed beautification projects for Winter Park’s quaint but still sleepy downtown, where shop hours were sometimes erratic and more than a few merchants closed for the summer. The Proctor Shops were sold in 1972 and later became Jacobson’s, a popular department store. But Proctor stayed active for decades to come, buying and selling property and raising funds for her favorite causes, including the Florida Symphony Orchestra and PESO (Participation Enriches Science, Music and Art Organizations), an advocacy group that she helped form. The city honored Morrill with an “Eve Proctor Morrill Day’’ in 1985, during which a garden and plaque in Central Park were unveiled. The plaque is inscribed with lines from a poem by Logan Morrill, her late husband: “Love quietly and greatly. Seek immortality in those around you where we live eternally. In each day’s striving justify the lives we might have lived.’’ One of the most significant milestones in the city’s history occurred in 1955 with the opening of Winter Park Memorial Hospital, built on a portion of the long-defunct Aloma Country Club golf course. Today the stateof-the-art facility is part of the Florida Hospital system, a group of private hospitals owned and operated by AdventHealth. (See more on page 102.)
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In 1956, Robert Langford opened the thoroughly modern Langford Hotel on East New England Avenue, giving Winter Park its first resort-style getaway. The 82-room Langford, which remained a favorite for locals and visitors until its closing in 2000. The hotel hosted an eclectic assortment of VIPs, including Lillian Gish, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mamie Eisenhower, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, George McGovern, Charlton Heston, Louis Rukeyser and Ronald and Nancy Reagan, who spent their 25th wedding anniversary there. Today, the boutique Alfond Inn, owned by Rollins, occupies the site. Langford, who died the year the hotel ceased operation, was one of the first eight inductees into the Florida Tourism Hall of Fame, along with such luminaries as Walt Disney; Dick Pope, founder of Cypress Gardens; and Henry Flagler, whose Florida East Coast Railway opened South Florida for tourism and development. In the late 1950s, Winter Parkers came together to fight a proposed Interstate 4 route that would have paralleled Orange Avenue and then crossed U.S. Highway 17-92 before it turned north toward Maitland. This route would have destroyed the motels lining the east side of 17-92 from Fairbanks Avenue to Lee Road — colloquially known as the Million Dollar Mile — and would have sliced through property where locals hoped a shopping mall would be built. In addition, many residents feared that an interstate highway so nearby would impact the city’s tranquility. Winter Park voters strongly rejected the proposed route in a 1958 referendum, much to the consternation of some Orlando movers and shakers, such as William H. “Billy” Dial, executive vice president of First National Bank and a major proponent of the route.
COURTESY OF THE WINTER PARK HISTORY MUSEUM
When the Winter Park Mall opened in 1964, it was the largest climate-controlled mall in the Southeast. Although the 400,000-square-foot complex was damaged by fire in 1969, it was repaired and continued to thrive until the 1980s. Most of the structure was razed in the late 1990s to make room for Winter Park Village, a sprawling retail and restaurant development with residential lofts. This photograph was taken in the mid-1960s.
In a letter to Winter Park Mayor J. Lynn Pflug, Dial wrote that interstate highways should be built “not on the basis of popular vote or referenda, but on traffic and engineering standards by qualified persons with consideration for the needs of the traveling public, the effect the location might have on existing businesses and residents and by the accessibility of the facility to those who, in their daily lives, require its use.” Greene, the former mayor and developer of Greeneda Court, is credited with effectively scuttling the proposal by persuading the Florida Cabinet to approve construction of the Dan T. McCarty State Office Building — now site of the CNL Heritage Park office complex at the corner of Morse Boulevard and Denning Drive — directly in the interstate’s proposed path. A second route was also scuttled before a third, well to the west, was chosen and approved in 1963. The city’s signature event, the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, debuted in 1960. The idea appears to have originated with Darwin Nichols, an artist and owner of Park Avenue’s Barbizon restaurant, and his friends and fellow artists Don Sill and Bob Anderson. Community activist Jean Oliphant headed a planning group, and funds were raised from Park Avenue merchants. In early February 1960, the Orlando Evening Star announced the venture with the headline: “Date Set for ‘Arty’ Park Ave. Three Days of Bohemia.” Less than a month after the idea was casually proposed among three friends at the Barbizon, the inaugural show was held in Central Park and attracted 90 exhibitors. Today, around 225 artists participate, and some 300,000 people view the displays, listen to live jazz and nosh festival food. (The festival has been cancelled only once, in 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.) With its population now topping 17,000, Winter Park attracted more retail development beyond Park Avenue. The Winter Park Mall, with 400,000 square feet under roof, opened in 1964 and was at the time the largest climate-controlled mall in the Southeast. The complex was damaged by a major fire in 1969 but was repaired and continued to thrive until the 1980s. The final stores in the mall closed in the late 1990s, and most of the low-slung white structure was razed to make room for Winter Park Village, a sprawling retail and restaurant development with residential lofts. But a generation of Winter Parkers recall buying their school clothes at J. C. Penney and Ivey’s, the two major anchors, and the latest batch of Marvel Comics at Mall News. Winter Park was not entirely untouched by the turbulent 1960s, although it was hardly a hotbed of discontent. Hordes of young people with no apparent political purpose began gathering in Central Park, much to the dismay of Park Avenue merchants, who said they were scaring the customers. And in 1970 about 200 Rollins students protested the war in Vietnam by marching from the campus to the McCarty State Office Building, where the Selective Service offices were located. In 1981, a new attraction opened — literally — when a huge sinkhole began to form in the front yard of Mae Rose Owens, who looked outside the window of her house on West Comstock Street and saw a sycamore tree disappear as if it were being pulled underground by its roots. Owens, who soon realized that a crater was forming in her front yard, packed some belongings and quickly left with her family. Within a few hours, the structure had vanished. To the north, the city swimming pool cracked, and its deep end crumbled and disappeared. The hole expanded eastward, swallowing part of Denning Drive, and southward, creeping uncomfortably close to the back walls of several buildings along Fairbanks Avenue. There were no injuries, although five Porsches and a travel trailer behind German Car Service were devoured. City Planner Jeff Briggs, recalling the scene years later to a reporter from the Orlando Sentinel, said, “Where else do you get to see Porsches in a sinkhole except Winter Park?” No one knew how big the hole would get, and no one knew how to stop it from getting bigger. Within a few days, however, the ground appeared to stabilize, and onlookers could only marvel at how, in such a densely devel-
oped urban area, the abyss had formed only on land that was largely vacant. In the coming days, a circus atmosphere developed as vendors sold food, T-shirts and other souvenirs. One Fairbanks Avenue business charged admission to view the gaping maw, which measured 335 feet wide and 110 feet deep, from a rear balcony. Adding to the absurdity, a pawnbroker sued Winter Park for unfair competition after the city began selling sinkhole photos from a tent, which was set up as a shelter for security police, while refusing to issue him a permit to operate a similar enterprise nearby. Local geotechnical engineer Jim Jammal described the phenomenon, which garnered national news coverage, as “the largest sinkhole event witnessed by man as a result of natural geological reasons or conditions.” Today, it’s simply Lake Rose. In the 1980s, Winter Park became synonymous with the so-called quality revolution when Philip Crosby, an author and a retired ITT executive, opened the Quality College in offices on New England Avenue and later Morse Boulevard. For more than a decade, the college hosted as many as 6,000 corporate executives from around the U.S. for weeklong seminars on quality management. Quality College attendees filled rooms at the Mount Vernon Inn on U.S. Highway 17-92 — the only hotel in the city large enough to accommodate them all — and dined in a different Park Avenue restaurant every day. The economic impact on local businesses was tremendous. But more important, the Quality College regularly showcased Winter Park to captive audiences of influential movers and shakers.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED In recent years, as it approached its 125th anniversary, Winter Park has seemed even more cognizant of its heritage. Because the city is largely built out, its population inched up only slightly, from 24,000 to 30,223, between 2000 and 2020. Unlike most Central Florida cities, it is less concerned with growth than with preservation and enhancement. In 2007, the Hannibal Square Heritage Center opened to honor the history and culture of the neighborhood, where the business district has been redeveloped to encompass trendy restaurants and upscale boutiques. The center was founded by the Crealdé School of Art in partnership with the City of Winter Park. And in 2011 the entire Downtown Winter Park Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2016, through a yearlong visioning process that involved hundreds of local residents, a Visioning Steering Committee produced a document meant to identify priorities and to establish an overarching direction that elected officials should consider when establishing policy. Four major themes emerged: “Cherish and sustain Winter Park’s extraordinary quality of life; plan our growth through a collaborative process that protects our city’s timeless scale and character; enhance the Winter Park brand through a flourishing community of arts and culture; and build and embrace our local institutions for lifelong learning and future generations. In 2016, voters approved a bond issue to build the Winter Park Library & Events Center, which is set to be completed in late 2021. The $24 million campus was designed by Sir David Adjaye and Adjaye Associates, based in London, in conjunction with HuntonBrady Architects, based in Orlando. The involvement of the celebrated Adjaye, who designed the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., is expected to give the project international panache and even attract some architectural tourism. Would Winter Park founders be pleased with how their city has developed? Almost certainly, they would be impressed at how today’s Winter Park has adhered to their original vision of a beautiful, peaceful, culturally sophisticated community. Late in life, Chapman wrote: “Starting Winter Park was probably the most important event in my life.” Important to a lot of us, Mr. Chapman. n LI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
SO, WHY PEACOCKS?
How come a peacock adorns the City of Winter Park’s logo? And why do the noisy creatures roam around some of the city‘s priciest neighborhoods? It all goes back to Hugh F. McKean (1908-1995) and Jeannette Genius McKean (1909-1989). Hugh — artist, educator, collector and writer — was the 10th president of Rollins College, serving from 1951 through 1969. He then became the college’s chancellor and chairman of its board of trustees. In 1945, while still an art professor at the college, he married Jeannette, granddaughter of Charles Hosmer Morse, the Chicago industrialist and philanthropist who helped to shape modern Winter Park. Both McKeans were lovers of nature and cultivated a preserve filled with peacocks around Wind Song, the lakefront estate that Jeannette inherited from her father, Richard Genius. Genius Drive, the dirt road leading through the preserve and to the estate, was open to the public until the 1990s. The property, now owned by the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation and dubbed the Genius Preserve, encompasses the city’s largest remaining orange grove and several structures, including the unoccupied but carefully maintained family home. And it’s still bustling with preening peafowl descended from those the McKeans unleashed in 1950. In 2004, Winter Park officially adopted the peacock as its symbol, along with the tagline “The City of Culture and Heritage.” n
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COURTESY (JEANNETTE MCKEAN) OF THE ROLLINS COLLEGE ARCHIVES PHOTO (PEACOCK) BY WINTER PARK PICTURES/WINTERPARKPICTURES.COM
Jeannette Genius McKean and her feathered friends.
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COURTESY OF THE CHARLES HOSMER MORSE MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of works in glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Shown here is “Summer,” a panel from Tiffany’s Four Seasons window from 1900. The museum also showcases the reconstructed Tiffany Chapel, which was originally displayed in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
WORLD ‘The City of Culture and Heritage’ is more than a slogan in Winter Park. It’s an integral part of who we are. BY MICHAEL MCLEOD AND RANDY NOLES
inter Park is called “The City of Culture and Heritage” for good reason. The community is home base for a remarkable array of museums. They encompass decorative, traditional and cuttingedge contemporary art as well as architecture, history and sculpture. They’re all best experienced in person, of course, but we’ll do our best to give you an advance look on the following pages. When you visit, you usually won’t even need to load up the Family Truckster since, in many cases, the facilities are within walking distance of one another.
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633 Osceola Avenue
The lushly landscaped grounds of the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens border Lake Osceola, so the view alone is worth the trip. So are the magnificent flowers and rare trees that serve as a backdrop for the breathtaking sculptures on permanent display. Born in Moravia (now the Czech Republic), Albin Polasek worked as a woodcarver in Vienna before immigrating at the age of 22 to the U.S., where he studied sculpture at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and for 30 years served as head of the sculpture department at the Art Institute of Chicago. Meanwhile, he was crafting monumental works, from warriors and mythological figures to a 28-foot statue of Woodrow Wilson. Already world famous, Polasek retired to Winter Park in 1950, at age 70. Shortly after relocating, the renowned sculptor suffered a stroke that paralyzed one side of his body — but it didn’t defeat him. He devised a method that enabled him to continue working despite the physical challenges he faced, enrolling an assistant to hold the chisel as he chipped away at his creations. Against all odds, Polasek doggedly created 18 more sculptures despite being confined to a wheelchair. In addition, the man who claimed to be a confirmed bachelor married twice: first in 1950 to Ruth Sherwood, a former student of his who had retired to the same city, and nine years after Sherwood’s untimely death to Emily Muska Kubat, the widow of a friend. Polasek’s Mediterranean-style studio/home — and a collection of 200 works, many of them displayed on the expansive grounds — is now owned and operated by the Albin Polasek Foundation. So is the Capen-Showalter House, a historic home originally situated on the opposite side of Lake Osceola that was saved from demolition when it was floated across the lake in halves and reassembled on the grounds of the museum.
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It’s always a good time to see the Polasek, but especially in 2021 as it celebrates its 60th anniversary as a museum with special events and displays. Over the course of the year, curators at the museum will tap into the extensive collection of family memorabilia and smaller, formative works that are lesser known — even to those who frequently visit. An anniversary gala is slated for October 16, during the same week as the museum’s popular Winter Park Paint Out, a plein air event in which 25 invited artists participate. (Although Paint Out is usually held in April, it was moved this year to October because of uncertainty over COVID-19.) Capping off the year-long anniversary commemoration will be an exhibition, Albin Polasek: Selections from the Permanent Collection, in which rarely seen sculptures and drawings will be on display. The exhibition will run from October 26 through December 5. “Mr. Polasek kept a lot of sketches that he made when he was planning to create something, and we have a collection of those, and hundreds more fragile works we don’t have out normally,” says Debbie Komanski, the museum’s director and CEO. Other smaller-scale creations in the museum’s collection that may be on display over the course of the year include a family Bible from Polasek’s childhood, written in Old Czech; sketches that date to his earliest, woodcarving years; and drawings of the Stations of the Cross that he made while developing sculptures commissioned by a Catholic church. “He also liked to experiment with casting sculptures in other materials besides plaster,” says Komanski, adding that he would sometimes use aluminum or fiberglass as “something just for himself, just for his own pleasure.” Of Polasek’s 400 known works, 200 of them are on display at the museum. More of his creations may be been seen throughout the city, most notably Forest Idyl at Winter Park City Hall and the Emily Fountain in Central Park, which was named for his second wife. Hours are Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m., and Tuesdays through Saturdays
PHOTO BY WINTER PARK PICTURES/WINTERPARKPICTURES.COM
THE ALBIN POLASEK MUSEUM & SCULPTURE GARDENS
Located on the eastern shore of Lake Osceola, the lushly landscaped grounds and breathtaking statuary of the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens (facing page) attracts visitors from around the world. The bronze statue shown is a 1962 casting of Polasek’s The Sower, one of more than 200 of the Czech-born artist’s works on display. Also on the grounds is the Capen-Showalter House (above), a once-endangered historic home that was floated across the lake via barge and restored for use as offices and an events space.
from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for children age 12 through college. Younger children are admitted free. Call 407-647-6294 or visit polasek.org for more information. THE CASA FELIZ HISTORIC HOME MUSEUM
PHOTO BY ALAN FRAEBEL
656 North Park Avenue
The Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum, like the Capen-Showalter House, was transplanted to its current Park Avenue address from its original site on the shores of Lake Osceola. Architect James Gamble Rogers II designed the Andalusian-style masonry farmhouse in 1932 for Massachusetts industrialist Robert Bruce Barbour. Most of Rogers’ work at the time was inspired by traditional styles he thought best suited Winter Park and its Old World ambiance. While all of Rogers’ buildings are community treasures, the Barbour House, as it was then known, was arguably the iconic architect’s masterpiece. In 2000, when a new owner bought the lakeside property with plans to tear it down and replace it with a modern mansion, preservationists raised more than $1 million to move the home across Interlachen Avenue to a cityowned site adjacent to the Winter Park Golf Course. The museum remains a popular special-events venue. It is operated by the Friends of Casa Feliz, which promotes such programs as the James Gamble
Rogers II Colloquium on Historic Preservation, held each May. At press time, tours were available through reservations only. Call 407628-8200 or visit casafeliz.us for more information. THE ROLLINS MUSEUM OF ART AND THE ALFOND INN n The Rollins Museum of Art: 1000 Holt Avenue (Rollins College) n The Alfond: 300 East New England Avenue
The Rollins Museum of Art (formerly the Cornell Fine Arts Museum) and the Alfond Inn have formed a pioneering partnership that has drawn national attention from art lovers and art experts alike. The museum overlooks Lake Virginia from the backside of the Rollins College campus at the southern end of Park Avenue. The hotel was built eight years ago on the footprint of the old Langford Hotel, and is just a short walk from campus, across Fairbanks Avenue and two blocks east of Park Avenue. Rollins owns the 112-room facility, which is named for Ted and Barbara Lawrence Alfond, both 1968 Rollins graduates. The Alfonds, through a charitable foundation established by Ted’s late father, Harold, provided a $12.5 million gift to jump-start construction. (An expansion was underway at press time.) And there was more to come. The couple also donated the 260-piece Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art to the museum, which was established in 1978. Roughly 140 of those pieces, on a rotating basis, now adorn the hotel’s walls, thereby expanding the museum’s reach into downtown Winter Park. The works deal with such topics as war, censorship, critical thinking and relationships between different cultures and religious traditions. There are prints, paintings and photographs — as well as many pieces where words rather than images convey the message. LI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
The on-campus museum has an extraordinary array of visiting exhibitions as well as a massive collection of its own. Hours are Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For information about both the museum’s and the hotel’s exhibitions, call 407-646-2526 or visit either thealfondinn.com or rollins.edu. THE CHARLES HOSMER MORSE MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART 445 North Park Avenue
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, with its fabulous trove of lamps, sketches, pottery, stained-glass windows and lavish architectural confections by Louis Comfort Tiffany, was established by Hugh McKean, former president of Rollins College, and his wife Jeannette Genius McKean. As a young man, McKean had studied with Tiffany at the artist’s lavishly appointed, 65-room Long Island country estate, Laurelton Hall. Following Tiffany’s death in 1933, the estate fell into disrepair and was further damaged by fire in 1957. The McKeans, determined to salvage what they could, gathered truckloads of art and architectural elements and shipped it all to Winter Park. Tiffany’s work had fallen so far from favor that the now-priceless creations were thought to be of little value at the time. But the McKeans’ decision to bring the gilded art nouveau treasures to Winter Park for safekeeping would
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help define the city as an arts mecca. Highlights in the museum include a restored Byzantine-Romanesque chapel interior, a terrace from Tiffany’s estate decorated with multicolored glass daffodils, and galleries that evoke the beauty of Laurelton Hall and the guiding philosophy behind it. But if you think of the Morse only as a place to see dazzling work by Tiffany, you’re only partially correct. There are treasures galore either unrelated or only peripherally related to Tiffany. Recently, Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. and Susan Cragg Stebbins donated their collection of American art in honor of Mrs. Stebbins’s parents, Henry and Evelyn Cragg. The Craggs were longtime Winter Parkers, and Henry Cragg was a member of the museum’s board of trustees from its founding in 1976 until his death in 1988. Stebbins’ name is prominent in American art collecting and scholarship. He had an illustrious career as a professor of art history and curator at the Yale University Art Gallery, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Harvard Art Museums from the late 1960s to his retirement in 2014. Among his numerous publications are his broad survey of American works on paper, American Master Drawings and Watercolors: A History of Works on Paper from Colonial Times to the Present, and his definitive works on American painter Martin Johnson Heade, The Life and Work of Martin Johnson Heade. Thanks to Stebbins, American art gained recognition beyond the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1981, he staged the first exhibition of American paintings ever shown in the People’s Republic of China. In 1983, his exhibition A New World: Masterpieces of American Painting, 1760–1910 was shown in Paris at the Musée du Louvre. “Susan and I are deeply honored that our collection will find a home
COURTESY OF CASA FELIZ HISTORIC HOME MUSEUM
The Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum, now a popular special-events venue, is governed by the Friends of Casa Feliz, which also promotes such programs as the James Gamble Rogers II Colloquium on Historic Preservation, held each May. Rogers was the home’s original architect.
The rebranded Rollins Museum of Art (above, with the prior name still on the building), located on the campus of Rollins College, boasts the region’s only “encyclopedic” collection. For example, it’s the only museum in Central Florida to own works by Europe’s Old Masters. The Alfond Inn (left) houses a vast collection of contemporary art. An exhibit from 2017 showcased the work of Tomás Saraceno, an Argentine artists based in Berlin, whose Cloud Cities — Nebulous Thresholds hung under the glass dome of the conservatory at the boutique hotel.
at the Morse, a crown jewel among smaller American art museums,” says Stebbins. “We’re especially pleased to make this gift in honor of Susan’s parents, who brought their family up in Winter Park and who loved everything about the town.” A total of 65 pieces, including works of art from preeminent American masters, were gifted to the museum as well as two long-term loans and the addition of three future gifts. The Stebbins’ art collection gift includes watercolors, drawings, sculptures and paintings from the late 19th century
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PHOTOS COURTESY OF ROLLINS COLLEGE
UPDATE: As Living in Winter Park was complete and going to press, it was announced that the Cornell Fine Arts Museum would be renamed the Rollins Museum of Art. For several years, it's been the college's plan to relocate the museum to a new building in the aptly named Innovation Triangle, a college-owned city block bounded by New England, Interlachen, Lyman and Knowles avenues. Two new buildings — one housing the Roy E. Crummer Graduate School of Business and one housing the Rollins Museum of Art — will occupy what's now known as the Lawrence Center. The 40,000-square-foot building now occupied by Valley National Bank and other tenants will remain on the site’s northwest corner. Pace of the project will be dictated by fundraising that results from the college's just-launched capital campaign.
PHOTOS BY WINTER PARK PICTURES/WINTERPARKPICTURES.COM
The Hannibal Square Heritage Center, located in the heart of the city’s west side, was created in 2007 as an outreach effort of the Crealdé School of Art. Many of the center’s programs and exhibits pay homage to the historically African-American neighborhood surrounding it. The statue on the front porch (top right) is of a local hero, Chief Master Sergeant Richard Hall Jr., who died in 2021 at age 97. Hall, who lived near the center, served in the Army Air Force for 30 years and was a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. The mosaic (bottom right) depicts the pivotal role African Americans played in ensuring that Winter Park became incorporated.
and early 20th century. Laurence Ruggiero, the museum’s director, says that the Stebbins Collection contains “exquisite pictures that are not only a delight to the eye but a joy for the mind.” How and when the Stebbins Collection will be displayed is being determined and will be announced with the museum’s season preview in the fall. In the meantime, the museum’s new vignette, Chinese Blue and White Porcelain, features examples of Chinese ceramics dating from around 1740 to 1890. Such pieces became popular as home-decoration items, particularly in the 19th century, and remain sought after today. Chinese blue-and-white porcelain — candlesticks, platters, pitchers, sugar bowls, tureens and teacups — likewise inspired many European and American artists and designers. Among them was Tiffany, who studied his own porcelain collection for design ideas. In the 18th century, two regional variations of porcelain — Canton and Nanking, both of which were produced in the port city of Guangzhou — emerged. Complete sets of Canton porcelain, fashioned to accommodate European dining traditions, were embellished with broad brushstrokes of toned blues depicting flowers, village scenes and interweaving patterns. Nanking wares were a higher quality of export porcelain, often featuring evenly
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PHOTOS BY WINTER PARK PICTURES/WINTERPARKPICTURES.COM
The Winter Park History Museum (facing page, top) occupies a corner of the old railroad station, along New England Avenue, in a space that was once the freight ticketing office of the Atlantic Coast Line. At the Crealdé School of Art (facing page, bottom), more than 100 visual-arts classes are taught by a faculty of 40 working artists. There’s also a summer “Artcamp” for children and teens, and a Visiting Artists Workshop series. The school stages art exhibits in galleries at its home campus and the Hannibal Square Heritage Center.
executed cobalt scenes in more refined detail highlighted by gold accents. Works in the vignette were acquired over the course of 40 years by lifelong Orlando residents Benjamin L. Abberger and Nancy Hardy Abberger. The 200-piece collection was recently donated to the museum by their children. The Abbergers, who died eight months apart in 2011 and 2012, were patrons of the arts — both supported the Opera Guild of Orlando and the Florida Symphony Orchestra — and had a connection to the museum through their long friendship with founders Hugh McKean and Jeannette Genius McKean. The Morse — which also sponsors a film series and educational programs — is named for Jeannette Genius McKean’s maternal grandfather, a Chicago industrialist and philanthropist who made Winter Park his vacation home in the late 1800s and later retired here. It’s owned and operated by two foundations — the Charles Hosmer Morse Foundation and the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation, which honor the memories of Jeannette’s grandfather and mother, respectively. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $6 for adults age 18 or older, $5 for seniors age 60 and older, and $1 for full-time students. Call 407-644-1429 or visit morsemuseum.org for more information. THE WINTER PARK HISTORY MUSEUM AND THE HANNIBAL SQUARE HERITAGE CENTER n History Museum: 200 West New England Avenue n Heritage Center: 642 West New England Avenue
Winter Park’s two history museums have distinct but complementary purposes. One encompasses the city as a whole, beginning with its founding as a cold-weather getaway for wealthy Northerners. The other focuses specifically on the traditionally African American west side, which has its own tales to tell. The cozy (900-square-foot) Winter Park History Museum occupies a corner of the old Atlantic Coast Line freight office — the site where the Farmers’ Market is usually held — on New England Avenue one block west of Park Avenue. The current exhibition, Rollins: Florida’s First College, The Early Years 1885-1935, guides visitors through the first decades of the college’s story — a roller-coaster period of struggles and triumphs. Featured are re-creations of a 1930s dormitory room, a classroom configured to President Hamilton Holt’s “conference plan” of interactive instruction and a student union displaying memorabilia related to sports, fads, trends and fashion. Admission to the museum is free, although donations are gladly accepted. Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Each Monday at 10 a.m., the museum stages a children’s show, Penelope, Princess of the Peacocks. Call 407-644-2330 or visit winterparkhistory.org for more information. The Hannibal Square Heritage Center is set in the heart of Winter Park’s bustling west side, which was platted in the 1880s with lots designated specifically for African Americans. By the 1990s, the west side’s business district had been redeveloped as an upscale shopping and dining destination, and the neighborhoods surrounding it had begun to gentrify. The Crealdé School of Art founded the center in 2007 in partnership with the City of Winter Park Community Redevelopment Agency. Its collection is
the only one of its kind in Central Florida and depicts life in the increasingly diverse neighborhood from 1900 to the present. The center is, in fact, two museums in one, pairing revolving art exhibits with vintage photographs and oral histories from west side residents, some of whom can remember working for wealthy Winter Park families by day, knowing that they had to be “back across the tracks” by nightfall. Focal points of the center’s permanent collection are The Heritage Collection: Photographs and Oral Histories of West Winter Park, along with The Sage Project: Hannibal Square Elders Tell Their Stories. A new exhibition, Preserving the Past and Looking Towards the Future: A Celebration of Hannibal Square, will be the largest showcase of the permanent collection to date, according to curator Fairolyn Livingston, the center’s chief historian, and Peter Schreyer, documentary photographer and executive director of Crealdé. It’s on view through December 31. Says Livingston, an alumna of Rollins College and winner of its 2021 Fred Rogers Global Citizenship Award: “Newcomers and long-time residents alike owe it to themselves to learn the history and contributions of all ethnic groups to their community.” Thirty-minute docent tours are available, with group size limited to six people. Preregistration is required at least a day in advance. Among the many stories you’ll encounter via videotapes and displays is that of a local hero, Chief Master Sergeant Richard Hall Jr., who died in 2021 at age 97. A full-sized “lifecast” of Hall, in a red sports jacket and red cap, stands next to the front door of the center. During World War II, Hall served in the Army Air Force as a Tuskegee Airman, from the so-called “Red Tail” squadron, a legendary group of African American military pilots who formed the segregated 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Force. Admission to the center is free. Call 407-539-2680 or visit hannibalsquareheritagecenter.org for more information. CREALDÉ SCHOOL OF ART 600 St. Andrews Boulevard
At the eastern reaches of Winter Park is the Crealdé School of Art, founded in 1975 by local homebuilder William Sterling Jenkins. It’s a sprawling lakeside haven tucked behind a strip mall where you can take classes in just about every art form imaginable. Behind Crealdé’s yellow stucco walls, instruction is offered in photography, painting, ceramics, sculpture, papermaking, jewelry design, fabric arts and even bookmaking (meaning the literal making of books, not gambling). The school also holds periodic art exhibitions and celebrates an annual “Night of Fire,” which features demonstrations by artists, a bronze pour at the school’s foundry and storytelling around a fire pit on the grounds of the Spanish-style campus. It’s said that Jenkins devised the name “Crealdé” by combining the Spanish word crear (“to create”) and the Old English word alde (“village”). And that’s what he meant the school to be: a creative village. Jenkins wasn’t an artist of exceptional complexity. He was, however, certainly devoted to art — and committed to sharing and teaching it. In 1981, he reorganized Crealdé Arts Inc. as a nonprofit with a volunteer board. Ten years later he donated the entire facility to the organization, allowing it to establish complete autonomy and secure new funding sources. At Crealdé today, more than 100 visual-arts classes are taught by a faculty of 40 working artists. There’s also a summer “Artcamp” for children and teens, and a Visiting Artists Workshop series. The school stages art exhibits in three galleries: at its home campus, at the Hannibal Square Heritage Center and at an extension campus in Winter Garden. Crealdé is open Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission to the galleries is free, although there are fees for art classes. Call 407-671-1886 or visit crealde.org for more information. n LI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
MAITLAND IS ALSO A MUST ART & HISTORY MUSEUMS - MAITLAND n Maitland Art Center, Maitland Historical Museum, Maitland Telephone Museum: 231 West Packwood Avenue, Maitland 32751 n William H. Waterhouse Museum and Carpentry Shop Museum: 820 Lake, Lily Drive, Maitland 32751
The Maitland Art Center (above), a National Historic Landmark, is one of the few surviving examples of Mayan Revival architecture in the Southeast. Its imagery is drawn from European, Chinese, Christian, African, Persian and, of course, Mayan signs and symbols, which mix and mingle in an otherworldly way. Enzian’s 220-seat theater (below), with comfortable chairs and table service, is a welcoming place to watch offbeat films.
This charming complex of five museums includes the Maitland Art Center, the Maitland Historical Museum, the Maitland Telephone Museum, the William H. Waterhouse Museum and the adjacent Carpentry Shop Museum. All are worth visiting, but the Maitland Art Center is a must. In 1937, artist and architect Jules André Smith built the center, then known as the Research Studio, to foster artistic experimentation and to provide artists with an inspirational environment in which to work. Over the next two decades, until his death in 1959, Smith lived and worked at the center, as did many other artists. He hand-carved most of the center’s signature sculptural reliefs using a special pivot table that could turn upward. A replica of the table, which Smith invented, is on display in one of the studios. While the center is billed as one of the few surviving examples of Mayan Revival architecture in the Southeast, its imagery is drawn from many sources. European, Chinese, Christian, African, Persian and, of course, Mayan signs and symbols mix and mingle in an otherworldly way. The center has been named a National Historic Landmark, joining such iconic places as the Empire State Building, the Gateway Arch, the White House, Hoover Dam and Walden Pond. The Maitland Art Center is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The other museums are open Thursdays through Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for seniors and children ages 4 to 18. Call 407-539-2181 or visit artandhistory.org for more information.
Central Florida’s only art-movie house is included in this story because it’s a museum, of sorts — one that just happens to curate films rather than paintings or sculptures. Indeed, Enzian is no strip-mall multiplex. It’s one of Central Florida’s most cherished cultural landmarks — one that resembles an understated country club more than a movie theater, with an outdoor restaurant situated beneath towering live oaks and an intimate, cabaret-style movie theater just inside. Enzian is a nonprofit organization with a Winter Park connection. It was founded by the family of the late John Tiedtke, a philanthropist who for decades ran (and mostly funded) the storied Bach Festival Society of Winter Park. The big event of the year at Enzian is the Florida Film Festival, which brings dozens of the world’s best independently produced new features, documentaries, animated films and shorts to Central Florida. (Although it’s usually held in April, the 2020 festival was held in August and included a substantial streaming component as well as socially distanced in-person viewing at the theater.) On a more modest level, Enzian partners with the City of Winter Park to present its “Popcorn Flicks in the Park” series on the second Thursday of each month in downtown Central Park. The familyfriendly classic flicks typically start at 7 or 8 p.m., depending upon when the sun sets. Admission is free. Showtimes and ticket costs for other events vary. Call 407-6290054 or visit enzian.org for more information. n
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PHOTO (MAITLAND ART CENTER) BY WINTER PARK PICTURES/WINTERPARKPICTURES.COM
1300 South Orlando Avenue (U.S. Highway 17-92), Maitland 32751
ART ALONG THE AVENUE Downtown Winter Park is the scene of numerous events and festivals. Among the most notable is the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, which attracts several hundred artists and several hundred thousand spectators. Shown here, throngs are just beginning to arrive as artists open their booths.
If people know nothing much about Winter Park — do such people ex-
ist? — they at least know about its art festivals. One is approaching its 63rd year and attracts artists from all over the U.S. The other, entering its 47th year, spotlights only Florida artists. However, in 2020 neither festival was held because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, scheduled in March, was cancelled just as the pandemic gained speed and a lockdown loomed. And the Winter Park Autumn Art Festival, scheduled for October, was cancelled as public health concerns stubbornly hung on. Although the cancellations were unprecedented, the spring festival returned in 2021 — uncustomary, and likely for the only time, in June — while the fall festival is scheduled for October of this year.
PHOTO BY DYLAN BAKER
WINTER PARK SIDEWALK ART FESTIVAL When the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival made its debut in the spring of 1960, the volunteers who created it wondered if they could attract the attention of enough artists and art lovers to make the event work. So far, so good. The 2022 spring festival is slated for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 18, 19 and 20 in Central Park. Some 200 artists — selected from among more than 1,000 applicants — will showcase their work for an estimated 350,000 people. Artists compete for 63 awards totaling $72,500. The Best of Show winner is purchased for $10,000 by the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival Board and donated to the City of Winter Park. Previous Best of Show winners are on permanent display at the Winter Park Public Library. Youngsters can create their own artwork at the Children’s Workshop Village. Easel painting is a popular activity, and budding artists can take their creations home with them. The Leon Theodore Schools
Exhibit showcases art by students in Orange County schools. There are sculptures, drawings, paintings, photography, mixed media and a variety of other genres on display at the festival, which is consistently rated among the most prestigious in the U.S. Festival traditions include the selection of original art for the official festival poster, which is sold at the event. Posters from prior years are considered collectible by festival fans. Also during the festival, admission to the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is free. The mission of the festival — which is still run entirely by volunteers — hasn’t changed since its beginning decades ago, says past president Alice Moulton. “The event offers an enjoyable, fulfilling and profitable experience for artists,” she says. “Plus, it enhances art appreciation, art education and community spirit.” Visit wpsaf.org for more information.
WINTER PARK AUTUMN ART FESTIVAL Central Park is a gorgeous seasonal setting for an event devoted exclusively to Florida artists — and a community that appreciates them. The Winter Park Autumn Art Festival is, in fact, the only juried fine-art festival featuring only Florida artists. The free, 47-year-old annual event, hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled for October 9 and 10 in Central Park. You’ll be able to view the work of 180 artists, whose genres encompass ceramics, drawings and graphics, fine crafts, jewelry, mixed media, paintings, photographs and sculptures. In addition, the Crealdé School of Art presents workshops for children ages 5 and up during the festival, which also features musical entertainment. Visit winterpark.org for more information. n LI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
inter Park’s new Library & Events Center, slated to open in December 2021, will be a place for learning, gathering and creating. The two adjacent buildings are massive works of architectural art that will soon provide an extraordinary setting for other creative genres — ranging from sculptures to paintings. The $41.2 million campus, which occupies 23 acres in the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Park, was designed by Sir David Adjaye, founder of Adjaye Associates with offices in London, New York and Ghana. Orlando-based HuntonBrady Architects worked in conjunction with Adjaye on arguably the most important civic project in the city’s history. Getting to this point has been quite an adventure. In 2016, voters narrowly approved a $30 million bond issue for the project. However, knowing that additional sources of revenue would be required, city commissioners opted for such enhancements as a rooftop venue, an outdoor amphitheater, a sloped auditorium at the library and a portecochère (covered entrance) at the events center. For the most part — and not without some angst — the tab has been covered. Orange County put up $6 million in Tourist Development Tax money after local leaders positioned the project as an attraction for visitors, and the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency committed another $1.2 million out of its coffers. The balance was to come from philanthropy, which was bolstered in May 2021 when Philip and Sigrid Tiedtke, through the Florida Charities Foundation, donated $750,000 to build the amphitheater — which will be named, appropriately, the Tiedtke Amphitheater. Adjaye’s involvement alone ensures that the project will attract international attention from aficionados of architecture. Previous Adjaye commissions include the Smithsonian Institution’s 665,000-squarefoot National Museum of African American Culture and History, with three tiers of inverted half-pyramids wrapped in ornamental metal latticework. Other striking Adjaye-designed structures include the 460,000-squarefoot Moscow School of Management, with four elongated buildings precariously perched over its large circular base, and the 82,000-squarefoot Studio Museum in Harlem, with huge niches on its glass-and-concrete façade to display works of sculpture. But Adjaye, as it turns out, has a particular affinity for libraries and an interest in their evolution from “simply repositories for books to spaces for multigenerational social incubating.” His two neighborhood public libraries in Washington, D.C., were described by the Washington Post as having “well-channeled exuberance, a playfulness that is never merely arbitrary … [they] deserve to be on any serious architectural tour of the District.” In London, Adjaye designed two Idea Stores, which are rebranded
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public libraries that encompass the attributes of civic centers and exude a hipper, more welcoming vibe. “Civic projects are very much at the heart of my practice,” says Adjaye, who was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. “It’s not so much about big or small as it is about the chance to make a 21st-century community centerpiece that engages the beauty of the park, maximizes social interactive spaces and holds collaborative learning at its core.” Although the project has been well publicized, its connections to artists and the visual arts has been overshadowed by stories about the inevitable challenges that accompany major construction projects. Did you know, for example, that the campus will encompass three bronze castings of renowned sculptures by Albin Polasek? The trio of powerfully symbolic works by the Czech master, who lived and worked in Winter Park from 1950 until his death in 1965, are on longterm loan from the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. Man Carving His Own Destiny, originally created in 1907, will move from the current library and be joined by Mother Crying Over the World, originally created in 1942, and Victory of Moral Law, originally created in 1957. They’ll likely be positioned along a pathway in the vicinity of the amphitheater and Lake Rose. “These works were created out of Mr. Polasek’s passion for the world,” says Debbie Komanski, the museum’s executive director and CEO. “Over the years, our visitors have responded so well to them that we thought this was a great opportunity to share them and have them be seen by many more people.” Komanski adds that the castings offered to the city by the museum were made by Polasek for his personal enjoyment. Original versions of all three works will remain on display at the artist’s Mediterraneanstyle compound along the shores of Lake Osceola. Of course, Polasek’s creations are already familiar to Winter Parkers. In addition to the 200-plus pieces on display at the museum, Forest Idyl, originally created in 1924, fronts City Hall, while Emily, originally created in 1961 and now usually called “the Emily Fountain,” has become iconic in Central Park. The latter piece was named for (and is thought to be) an image of Polasek’s second wife. In addition, the city plans to either commission or acquire an existing “signature sculpture” that will be placed between the 35,000-squarefoot library and the 18,000-square-foot events center. “We should emphasize that it’s unlikely to be here for the grand opening,” says City Manager Randy Knight, who professes no preconceptions about what form the work (or works) might take. The budget for the sculpture, including installation, is about $500,000. Selection recommendations will be made to the city commission by the Public Art Advisory Board along with three community
RENDERINGS COURTESY OF ADJAYE ASSOCIATES
The Winter Park Library & Events Center (above) — designed by world-renowned architect Sir David Adjaye in partnership with local architecture firm HuntonBrady — is slated to open in late 2021. Among Adjaye’s most notable recent projects is the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Among the campus’ most outdoor notable features will be an amphitheater (below) fronting Lake Mendsen, which was made possible by a gift from Philip and Sigrid Tiedtke and their Florida Charities Foundation.
agency that built schools, theaters, armories and libraries during the Great Depression. “That doesn’t seem to happen so much now.” It’s true that most taxpayer-funded buildings erected in an era of austerity won’t stand the test of time. Now Winter Park has one that will.
LIBRARY The new Winter Park Library will offer the following new features: n A commons area with a living-room feel for reading and socializing. n A 122-seat education and performance space. n Tech-equipped work rooms for collaborative projects. n A business center for entrepreneurs and creatives. n Social spaces near age-appropriate book collections. n A computer lab with the newest software and hands-on instruction. n Private study rooms. n An automated checkout and return system. It will also offer improvements: n An upgraded Genius Lab with 3D printers and a studio with audio and video production as well as trained staffers to assist users. n More items to borrow, many of them unusual or unexpected, including technology, fishing poles, binoculars, instruments and more. n An expanded history and archive area with climate-controlled space for storage of valued materials and classroom space for research. n A larger story room adjacent to a flex-size multipurpose room that will double capacity for early literacy classes and creative arts events. n Thirty percent more collection capacity for library materials.
EVENTS CENTER members and Russell Crader, associate principal of Adjaye Associates based in the firm’s New York office. A curator will also be hired to lend additional expertise. Inside, the library will showcase about 35 past Best of Show winners from previous Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festivals. There are 55 past winners on display at the current facility, but the in-demand advisory board will curate the burgeoning collection and select those most appropriate for the new location. Crader, who has spent considerable time in Winter Park, says Adjaye’s firm pursued the Library & Events Center project to demonstrate that small cities can have impactful public buildings. “The WPA (Works Progress Administration) brought with it some powerful public architecture,” says Crader, referring to the New Deal
The new Winter Park Events Center will feature: n A grand ballroom that accommodates up to 250 people seated at tables or up to 320 people seated theater style. n A rooftop meeting room that accommodates up to 50 people. n A rooftop terrace with a beautiful view of Martin Luther King Jr. Park that accommodates up to 150 people. n An outdoor performance space, the Tiedtke Amphitheater, that fronts Lake Mendsen. n A covered porte cochère for convenient pickup and dropoff. n Specially designed dressing rooms for weddings and special occasions. The events center is expected to generate more than $11 million in annual event-related economic impact, mostly from weddings. The city has contracts with a half-dozen caterers and is already taking reservations on a first-come, first-served basis. n LI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
THE ANNIE RUSSELL THEATRE SEASON
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by Lynn Nottage November 12 – 20, 2021
Music by Tom Kitt Book and Lyrics by Brian Yorkey April 15 – 23, 2022
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he Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, founded in 1935, sprang from a Vespers service presented that year on the Rollins College campus at Knowles Memorial Chapel. The event was organized by Christopher Honaas, dean of the college’s whimsically named Division of Expressive Arts. Today, what started as a single Sunday performance has grown into a full-fledged festival with a 160-member choir, a permanent orchestra and a packed schedule of concerts, many of which feature internationally renowned guest soloists. By the time John Sinclair became conductor and artistic director, the society and its annual Bach Festival had for decades been the personal domain of John Tiedtke, a shrewd businessman who had made his fortune growing sugar, citrus and corn in South Florida. Hugh McKean, then president of the college, had asked his boyhood friend to take charge in 1950, when founding society President Isabelle Sprague-Smith died and the organization’s future seemed in doubt. The no-nonsense Tiedtke proved a fortuitous choice. He loved music — he played piano a bit — but mostly enjoyed listening and was a consistent and generous donor to community-based arts organizations. At Rollins, he had been treasurer and chairman of the board of trustees. McKean, an iconic Winter Park figure, had been an art professor at Rollins before his elevation to the presidency. He had also married Jeannette Genius, granddaughter of Charles Hosmer Morse, a benevolent industrialist who had helped shape modern Winter Park. “Mr. Tiedtke and Dr. McKean understood that with great wealth comes responsibility,” says Sinclair, who was hired in 1985 as chair of the college’s music department and, he assumed, artistic director of the festival. “They would have lunch together every Saturday. They started inviting me to come along, and those lunches were hugely interesting.” The Missouri-born Sinclair, who says he sometimes felt “a little like a third wheel,” would listen in awe as the old friends discussed art, philosophy and the events of the day. They would even spar over who should pay the tab. After 40 years of lunches, McKean would joke, he remembered only a handful of times when Tiedtke picked up the bill. But when the subject of the society came up, it was clear that Tiedtke, the society’s primary funder as well as its hands-on boss, called the shots. There would be a new artistic director only when Tiedtke decided that there ought to be. After nearly five years passed with Murray
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Somerville still ensconced in the artistic director’s position, Sinclair felt that an impasse had been reached. He and his wife Gail had two children and loved Rollins and their comfortable home in Maitland. Still, several high-profile institutions, including Penn State, were making overtures — and Sinclair was tempted to explore them. At Tiedtke’s request, McKean persuaded Sinclair to stay put and counseled patience. Shortly thereafter, Somerville left for a position as organist and choirmaster at Harvard University’s Memorial Church and Sinclair finally took up the baton — which he has kept for 31 seasons and counting. “Mr. Tiedtke knew I had strong opinions,” recalls Sinclair. “But he could be persuaded in some instances. Basically, he said, ‘You pick what you want to do, and I get veto power.’” The music-loving philanthropist remained very much in charge of the society until the year before his death, at age 97, in 2004. Living up to the examples set by Tiedtke and McKean has been a continuing priority for Sinclair, who earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance and has been dubbed “Central Florida’s resident conductor” by the Orlando Sentinel. Tiedtke believed that well-run, well-supported arts organizations were integral to any enlightened community, and McKean believed that any academician worth his salt was first and foremost a classroom teacher. Eric Ravndal, society chairman since 2004, is a retired Episcopal priest and a Tiedtke cousin. Under his leadership, the organization was revamped as a more traditionally structured nonprofit, with a diverse board and a paid staff. (Despite all outward appearances and a myriad of connections, the society is a separate organization from the college.) Although Ravndal’s collaborative management style is a departure for the organization, he, like his legendary predecessor, recognizes that the artistic director brings more to the position than an unerring ear for music. “John is a natural educator,” says Ravndal. “I attend nearly every rehearsal. And I can tell you that the musicians never leave a rehearsal without having learned more about the music they’re performing. It’s an incredible gift.” Sinclair is indeed an engaging teacher and a superb conductor. But he’s also innovative and unstoppable. After a season of presenting superb music despite uncertainty caused by COVID-19, the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park is coming back
COURTESY OF THE BACH FESTIVAL SOCIETY OF WINTER PARK
BACH FESTIVAL HAS A BRAVURA BACKSTORY
John Sinclair, conductor and artistic director of the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, is excited about the organization’s 2021-22 season, which will include a memorial concert for the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a mother-and-son piano duo and music from two African American composers. Many Bach Festival performances are held in Knowles Memorial Chapel at Rollins College.
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for its 87th season ready to present its usual soaring classical music while wading into issues of racial justice. The society has announced a full slate of shows for the 2021-22 season, which will include a memorial concert for the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a mother-and-son piano duo and music from two African American composers. Expect the latter program to pack an emotional punch, given the times in which we live. It encompasses an oratorio that tells the story of Moses’ leading his people to the Promised Land juxtaposed with a searing choral composition that incorporates the final words of unarmed young Black men who have been killed by police officers. As always, the season consists of sometimes overlapping themed segments including Choral Masterworks, Insights & Sounds, the Visiting Artist Series and the Bach Festival itself. In addition, the festival’s choir and orchestra headline several community events.
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The first event of the new season will be an Insights & Sounds concert featuring organist Colin MacKnight and a brass ensemble (September 23). Next in that series will be Exploring African American Composers (January 22, 2022) and Commemorating Brahms’ 125th Anniversary (March 31, 2022). Insights & Sounds is usually held in the Tiedtke Concert Hall on select Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. A highlight, in addition to the music, is a discussion led by Sinclair on the fascinating backstories of the composers and their work. Choral Masterworks, featuring large-scale works combining the full choir and orchestra, is usually held in Knowles Memorial Chapel. First up is Mozart, Barber and Lauridsen (October 23 and 24), followed by A Classic Christmas (December 11 and 12) and a program featuring Order of Moses by Nathaniel Dett and Seven Last Words of the Unarmed by Joel Thompson (April 23 and 24). Dett, born in 1882 in Ontario, Canada, to
formerly enslaved parents, became the first African American to receive a bachelor’s degree in music from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. He later earned a master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. At Oberlin, Dett became fascinated with traditional Negro spirituals: “Suddenly it seemed I heard again the frail voice of my long-departed grandmother calling across the years; and in a rush of emotion which stirred my spirit to its very center, the meaning of the songs which had given her soul such peace was revealed to me.” He later became a prolific composer and arranger and chaired the music department at Hampton University (then called the Hampton Institute), where the choir he directed toured the world presenting sacred music. Thompson, age 24, is an Atlanta-based composer, conductor, pianist and educator best known for the choral work Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, which was premiered in 2015 by the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club and won the 2018 American Prize for Choral Composition. Seven Last Words of the Unarmed uses the dying words of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and, most memorably, George Floyd’s “I can’t breathe” as Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck. The 87th annual Bach Festival runs From February 4 through 27, 2022. Among the offerings will be a concert by organist Ken Cowan (February 6, 2022), Spiritual Spaces (February 6, 2022), a concert by organist Cowan and violinist Lisa Shihoten (February 6, 2022), Concerts by Candlelight: Sebelius and Grieg (February 11 and 12, 2022), Mendelssohn’s Elijah (February 19 and 20, 2022), Mozart’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy (February 25 and 26, 2022), and J.S. Bach: A Brandenburg, an Orchestral Suite and Two Cantatas (February 27). Most Bach Festival events are held in Knowles Memorial Chapel. Additional programs, master classes and community events will be announced in January 2022. The Visiting Artist Series will feature the a cappella group VOCES8 (October 31), a piano concert by the mother-and-son duo Olga Kern and Vladislav Kern (date TBD), a concert by the Juilliard String Quartet (March 12, 2022) and concert by Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth (April 3, 2022). Community Events include the City of Winter Park’s Olde Fashioned 4th of July Celebration in Central Park (July 5), a presentation of Fauré’s Requiem to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks (September 11) and Christmas in the Park (December 2), a Central Park holiday tradition presented by the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. Call 407-646-2182 or visit bachfestivalflorida.org for more information. n
COURTESY OF THE BACH FESTIVAL SOCIETY OF WINTER PARK
When the entire Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra is assembled, they provide a feast for the eye and the ear in a magnificent setting.
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THERE’S CAUSE FOR APPLAUSE B
etween the Winter Park Playhouse, the Annie Russell Theatre and the Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts, Winter Parkers don’t have to go far to see a professional musical comedy, a top-notch college production or a live concert in just about any genre you can name.
It’s been 17 years since the song-and-dance team of Roy Alan and Heather Alexander brought some show-biz sizzle to Winter Park. And patrons of their Winter Park Playhouse are grateful for the unapologetic escapism provided by the musical productions staged in the unassuming Orange Avenue venue, which is the only professional theater in Florida that specializes in musicals and cabarets. “You can see how they’re transformed from when they come in and when they go out,” says Alan, the artistic director. A native of Texas, he’s been tap-dancing for 60 years. After high school, he lived in Manhattan for 13 years, finding work in such Broadway hits as Pirates of Penzance and Nine. Alan and Alexander met in Jacksonville in 1991 when both were performing in a dinnertheater production of Singin’ in the Rain. Alexander adored theater but her father insisted that she study something more practical. She earned a business degree from the University of North Florida — which proved to be a smart move. Alexander manages the theater while Alan coordinates the productions. After marrying, they relocated to New York City for a year — but it was a difficult place to raise children (they have four). They were lured to Winter Park by its beauty, culture, schools and proximity to theme-park jobs. In 2000, they founded the Master Class Academy to provide instruction in dancing, acting and singing. Two years later, Alan and Alexander sold the school and leased a small space from the new owners to establish the nonprofit Winter Park Playhouse. By 2003, when their production of the offBroadway musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change packed the house, they knew they’d found a winning formula with musicals. In 2009 the theater moved next door, increasing the number of seats from 73 to 123, and expanded again in 2014, doubling in size to 10,000 square feet with a new lobby, bathrooms and dressing rooms. More than 18,500 people annually attend performances at the venue, while another 11,500 — primarily underserved populations such as disadvantaged children and mobilityimpaired seniors — are reached through classes or community performances. The theater’s Mainstage Series kicked off earlier this year and continues with Crazy for Gershwin (July 30 through August 23), The
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Stage veterans Roy Alan and Heather Alexander (above) offer unapologetic escapism with fun and frothy musical productions at the Winter Park Playhouse. Guitarist and empresario Chris Cortez (below) hosts top-notch concerts representing every genre imaginable at the Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts.
COURTESY (ALAN AND ALEXANDER) OF THE WINTER PARK PLAYHOUSE/COURTESY (CORTEZ) OF BLUE BAMBOO CENTER FOR THE ARTS
THE WINTER PARK PLAYHOUSE
Book of Merman (September 25 through October 17) and Christmas My Way: A Sinatra Bash (November 12 through 21 and December 1 through 18). The Winter Park Playhouse is located at 711 North Orange Avenue, Winter Park. Call 407654-0145 or visit winterparkplayhouse.org for more information.
PHOTO (WINTER PARK PLAYHOUSE) BY RAFAEL TONGOL/PHOTO (ANNIE RUSSELL THEATRE) BY WINTER PARK PICTURES/WINTERPARKPICTURES.COM
THE ANNIE RUSSELL THEATRE The historic Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College was built in 1932, a gift from philanthropist Mary Curtis Bok in honor of her dear friend, renowned stage actress Annie Russell, who had retired to Winter Park and become the college’s theater director. Despite continuing health problems and the stress inherent in completing a new facility, Russell plunged ahead with preparations for Robert Browning’s In a Balcony, which would open the theater and mark Russell’s return to the stage in the role of the queen. The 360-seat proscenium theater — now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places — is said to be haunted by the ghost of Russell, who died in 1936. The upcoming 89th season includes all Pulitzer Prize-winners, including Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon (September 24 through October 2) Sweat by Lynn Nottage (November 12 through 20); and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams (February 11 through 19, 2022). The Annie’s 89th season concludes with an April 15 through 23, 2022 run of Next to Normal by Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (book and music). The Rollins Department of Theatre & Dance also offers a student-directed Second Stage Series at the Lyman Black Box Theatre, a temporary facility on the second floor of a college-owned former office building at 203 East Lyman Avenue. The Second Stage Series was previously held in the aging Fred Stone Theatre, which was demolished earlier this year to make way for a new theater and dance complex funded in part by a $3 million grant from the Tiedtke family’s Florida Charities Foundation. The new complex should open sometime next year. The Annie Russell Theatre is located at 1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park. Call 407-6462145 or visit rollins.edu/annie-russell-theatre for more information.
THE BLUE BAMBOO CENTER FOR THE ARTS Guitarist Chris Cortez penned a song in the late 1980s about a man with no arms, whom he saw painting with his feet. “It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it,” goes the chorus. Cortez, cofounder, president and CEO of Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts, lives those words. He has persevered along the long and winding road of a musical career, no matter the odds or obstacles. At his funky nonprofit concert hall, which opened in 2016, he has united Central Florida’s vast reserve of musical talent with appreciative audiences. Five years into the venture,
The Winter Park Playhouse (above), located on Orange Avenue, draws more than 18,500 people annually to its shows and reaches thousands more through community outreach programs. The Annie Russell Theatre (below) on the campus of Rollins College is one of the region’s most beautiful performing arts venues and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
he’s producing up to 300 shows annually — in every genre imaginable — that collectively gross about $300,000 between ticket sales and sponsorships. “It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the most rewarding,” says Cortez, a Cincinnati native who moved to Orlando at age 2 with his family, including his mother, Virginia “Ginny” Cortez, a founding member of what is now the Orlando Repertory Theatre. His father, Joe, a Martin Marietta technical writer, gave the talented 9-year-old a $13 guitar and (perhaps inadvertently) launched the career of a jazz player, pop vocalist, record producer and entertainment empresario. After graduation from Edgewater High School, Cortez played with various Top 40 bands and performed at Walt Disney World, including a regular gig with Kids of the Kingdom. He also played guitar with a jazz fusion group called, prophetically, Blue Bamboo.
The combo, which was the house band at a downtown Orlando nightclub called Daisy’s Basement, allowed Cortez to polish his artistry. In 1986, however, he left Central Florida for almost 30 years, during which time he played in house bands, directed music at a casino and produced more than 30 CDs. He met Melody, his wife and partner in Blue Bamboo, in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2015, at a career crossroads in Houston, the couple saw opportunity in the form of a 6,000-square-foot yellow warehouse on Kentucky Avenue. Music now is a mission; thanks to a $10,000 grant from the City of Winter Park, Blue Bamboo presents at least 25 free concerts yearly and others that raise money for local charities. The Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts is located at 1905 Kentucky Avenue, Winter Park. Call 407-636-9951 or visit bluebambooartcenter.com for more information. n LI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
PHOTO (CLUBHOUSE) BY WINTER PARK PICTURES/WINTERPARKPICTURES.COM
The charming and unpretentious Winter Park Golf Course clubhouse (above), built in 1915, has been maintained and features a working fireplace and oak floors. The adjacent pro shop, which was renovated in 2011, features exposed wood on the interior walls salvaged from a starter shack built in 1914 and from a previous remodeling project in 1967. The 2,480-yard, par-35 course (below) was reconfigured in 2016. One of the more noticeable changes: undulations on the fairways and reconfigured bunkers.
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GOLFERS FIND TIME FOR 9
COURTESY OF THE WINTER PARK GOLF COURSE
he Winter Park Golf Course reopened five years ago to considerable fanfare following a $1.2 million renovation. Since then, patrons of the city-owned course — sometimes called the WP9 — are still giving the upgrades a big thumb’s up. “Our tee sheet is busy pretty much every single day,” says Gregg Pascale, recreation superintendent/golf programming. Pascale attributes at least some of that to newbies who have come to regard golf as the best way to play a competitive sport while social distancing during a global pandemic. Built in 1914 on property then owned by Winter Park benefactor Charles Hosmer Morse, the 40-acre course — which was founded as the Winter Park Country Club — had aged like a rambling historic home whose outward charm belied an increasingly urgent need for repairs. The irrigation system no longer worked reliably, the turf was old and tattered, and the relentlessly flat terrain was uninteresting and offered little in the way of a challenge, even to self-described hackers. Clearly, it was time. The reconfigured par-35 course occupies the same footprint and still abuts Palm Cemetery, where errant balls sometimes land. (The protocol: Retrieve your ball, but please don’t play out of the cemetery.) However, the layout makes the most of its 2,480 yards. Gary Diehl, a resident who served on a city task force that recommended improvements, recalls some skeptics asking: “Why in the world are we renovating that golf course? It’s green.” But Diehl, who spent 37 years in the golf equipment and apparel business, says the more he and his colleagues learned about the course’s condition, the more convinced they became of the need to act. A trio of accolades since the reopening in 2016 serves as testament to the wisdom of that action. In September 2020, the WP9 occupied the No. 41 spot on GOLF magazine’s inaugural ranking of the best nine-hole courses in the world. In 2017, the course was ranked among Golf Digest’s Best 9-Hole Golf Courses in the U.S. In 2018, the course was among 25 featured in the book The Finest Nines: The Best NineHole Golf Courses in North America. Although it’s more expensive to play than it used to be, fees are still relatively low. Residents who play Monday through Thursday mornings pay $15, while nonresidents pay $18. Fees rise to $18 and $22, respectively, on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Annual memberships for residents are $900 and $1,080 for nonresidents. (At press time, however, there was a waiting list for nonresidents, as membership has more than doubled since the advent of COVID-19.) Junior rates are also available, including a summer (May 1-August 31) junior pass for $200. There’s a free, 10,000-square-foot putting
The Winter Park Golf Course draws players of every age, every skill level and every sartorial style. Golf legends such as Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen have played the legendary layout, sometimes in exhibition matches. It has been the scene of countless charitable tournaments and has become a second home to many locals, some of whom play nearly every day.
course on Park Avenue near the ninth-hole tee box. The exclusive sounding “country club” label was eliminated when the course reopened. The two golf course architects who led the redesign, Keith Rhebb and Riley Johns, both say they recognized the rare opportunity they had been presented. After all, the course, which Hall of Fame pro Nick Faldo once dubbed “Winter Park National,” is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, it’s only the second-oldest course in the Orlando area. The Country Club of Orlando opened a year earlier. Golf legends such as Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen have played Winter Park’s course, sometimes in exhibition matches. It has been the scene of countless charitable tournaments and has become a second home to many locals, some of whom play nearly every day. A central challenge in the redesign was making the course more strategic while keeping it inviting for beginners and those who love the game but possess only modest skills. “It’s the easiest thing in the world to make a difficult golf course,” Rhebb notes. It’s also easy to spend money, Johns adds. But the two recognized that on a community course committed to low fees, “we couldn’t go in there and build water features and make it more costly.” Besides adding undulations to the fairways and moving tee boxes, they redesigned the bunkers. A well-placed bunker, they determined, would help “steer” golfers so the
balls they hit would be less likely to dent a passing BMW. There was one thing the architects couldn’t change, though: the streets, sidewalks and other landmarks that define the course’s perimeter. “There’s no negotiation with concrete,” Johns says. “We had to work within those constraints.” Unchanged is the lovingly maintained but entirely unpretentious clubhouse, with its working fireplace and oak floors. The adjacent pro shop, which was renovated in 2011, features exposed wood on the interior walls salvaged from a 1914 starter shack and from a previous remodeling effort in 1967. Casa Feliz, a restored Spanish-style farmhouse that was saved from the wrecking ball following an uprising of irate citizens, was moved in 2001 to a patch of unused city property adjacent to the 9th hole and repurposed as a community building. The historic home’s stately presence only adds to the course’s irresistible charm. As far back as 1899, Winter Parkers had a place to play golf. The so-called “Rollins 9” was a nine-hole course commissioned by Morse that encompassed the west side of the Rollins College campus and part of what is now downtown Winter Park. But in 1914, Morse and others decided that a proper country club was needed. The Winter Park Country Club, a nonprofit corporation, was established and a nine-hole course was designed by H.A. “Harley” Ward and Dow George, who became the club pro. LI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
The course, and the $3,500 clubhouse, was built on property owned by Morse, who was also elected first president of the nascent organization. Another 18 holes were added the following year. Although the 27 holes were considered two separate courses, they shared the first fairway and green, and extended all the way to U.S. Highway 17-92, where Winter Park Village now sprawls. Play was sometimes interrupted by stray cows, prompting club officials to erect a fence. Some livestock, including sheep and goats, were welcomed, though. The unwitting animals kept the grass in check and were later slaughtered to help alleviate a meat shortage during World War I. A decade later, the club’s heyday had seemingly come to a close. The Aloma Country Club, which encompassed the present-day location of Ward Park and AdventHealth Winter Park, opened in 1926 and lured players away. Aloma’s 6,180-yard course and $45,000 clubhouse made the relatively modest Winter Park Country Club obsolete, forcing it to close shortly thereafter. The block bounded by Interlachen, Webster and Park avenues was bought by the city and repurposed as Charles H. Morse Memorial Park. (The industrialist had died in 1921.) The clubhouse remained and was occupied for a time by the newly formed University Club of Winter Park. The rest of the land was, thankfully, never developed. Winter Park Golf Estates, the real-estate development surrounding the Aloma course, ultimately failed, and the course itself was abandoned in 1936, a casualty of the Great Depression. Later that year, led by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, local movers and shakers decided to reactivate the dormant Winter Park Country Club and raise funds to rehabilitate the
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older course. Donations amounted to $6,250, which was more than enough to do the job. When the club reopened in 1937, the annual membership fee was $44 and greens fees were $1. George, who had been snapped up by the ill-fated Aloma Country Club, was rehired as club pro — a position he would hold until his retirement in 1964. The new incarnation of the club leased the property, partially from the city but primarily from the Winter Park Land Company, which had been formed by Morse in 1915 when he acquired the vast land holdings of its defunct predecessor, the Winter Park Company. Later, the Winter Park Land Company’s portion of the property, totaling about 25 acres, was transferred to the Charles Hosmer Morse and Elizabeth Morse Genius foundations, which continued to lease it to the city in 10year increments. While the land was owned by the foundation and leased to the club, there was no guarantee that this prime swath of real estate would forever remain green space. In fact, as an extension of the lease was being discussed in 1996, foundation officials expressed an interest in selling the land to developers. City leaders and residents weren’t about to let that happen. In a lively referendum, voters overwhelmingly approved a proposal to raise taxes and buy the course. The $8 million purchase price was backed by a 20-year, $5.1 million bond issue. The bonds were paid off in early 2016. Golf courses, many of which have closed, have had an especially hard time attracting millennials. Bloomberg News recently reported that consumer spending on golf has remained flat over the past eight years, and Nike has decided to get out of the golf equipment business. Castoff clubs go unsold at garage sales and thrift stores. Yet, the geographical limitations of the
Winter Park Golf Course could give it an edge as the sport regroups. Busy Americans who can’t spend four or five hours on 18 holes may be willing to spend two hours on nine holes — especially if they can combine golf with lunch, dinner or shopping. “Most golf courses don’t have the luxury of being attached to an asset like Park Avenue,” says Diehl. The emphasis on the compressed round of golf gave rise to hopeful slogans such as “Quick Nine,” “Nine Is the New 18,” “Time for Nine” and even “Wine and Nine.” In its first year after reopening, the course launched the Winter Park City Amateur Golf Championship. In May of that year, nearly 60 golfers, young and old, participated. The course also experienced a resurgence of “glow golf” by investing in state-of-theart equipment to play golf at night. Private groups, nonprofits and corporations hosted fundraisers, team-building events and holiday parties under the stars at the course. Night golf became so popular that the course began hosting Public Night Golf every Tuesday from November through March. In 1999, the Winter Park Golf Course became the first golf course in Florida to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The following year, Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee announced that the WP9 had been chosen as the featured course on the Florida Historic Golf Trail for the month of January. There’s no doubt in Pascale’s mind that the future looks sunny for the course he’s managed since being hired by the city during the renovation five years ago. “In the golf world,” he says, “we have kind of become the poster child for what people consider the future of golf to be.” Tee times must be scheduled in advance by calling 407-599-3419. For more information visit cityofwinterpark.org/departments/ parks-recreation/golf-course. n
COURTESY OF THE WINTER PARK GOLF COURSE
The course experienced a resurgence of “glow golf” by investing in state-of-the-art equipment that facilitated night play, encouraging private groups, nonprofits and corporations to host fundraisers, teambuilding events and holiday parties under the stars at the course. Night golf became so popular that the course began hosting Public Night Golf every Tuesday from November through March.
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For more information, call the Florida Blue Winter Park Center at 321-441-2020 *If you qualify. To be eligible for $0 monthly payment, your Marketplace monthly advance premium tax credit must equal to or be more than the premium. Policies have limitations and exclusions. The amount of benefits provided depends upon the plan selected and the premium may vary with the amount of benefits selected. Rewards available for individual ACA members age 18 years or older. Reward amounts will apply to premiums and excess amounts may be redeemed subject to the reward program’s terms and conditions. Health insurance is offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Inc., DBA Florida Blue. HMO coverage is offered by Health Options, Inc., DBA Florida Blue HMO. Both companies are Independent Licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. 106563_0721
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FIAT LUX! Rollins College, with the most gorgeous campus in the country, retains top rankings, and embarks on a huge building campaign. BY RANDY NOLES
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PHOTO BY WINTER PARK PICTURES/WINTERPARKPICTURES.COM
ew colleges and college towns are as intertwined, geographically and historically, as Rollins College and Winter Park. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine one without the other. So locals were understandably proud when U.S. News & World Report ranked Rollins No. 1 among Regional Universities in the South in its 2021 annual rankings of “Best Colleges.” It marked the 26th year the college has been ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 on the prestigious list. Rollins topped the list of 165 colleges and universities that provide a full range of undergraduate and master’slevel programs.
Rollins College's first formal entrance, the McKean Gateway, was a gift of the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation in memory of Hugh F. McKean, the institution's 10th president, and his wife, Jeannette Genius McKean. Dedicated in October 2002, the twin structures, made of Mexican marble, also symbolize the college's strong partnership with the City of Winter Park.
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“Rollins is proud once again to be recognized so prominently among the nation’s best colleges,” says Rollins President Grant Cornwell. “Our longstanding placement at the top of this ranking affirms that our intimate, innovative, interdisciplinary learning environment is the best preparation for the next generation of leaders as they tackle the challenges of the 21st century.” The U.S. News & World Report rankings evaluate colleges and universities on 16 measures of academic quality, including such widely accepted indicators of excellence as student retention, graduation rates and qualifications of faculty members. Rollins’ ranking can also be attributed to the college’s commitment to small classes and engaged, personalized learning between students and faculty, which has been the hallmark of a Rollins education since the college’s founding in 1885. In addition, U.S. News & World Report ranked Rollins No. 1 in Best Undergraduate Teaching and No. 14 among Best Value Schools. But those are only some of the accolades that have recently come the college’s way. For the fourth consecutive year, Rollins has been listed by the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society among the nation’s top schools for transfer students, becoming one of just 150 other institutions recognized for creating dynamic pathways to support transfer students. Phi Theta Kappa is the premier honor society recognizing the academic achievement of students at associate-degree-granting colleges and helping them grow as scholars and leaders. The honor society’s rating is based upon a college’s recruitment practices, admissions processes, cost of attendance, campus life and peer reviews. For the ninth consecutive year, Rollins has been named a top producer of Fulbright Students by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Top-producing institutions are revealed annually in The Chronicle of Higher Education. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Program, which was created under the Truman administration and has become the U.S. government’s flagship educational exchange program, with more than 400,000 participants who have served in 160 countries around the world. Rollins boasted its first Fulbright Student in 1951 — just five years after the program’s inception. Since then, the campus has produced 81 additional Fullbrighters, 56 of whom have been selected since 2006. Furthering its goal of encouraging global citizenship, the Institute of International Education has once again ranked Rollins among the top 10 master’s-granting institutions in the U.S. for the percentage of students who study abroad. This is the college’s fourth consecutive year in the top 10 and
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COURTESY OF ROLLINS COLLEGE
With its lakeside setting, lush grounds and Spanish Mediterranean architecture, Rollins College is widely considered the most beautiful campuses in the U.S. Shown is the open-air corridor connecting the Annie Russell Theatre and Knowles Memorial Chapel.
its eighth consecutive year in the top 12. Around three-quarters of all Rollins students study abroad at least once during their college careers. Many, in fact, take multiple opportunities to study in other countries. Surprisingly, the ranking was for 2020, a year during which nearly all international travel was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But that didn’t stop the college’s Office of International Programs from offering opportunities for virtual globetrotting. More than two-dozen students participated in remote internships during the fall semester, working with companies all over the world to gain valuable work experience without ever leaving home. For example, a handful of students who had planned to travel to East Africa via the Global Livingston Institute instead took part in a five-week virtual fellowship where they tackled development strategies in Uganda. The program featured group video discussions and remote problem-solving sessions — a valuable skill in a turbulent world. In its own backyard, Rollins has embarked on numerous capital projects during 2020 and 2021, with more yet to come. Kathleen W. Rollins Hall, named for the trustee who contributed $10 million toward its completion, was formerly Mills Memorial Hall. Now the renovated three-story campus landmark is a hub of student engagement and activity, coupling the college’s liberal arts ethos with programs designed to help students put their education to work in the world. To that end, 10 initiatives central to the college’s mission are housed in the state-of-the-art, 37,160-square-foot facility — among them the Center for Career & Life Planning, the Center for Leadership & Community Engagement and the Department of Social Entrepreneurship. The facility also houses advising programs as well as classrooms and meeting spaces. At about the time Rollins Hall was preparing to open its doors, work was beginning on the $71 million, 250,000-square-foot housing project featuring shared living space for 496 students. The dorms are part of the Lakeside Neighborhood, which includes a fitness center, office space, a zero-entry pool, and an expanded convenience store offering hot, freshly prepared items. The three wings of Lakeside Neighborhood are named in honor of past college presidents Hugh McKean, Thaddeus Seymour and Rita Bornstein. “The recent addition of Kathleen W. Rollins Hall and the Lakeside Neighborhood demonstrate our continued commitment to innovation and adapting to our students’ needs while maximizing space on our beautiful campus,” says Cornwell. In addition, a state-of-the-art black box theater is on the way to replace the charming but creaky Fred Stone Theatre, which was demolished in 2018. And longer-range plans call for the Crummer Graduate School of Business and the Rollins Museum of Art (formerly the Cornell Fine Arts Museum) to get new homes just blocks from campus, in the heart of historic downtown Winter Park. But what’s likely to garner the most national attention for Rollins is the unveiling of a bronze statue dedicated to arguably its most famous alumnus, Fred McFeely Rogers (Class of 1951) — known to generations of youngsters as Mister Rogers. The 3,000-pound monument, which shows the children’s programming icon surrounded by young admirers, will debut in October 2020 between the Annie Russell Theatre and Knowles Memorial Chapel. Private donations funded the project. Yet, despite so many significant changes at Rollins, one thing has remained the same: the college’s legendary beauty. With its lakeside setting, lush landscaping and plethora of historic Spanish Mediterranean buildings, its campus routinely appears on lists of the most gorgeous in the U.S. With a motto of Fiat Lux — let there be light — and a seal depicting the sun rising over the lake, Rollins College is taking seriously the business of educating tomorrow’s leaders, close to home and around the world. For more information call 407-646-2000 or visit rollins.edu. n
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ROLLINS COLLEGE
As part of a huge building program, Rollins has completed the $71 million, 250,000-square-foot Lakeside Neighborhood (above) featuring shared living space for 496 students. Within the complex, in addition to dorms, are a fitness center, office space, a zero-entry pool, and an expanded convenience store offering hot, freshly prepared items. Kathleen W. Rollins Hall (below), named for the trustee who contributed $10 million toward its completion, was formerly Mills Memorial Hall. Now the renovated three-story campus landmark is a hub of student engagement and activity, coupling the college’s liberal arts ethos with programs designed to help students put their education to work in the world.
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ZONE Winter Park’s Scenic Boat Tour highlights the area’s beauty – but the skippers are a big part of the show. BY GREG DAWSON
Along the Scenic Boat Tour route, you’ll see swaying palms, towering cypress trees, lush ferns and a variety of subtropical flowers as well as breathtaking views of opulent private homes lining the lakes and canals. But you likely won’t see alligators — they were rounded up and transported to more rustic Lake Jesup in the 1980s.
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PHOTO BY DYLAN BAKER
n high summer, the best time to take the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour is morning, on the first boat out at 10 a.m. Then, the lake is still glassy and the air fresh before the sultry afternoon doldrums descend. Such was the idyllic tableau on a recent summer morning at the venerable tour boathouse on the southwest shore of Lake Osceola, a 10-minute walk from downtown, where you’ll find what is said to be the longest continuously operated tourist attraction in Florida. “I’m not the original driver,” quips Tom Smith as a group boards the pontoon boat. Smith, 67, is among the most senior of the boat tour’s nine pilots, more affectionately called “skippers” a la the bumbling, blustery Skipper on TV’s Gilligan’s Island. (Played by Alan Hale Jr., for all you trivia buffs.) Smith figures that in 10 years, he has conducted close to 13,000 tours of Winter Park’s lakes and canals. That means he’s guided his craft some 156,000 miles — all the while delivering good-natured banter (and more than a few corny jokes). He talks about the city’s history and calls upon a storehouse of factoids about the flora and fauna that are at times so close to the boat that passengers can reach out and touch swaying palms, grand cypress trees, lush ferns and riots of flourishing subtropical flowers. The Scenic Boat Tour, which was closed for three months last year because of COVID-19, is back, once again wending its way along three of the city’s six canal-connected lakes (Osceola, Virginia and Maitland) and offering peeks into the manicured backyards of opulent homes, the residents of which mostly offer friendly waves. The driver at the helm of the first “Venice of America” tour on January 1, 1938, was the man who started it, Walt C. Meloon — better known as “W.C.” — a New England transplant and entrepreneur who would later found a boating empire. A vintage photo of the maiden voyage shows a grinning W.C. wearing what appears to be a yacht captain’s cap. Seated behind him in the long wooden boat are 25 city officials, businessmen and their spouses who have
unwittingly (and literally) participated in the launch of what would become arguably the city’s most iconic business. Eighty-three years later, the six vessels are aluminum pontoon boats with a seating capacity of 18. The tour attracts about 120 riders per day, or between 40,000 to 50,000 riders per year. Despite wars and hurricanes, tours had been held almost every day (except Christmas) since the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. There had been no prolonged shutdowns until the pandemic. “People come from around the world,” says owner Ron Hightower. “One time I put up a map with pins, and after a month or two I couldn’t find anyplace people weren’t from.”
FROM TOUR GUIDE TO TYCOON God created the breathtaking Winter Park lakes, as well as the plant and animal life that these ecosystems support. Man, though, created the enchanting canals. Well, sort of. Swampy connectors apparently already existed but were basically impassable — and therefore useless for transportation or commerce until they were widened and bolstered. The City of Winter Park, which was originally envisioned as a New Englandthemed resort town, began its life as a rarified tourist attraction in the late 1880s. It just took an ambitious visionary like W.C. Meloon to make the elevated enclave more accessible to those who weren’t Northern industrialists occupying its so-called “cottages.” “W.C. was quite an entrepreneur — building, making, creating,” says his grandson Walt Meloon, one of many Walts in the lineage. “He had an LI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
The boat tour, which debuted in 1938, may be the longest continuously operated tourist attraction in Florida. This postcard from the early 1950s demonstrates that it has a long history of attracting crowds. Today, between 40,000 and 50,000 riders per year step aboard its six aluminum pontoon vessels.
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New England, where his boating fixation was born. Says Walt Meloon: “He and his friends would ride around and find a lake where they could put a boat in and tacked up a sign: ‘Rides 45 cents.’” Yet, W.C.’s local venture might well have ended up the Lake Conway Scenic Boat Tour. The family, for a time in the 1930s, offered rides on the Conway Chain of Lakes (25 cents for adults, 10 cents for kids), recalled the late Ralph Meloon, one-time company president, in a 2014 interview. So why did W.C. plant his dream 14 miles away in Winter Park instead of just up the road from Correct Craft on South Orange Avenue? “About that time, there was more development of big homes and more wealth in a concentrated area, which was Winter Park,” says Walt Meloon. “It was much more attractive. And the canals were the clincher — the pure, raw beauty. The Conway lakes didn’t have anything like that.”
DO THE STORIES HOLD WATER? “Duck your head!” Smith shouts as the pontoon passes under a low bridge on the Fern Canal. Noting imperfections along the way, Smith says: “Lumberjacks did this. Looks like they had some cocktails before digging.” Sobriety aside, it seems to be true that lumber companies widened the clogged and narrow waterways in the 19th century to float harvested logs from nearby forests to sawmills. Later, between 1935 and 1938, private and public funds paid for rebuilding the rotting cypress barrier walls to make the canals more boater friendly. From 1976 to 1978, the City of Winter Park and the Florida Boating Improvement Program, a division of the Department of Environmental Protection, undertook another rehabilitation project. The results, as anyone who has ever taken the boat tour can attest, are stunning. Enveloped by a canopy of ferns, ancient oaks, banana plants, bamboo, cypress and palm trees, the fleet glides past briefly glimpsed homes on either side and into the open water of Lake Virginia. Smith points to the Rollins College campus on the northern shore, where the
COURTESY OF THE WINTER PARK PUBLIC LIBRARY
inventor’s mind. He built a boat with a Model T engine and an airplane propeller. It was really an airboat. He did automotive repairs and had one of the first motels — or trail lodges — in New Hampshire.” Then his New Hampshire garage burned down, and W.C. — among countless others — heard that exotic Florida was the land of milk and honey. “There was a land boom going on and he decided to move to Florida to become a land baron,” says Walt Meloon, a Belle Isle resident. W.C., his wife and three sons moved to Orlando in 1924 from their farm on the Maine-New Hampshire border. The boom, however, went bust, ruining many who had journeyed to the Sunshine State to make their fortunes. But W.C. wasn’t easily deterred. “He looked around and saw a lot of water and all those lakes,” says his grandson. “So, he decided he needed to build boats.” Declaring that he intended to build watercraft “for the glory of God,” W.C. called his new venture in Pine Castle on South Orange Avenue the Florida Variety Boat Company. The story goes he changed the name to Correct Craft in 1936 after hearing a radio ad touting shoes with “the correct heel for your feet.” He liked the idea of pitching his boats as “the correct craft for you.” The fledgling company originally built and sold powerboats, race boats and even sailboats. But W.C. didn’t confine himself to water vessels. The company dredged sand from lakes for beaches. It won a contract to build a dam and waterslides for Sanlando Springs, a recreational area between Orlando and Sanford. It installed cypress-wood walls (subsequently replaced by concrete) to shore up the deteriorating banks of the Winter Park canals. It even built boathouses. In addition to becoming a leader in recreational watercraft, Correct Craft was contracted by the government during World War II to build pontoonlike boats that served as bridges to carry troops and armaments across rivers. In 2008, when the Meloons sold the last of their stock in the company, Correct Craft was the oldest family-owned boat maker in America. For all his wider renown, W.C.’s best-loved legacy remains the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour. This, too, was an idea he brought with him from
PHOTO BY RAFAEL TONGOL
school’s ski and rowing teams practice on the lake. “People ask about the thing that looks like the roof of a sunken house,” Smith says. “It’s the ski jump.” Especially in his Skipper Tom persona, Smith can be gently mischievous with visitors from distant places, such as Maine. Bobbing in the water near the ski jump are colorful buoys for a slalom course. When a passenger from the Pine Tree State wonders if they were lobster traps, Smith doesn’t skip a beat: “Yes, fresh-water lobsters.” The geography and vegetation encountered along the canals are a mystery to many passengers. “People from places like Sweden and New York freak out when they see bananas,” says Smith as he guides his craft through the Venetian Canal to Lake Maitland. “They’ve never seen bananas growing.” Some passengers even point to one of the gaudy mansions in the distance and ask if Donald Trump lives there. No, Smith patiently explains, he lives in Mar-a-Lago, some 200 miles away. There are the inevitable questions about alligators, but according to Smith, none are ever seen along the route. “We don’t have them anymore,” he says. In fact, about 150 of the frightening reptiles were taken from the Winter Park Chain of Lakes and repatriated to Seminole County’s more primitive Lake Jesup in the late 1980s. Smith runs through a litany of places and stories familiar to locals. How the historic Capen-Showalter House was cut in two and transported on barges across Lake Osceola to the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. “Fred and Ginger dancing across the lake,” as he describes the project. Then there’s the Brewer House, a 21-room mansion built in 1889 by industrialist Edward Hill Brewer. At the insistence of Brewer’s homesick wife, Edna, it was designed to be an exact replica of the family’s estate in New York. Sometimes, though, the stories should be taken with a proverbial grain of salt. Smith points out a red-brick house that he says was built (and occupied) by the indulgent parents of Fred Rogers (Rollins College, Class of 1951) so that the music composition major could have a proper piano on which to practice. “Well, that’s the story we tell,” Smith says with a grin.
The scenery is amazing, but for many customers the nine skippers are the highlight of the boat tour. The team includes (left to right): Dan Lancaster, Alan Woods, Ron Hightower (the owner, who doesn’t pilot a boat), Drew Smith, Fred Austin, Lee Adler, David Wittman, Peter Rice, Wendell Phillips and Tom Smith. The adventure gets underway every day except Christmas from a modest boathouse on the shores of Lake Osceola.
To be clear, the man who would become known to the world as Mister Rogers through the PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, lived in a dormitory, not a mansion, while he was a student. His wealthy parents, James and Nancy Rogers of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, rented the house in question and wintered there to be near young Fred, who was self-conscious about his family’s affluence. This is, of course, quibbling. Drivers are not allowed to identify current residents — famous or not — of lake homes. But they’re free to name-drop past residents. “There’s the house built by the founder of Walgreens,” Smith points out. “As soon as it was built, CVS put one up next door even bigger.” Tom Hanks never lived in the so-called “Tom Hanks House,” Smith notes of a Venetian-style home that can be seen from Lake Osceola. But it was, he says, used in filming Hanks’ HBO series From the Earth to the Moon, getting about 30 seconds of airtime as the home of an astronaut. He later points out the sprawling home of former Orlando Magic star Horace Grant, who turned the ballroom into a basketball court. And over there is the historic Alabama Hotel (now condominiums) whose guests included the likes of Margaret Mitchell, H.G. Wells and Sinclair Lewis. “And that’s my house to the right,” says Smith, ever the joker. Along the way, across the three lakes and two canals, Smith is hailed by friends in boathouses or kayaks. “Hey, Bobby, come ahead!” he shouts, offering right-of-way to a kayak coming at us through the narrow canal. “You’re good to go, guys!” he signals another, before yet again spying a familiar figure and calling out: “How ya doing, sweetie!” Smith turns to me and says: “I know way too many people here.” LI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
Former drummer and actor
Former restaurateur, social worker and bartender
Former TV news anchor
Fred Austin, 70, was a real character even before he was paid to be one. He grew up in Yonkers, just north of New York City, with dreams of pursuing a career in theater. Instead, he says, “I pursued drumming for 25 years, playing in show bands.” But the acting bug beckoned and in 1992 Austin moved to Central Florida, where he joined Universal Orlando playing a series of real characters — including Merlin, Dudley Do-Right, Harry Henderson and Frankenstein’s monster. His final role was Wandkeeper at Ollivander’s Wand Shop in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Later a friend mentioned the Scenic Boat Tour, and Austin was intrigued. “I felt it was a good fit for me, especially with my mouth,” he says. “I enjoyed comedic acting, but I really wanted to be a stand-up comedian.” And now, that’s pretty much what he is (though standing up is an option). What did a kid from Yonkers know about boating? “I’ve been familiar with boating all my life,” Austin says. “I loved boats so much that I made sure I had friends who had boats.” Of course, during the tour Austin dispenses more than jokes. He’s there to inform as well as entertain. “I try to be spontaneous. If I see something in a boat going by that amuses me, I’ll say something,” he says. “But I try not to make it ‘The Fred Austin Show.’ It’s not about me, it’s about the boat tour.” Austin still draws on all those years portraying theme park characters. “We (drivers) all have funny lines that are kind of our routines,” he adds. “I learned that in the theme park, where you have a new audience for six shows a day. It’s never boring — I never get tired of doing this.”
After graduating from the University of Florida in 1974, at age 21, Tom Smith opened a Domino’s franchise. “I lost my ass on that, but fell in love with Winter Park,” he says. “I’ve been in the same house on the west side of Lake Virginia since 1975. I’ve had a boat every day since I bought the house. The boat tour was one of the first things I did when I moved here, and it convinced me what a cool place this is.” It sounds like the gregarious Smith and the Scenic Boat Tour were made for one another — and perhaps they were. But first there were several landlubber careers: social worker, owner and manager of bars and restaurants, and a 21-year stint tending bar at Apopka’s legendary Townsend’s Fish House and Tavern, which closed in 2000. “I felt I did 10 times more social work tending bar,” says Smith, 67, laughing. It was, however, good basic training for his future gig as a boat tour guide, where people skills are paramount. So were the chatty and informative walking excursions that he conducted for Winter Park City Tours. “It was short lived but made me learn as much as I could about the history of Winter Park,” he says. With 10 years and more than 10,000 trips under his belt, Smith is today one of the tour’s senior skippers. “I know an awful lot of people in Winter Park,” he says. “I probably have 1,000 regulars.” His presentation of “fun, facts and humor” obviously has worn well. “My whole goal,” he says, “is to give people a one-hour vacation.”
In a five-decade career highlighted by professional pinnacles, David Wittman, 70, was the lead anchor for major-market TV stations in Detroit, Boston, Cleveland and Orlando, where he manned the news desk at WKMG-Channel 6 for a decade and fell in love with Winter Park. But, as it happened, Wittman didn’t pursue his true calling until recently. Now, however, the erstwhile broadcaster — who’s still recognized by longtime locals — proudly describes his profession on LinkedIn as simply: “Tour guide at the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour.” Notes Wittman: “I think I always had it mind. I threatened Ron [Hightower, owner] that when I got out of the TV game, I was going to work for him or buy him out.” After leaving his final anchor gig in Cleveland, Wittman returned to Winter Park in 2018 and landed a job in the tour boat ticket office, “selling Cokes, cleaning toilets and emptying the trash. Eventually Ron said, ‘You want to drive?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I want to do that.’” Even before leaving Cleveland, Wittman and his wife had bought a condo on the Fern Canal, a leg of the tour. Ever the newsgatherer, he prepared for his stint as a driver by reading every book available about Winter Park history and spending countless hours combing through the archives and special collections area at Rollins College, where he uncovered fascinating tidbits to share with ticket buyers. The theme of Wittman’s tour narration: “The Secrets of Winter Park.” A typical nugget: “After Hurricane Donna in 1960, there was a push to widen the canals to 100 feet because there was flooding. Thankfully, that did not survive a vote in local government. Just imagine how that would have changed things.”
You haven't really seen Winter Park — which used to call itself "the Venice of America" — until you've seen it from the water. Call 407-644-4056 or visit scenicboattours.com for more information about taking the grand tour.
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PHOTOS BY RAFAEL TONGOL
‘IT JUST GIVES YOU A SPECIAL FEELING’ The boat tour has changed hands several times over the decades. Wanda Salerno, a legendary Winter Park booster, and her husband, Frank, bought it in 1981 and ran it for 14 years, pumping up its popularity with aggressive advertising on International Drive. In 1995, Hightower and his granddad Stanford Smith — a boat tour driver and manager since 1971 — jumped at a ticket to ride. “The Salernos were interested in selling and we were interested in carrying on the tradition,” Hightower says. “I grew up in Winter Park and worked down here in my early teens, gassing up boats and that sort of thing.” For the elder Smith, who worked into his late 90s and died in 2013 at 100, the boat tour was a second career after retiring from the banking business at 58. His grandson, however, vows that there’ll be no second act for him. “This is my career,” says Hightower, a UCF grad with a degree in business administration. Winter Park’s “Venice of America” isn’t the only “Venice of America” and maybe not the first — even in Florida. In the 1920s, mangrove swamps around Fort Lauderdale were dredged to create a network of waterways including “finger island” subdivisions. The city adopted the “Venice of America” moniker, but it’s not clear if that happened before W.C. went into the boat tour business. Both cities lose out historically to a beachfront theme park/resort with canals near Los Angeles that opened in 1905 with the name “Venice of America.” The area later was absorbed by Los Angeles and became just plain Venice. “I only know we used [the slogan] from the very beginning in 1938,” Hightower says. “I never heard of the other.” Winter Park’s “Venice of America” can be toured at the bargain-basement price of $14 for adults, $7 for children (under age 2 ride free). An undated brochure from the early days shows the price of a ticket at $1.50 for adults and 75 cents for kids. Adjusted for inflation, that $1.50 ticket today would be $27. And parking is free. So the experience remains a notable and refreshingly homespun bargain. In a small city blessed with an embarrassment of tourist-attracting riches, the boat tour is tops, says Camellia Gurley, concierge at the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. “It’s the No. 1 thing we promote,” she says. “It’s so loved. I don’t think anything compares to it. If someone from out of town comes to see me, I say, ‘Let’s do this!’ It just gives you a special feeling.” On the still placid waters of Lake Osceola, Skipper Tom concludes his narrative and guides the pontoon back to the dock after the hourlong tour, which, once again, has miraculously averted the fate of Gilligan’s marooned S.S. Minnow. Says Smith: “The canals are so unique that even if I didn’t say a word it would be a great trip.” n
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SAY ‘I DO’ If you put your wedding on hold in 2020, better act now to snare one of Winter Park’s popular venues. BY PATRICIA LETAKIS
n a typical year, Americans throw some 2 million weddings. Sometimes, it seems as though about half of them are in Winter Park. But in 2020, the wedding industry as a whole experienced a 34 percent decline in revenue, according to an IBISWorld Industry Report. The drop would likely have been larger, says an analysis from the international market research firm, but some couples who rescheduled their nuptials didn’t get their money back so they’d still have their first-choice vendors and venues when the COVID-19 pandemic waned and in-person events were again possible. Anecdotally, many wedding planners say they expect the number of weddings to spike by 25 percent or more in 2021 and into 2022, putting pressure on couples to find venues that haven’t already been booked. But at least in Winter Park there are plenty of choices.
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The gorgeous Rollins College campus is home to historic Knowles Memorial Chapel, built in 1932 and the site of 60 to 70 weddings a year.
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After all, its quaint beauty and cultural vibe has always defined the city, which is a very, very romantic place. The granddaddy oaks, the tranquil lakes, the brick streets, the meticulously restored private homes and the numerous cultural amenities combine to provide an idyllic setting for an exchange of vows and a celebration afterward. Winter Park’s many charms — including its shopping and dining districts — also make it an extraordinarily appealing place for out-of-town wedding guests to explore after the wedding day hubbub. Whatever your aesthetic — from a nationally renowned boutique hotel to a retro red-brick railroad station — you’ll find an unforgettable venue in good old 32792.
GOING TO THE CHAPEL The gorgeous Rollins College campus, with its Mediterranean Revival-style architecture and lush landscaping, is home to historic Knowles Memorial Chapel, built in 1932 and the site of 60 to 70 weddings a year. Over the decades, it’s likely that some couples who didn’t even want to marry were compelled to make the leap solely because of the opportunity to say “I do” in this jewel box of a building. For decades, however, these coveted chapel nuptials were available only to faculty, staff and alumni of the college as well as their children. That all changed last spring, when the chapel was made available to those with no such Rollins affiliation. Concurrently, the erstwhile campus bookstore was repurposed as a reception and banquet hall. The 10,000-square-foot Rice Family Pavilion, which can accommodate receptions and rehearsal dinners of up to 230, features a brand-new rotunda with floor-to-ceiling windows. There’s a full kitchen downstairs, where in the 1960s a coffee shop hosted budding folk singers. The chapel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, boasts dramatic towers arched overhead and sunlight filtered through stained-glass windows. A vintage pipe organ adds a majestic touch to this sacred space, which was designed by Ralph Adams Cram. The legendary
The interior of Knowles Memorial Chapel (facing page, top) boasts dramatic towers arched overhead and sunlight filtered through stainedglass windows. A vintage pipe organ adds a majestic touch to this sacred space. Another popular venue at Rollins is the Rice Family Pavilion (facing page, bottom). The reimagined and repurposed space can accommodate receptions and rehearsal dinners of up to 230.
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architect’s other achievements include a master plan for Princeton University and the Gothic transformation of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Following ceremonies, couples are often photographed at the chapel’s majestic entry or in a rose garden located just steps away. Indeed, the entire campus provides multiple backdrops for stunning images. Weddings are held on Saturdays only, and openings are limited because of holidays and college events. (That’s why getting married at the chapel can’t be a spur-of-the-moment decision.) If you have no college connection, you must book a package that includes both the chapel and the Rice Family Pavilion. But that’s something you’d likely do in any case, considering the proximity of the venues.
HOMEY AND HISTORIC Capen House at the Polasek sits on three lush acres skirting the shores of Lake Osceola, alongside the Alan Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. How it got there is a story worthy of Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The circa-1885 Tudor Revival home famously faced the wrecking ball in 2013, until community members raised funds to float the structure — via barge and in pieces — across the lake to the museum’s property, where it was reassembled and restored. Surely there’s a wedding analogy in there somewhere. The herculean effort to preserve the home has made it a treasure in the hearts of Winter Parkers. Pinewood floors, beadboard ceilings, crystal chandeliers, bronze sculptures and a case filled with silver teapots are among the details that make it an endearing and enchanting place for weddings. Larger groups hold ceremonies on the manicured Lakeview Lawn, which is surrounded by blooming gardens. Smaller groups often opt for the expansive patio, which can be outfitted with tables draped in white tablecloths for elegant outdoor dining. Indoor weddings take place in the Grand Parlor, which is highlighted by a Victorian staircase. Cocktails can be served on an enclosed porch that offers a spectacular view of the grounds and the water. A dock allows guests to arrive by boat if they so choose. The Peacock Room, with its French doors, oriental rugs and a sofa accented with pretty tapestry pillows, serves as a charming dressing/waiting room for brides. And the house has a full catering kitchen, where any caterers on the Capen House preferred list can set up.
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Capen House at the Polasek sits on three lush acres skirting the shores of Lake Osceola, alongside the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. Larger wedding parties hold ceremonies on the manicured Lakeview Lawn, which is surrounded by blooming gardens.
Czech-born sculptor Albin Polasek’s Mediterranean-style home, now a museum, is just steps away. In addition to viewing a collection of figurative and whimsical mythological sculptures on the grounds, guests can tour the exhibition gallery, see the artist’s personal chapel and enjoy his courtyard — where the iconic Emily sculpture welcomes visitors with her harp. Other historic venues in the city include the cozy Winter Park Country Club, a welcoming clapboard cottage built in 1914 and painted in summer shades of yellow and white. Its screenedin porch faces the Winter Park Golf Course, the region’s second-oldest nine-hole layout. The unpretentious interior features two fireplaces, paddle fans and highly polished wood floors. The main dining room seats 78, while the lounge accommodates 49. The venue, which also has a bricked outdoor gathering area, is run by the City of Winter Park. Also adjacent to the golf course is another
blast from the past that offers an entirely different sort of wedding experience. Casa Feliz Historic Home & Venue — which dubs itself “Winter Park’s Community Parlor” — is a little bit country. Meaning, in this case, an entirely different country (and era). At 6,000 square feet, this Andalusian-style masonry farmhouse was built in 1933. However, architect James Gamble Rogers II wanted it to look several hundred years older — which he accomplished with arches crafted to resemble ruins, a whitewashed red-brick exterior and a weather-worn clay barrel-tile roof. The interior of Casa Feliz (“happy house” in Spanish) evokes 19th-century Spain and is replete with beamed ceilings, oriental rugs, ornately carved chairs, fireplaces and paintings in gilded frames. It can accommodate up to 120 for a reception. A cozy courtyard with a fountain featuring colorful Mallorca tiles that depict floral and bird designs is just one of many unique photo oppor-
Mead Botanical Garden is known as “Winter Park’s Natural Place.” It’s certainly a natural place for a wedding — possibly at The Grove, an outdoor performance area that features a raised stage topped with soaring overhead sails. The stage faces a gently sloping lawn, and there’s a rustic pole barn off to the side.
tunities. Larger weddings are often held in the courtyard or on the front lawn, while smaller events may be held indoors. Upstairs, the beautifully furnished hospitality suites provide a comfortable place to prepare. Like the Capen House, Casa Feliz was rescued from demolition and moved to its current site when community activists rode to the rescue. The structure, which was hauled from Interlachen Avenue to its current location on city property in 2000, is owned by the city and operated (using its own funding) by the nonprofit Friends of Casa Feliz. Capen House at the Polasek, the Winter Park Country Club and Casa Feliz Historic Home & Venue are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
GRACIOUS GARDENS Flowers are meant to bring joy to a wedding — which explains, in part, the popularity of getting married in a garden setting. At Mead Botanical Garden, the Little Amphitheater, cocooned by pink azaleas, a frilly wrought-iron trellis and tall oak trees, has been a favorite wedding locale for more than 50 years. Tiered bench seating for as many as 350 eliminates the need for cumbersome folding chairs. A bonus is access to the 47-acre site’s other picturesque locations, from the Butterfly Garden to Alice’s Pond. After the ceremony, friends and family can gather in the 3,000-square-foot Azalea Lodge, just steps from the amphitheater. Weddings and receptions may also be held at the adjacent Grove at Mead Garden, an outdoor performance area that features a raised stage that faces a gently sloping lawn. There’s a rustic pole barn off to the side. The 50-by-60-foot platform is big enough to accommodate the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra, which performs there. And it’s also big enough to accommodate at least a dozen tables for a seated dinner. Caterers can serve drinks and appetizers from the pole barn. Other outdoors-themed weddings are held at 13acre Kraft Azalea Garden, which faces Lake Maitland along Alabama Drive — a winding, shady street lined with historic homes and modern showplaces. The garden is filled with cypress trees that reach soaring heights and drip with Spanish moss, which blows gently in the breeze. And, of course, there are acres of azaleas. On the edge of the lake is the iconic Exedra, an open-air, temple-like structure whose architectural heritage dates to ancient Greece. The Exedra, which was built in 1969, is partic-
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ularly breathtaking (and photogenic) at sunset. However, only groups of up to 20 are permitted to use the city-owned property, and there’s no dressing area — so come prepared. If you like the idea of an outdoor wedding but prefer that amenities be a little closer at hand, you may opt for the Central Park Rose Garden, located in the southern reaches of the city’s signature Central Park. Located near the corner of Park and New England avenues, the urban oasis is convenient to venues where receptions can be held. No parties are allowed in the park and, like Kraft Azalea Garden, there’s no preparation area (or even restrooms). Groups are limited to 20.
UNIQUE AND BOUTIQUE Weddings at the luxurious Alfond Inn at Rollins, a boutique hotel owned by the college, are popular in part because out-of-town guests have a handy place to stay. Oh, but what a place it is. The 112-room Alfond — located just a block from Park Avenue — has earned Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Award as the Best Hotel in Florida every year from 2014 to 2018 and has a AAA Four Diamond rating. The Alfond is, of course, frequently full. But if you book a wedding, you’re guaranteed a block of rooms and can be certain that your guests will be well taken care of — and will be within walking distance of shops, restaurants and museums. The hotel’s signature Conservatory, with its dramatic glass-dome ceiling, is a one-of-a-kind wedding space in the region. Adding further interest are thought-provoking pieces from the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, which is held by the college’s Cornell Fine Arts Museum. Outdoor weddings are often held on the Courtyard Lawn, adjacent to the Conservatory, which is lined with pots of bougainvillea that bloom bountifully in shades of pink. Receptions are usually hosted in the Park Avenue Ballroom, which can be transformed through lighting, draperies, floral displays and elegant table settings. And because the hotel is a boutique
The Alfond Inn at Rollins frequently hosts weddings on the Courtyard Lawn, adjacent to the Conservatory, which is carefully manicured and lined with pots of bougainvillea. Receptions are usually held in the boutique hotel’s Park Avenue Ballroom. The Alfond, which boasts a AAA Four Diamond rating, is frequently full. But if you book a wedding, you’re guaranteed a block of rooms and can rest assured that your guests will be well taken care of. LI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
The Winter Park Farmers’ Market is likely not top of mind as a wedding venue. But perhaps it should be. After all, railroads and romance have a long and storied history together. The place has a certain rustic appeal that many couples find charming.
property, it can handle only one wedding at a time. That means the highly professional staff will lavish you with attention. Best of all, the Alfond — which can accommodate weddings with as many as 240 guests — is basically a one-stop shop. Couples need to contract separately only for photography, entertainment and floral arrangements. It may get a bit easier to book the busy Alfond in the not-too-distant future thanks to an expansion program that got underway in summer 2021. There’ll be a new wing with a four-story atrium, and an additional 2,400 square feet of meeting and functions rooms.
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The project also includes 71 new guest rooms and a second-floor wellness center and swimming pool. An amenity deck will be available for private events — including weddings. The expected completion date is in summer 2023.
DOWN TO EARTH The Winter Park Farmers’ Market is likely not top of mind as a wedding venue. But perhaps it should be. After all, railroads and romance have a long and storied history together. The old Atlantic Coast Line freight depot, which was built in 1913, anchored the popular Saturday-morning market since 1979. (The
market moved to Central Park’s West Meadow in 2020, to allow for more social distancing, but the depot is still referred to as the Farmer’s Market on the city’s website.) The exposed red-brick walls and wood sliding doors are original to the building, which is air conditioned and seats 180. The parking lot can be used for a tented event. Located on West New England Avenue in downtown Winter Park, the city-owned, 2,800-squarefoot venue also has a prep kitchen and an ice machine. Tables and chairs are included with the rental. You’ll need to keep in mind that the building is next to the railroad tracks — not surprising for
an ertswhile freight depot. If your wedding is on a weekday, SunRail cars will rumble past every half hour. An Amtrak incursion is also a possibility, so it’s smart to check the schedule if you don’t want to hear the train a’coming (as Johnny Cash might say) during your ceremony. The Winter Park Community Center, located in Hannibal Square, is likewise an under-theradar wedding location. But it’s got all the bells and whistles, including a ballroom that accommodates groups ranging in size from 50 to 350 for dinner and dancing. There’s a full commercial kitchen on site — and two basketball courts to work off those extra pounds after gorging on hors d’oeuvres.
CLUBS AND CHURCHES The Winter Park Racquet Club, located on Via Tuscany, is a warm, inviting space on the edge of Lake Maitland with a dreamy view of the water framed by the branches of cypress trees. No matter where you hold the ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner and dancing, guests will delight in the splendid views and posh appointments. But you must be a member, or have a member sponsor you, to use the facility. That’s also the case with Interlachen Country Club, located off Lake Howell Road on lakedotted property that encompasses a Joe Lee-designed, 18-hole golf course. There are more than a dozen weddings a year at the club, many of them for families that were member sponsored. Other clubs, though, open their facilities to anyone for weddings. The Woman’s Club of Winter Park, located on South Interlachen Avenue in downtown Winter Park, often hosts weddings in its clubhouse — which was completed in 1921 — or on its beautiful front lawn. The facility has a full kitchen and a stage for a DJ or a band. The room seats about 120 at tables and about 150 with chairs only. A long terrace that runs along the building’s south side is ideal for cocktail receptions. Ditto for the University Club of Winter Park on North Park Avenue. The main ballroom of its clubhouse, which was completed in 1934, can handle up to 120 at tables or up to 200 for a reception. There’s also a stage and a full kitchen. The club’s library is available to host pre-wed-
On the property of the University Club of Winter Park (right) is an oak-shaded gazebo where outdoor ceremonies are held (right). Receptions are held in the cozy clubhouse, which was built in 1934. LI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
ding catered dinners for as many as 40. And elsewhere on the property stands an oak-shaded gazebo where outdoor ceremonies are often held. Still, many prefer to be married in a house of worship. If so, there’s no shortage in Winter Park — although some only perform weddings for members and their families. Several, though, are of historic interest. All Saints Episcopal Church, for example, with its peaked roof and arches, was built in 1942 and designed by Ralph Adam Cram, whom you’ll recall from Knowles Memorial Chapel. It’s located on East Lyman Avenue. St. Mary Margaret Catholic Church, with its Mediterranean architecture and cavernous contemporary interior surrounded by stained-glass windows, provides a beautiful setting for wedding ceremonies. First Congregational Church of Winter Park, established in 1884, is the first church of any denomination to be established in Winter Park. The original building is long gone, but the current Colonial Revival sanctuary, completed in 1925, holds 400 and has an adjoining meeting room with a full kitchen for receptions. It’s worth noting that First Congregational, which also has a smaller chapel on its South Interlachen Avenue campus, is the only church in Winter Park that performs same-sex marriages. The Chapel & Hudson’s Cellar Hannibal Square was built as Grant Chapel on Winter Park’s west side in 1935 and served as a house of worship for the predominantly African American neighborhood for almost 70 years. In 2002, the building was bought by Sydgan Corporation — which redeveloped Hannibal Square in the 1990s — and was for several years leased to a company that used it as a photography studio and wedding venue. In 2013, Sydgan moved the chapel to its present location on Lyman Avenue near the railroad tracks and across from the Farmers’ Market. As part of the move, the company renovated the structure and added a well-equipped basement space for receptions and other events. It’s an intimate space (capacity is just 49) that features six of the church’s original pews in the chapel area. The cellar, entered through handforged iron doors imported from Mexico, has black-stained concrete floors, oak tongue-andgroove ceilings and Edison light fixtures. In the center of the room, two antique Chicago brick pillars anchor a banquet table, while lining the walls are tufted-leather banquette benches and six smaller tables. There’s also a granite-top bar.
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The Chapel & Hudson’s Cellar Hannibal Square was known to generations of west side residents as Grant Chapel. In 2002 the building was bought by Sydgan Corporation, which in 2013 moved it to Lyman Avenue and transformed it into a wedding and reception venue. The chapel seats 49, and still features some of Grant Chapel’s original pews. The cellar, entered through hand-forged iron doors imported from Mexico, has black-stained concrete floors, oak tongue-and-groove ceilings and Edison light fixtures.
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NEW AND NOTABLE By early 2022, Winter Park will have a new venue for hosting weddings and receptions — one that has been years in the making and not without controversy. The Winter Park Library & Events Center is nearing completion where the Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center once stood on Morse Boulevard. The civic center was demolished last year to make way for two new buildings designed by celebrity architect Sir David Adjaye. The 13,000-square-foot events venue will include such enhancements as a porte cochere, a rooftop venue and an exterior amphitheater. As was the case with the former civic center, city officials say they expect most weekends to be booked months or perhaps years in advance. Reservations, in fact, are already being accepted. The 4,700-square-foot Grand Ballroom will hold up to 250 seated banquet style, while the 2,200-square-foot Rooftop Terrace overlooking Lake Mendsen will comfortably hold 150 guests for outdoor events. The Tiedtke Amphitheater, which
The Winter Park Library and Events Center, slated for completion in December 2020, is already accepting reservations for weddings and receptions. The events center space will total 13,000 square feet.
seats 250 on its lakefront stage, will also be an ideal location for wedding ceremonies and receptions. Adjacent to the amphitheater is the Belvedere, a 5,100-square-foot raised area that can hold 200 guests. The area may be tented and features a beautifully landscaped circular zone with uplighting. Naturally, the complex features several well-
appointed dressing rooms and a catering kitchen. So, there you have it. Now that we’ve laid out the options, contact any of these venues or visit their websites for rates and restrictions. First, of course, try to ensure that you won’t be left standing at the altar when the time comes. Aside from the embarrassment, some deposits are not refundable. n
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The Winter Park Center for Health & Wellbeing — a 79,000-square-foot, $42 million facility created through a partnership between the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) and AdventHealth Winter Park — opened in 2019 on 4.2 acres near Ward Park and Showalter Field, where the original Peggy & Philip B. Crosby Wellness Center opened in 1989 and operated until 2017.
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ncluded in the myriad lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is surely one that revolves around place: Where we spend our time can have an extraordinary effect on overall wellbeing. It stands to reason, then, that a center designed to promote health and wellbeing would enlist an architectural team well-acquainted with the spacehealth connection.
For more than 40 years, architect Turan Duda, 66, has infused his projects with passion, purpose and thoughtful design. The former Yale University professor trained under and spent 15 years working with famed architect César Pelli, world-renowned for skyscrapers such as the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and the World Financial Center in New York City. In 1997, Duda returned to his hometown of Durham, North Carolina, to launch Duda | Paine with his Pelli colleague, Jeffrey Paine. Together, they’ve created an impressive portfolio of projects, including Duke Integrative Medicine at Duke University; the Emory University Campus Life Center in Atlanta and now the Center for Health & Wellbeing (CHWB) in Winter Park. The 79,000-square-foot, $42 million facility — created through a part-
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nership between the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) and AdventHealth Winter Park — opened in 2019 on 4.2 acres near Ward Park and Showalter Field, where the original Peggy & Philip B. Crosby Wellness Center opened in 1989 and operated until 2017.
LOCATION FOR INSPIRATION WPHF and AdventHealth — whose core principles about the nature of whole-person health are in hale and hearty alignment — say the joint project appears to be unique in the U.S. It seamlessly combines health-related disciplines in one state-of-the-art facility where the only goal is to improve the community’s quality of life. “When we first started dreaming of one center that could cater to a person’s entire journey through wellbeing, we began looking around the country for inspiration,” says WPHF president and CEO Patty Maddox. “We struggled to find one location that did it all.” But representatives were wowed by Duda | Paine’s earlier design of the Duke Integrative Medicine complex, says Maddox. The group had visited other wellness-oriented centers where the programs were interesting but the facilities — not so much. The Duke building, however, exuded warmth and serenity, partly through its use of wood, stone and plants. “We had the same response — the building was speaking to us,” recalls Maddox, who was surprised to find that the architect was headquartered in Durham. “We all felt this calming influence.” “We combine different aspects of life here — wholeness, fitness and medicine,” Duda says. “But they need to be connected through a central community space. If you make the space comfortable, warm and inviting, it draws people and becomes an integral part of their everyday lives.”
At the light-filled heart of the Center for Health & Wellbeing is The Commons (facing page), which features inviting sofas and circular tables designed to inspire community members to pause and enjoy social time. The upper reaches of The Commons boasts an indoor walking track open to the public. Circling the perimeter of the site is a walking and jogging trail (above), while inside is The Elinor and T.W. Miller, Jr. Community Conference Center (right), which consists of two adjoining meeting rooms that can be combined to accommodate 250 people.
That space at the CHWB is The Commons, the light-filled, two-story heart of the center. Flanking The Commons on the first floor is The Elinor and T.W. Miller, Jr. Community Conference Center — two adjoining meeting rooms that can be combined to accommodate 250 people. The Commons also features inviting sofas and circular tables, all designed to inspire community members to pause and enjoy social time. On any given morning, you can find groups of friends playing cards, mahjong or even putting together a puzzle. “People are the life of any building,” Duda says. “If people are avoiding my building, I’ve failed. This is not some abstract notion of what architecture should be for academics. I want people to see and enjoy and live in this building.”
MEET ME AT THE PIAZZA Duda, who draws inspiration from his travels, says The Commons was inspired by a ubiquitous feature of Italian towns — the piazza. “It’s where life happens,” he notes. “If you’ve watched Fellini movies, he filmed a lot of his scenes in piazzas. It’s a theater of life, and the show is watching other people.” Also on the CHWB’s first floor is Nourish Coffee Bar + Kitchen and its adjoining Nutrition Theater as well as clinical offices. A nearby space dubbed the Healthy Living Experience features an exhibition area with interactive displays of new personal medical technology. The Wellbeing Network — WPHF’s partnership with the PBS series Growing Bolder — has a studio within the Healthy Living Experience. There, educational and inspirational videos related to the center’s Seven Dimensions of Wellbeing (physical, intellectual, environmental, vocational, social, emotional and spiritual) are shot and disseminated online.
Members of the Peggy & Philip B. Crosby Wellness Center can drop their youngsters off at the Kids’ Corner before seeing a clinician, attending a lecture or working out. (Nonmembers can make a reservation to use the Kids’ Corner.) The 30,781-square-foot Crosby Center — which spans two floors and has a first-floor entrance — is operated by Chicago-based Power Wellness, which runs 14 facilities around the U.S. that are certified by the Medical Fitness Association. The Crosby Center is expected to earn its MFA certification following assessment at the end of summer. On the Crosby Center’s ground floor are two pools — one for swimming laps, the other with warmer water for “aquacise” classes and physical therapy. There are also men’s and women’s locker rooms, each with saunas. A bonus feature on this level is the Kids’ Corner, a space where, for an additional fee, children from ages 6 to 12 can spend up to two hours particiLI VI N G IN WIN T ER PA RK
The 30,781-square-foot Peggy and Philip B. Crosby Wellness Center spans two floors and has a first-floor entrance. It’s operated by Chicago-based Power Wellness, which runs 14 facilities around the U.S.
pating in a youth-focused wellness curriculum while their parents or guardians work out. Upstairs is the Crosby Center’s fitness floor, with a fitness studio for cycling and other high-intensity exercise programs. There’s also a mind-body studio for group classes, the latest Precor and Life Fitness cardio machines and, for traditionalists, tried-and-true free weights. Elsewhere on the second floor are more clinical offices and, around the upper reaches of The Commons, an indoor walking track open to the public (12.5 laps equal one mile). Outdoors, circling the perimeter of the site, are multiple gardens around which loops a walking trail (2.5 laps equals one mile). There’s free parking in a five-level garage.
YOUR WELLNESS JOURNEY Obviously, the CHWB is a busy place — and figuring out how to take full advantage of its services might seem a bit overwhelming. That’s why WPHF has stationed “wellbeing guides” in first-floor offices close to the welcome desk. The guides, based on feedback received through brief assessments, help visitors identify and meet their wellbeing goals. Physicians also steer patients toward one or more of the center’s services as part of overall treatment plans. At a single location, then, you can visit a physician, receive laboratory tests, fill a prescription at a retail pharmacy, go to a rehab session while
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recovering from an injury or learn to implement lifestyle modifications that can help prevent medical issues as you grow older. As our recent social isolation experiment has taught us, humans are hardwired to connect to one another. We crave interactions and experiences with our fellow humans. Technology has distanced us in many ways, whether it’s hiding in our phones while sitting in public or relying upon a text instead of a call to a loved one. Duda says creating a warm and nurturing place for people to interact drives his passion for carving out such spaces: “My 107-year-old uncle once said to me, ‘At my age, the most valuable thing you can give me is your time.’ The older I get, the more I understand and appreciate what that means. Today, when we’re booking every five minutes of our lives on our iPhones, to stop and pause and give your time to somebody, sitting in a café, sitting on a terrace ….” Duda trails off, then continues: “Well, if I can create places for people to have that human connection, one on one — to me, that’s success. If I cause people to think differently about their lives, to be grateful for what they have, to be grateful for another human being, then the architecture has really been successful.” Duda is also inspired by the natural world and always seeks ways to bring the great outdoors inside. At the CHWB, that includes an undulating wood
On the Crosby Center’s ground floor are two pools — one for swimming laps, the other with warmer water for “aquacise” classes and physical therapy. There are also men’s and women’s locker rooms, each with saunas.
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Nourish Coffee Bar + Kitchen features healthy and delicious food using locally sourced produce and sustainable South American coffee products. Start your day with an energizing breakfast sandwich or power-packing smoothie, and enjoy a comforting panini or a bowl of hearty soup for lunch.
ceiling that evokes the idea of movement and takes advantage of the shifting sun, creating different moods depending on the time of day. A half-dozen gardens surrounding the building have various purposes — one for contemplation, for example, and another for aroma. In the pool area, wall tiles mimic ocean waves and the ceiling overhead twinkles with light in the patterns of constellations. Duda and his team are passionate about features like this — but what if the average person misses the connections that inspired their design? “As architects, we talk about what is called a ‘haptic sense,’” he says. “These are things that your body senses in a very intuitive way even if you don’t physically see them. It’s intrinsic to how we use buildings. It’s about a sensation that’s not overt. It’s subtle, it’s in the background; but whether you realize it or not, you’re aware of it.” Duda sees his architectural designs as a marriage between art and function. He’s inspired to view his projects as works of art that offer something new (and perhaps unexpected) each time you visit. “That aspect of discovery is what makes the experience of a building rich,” Duda says. “I know as an architect I’m raising the bar really high. But when our visitors walk into these buildings, I want to spark curiosity and inspiration.” He adds: “If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, you won’t last. You’ll either be disgruntled, angry or bitter. Or, you’ll be enlightened and have
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joy for what you do. And, believe me, that will come out in the work.” Already, there are ripple effects on property adjacent to the CHWB. City-owned Ward Park has gotten an upgrade, thanks in part to a $25,000 WPHF grant. An unused corner of the 66-acre, sports-focused park boasts a new trail as well as a lawn for croquet and bocce ball. “Projects like the Center for Health & Wellbeing help make us a worldclass city,” says City Manager Randy Knight, noting that health is specifically referenced in the city’s vision statement: “Winter Park is the city of arts and culture, cherishing its traditional scale and charm while building a healthy and sustainable future for all generations.” For more information about the Center for Health & Wellbeing, visit yourhealthandwellbeing.org. For more information about the Peggy & Philip B. Crosby Wellness center, call 407-644-3606 or visit crosbywellnesscenter.org. n Jackie Carlin is Growing Bolder’s executive vice president-editorial. Growing Bolder and the Winter Park Health Foundation are partners on the Wellbeing Network, a digital destination for curated health and wellbeing content providing tools, resources and inspiration to people in all stages of their lives and wellbeing journeys. The Wellbeing Network is headquartered at the Center for Health & Wellbeing.
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oth AdventHealth Winter Park (which was founded as Winter Park Memorial Hospital) and the Winter Park Health Foundation can trace their respective genealogies to 1951, when a group of community leaders, frustrated at having to drive to Orlando for care, bought 15 acres on what had been the golf course of the long-defunct Aloma Country Club. The group, known as the Winter Park Memorial Hospital Association, raised more than $850,000 from 2,500 individual donors. Ground was broken in 1953, and the hospital — serving a city of about 12,000 residents — opened its doors in 1955 with 58 beds, two operating rooms, a fracture room and a delivery room. During its first year, the “hospital with a heart” served 2,000 patients and delivered 200 babies. (In 2020, there were 72,384 outpatient visits and 3,219 babies delivered.) For nearly 40 years, Winter Park Memorial was owned and operated by the association. In 1994, however, a partnership agreement was formed with Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation, which assumed management responsibility for the fast-growing hospital. The association was then re-formed as the private Winter Park Health Foundation. The foundation, with Patty Maddox at the helm, initially focused on operating the original Peggy & Philip B. Crosby Wellness Center and opening the nearby Elinor & T. William Miller, Jr. Center for Older Adult Services, a day-services facility for adults with disabilities or dementia-related disorders.
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PHOTOS COURTESY OF ADVENTHEALTH WINTER PARK
STILL THE HOSPITAL WITH HEART B
In 2000, when Adventist Health System — now AdventHealth — bought the hospital, the foundation sold its remaining interest and shifted its focus to making Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville — with a combined population of more than 60,000 — happier and healthier places. Toward that goal, the foundation quietly funded numerous community health programs — from fighting diabetes to placing nurses and counselors in public schools — through grants and partnerships. The foundation has invested about $100 million in such efforts since it began operating independently, according to Maddox, and in partnership with AdventHealth Winter Park opened the adjacent Center for Health & Wellbeing in 2019. In the meantime, the hospital grew along with the city, which today has more than 30,000 residents within its corporate limits. In addition to Winter Park, the burgeoning facility’s primary service area includes portions of northeastern Orange County and southeastern Seminole County. In 2021, the hospital’s new and improved 27,000-square-foot emergency department opened. It’s easy to spot with 15-foot-tall letters — a bright red E artistically balanced atop a bright red R — adorning Lakemont Avenue near the entryway. The ER installation is one of two designed by renowned artist Jefrë, best known locally for his pieces in the Lake Nona Town Center called The Beacon and Code Wall. AdventHealth also commissioned a gleaming silver halo for its signature gateway near the corner of Lakemont and Aloma avenues. The 20-foot-tall sculpture, made of mirrored stainless steel, is engraved with scripture from the Book of Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD. They are plans for good … to give you a future and a hope.” Features of the new ER include 29 private rooms — no more “curtain pulls” between patients — two trauma/bariatric rooms, an ambulance entrance that’s separate from the public walk-in entrance, and state-of-the-art imaging and testing capabilities. A separate pediatric waiting area and pediatric-friendly rooms are designed to make the experience more welcoming and comfortable for young patients. “We’re very excited about the brand-new opening of our emergency department,” says Justin Birmele, CEO of AdventHealth Winter Park.
Among recent projects at AdventHealth Winter Park has been a gleaming silver halo (above) for its signature gateway near the corner of Lakemont and Aloma avenues by renowned artist Jefrë. The hospital has also completed the Nicholson Pavilion (right), an $85 million, 160,000-squarefoot facility that added another 140 private patient rooms as well as a new surgical waiting room and a renovated hospital entrance (top) on Edinburgh Drive.
“This new ER will basically expand on our commitment and brand promise to world-class, whole-person care when people need us the most.” With about 30,000 annual patient visits, the expansion is meant to ensure that, for those who find themselves on the receiving end of ER services, visits are as comfortable and seamless as possible. The upgrades were funded by generous community support through the AdventHealth Foundation Central Florida. A time capsule filled with contemporary news reports as well as memorabilia contributed by the hospital and ER teams has replaced the 1950s capsule that was found in the hospital’s legacy walls just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The emergency room expansion is just the latest in ongoing proj-
ects that reflect the hospital’s momentum. Its largest expansion was in 2019 with the opening of the Nicholson Pavilion, an $85 million, 160,000-square-foot facility that added another 140 private patient rooms as well as a new surgical waiting room and hospital entrance on Edinburgh Drive. The AdventHealth Orthopedic Institute is also located in the new building, along with inpatient rehabilitation services and dedicated programs for stroke, brain injury, spinal cord health and neurology. Says Brimele: “It’s always been a main goal and focus to deliver state-of-the-art care to our community.” n LI VI N G I N WIN T ER PA RK
WELCOME TO WINTER PARK Index to Chamber Members Index to Chamber Members Apparel Media Bebe's & Liz's
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1 311 S Park Ave 1 Winter Park Publishing 2 Berri Lynn's 326 N Park Ave Company, LLC 311 S Park Ave 1 Winter Park Publishing 3 Charyli 400 S Park201 AveW Canton Ave 326 N Park Ave Company, LLC Museums & Culture 4 Current 128 S Park Ave 400 S Park Ave 5 Dear Jane Museums & Culture329 N Park Ave 128 S Park Ave 1 Albin Polasek Museum & 6 Forema 329 N Park Ave Sculpture Gardens 1 Boutique Albin Polasek Museum & 300 N Park Ave 7 John CraigSculpture Clothier Gardens 132 S Park633 AveOsceola Ave 2 Axiom Fine Art 300 N Park Ave 8 Leonardo Avenue 121 E Welbourne Ave England3AveBach Festival Society of Winter Park 132 S Park Ave 2 5th Axiom Fine Art 268 W New 9 Lilly Pulitzer 114 Park N Park231 AveN Interlachen Ave 121 E Welbourne Ave 4 Morse Museum of American Art 3 Bach Festival Society of Winter 10 Lucky Brand JeansMuseum of American323 AveN Park Ave 114 N Park Ave 5 Ocean Blue Galleries 4 Morse ArtS Park445 11 Monkee’s Winter Park 444 W New England 323 S Park Ave 6 Passport Pop Up Gallery 5 of Ocean Blue Galleries 202 N ParkAve Ave 444 W New England Ave 7 Scenic Boat Tour 6 Passport Pop Up Gallery Suite 115 307 S Park Ave 12 Sara Campbell Ltd 346 N Park Ave Suite 115 7 Scenic Boat Tour 312 E Morse Blvd 8 The Winter Park Playhouse 13 Siegel's Park Park Playhouse 330 S Park711 AveN Orange Ave 9 Winter Park History Museum 346 N Park Ave 8 Winter The Winter 14 Synergy 202 S Park200 AveW New England Ave 330 S Park Ave 9 Winter Park History Museum 15 The Grove 341 N Pennsylvania Ave Real Estate 202 S Park Ave 16 The Impeccable 337 S Park Ave 341 N Pennsylvania Ave RealPig Estate 1 Beyond Commercial * 17 Tugboat and The Bird 318 N Park Ave 337 S Park Ave 2 C Brenner Inc 1 Beyond Commercial * 175 Lookout Pl 18 Tuni 301 S Park Ave 318 N Park Ave 3 Fannie Hillman & Associates 2 C Brenner Inc 3586 Aloma Ave 19 Zingara Souls 208 N Park Ave 301 S Park Ave 4 Fannie Hillman + Associates 3 Fannie Hillman & Associates 122 S Park Ave 208 N Park Ave 4 Fannie Hillman + Associates 205 W Fairbanks Ave5 Keller Williams Winter Park Brewery 5 Keller Williams Winter Park 147 W Lyman Ave 6 Kelly Price & Company 1 The Winter ParkPrice Distillery 1288 N Orange 7 Owens Realty Services * 6 Kelly & Company 243 WAve Park Ave 1288 N Orange Ave 8 Palmano Group Real Estate 7 Owens Realty Services * 1646 33rd St Business Services Brokerage 8 Palmano Group Real Estate 1 BKHM CPAs 1560 N Orange Brokerage 444 WAve New England9AvePremier Sotheby's International Realty Farmers Insurance 225 W Canton Ave Premier Sotheby's International 1560 N Orange Ave 2 Felder9Agency 114 S Park233 AveW Park Ave Realty 225 W Canton Ave 3 Frog Religious 4 Larissa Humiston, LCSW 1414 Gay Rd 114 S Park Ave Religious 5 Leading Edge Title 243 W Park Ave 1414 Gay Rd 1 All Saints Church of Winter Park 6 Moss, 1Krusick and Associates, YorkE Ave 243 W Park Ave All Saints Church of LLC Winter 501 ParkS New338 Lyman Ave 2 San Pedro Spiritual Development Stump, 501 S New York Ave7 Swann,2 Hadley, Center * San Pedro Spiritual Development Dietrich & Center Spears * 200 E New2400 England DikeAve Rd Shoes 200 E New England Ave
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Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens Axiom Fine Art Bach Festival Society of Winter Park Morse Museum of American Art Ocean Blue Galleries Passport Pop Up Gallery Scenic Boat Tour The Winter Park Playhouse Winter Park History Museum
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ex to Chamber Members
LET’S MARK OUR CALENDARS
At Dinner on the Avenue, friends, families, co-workers and neighbors organize groups and decorate tables based upon themes of their choosing. The next installment of the annual event is slated for April 2, 2022.
The events listed below are ones scheduled as of press time. However, because of continued uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we highly recommend checking the appropriate websites for the most up-todate information as there’s always the possibility that events may be canceled or altered due to public health considerations.
WINTER PARK AUTUMN ART FESTIVAL OCTOBER 9–10, 2021 Central Park, Park Avenue The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce brings this community-oriented outdoor festival to the City of Culture and Heritage in the fall. The two-day juried fine art show, which draws more than 40,000 people, features work exclusively by Florida-based artists as well as live entertainment and food. Children’s art workshops are also offered. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. both days. The dates have already been set for 2022: October 15 and 16. Free. 407-644-8281. autumnartfestival.org
WINTER PARK PAINT OUT OCTOBER 10–16, 2021 Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens Although the Paint Out was canceled in April 2020 due to the pandemic, it’ll be back in October 2021 for its lucky 13th in-
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carnation. The Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, formerly the home and studio of the late sculptor Albin Polasek, will host 24 professionally acclaimed plein air artists, who roam the city to capture favorite landscapes and landmarks with oils, watercolors and pastels. The complex, at 633 Osceola Avenue, is open to the public free of charge during the event. As always, newly finished paintings will be hung in the gallery’s “wet room” and will be available for purchase. Artwork will also be viewable online as it is created at winterparkpaintout.org. 407-6476294. polasek.org
leaded-glass windows in Central Park. The outdoor exhibition of back-lit masterpieces is accompanied by performances from the Bach Festival Choir, Youth Choir and Brass Ensemble. The tradition was started by Hugh and Jeannette McKean, the museum’s founders and benefactors, to display their beloved Tiffany treasures in an informal and accessible setting. The event, which usually runs from 6:15–8 p.m. on the Central Park stage, is free. morsemuseum.org
HOLIDAY POPS CONCERT DECEMBER 2021 (DATE TBA) Central Park, Park Avenue Bring a blanket and a picnic basket and get ready for an Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra program of holiday favorites that will be certain to put everyone in a happy and hopeful seasonal frame of mind. Free. cityofwinterpark.org/events
43RD ANNUAL CHRISTMAS IN THE PARK DECEMBER 2, 2021 Central Park, Park Avenue Since 1979, the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art has helped launch the holiday season in Winter Park with a breathtaking display of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s
WINTER ON THE AVENUE, FEATURING HOLIDAY TREE LIGHTING DECEMBER 3, 2021 Central Park, Park Avenue The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and the City of Winter Park host a holiday season kickoff, presented this year by
Westminster Winter Park. The street party includes a flurry of activities from 5-9 p.m. along Park Avenue and in Central Park. The annual tree-lighting ceremony at dusk includes performances by children’s choirs as well as activities for youngsters. The date has already been set for 2022: December 2. cityofwinterpark.org
YE OLDE HOMETOWN CHRISTMAS PARADE DECEMBER 4, 2021 Park Avenue, from Canton to New England to Pennsylvania avenues The city’s annual Christmas Parade has been held on the first Saturday in December for more than six decades, making it the longest-running parade in Central Florida. More than 100 units march south down Park Avenue between 9-10:30 a.m.; highlights include local dance troupes, police and fire departments, marching bands, Scout troops, local dignitaries and, of course, Santa Claus (the real one). Before and during the parade, Leadership Winter Park hosts its annual Pancake Breakfast at the Central Park stage from 7-10:30 a.m. Proceeds from the breakfast benefit the Winter Park Improvement Foundation. The date has already been set for 2022: December 2. winterpark.org
SIP, SHOP AND STROLL DECEMBER 9, 2021 Park Avenue Spend the evening strolling through downtown Winter Park, visiting shops and restaurants. Brought to you by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and the Park Avenue Merchants Association, the annual event gives visitors the opportunity to check out merchant offerings and sample seasonal menu items, enjoying wine and hors d’oeuvres along the way, 5–8 p.m. winterpark.org
between New England and Canton avenues during the festival.) Free. Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. wpsaf.org
ADVENTHEALTH WINTER PARK ROAD RACE MARCH 12, 2022 Central Park, 251 North Park Avenue The AdventHealth Winter Park Road Race is a local tradition and the grand finale each year of the region’s Track Shack Running Series. In addition to the 10K main event, it offers a 2-mile race and a kids’ run so the whole family can participate. The 6.2-mile route features slight inclines, tree-lined streets, historic homes and views of the Winter Park Chain of Lakes as it passes through several of the city’s beautiful neighborhoods. Race details, including start times, were still being decided at press time. Check back at trackshack.com.
TASTE OF WINTER PARK MARCH 23, 2022 Winter Park Farmers’ Market, 200 West New England Avenue This foodie festival, organized by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, showcases more than 40 of the region’s top chefs, bakers, caterers and confectioners. Admission to the event, which runs from 5–8 p.m., includes unlimited samples of signature dishes, beverages and desserts as well as live entertainment and raffle prizes. 407644-8281. winterpark.org.
EARTH DAY IN THE PARK APRIL 2022 (DATE TBA) Central Park, Park Avenue This city-sponsored event, presented by its Sustainability Program and Keep Winter Park Beautiful Program, includes interactive, educational and entertaining activities for all ages, including live music, yoga classes, an electric vehicle display and booths manned by environmental advocacy groups. Residents and visitors are encouraged to carpool or bike/walk to the event. 407-599-3364. cityofwinterpark.org/earthday
DINNER ON THE AVENUE
WINTER PARK SIDEWALK ART FESTIVAL MARCH 18–20, 2022 Central Park, Park Avenue This annual, nationally ranked juried arts fest features some 200 artists chosen by a panel of judges from more than 1,100 applicants. The three-day outdoor event also features live music and children’s activities. (Pets are not allowed in the park or along the avenue
placed throughout Central Park. Anyone who comes up empty-handed can still enjoy special treats distributed at a designated candy area. Children with special needs are encouraged to join in the fun. 9:30–11 a.m., with the hunt starting promptly at 10 a.m. Free. cityofwinterpark.org/events
APRIL 2, 2022 Park Avenue between New England Avenue and Morse Boulevard Each year the city shuts down a stretch of Park Avenue for the evening so that cars can be replaced by tables and white linen for a unique, fun-filled dining experience and social event from 6–10 p.m. Friends, families, co-workers and neighbors organize groups, decorate tables based upon themes of their choosing, then sit down to potluck or catered dinners. cityofwinterpark.org/events
WINTER PARK PAINT OUT APRIL 24–30, 2022 Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, formerly the home and studio of the late sculptor Albin Polasek, hosts professionally acclaimed plein air artists, who roam the city to capture favorite landscapes and landmarks with oils, watercolors and pastels. The complex, at 633 Osceola Avenue, is open to the public free of charge during the event. As always, newly finished paintings are hung in the gallery’s “wet room” and may be purchased on the spot. 407-6476294. polasek.org.
OLDE FASHIONED 4TH OF JULY CELEBRATION JULY 4, 2022 Central Park, Park Avenue and Morse Boulevard Central Park is the site of this annual Independence Day celebration, with patriotic music performed by the Bach Festival Brass Band and Bach Festival Choir. There’s also a sunrise 5K run as well as other musical performances and an annual bicycle parade for children. Watermelon and water are served. Also, during the celebration admission is free to the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art and the Winter Park History Museum (hours may vary). cityofwinterpark.org/events
EASTER EGG HUNT APRIL 16, 2022 Central Park, Park Avenue This city-organized event is BYOB (Bring Your Own Basket). Children up to age 10 may hunt for the more than 10,000 eggs LI VI N G I N WIN T ER PA RK
ENDURING AND ENDEARING
sk me to name my favorite Park Avenue establishment and ordinarily I’d nominate the Morse Museum, for the stained glass, or the Briar Patch, for the California Benedict. These days I’d have to go with Simmons Jewelers, for the girls on the runway. By girls I mean Bling, a fluffy Pomeranian, and Chiwa, a fashion-forward Chihuahua. By runway I mean the display cases at the avenue’s oldest shop, where at any given moment you might find Bling and Chiwa promenading, their polished nails ticking delicately against the glass. “The tourists especially ask to see them,” says co-owner Robin Simmons. “They’re working girls. They love the attention.” I’m no stage-door Johnny, and my taste in dogs historically runs to Huskies, pit bulls and mutts. But over the past year and a half, I’ve been worried enough about the avenue to find the sight of scale-model pets strolling above Rolex watches and expensive jewelry reassuring. Nothing like a couple of mascots to boost your morale. Walk the length of Winter Park’s signature commercial boulevard these days and you’ll pass 11 vacant storefronts. Pandemic casualties range from a fun, true-to-its-name toy store called “Lighten Up!” to the progressive-cuisine emporium Luma on Park. But the majority of the 140 merchants in the downtown district used a combination of ingenuity, inventiveness, savings accounts, PPP loans and a lucky break or two to survive. “I became the book fairy,” says Lauren Zimmerman, owner of Writers Block Bookstore. For the benefit of bibliophiles hesitant to visit the shop, she began delivering books as well as puzzles — the latter a hot item among cabin-fever victims. Meanwhile Zimmerman and her staff were beefing up the shop’s website for easier e-commerce. Some boutique owners opened after hours so customers could shop solo. Lisa West, owner of Charyli (the name is an amalgam of her four children’s first names) got into the delivery business, too, and did a healthy swimsuit trade thanks to homebound customers using the opportunity to work on their tans. Like several other merchants up and down the avenue, Kevin and Jami Ray, co-owners of Peterbrooke Chocolatier, took pride in getting through the pandemic without having to lay off staff — a feat they
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managed with an assist from the National Basketball Association. The shop got a boost when the NBA needed help stocking welcome baskets for players and staffers after creating the “NBA Bubble” at Walt Disney World — a self-imposed quarantine zone to gather and protect its athletes and try to salvage a single-site 2019-20 season. Another stroke of luck, perhaps the most important one: A year before the pandemic, a group of small-business owners had formed the Park Avenue District as a think tank and lobbying group. “Little did we know how much we were going to need each other,” says Sarah Grafton, a savvy and engaging financial advisor whose idea it was. “We had some members who were really in a tough spot.” The presence of the group enhanced a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie that was epitomized, despite dour headlines and pervasive angst, by a moment that took place out of sight, in an airy alcove just off the avenue called The Hidden Garden. It happened just outside The Ancient Olive, a gourmet outpost filled with hard-to-find olive oils and vinegars. Its owners, Jeffrey Schrader and Bryan Behling, were talking to one of the merchants at the Farmers’ Market, located a block away, which was closed for two months in the early phase of the pandemic. “They were saying they’d just have to take everything back to the farm and plow it under,” says Schrader. “So, we arranged to have them set up their tables outside our store.” Hearing the tale that day, a customer who wishes to remain anonymous bought all the produce — to the tune of $5,000 — and donated it to a retirement home. Park Avenue is a place where that kind of magic can happen. When you say it’s in the heart of Winter Park, there’s no need to point out the double meaning. It’s our avenue, meant to be celebrated, especially now. On one of my recent visits, as I headed toward the avenue from the direction of the train station, I saw a little girl who must have been about 9 years old. She was jumping up and down and clapping her hands for the joy of having spotted SunRail cars approaching. I said to myself: That’s the spirit. n —Michael McLeod
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