Winter Garden , FL January 2021

Page 30

LOCAL LIMELIGHT

W IN T E R GAR DEN’ S RA RELY TOLD HISTORY AUSTIN ARTHUR SITS DOWN WITH WINTER GARDEN HISTORIAN, JIM CRESCITELLI YOU'RE AN IMPORTANT PERSON FOR WINTER

THAT IS STILL OPERATING. CAN YOU TELL US

GARDEN’S PRESERVATION. WOULD YOU TELL US

ABOUT THIS?

HOW YOU GOT INVOLVED WITH THIS ADVENTURE?

Yes, in 1927 they built the Edgewater hotel to accom-

I finished college in 1978 and was attracted to Florida. I

modate tourists coming to Lake Apopka, which was the

came to Winter Park and explored. I was very curious about

Largemouth Bass Capital of the World at the time. The hotel

the area outside of Park Avenue, Disney, and Downtown

had fish gutting sinks where you could clean your catch,

Orlando. People would say, “You really don't want to go to

then hand it to the cook to prepare for your dinner! That was

West Orange County. It's very rural. They're different peo-

the first project of the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation

ple.” I said, “Well, now you've given me reason to get in the

actually, to keep the Edgewater from being demolished. You

car and go exploring…” and I did. It led to a fascination with

can now stay in the Edgewater, it’s a bed and breakfast.

the history of West Orange County. WINTER GARDEN HAS A RICH HISTORY BUT THERE HOW DID WINTER GARDEN GET ITS NAME? Farmers came here after the Three Seminole Wars,

WERE PERIODS WHERE IT WASN'T THAT WAY, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT?

mainly from the Deep South in the mid-1800s. It wasn't

It's really a story of resurrection and renaissance, after

until the two railroad lines finally came through by 1899

the freezes of the 1980’s, nothing much was happening

that downtown Winter Garden formed along Plant Street.

here. But people said, you know, this is our hometown.

There are stories of train workers spitting tomato seeds

It should be alive. So in the early 1990’s they applied for

into the soil. When they returned a few weeks later, there

grants with the Main Street Program. They did improve-

were tomato plants! They would send postcards to their

ments downtown and some festivals. By 1994 the West

families telling them it's beautiful and not cold in the win-

Orange Trail came through and almost at once, tens of

ter. They wrote, “You can have a garden in the winter!”

thousands of people started biking through. By 2003,

Yeah, Winter Garden. We were a whole working commu-

they had landscaped the center and placed the Winter

nity incorporated by 1908.

Garden Clock Tower and Centennial Plaza. It took a small group of people to spread the word to a larger group of

DOWNTOWN WINTER GARDEN HAS BUILDINGS

people, that this town is worth saving and investing in…

OVER 100 YEARS OLD, INCLUDING AN OLD HOTEL

and it happened.

ARTICLE AUSTIN ARTHUR

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Winter Garden Lifestyle | January 2021