West Orange County History Posts

 

The people! The history! Working out here in West Orange County is a history buff’s dream come true. Here are some pictures that we’ve run recently on the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation Facebook page.

First off, here’s our Historic Marker, which stands at Woodland and Plant streets at the eastern entrance to downtown:

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Going through the archives, we often encounter particularly striking images. Here’s a dramatic view of Lakeview High School. Alumnae, check in with your class year!

 

The history! The people!
While researching an article on Fullers Crossing, the old agricultural community northeast of Winter Garden, we unearthed a newspaper piece about Mrs. Mary Dale. Beginning in 1919, she lived on the property known locally as “Deadman’s Curve,” which is where North Fuller’s Crossroad makes an extreme right turn and becomes East Fullers Crossroad. Before the road was cut through and improved in the late 1920s, which included a wooden bridge spanning a creek, Mrs. Dale said “the only reason people drove up here was to come and see me.” Mrs. Dale is shown second from left in this gathering of ladies honoring Mrs. Phil Peters for the latter’s work at Winter Garden’s First United Methodist Church.
L to R: Margaret (Mrs. Bill Story), Mary (Mrs. Neal) Dale, Laura (Mrs. J. S.) Kirton [long-serving principal of Lakeview High School], (Charman of arrangements), Billy (Mrs. Bob) Davis, Madge (Mrs. Phil C.) Peters, Murphy (Mrs. L.W.) Tilden.

 

 
The Hawthorne Grove care barn fire occurred on August 18, 1975. The building was located off Broad Street behind the former First State Bank on South Dillard St. in Winter Garden, and was rented from H.M. Bowness of Ocoee. The Winter Garden Fire Department was assisted by the Ocoee Fire Department to help quell the flames.
Pictured are Fire Chief Jim Briggs (center) and Mike Spears (second from right). The other firefighters are not identified.

 

 

Welcome back to school from the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation!
The first schoolhouse in Winter Garden was built in the 1890s on the northwest corner of what is now Park Avenue and State Road 50, on land homesteaded by J.W.F. Bray in 1880. Consider yourselves lucky, kids: this school didn’t come with air conditioning!
By 1929, it was a private home lived in by Beulah’s Gillard family. Twenty years later it was moved to the South Tildenville neighborhood, though it no longer stands.

 

State Road 438 through Oakland was once a quiet country byway, and nowadays you might miss this Oakland gem constructed by the Orange Belt Railway company in the late 1880s. It is one of four residences still standing that were built to house company employees. The house, photographed here in 1986, exhibits many of the architectural details characteristic of the Carpenter Gothic style popular at the time. It is known historically as the “Pierson home,” named for Datus L. Pierson (1855-1914), its first owner. He was one of the founders of the South Lake Apopka Citrus Growers Association, the agricultural cooperative whose buildings still stand on Tildenville School Road at the West Orange Trail. Pierson is buried in the Oakland Cemetery, located a half mile west of the house.

 

 

The Oakland Nature Preserve

Today I had a meeting at the Oakland Nature Preserve, just west of the little town and hugging the south shore of lake Apopka; you pass it while enjoying the West Orange Trail. The entrance is just down Machete Trail past the Mosaic Community Church, a non-denominational faith community that was established here a few years ago.

There are exhibits, a library, nature trails and a boardwalk path that takes you right to the edge of the lake where you can relax after the walk.

The Friends of Lake Apopka, an advocacy group dedicated to the restoration of the lake, has a presence here at the Preserve, with exhibits and stored records. I met with a young woman named Julia,who taught me a computer program which will help me, as a volunteer,  to scan and digitize paper articles and ephemera  so that they can then be located and studied on the internet. The program is so cool– it scans an article and then automatically includes all the pertinent words in searches: you don’t have to type in keywords unless you want to include relevant words that aren’t originally found in the article. It’s similar to what I’ll also be helping with at the Heritage Museum in Winter Garden.

The Preserve is a beautiful, peaceful place,. The surrounding area is already peaceful enough, even though the Turnpike, the 408 and Highway %0 are within hailing distance. You’d never know it though– all this lush greenery soaks up any noise, and so you get to enjoy a silent and leisurely half-mile stroll down the boardwalk to the lake.

There were some of these blooming today, and a lot budding. And the foliage does resemble marijuana plants!

A bud being investigated by a red-and-white striped insect– what is that?

Here’s a view from the pier end of the boardwalk, facing toward Gourd Neck Springs:

On the Preserve property is this fish camp cabin that they brought here from near Mount Dora. There used to be a lot of fish camps around the lake, but phosphate pollution due to agricultural runoff led to fish die-offs and the end Lake Apopka’s premier fishing.  It’s slowly coming back, though– the big muck farms have been shuttered and the water is slowly purifying itself.

Have you ever noticed the exotic animals at the Briley Farm just past the church? (The Brileys are an old Oakland family.) The farm’s owners have created a place where these animals are collected and bred.

Next time you’re out on the West Orange Trail, take some time to visit the Preserve, yet another facet of fascinating West Orange County.

Exploring John’s Lake, West Orange County, Florida: Keeping Oranges Warm, Osama bin Laden’s Brother, and A Vanished Family Estate

West Highway 50 in the 80s was a dusty four-lane road that stretched from Orlando all the way out to a community called Bayport. I’m not romanticizing– it really was dusty, especially in the low areas near Winter Garden and Oakland that were so flood-prone; after the water from the four o’clock summer thunderstorms steamed off, your car the following morning would kick up clouds of sand and dirt that had washed onto the road from the surrounding groves and vegetable fields.  I used to pore over maps and photostats from the library, looking at property plats, determining what was public and what was private, just so I could go exploring in relative safety. I had to know what all those fascinating map symbols on the State Topographic maps meant: was there really a country church there along the roadside, or an ancient cemetery, or an abandoned barn? And the roads had names and varying gradations of dotted lines, covering all possibilities from “Highway with full control or access” to “primitive” and “impassable” roads. What did they mean by primitive? I had to find out, and so there I drove. “Seasonal dwellings closely spaced.” Boy, was I intrigued!

Just south of an area where they crammed hundreds of pseudo-palazzos into former orange groves that froze in the 1980s you’ll find John’s Lake. You’ll find it written in many ways– Johns Lake, Lake Johns, Lake John– but I and Google Earth agree that John’s Lake is the nicest. Before Google, we had to depend on the aforementioned maps, and road atlases that you’d find at the 7-11. My favorite was the Official Arrow Central Florida Street Map Atlas, published in 1976. Apparently based on much older maps, it lists every community that ever even thought of sprouting up in the area. Lots of old and forgotten train sidelines are listed; thinking they were tiny towns, I’d drive to, say, Neheb, Iowa City, or Kolokee, and find myself in the celery fields surrounding Sanford. You’d think a locality named Iowa City would contain a main street, a post office, and maybe a movie theatre showing Harold Lloyd movies… but no. It was all celery.

This atlas, on a two-page spread, mapped the area just south of Lake Apopka which drew me, probably because I wanted to see how close I could get to the lake. Lots of communities were shown: Killarney, Oakland, Tildenville, Winter Garden, Crown Point, Fullers, Ocoee… Gotha, Beulah. I did them all, happily taking photos of everything I saw– and so much of it is gone these past twenty-five years. I did get to see the lake, from Oakland and Magnolia Park and Winter Garden. Since the reclamation project hadn’t yet started, the air above it was cloudy and the water itself was an unhealthy-looking mucky green. It didn’t look inviting.

One area that intrigued me was something called the Williams Cemetery, situated on a peninsula that poked out into John’s Lake from its south shore. I found out that Williams Road led to it, and so I went out there. In those days you had to go south on Avalon Road from Tildenville, past the gates of the abandoned West Orange Country Club, past the Harlem Heights migrant labor camp, and then west on Marsh Road. Williams Road goes north from Marsh, just a minute east of the Lake County line. I discovered that it petered out into a dirt road marked Private, and so I hesitated to venture further. I still wanted to see how close I could get to John’s Lake, so I went a bit down another dirt road with no sign, near the Lake County border, and captured this scene:

That’s John’s Lake from a spot just a few feet north of Marsh Road.

Okay. Fast forward to last week. I was still intrigued by the Williams Cemetery out on John’s Lake. The internet is a wonderful thing and so I went to the Orange County Property Appraiser’s site, pulled up the map, and saw that the peninsula and much of the area was owned and farmed by a local citrus growing corporation. Their office is in Oakland, in the first Charles H. Tilden house. (Those Tildens keep turning up!) All I had to do was call, explain who I was, and why I wanted to go prowling on their property. And the doors opened! The gentleman I spoke said he’d have one of the grove managers call me and arrange a meeting out there, and the manager called a few minutes later and said he’d be happy to give me a tour. Just like that!

We met at 8:30 on a Thursday morning, not too hot yet, and I hopped into his four-wheel-drive all-purpose-vehicle truck as nimbly as I could without spraining anything. In a minute we were driving down Williams Road, and I relished the moment when we rumbled past the Private Everything signs. I was in!

Maps can be wrong– it wasn’t the Williams Cemetery, it was really the Eli Williamson Family Cemetery. There was once a Williamson house out here, but all that’s left is a patch of grass, the foundations of what was once the house’s garage, and the family cemetery.

The home site.

The garage site.

This huge live oak is right next to the cemetery.

My escort and I couldn’t find the  dogwood tree; we identified a couple of possibilities, but nothing was blooming… maybe next spring we’ll go back. (And there are Shupes in the Oakland Cemetery, incidentally.)

And here are some of the Williamsons:

Chase was only too happy to drive me all over the peninsula, and I received a crash course in citrus farming and management. All that strange machinery you see in orange groves? Now I know what it’s for. These prop fans keep groves relatively warm in the event of a freeze– they create an updraft which helps prevent cold air from settling down too close to the trees. Someone’s got to climb up there and oil the works once a year or so.

Here’s a row of adult-sized Tonka toys that are still used on occasion…

At one point on the peninsula, a large home across the lake was pointed out to me. I realized I was staring at the lakefront view of what was once Osama bin Laden’s brother’s compound; he bought the 1928 Mediterranean-style mansion some years ago, but was escorted out with his family on 9/11. It’s in a gated compound just south of Highway 50, and is for sale.

Only in west Orange County can you learn how to keep orange trees warm AND see Osama bin laden’s brother’s former stomping grounds. It just depends on who you know…

PhotoBike Tour 16– Oakland and West Orange County, Florida

Looking north along Florida’s Turnpike from the bridge on the West Orange Trail. This highway takes you, eventually, to Wildwood, where it meets Interstate 75. Follow 75 north and you will, after a few days, be on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula which is, for all practical purposes, Canada.

OFFSIDES!! Biking the West Orange Trail is an excursion into the past, a central Florida which hasn’t existed for over a hundred years. I don’t think most people realize the pedigree of the little towns and unincorporated communities they speed through on their bikes, skates, or even their feet. It’s great to schuss from the Lake County line east to Winter Garden, where you’ll stop to have lunch or a drink or browse the cool little shops; the direct line keeps you on the Trail, but i wonder how many people actually go offsides? I like to explore, and prowl. I see a dirt road, or a path leading through the orange groves, or a lonely side street… and there I go. I figure I’m on my bike and can make a speedy getaway if somebody starts yelling at me or chasing me, though so far that hasn’t happened in a big way. I respect private property, and seldom venture to intrude: if my curiosity gets the best of me in a potentially tender situation, I collar the nearest human and ask permission to prowl or take pictures. So far, everyone has said yes; there must be something about my face that disarms people. Or maybe they think “look at that poor idiot on his bike… let’s be nice to him.” This past Sunday I biked a good twenty miles or so in and out of Oakland and the communities of Killarney, Tildenville, and Hull island. Hull Island? Yes, Virginia, it exists for real as much as it does in your imagination… Near where the Trail crosses Deer Isle Road is the site of the Jones General Store at Killarney, an area settled in 1880. Here, a sawmill office, post office and general store were sited at various times in one building. You can still see part of the foundation.

This is the Hull Family monument, which you can see to the left of the bridge just after you cross it going east on the Trail. It says that the Hull Family has been here since 1905, which is a long time for central Florida. (The Pirates of the Caribbean ride isn’t even that old.) You are standing in the vicinity of one of the oldest orange groves in the entire state, though most of the trees are gone and you are lucky if you find some orderly rows of remnants. Hull Avenue in Oakland is named for the family.

Have you ever turned left onto Hull Island Drive while traversing the Trail? Here’s what you’ll find:

It’s a region of old groves and farms that have been worked for  generations, a real slice of Old Florida. And there’s an ashram here too– a slice of NEW Florida.

J.W. Jones Road is accessed just past the foundation of the Jones store, and you can easily bike it to the houses and three mobile home communities (Killarney Court, South Shore, and Gourdneck Village) nestled along the south shore of Lake Apopka. There’s a nice view of the lake, and a residence flying the actual flag of the Confederacy, not the battle flag we are all familiar with.

Continuing east, I paused at the rest stop just west of Oakland, and saw how the trees reaching toward the canopy reminded me of the soaring arches in a Gothic cathedral, which is where they got the idea: from observing how the trees kept themselves standing. Get off the Trail at Pollard Avenue and make a right; it’ll take you directly into the heart of the town’s African-American neighborhood. Here’s where a Masonic Temple stood up until just a few months ago on Sadler Avenue…

Here’s the non-updated image of the Masonic Temple from Google Earth:

I stopped a woman driving by and she explained that there were only a couple of old guys who still went to the Lodge, and that one had recently died, and so that was that.

There are three cemeteries in Oakland– one for white families and two for black families; it’s just the way it has always been.  (The older of the two black cemeteries is hidden in the dense growth west of town, only recently having been “discovered.”) In the white cemetery is the marker for James Gamble Speer, one of the area’s pioneer settlers. He and his family used to all be interred in the family plot on the north shore of Lake John, south of Tubb Street. When the property was sold to a developer, he removed all the headstones, piled them in a corner, and built houses atop the plots. James Gamble Speer (1821-1893) would NOT approve, and I hope he gives them all hell once in a while.

Here’s approximately where the Speer cemetery was located, south of Tubb Street; you go across the bridge that crosses over the Turnpike, and you’re at Lake Johns Circle. I walked through a belt of trees between two houses, and there was the lake. Southwest from here and across the lake is a peninsula which still does have a cemetery on it, nestled in the remaining orange grove.

The black cemetery serves as the final resting place for Samuel Pollard, for whom the street is named. And look… somebody brought him some sandwiches! I noticed a dirt track leading around the northern border of the cemetery, and so I decided to follow it, carefully. I mean, you never know what you will encounter among the trees. All sorts of possibilities entered my feverish brain, most of them ending dimly, but I was spared; I did see some piles of tires, assorted mounds of refuse, but nothing worse. I suppose people use it as a dump driving up off of Highway 50, from which you can see this cemetery. Sad. This path eventually popped me out onto Sadler Avenue, right where the Masonic Temple used to stand. I biked further east to the Vick house on Tubb Street, which used to be an Oakland schoolhouse for a time. It’s apparently the oldest home in Oakland, built as an inn in the 1860s. It became the Vick home in 1903. Beautiful and simple. A bit further east you come to Brock Street… here’s a gem of a house, perfect in its lines and aspect. It bears a resemblance to a home on Tildenville School Road South on Tildenville School Road, just north of where it crosses Oakland Avenue (438) sits this grand old house built in 1908. It was situated cater-corner of its present site until the 1990s when it was sold; the family let it go for a song and the new buyer had to move it to a new lot– thankfully minutes away, since it IS an Oakland grande dame and should therefore have been allowed to stay in the neighborhood. The present owners were on the front porch and graciously answered questions I had about the area, and then they magically invited me inside. (Do I channel Little Jimmy? Does he make an appearance and charm everyone?) I’d been in the house when it was being sold years ago– there was an estate sale then– and I remember it seeming very enclosed regarding rooms and hallways. The house is now so different– structural walls have been opened up, and everything is painted a bright white. Brick Road ends here at Tildenville School Road, a pleasant country lane that goes east to Winter Garden. (Actually, the Winter Garden city limits encompass Tildenville now). Brick Road is a remnany of Highway 22, which crossed the center of the state; Washington Street in Orlando was part of it, as was Story Road in Winter Garden– once also known as Washington Street until it was renamed for the Story family.

This home is located on Brick Road; it was built by a Willis and occupied at one time by Annie Connell, who taught at the old Oakland-Winter Garden School across the way.

Now we travel to south Tildenville, an African-American community separated from north Tildenville by Highway 50 and the Turnpike. The road becomes Avalon Road here. Just past the Turnpike overpass, on the left going south, you’ll find the entrance to the “West Orange, Country Club.” It was built in 1911 by the Mather-Smiths, a prominent Oakland family who found the existing golfing facilities in town too small– the Mather-Smiths loved to party, so they built their own country club and had a ball. All that remains is this archway. (UPDATE: See comments section regarding the existence of the Club’s guest house.)

I love the name: the O Deli.

Back in Oakland, I biked to the Presbyterian church (its third incarnation), hoping to get inside to see the preserved stained glass windows from the second church, which was a beautiful, ivy-covered brick building. It was Sunday afternoon, and services were over, and I wondered how I’d manage. Hmm. An older guy appeared after a few minutes to take down an Easter banner, and I asked about access. Well, everything was closed, services over , the building hermetically sealed, the works… and so I mentioned the stained glass and the guy said “oh yes, right through that church office door, and that’s open.” Oh. So inside I went, and there was this window… and there’s our man James Gamble Speer…

In that lobby area where this window is located, a man and his two young sons were sitting and waiting for someone; he saw me observing the window and mentioned that there was another one down a hall and in another office area. In that direction I could hear a string ensemble practicing, so I followed the sound of the sliding bow and came across a group of people playing in a room off the hall. They all stopped  and looked up as I looked in– the door was open, and their resin  ground to a halt. I was tempted to ask to join them on the flute, or perhaps the tuba, but before I could the conductor, an elegant older woman, asked if I needed help. I mentioned the second stained glass window and one of the ensemblists jumped up and offered to show me where it was. We had to go through the darkened sanctuary, where I almost stumbled into the older guy I’d encountered earlier: “I managed to find my way in here anyway,” I said, and he looked at me like I was crazy, but he did take me to the second window as the ensemblist returned to his practice… and here you see noted our friends the Tildens!

And finally, the Sadler house, built by the family who gives its name to Sadler Avenue. This was also once the house of artist Joe Burch. It receives a memorable Hallowe’en dressing each year. Right here along the road (Oakland Avenue / 438) are the Sadler oaks, planted by the family and now just as much a part of Oakland as the orange groves.

The next time you’re on the West Orange Trail, take a few detours and explore the historical offsides areas– these are sleepy parts of west Orange County that not many people get to see.

Thanks to Steve Rajtar and Eve Bacon for historical footnotes that lead me to these spots…

PhotoBike Tour 9: Biking the West Orange Trail

For Kay of the East and Kay of the West… 

I’ve always been a child who drifted. It was hard for me to stay focused and alert much of the time, as I would drift off into daydreams or fantasies while teachers and people were trying to teach or talk to me. I realize now that it was a progressive hearing loss that was affecting me– since I couldn’t actually hear what was going on around me, why should I pay attention? And I kind of got the reputation for being naive, and dopey. I sat through numberless Broadway plays and musicals, not hearing much of what was happening onstage, though it was fine meeting and hearing Gloria Swanson backstage because she was IN MY FACE. As I grew older, everything became muffled, like I was listening to the Universe through wads of cotton. When I got hearing devices a few years ago, the world opened up and I could suddenly hear a pin drop. And I could hear trucks and cars and thunder and explosions and screams and people people people all the time, everywhere, constantly. talking talking TALKING. It’s noisy out there! And, since I began hearing every word coming from people’s mouths, I realize that we really don’t have much to say to one another most of the time. Or, much of it sounds the same.

With all this new noise, I get headaches sometimes. My brain, which presumably had formed itself into completion by the time I was 21, suddenly had to deal with all the loud new stimuli which assaulted me beginning at age 50. It can’t handle it. It gets crazy sometimes, and I find myself retreating: I turn off the devices, get on the bike, and ride blissfully into the sun (keeping keen watch for traffic, of course, as well as my bad eyes can manage). Don’t misunderstand– I mean, I could always HEAR, just not very well at all. I was hearing things, but had to ask “WHAT?!?!” in order for things to be repeated.

My recent get-away-from-the-noise bike ride brought me to the West Orange Trail out in western Orange County, one of my favorite places to prowl around in. I load the bike onto the bike rack, an ingenious contraption which, so far, has served me well. It’s attached to the hatch of my red Ford Focus via a system of straps and clips and clamps, the bicycle nestled atop it securely with two plastic belts. Speeding along the 408 towards the Turnpike Extension, I admit I do worry that everything is going to go flying off the back of my car and into the windshield of a station wagon filled with lovely, delightful nuns, but so far it hasn’t happened.

Now that the 408 has been extended as far west as Killarney, a  confusing romp through the Fruit Loop (that’s where the 408, the 429, the Turnpike, and 50 all converge) most of the time deposits me onto West Colonial Drive, and then it’s just a short drive to the Trail stop in Killarney near the Lake County border. A couple of times I’ve overshot my exit and ended up further north along the Turnpike near a place called Minneola, but it’s a scenic error and not too bad.

That’s the bridge over the Turnpike. When you look below, you see cars heading towards Miami or Ocala.

Here’s part of the boardwalk through the new Oakland Nature Preserve, a wetlands adventure that brings you to the shores of storied Lake Apopka. That vast body of water (why are large bodies of water always referred to as vast?) stretches for miles in every direction, and has only in recent years been encouraged to recapture some of its former glory– polluting muck farms along its shores have been shut down and the land reclaimed by the lake.  At one time it was one of the most famous places in the country due to its excellent bass fishing.

Below is a shot of Trinity Missionary Baptist Church on Oakland’s traditionally African-American west side. It’s typical of the tens of thousands of country Baptist churches sprinkled across the Bible Belt.

Some of the Tilden resting places in the Oakland Cemetery. The Tildens were a pioneer family who arrived in Florida in 1876. This Tilden built Meadow Marsh in the community of Tildenville.

Here’s Meadow Marsh, the Luther W. Tilden house. Some years ago, when it was being renovated into a bed and breakfast, I ventured inside and asked the carpenters if I could take a few pictures. But of course! It’s no longer an inn; plans for its most recent incarnation would have it become a civic / community center for the new Oakland Park subdivision, but that project is on hold due to the economy’s collapse.

The pioneer Luther F. Tilden home on Avalon Drive in Tildenville- the second house he built on this site. There is speculation that this was a Sears pre-fab house.

The first house built by Luther F. Tilden, just north of and next to the second family homestead; this was moved so theathe big blue house could be built.

Oakland Park: streets and lampposts, but no houses in this photo… as of 2013, however, the development has been restarted. Lots of houses now.


Trees have grown up through the old railroad tracks going into Tildenville.

Just east of Oakland on 438 stands this gorgeous home, known as Oakland Arms, built by Charles H. Tilden in 1910. Its most recent resident was his granddaughter, Margaret McKinnon.

The avenue of oaks, known as the Sadler oaks,  on 438 between Oakland and Tildenville.

Down a road marked Private I merrily pedaled my bicycle, and found this picturesque old barn. I’m surprised I wasn’t beset by dogs, wild boar, or chickens, not to mention any angry locals. I think everybody was at work.

Here is the second pioneer Sadler home, built in 1906. It replaced the original 1880’s structure, which was divided into two parts and set behind this house. People did sensible things like that back then.

In beautiful downtown Oakland is this home, which– when the town was a thriving, busy railroad town featuring hotels, an opera house, and more– served to house workers for the different railway yards.This was built around 1875.

The Oakland Town Hall, right there on the bike trail.

At one time this  home (the Petris family built it) featured a sign that said “The 1879 House.” It’s on the northwest corner of Brock Street and Oakland Avenue (438).

Another dignified Oakland lady.

This home was once the dining annex for the Oakland Hotel, which was attached at the left. The hotel was built in 1910 but this house stood in 1890.

The tumble-down walls above, on Tubb Street, are all that remain of the Smith estate; they now front a new subdivision. Grace Mather Smith lived here with her husband at the turn of the twentieth century, and she was– compared to the rest of Oakland’s more sober Protestant citizens– somewhat of a hellion: she liked to give parties, dance, and play golf. There’s this story: Grace was speeding into Orlando one day for an item she needed for a party, and was stopped by the police and told she’d have to pay a speeding fine of ten dollars. She handed the officer a twenty dollar bill and said “keep the change, I’m coming back through here like hell in a few minutes!”

Grace and her husband built the West Orange Country Club south of Tildenville on Avalon Road. Up until some years ago, its labeled brick archway still stood, but it appears to be gone when I look on Google Earth. It was built to resemble Grace’s walls.

A closer look at Grace’s wall, a the side of a new house. And in the center of town near the Town Hall and post office is a small green called Grace Park, established by the Smiths near a hundred years ago.

The dock at the north end of  Tubb Street facing Lake Apopka. I had a nice chat with this guy about alligators.

These are piers which once supported a much larger dock that featured a bandshell.

Just south of the northernmost house on the east side of Tubb Street, this home’s front porch once collapsed to the ground due to overcrowding during  a boisterous party. Don’t you wish you could have been there? The Manhattans must have been REALLY good.

An orange grove in the center of Oakland.

Centennial Plaza in downtown Winter Garden. The trail goes right through the heart of this cool little town to the east of Tildenville.

Downtown Winter Garden.

Monolithic First Baptist.

Down one of the side streets in Winter Garden. I could live in this little apartment house!

City Hall in Winter Garden– a deco dream.


This beautiful little gem rests in downtown Winter Garden, right off the trail. many people would see this and think termites,mold, mildew, too many cats, and hornets. I look at it and dream of built-in bookshelves, enamel topped kitchen tables, rose gardens, and writing on the back porch. And cocktails in the evening light.

The Winter Garden Heritage Museum.

The east side of the bridge over the Turnpike, heading back to the Lake County line.

I’m writing this on Thursday. Tomorrow I have an appointment with historians in Winter Garden so that I can show them my photographs of the area that I’ve been taking since the 1980’s; a history of Oakland is being compiled and I’m beside myself with interest. I was originally going to drive to the outpost on the Lake line and then bicycle to my meeting, but my scrapbooks are sort of heavy and when I jam them into my basket for a test run, suddenly I’m off balance and wobbling into traffic. What I’ll do is drive to the trail post in Winter Garden– ah HA!– have my meeting, leave my books with the ladies, and then ride the bike for a couple of hours. There are some things I’ve missed, and I want to have a little lunch as well. And then Saturday is the Oakland Heritage Festival; there are going to be some history displays and guided tours of town and I hope that I won’t speak out of turn.

It’s kinda quiet and peaceful back here in the nineteenth century… !  Let me know if any of you ever want to take an escorted bicycle tour of the area with me.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FROM Saturday, October 30, Oakland Heritage Festival

The town featured a pleasant little crafts / antiques fair, and offered driven tours through  town, and a pontoon boat ride on lake Apopka. We opted for the latter, as I’d never been on Lake Apopka, and it was time. They took us west over to Gourd Neck Springs, which were partially covered by a floating island of trees and debris blown into a clump during one of the 2005 hurricanes. The ride was great– knowledgeable environmentalist guides give you updates on the restoration of the lake (one had a charming Irish brogue), and it’s evident how passionate they are about their work. If you get a chance, and are experienced, see if you can arrange to rent a boat, and go out there.

Heading west on Lake Apopka

At Gourd Neck Springs, on the southwest side of the lake.

Here you can see part of the floating island of natural hurricane debris. We are right over the spring at this point; it’s almost 40 feet below.

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