The Land Around Us: Winter Park

By Louise Caccamise
Photographs by Bob Dunham

This month we are going to leave Volusia County and visit Winter Park in Orange County. While it is a little further away than the other towns in our series, it is easily reached via SunRail. Parking is available at the train station in DeBary.

Winter Park train station

The location dates to 1858 when first settlers David Mizell, Jr. and his family came. Their settlement became known as Lakeview. In 1870, it was re-named Osceola and a post office and grocery opened in the home of Colonel E. B. Livingston. Five years later a sawmill was operating on the site of what was to become Rollins College. In 1880 the first railroad tracks were laid in Orange County. A year later, Loring Chase from Massachusetts bought 600 acres in partnership with Oliver Chapman for $13,000. They named the area Winter Park. In the late summer, they platted the town which included many streets, a ten-acre park and a lakeside hotel. In this decade, a telegraph office and first public school were built. Rollins College opened its doors. Seminole Hotel opened on New Year’s in 1886, complete with gas lights, steam heat, long covered porches and an orchestra. Presidents Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison stayed there.

Shopping and dining on Park Avenue

There were several interesting historical tidbits from the late 1800s and early 1900s. They hired a policeman at $35 a month to patrol the orange groves to prevent the theft of fruit. An ordinance was passed to collect a tax on dogs so that the school term could be extended one month. A committee was appointed to try to prevent property damage from hogs running wild in the town. A boy was employed for $10 a month to keep cows off the streets during daylight hours.

Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens

Since those times, things have changed in Winter Park. Today, Park Avenue, the main street through the center of town, features a wide variety of unique shops. Central Park, with its rose garden and other plantings, runs adjacent to the shopping area. SunRail, stopping at the train station, lets tourists off where their first sight is of the beautifully landscaped park and the stores and restaurants just across the street.