Post Card Stories

Orange Court Hotel and Orlando’s First Indoor Swimming Pool

Orange CourtFrom 1924 until 1990 this corner of Orange Avenue and Colonial Drive belonged to the Orange Court Hotel. The Camden Apartments and the Residence Inn (under construction) towering over and just inches away from Mama B’s Subs are the newcomers.

Tropical Court Yard with palms and citrus trees

Tropical Court Yard with palms and citrus trees

Times were good in Orlando in the early 1920’s. A new 275 room hotel opened and brought another stylish Florida hotel to Orange Ave. The Angebilt and San Juan hotels were just blocks away. The new Orange Court Hotel was a resort destination with its Mediterranean architecture. G. Lloyd Preacher from Atlanta was the architect. His other works included Atlanta City Hall and the Briarcliff Hotel in Georgia.

Guests of the Orange Court enjoyed Orlando’s first indoor pool. The pool was, of course, steam-heated for those cold Florida days. The buildings surrounded a tropical courtyard landscaped with palms and orange trees. Overhead the rooms had private sun balconies naturally decorated with growing jasmine and the bright red flowers of flame vine. Wrought iron chandeliers welcomed guests into the lobby on their way to the ballroom, lounge, and restaurants.

Orlando's first indoor swimming pool

Orlando’s first indoor swimming pool

Throughout the years, Orlandoans came here for banquets, receptions, and businesses meetings such as an annual citrus industry meeting. In 1944, WDBO temporarily broadcasted from the Orange Court after a hurricane destroyed their studio down the street at the Angebilt. For a time, it was owned by Colonial Hotels, a chain that included the Key West Colonial (La Concha) as one of its properties.

The Orange Court faced business challenges early on. Not long after opening, a real estate bubble popped for the first time in Florida. Ownership would change hands seven times between 1924 and the 1960’s. The hotel closed for about a year in 1963. The following year it reopened owned by A.C. Kavli, who would own it until his death in 1985.

"Excellent beverages at reasonable prices"

“Excellent beverages at reasonable prices”

Mr. Kavli paid $500,000 in cash for the hotel. His goal was not restore it to its early glamor, but to run a budget priced hotel. He filled in the indoor pool and divided up the ballroom to create more rooms to rent. Rooms rented for the night, weekly, and monthly at affordable rates. In its last years in the 80’s, now called the Orange Court Motor Lodge, occupants included more long-term retirees as residents than tourists. A daily bus ran to Walt Disney World for the few bargain tourists staying here.  [Link to hotel brochure during Kavli’s ownership]

Efforts to save and renovate the Orange Court never materialized, and the building was demolished in 1990. Today the Orange Court is not completely forgotten. The apartment complex on the site shares part of the name (Camden Orange Court Apartments) and has a large picture of the old hotel on the side of its parking garage.  The neon sign from the hotel is in storage with the Morse Museum.

The Orange Court was part of Colonial Hotels

The Orange Court was part of Colonial Hotels

The Orange Court was the site of many business conferences

The Orange Court was the site of many business conferences

Sources:

  • Orlando Sentinel 11/1/1946, 6/29/1986
  • USF Digital Collection
  • Orlando, A Centennial History, Eve Bacon, 1975
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A Grand Cathedral in Downtown Orlando

Magnolia Avenue looking towards Jefferson Avenue.  Cathedral Church of St. Luke's built in the 1920's is partially covered today by the trees lining downtown's streets.

Magnolia Avenue looking towards Jefferson Avenue. Cathedral Church of St. Luke built in the 1920’s is partially covered today by the trees lining downtown’s streets.  Top: 1960’s Bottom: 2014

Little has changed on the corner of Jefferson and Magnolia in the last 93 years. A distinguished example of Gothic Revival architecture in downtown, the Cathedral Church of Saint Luke was built here in 1922. The architects of the Washington Cathedral designed the church for Orlando.

The history of Episcopalians in Orlando goes back 30 years earlier. Francis Eppes, the grandson of Thomas Jefferson, moved to Orlando in 1867. He arrived from Tallahassee having been one of the founders of the West Florida Seminary (later to become Florida State). The first Episcopal services in Orlando were held in his home, an estate named Pine Hill, located on Lake Pinelock.

An example of Gothic Revival Architecture

An example of Gothic Revival Architecture

By the 1870’s, services were held downtown in the “free school” building — a shared site for churches and education.

In January 1882, the Episcopal Church bought the property where today’s cathedral stands at the corner of Main Street (now Magnolia) and Jefferson Street. Francis Eppes had died the year before his church moved to a street named after his grandfather.

They built a small church on the property that needed to be enlarged two years later and again in 1892. The first building was moved by 1922 to make room for today’s Cathedral Church. The cornerstone was laid in 1925 and the first services held in the cathedral on Easter 1926. The depression quickly followed, and the economic troubles caused portions of the building to remained unfinished. After 60 years, in 1986 the church was finally completed to the original plans.

Cathedral Church of Saint Luke is one of downtown’s most impressive structures. It’s a rare link to old Orlando as a site where Episcopalians have worshipped for over 90 of their nearly 150-year history.

Sources:

The cathedral was not fully completed until 1987.  [image source]

The cathedral was not fully completed until 1987.  image source

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Since 1876: First Presbyterian Church of Orlando

Top:  First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, circa 1920-40 Bottom: Yowell Hall on Presbyterian church campus, 2014

Then & Now: Corner of Magnolia Ave and Church St
Top: First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, circa 1920-40
Bottom: Yowell Hall on the Presbyterian church campus, 2014

Very few organizations in Orlando date back to the 1800s.  Many of the ones that do are places of worship.  Several local churches’ roots date back to the years between the Civil War and Grover Cleveland’s presidency.  The Orlando churches on the 100+ year list include St. Luke’s Cathedral (1892),  First Baptist (1856), United First Methodist (1859), St. James Cathedral (1885), Mount Zion Missionary Baptist (1880),  and First Presbyterian (1876) pictured above.

Wooden frame sanctuary in the early 1900's

Wooden frame sanctuary in the early 1900’s

In the 1870’s local school was held during the week and several churches met on Sundays in a facility called the “free school” or “free church” building.  This is where 11 Presbyterians began meeting in 1876, before building their first church on Central Avenue around 1884.  About 5 years later, the new church was lost to a fire.  The displaced church group met in the county courthouse and at the opera house for a few years.

With over 100 members, they bought land and built a new sanctuary at the corner of Church and Main (now Magnolia) in 1889.  Now 125 years later, they are on the same property.

From the 1914 Morning Sentinel "Visitors and strangers" were welcomed to all services.

From the 1914 Morning Sentinel “Visitors and strangers” were welcomed to all services.

As Orlando grow, the wooden sanctuary needed to grow.  They remodeled and added stucco to the structure in 1915.   Within 40 years, the congregation again outgrew their space.  A new sanctuary opened facing Church Street in 1955, which stands today.

Today's sanctuary built in 1955

Today’s sanctuary; Built in 1955

The church built Yowell Hall on the spot of the original 1889 building.  The hall is named for Newton Yowell.  Mr. Yowell was an important business figure in early Orlando.  He grew his dry goods store into the 4-story department store at 1 South Orange Ave in the Yowell-Duckworth Building.  Later he served on the boards of Rollins College and Orange Memorial Hospital.  Mr. Yowell taught the young men’s class for over 40 years at the First Presbyterian.

The church website sums up their history nicely, “Our church family has seen it all: trains cut through Florida’s jungle, miles of orange groves, the opening of Disney World, and now the advent of SunRail (back to trains!). Things may change, but the Word of God endures for ever.”

image

Sources:

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State Bank of Orlando & Trust Co. – From the Freeze to the Great Depression

Left:  After 1930, Florida National Bank operated a 1 North Orange Ave. Right:  Today the original State Bank of Orlando and Trust Company is visible.

Left: After 1930, Florida National Bank operated at 1 North Orange Ave.
Right: Today, the original State Bank of Orlando and Trust Company sign is visible.

The State Bank of Orlando & Trust Company received its charter and opened in 1893. This was just 10 years after the first bank opened in Orlando and two years before a devastating freeze.

Difficult times came to the area because of the citrus freeze in 1895. Two banks consolidated and then closed, leaving much of the community to trade only in cash. The State Bank of Orlando proved dependable and reliable during these challenges. It became the first “million dollar” bank in Orlando and went on to serve the community for nearly three decades.

The Kissemmee Valley 5-27-1897

1897 ad from Kissimmee Valley offering sound banking

In the early 1920′s, S.B.O.&T. hired New York architect William Lee Stoddart to build their new bank at 1 North Orange Avenue. Mr. Stoddart was known for hotels throughout the South. Some of those hotels — such as Asheville’s Battery Bark Hotel and Hotel Charlotte — also designed in the early 1920′s shared similar features as the State Bank of Orlando building.  Previously Mr. Stoddart was the architect for a 9 story structure added to San Juan Hotel across Orange Avenue.

State Bank of Orlando did business in this nine story brick building for only six years, as it did not survive through the Great Depression years. By 1930, Florida National Bank was operating on the site, where it would stay until 1960. Various tenants from Orange County to the FAMU College of Law kept the building occupied in the latter years.  It has spent most of its recent years with signs advertising its availability.

Early photograph of State Bank of Orlando From: Central Florida Memory http://www.cfmemory.org

Early photograph of State Bank of Orlando
From: Central Florida Memory
cfmemory.org

Interior of State Bank of Orlando & Trust, Co.

Interior of State Bank of Orlando & Trust, Co.

An ad for travels checks that ran 100 years ago this week (Morning Sentinel, 4/14/1914)

An ad for travelers checks that ran 100 years ago this week (Morning Sentinel, 4/14/1914)



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Exquisitely Furnished Lucerne Gardens

Top: 1950's Bottom: 2014 Lucerne Garden Apartments have changed little, while the view changed substantially.

Top: 1950’s
Bottom: 2014
Lucerne Garden Apartments have changed little, while the view changed substantially.

Lucerne 2The Lucerne Gardens apartments have been located on the southern end of Lake Lucerne for over 60 years.  The apartment exterior looks much as it did in the mid-1950’s.   Its great view of the Orlando skyline has experienced quite a bit of change in these decades.

The historic home of Dr. Phillips is obscured by the 408 running over the north shore of Lake Lucerne.  Much larger buildings stand in the distance than what a residents of past decades saw when looking across the lake.  Still the Lucerne Gardens are a small remaining piece of 1950’s Orlando.

The view across Lake Lucerne today

The view across Lake Lucerne today



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The Colorful Tale of the Carolina Moon Trailer Camp

Remnants of the Carolina Moon Trailer Park sit along Orange Blossom Trail, a stretch of road that was once a travel destination in itself.

Remnants of the Carolina Moon Trailer Park sit along Orange Blossom Trail, a stretch of road that was once a travel destination in itself.

For over 80 years, the Carolina Moon Trailer Camp was located on a plot of land between Orange Blossom Trail and Rock Lake.  It has seen life as an early Central Florida tourist attraction, a residential trailer park, and a lakeside timeshare resort.  It had such a colorful history it was even the subject of a comedy theatrical production.

Orange groves were south of Rock Lake in the late 1800’s.  Postcards as early as 1906 featured a scenic palm tree-lined lakeshore.  As Orlando developed, Kentucky Avenue soon ran adjacent to the eastern shore, where in 1935 a man named Jonathan Moon purchased 10 acres on Rock Lake.  Kentucky Avenue would later be called Orange Blossom Trail, a more descriptive and appealing name to Central Florida travelers.

Aerial View of the Carolina Moon property

Aerial View of the Carolina Moon property

On his new property Mr. Moon opened Moon’s Tourist Camp making it one of a couple of tourist camps in the area.  People visited to enjoy the Central Florida sun along the beaches of the inland freshwater lake.  Entertainment during the early days of the Carolina Moon included a dance hall and roller skating.

While the tourist camps may have been popular with visitors, residents of the nearby Spring Lake Terrace neighborhood were not as welcoming.   In 1937, over 50 home owners from one of Orlando’s early prominent neighborhoods fought city hall to rid the area of the camps.  Likely in response, the city ordered the trailer camps to close or relocate.   Mr. Moon was alleged to have opened his camp without proper permits and this lead to a lengthy legal battle.  However, the trailer camp survived and remained with Moon as owner until 1945.

For the decades to come, a neon sign along Orange Blossom Trail identified the property as the “Carolina Moon Cottages.”   In 1963 when motor lodges were still a draw, the Parliament House chain built a large hotel next door.  The Carolina Moon was left to age beside a new modern facility.

An advertisement in late 1936 in the Rollins College paper "Sandspur" invited students to the Carolina Moon for roller skating.

An advertisement in late 1936 in the Rollins College paper “Sandspur” invited students to the Carolina Moon for roller skating.

However, only a few years later Walt Disney made his famous announcement (Retro Link: Walt’s Announcement) and tourists’ interest quickly shifted away from scenic Rock Lake.

By 1975, Parliament House was in decline and no longer part of a national chain.  That year it reinvented itself as gay hotel and entertainment complex.  With virtually nothing else like it in the country it brought new traffic and flavor to the area.

By this time, the Carolina Moon Trailer Park was residential.   Full Moon Saloon later opened on the northern side of the Carolina Moon.  Residents made up a cast of characters that didn’t mind the traffic of late-night bar hoppers making their way across the property.

The 80s and 90s were slightly seedier years for the Carolina Moon, the rooms of the original motel hosted a variety of tenants and merchants.  Shops like Twisted Palms sold leather wear and specialty clothing while other stores offered everything from adult video rentals to gay-themed tchotchkes.  In 1990 Boca Raton News told the story of a makeshift clinic operating in one of the rooms.  During the peak of the AIDS crisis, this rogue clinic provided experimental therapies for the disease.

The Gardens timeshare resort today

The Gardens timeshare resort today

In the 2000’s, new owners of the Parliament House removed the trailer homes to develop the property into a gay timeshare resort, The Gardens.   This unlikely end to the Carolina Moon’s story was the basis for local playwright Michael Wanzie’s, “Carolina Moon: A Campy Trailer Trash Tragedy.”  His comedy production told the story of the displaced “eclectic mix of residents at Carolina Moon, ranging from old-time southern crackers and Tupperware ladies to leather daddies and disco twinks.

Only one of several planned buildings were constructed since The Gardens’ 2005 opening.  Much of the land between it and the Parliament House is vacant.   Today, a single stretch of rooms along Orange Blossom Trail is the last remnant of the Carolina Moon.  

It’s quite unlikely in the 1930’s Mr. Moon had any idea the colorful history that Moon’s Tourist Camp would create.

Slideshow of the Carolina Moon Trailer Camp:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sources:
Orlando, A Centennial History, Eve Bacon, 1975
A Guide to Historic Orlando, Steve Rajtar, 2006
Wanzie Presents
GLBT History Museum of Central Florida
Sandspur, 12-3-1936
Boca Raton News, 1-8-1990

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Lake Lucerne

Two scenes from Lake Lucerne more than a century after being settled.

Two scenes from Lake Lucerne more than a century after being settled.

The history around Lake Lucerne dates back to the days before Orlando was called Orlando.   One of the area’s early pioneers, James P. Hughey, moved here from Georgia in 1855.    Mr. Hughey settled onto 160 acres west of Lake Lucerne after arriving here in a covered wagon with oxen in tow.   Historian Eve Bacon described the surroundings upon his arrival, “He found a small steam of clear water running into the lake coming from under a larger oak tree.”

Mr. Hughey built a log cabin in the area that is likely covered with I-4 and the 408 today.   There he lived for 20 years.  His home was open to many travelers.  And his acreage was used to grow cotton fields and orange groves.

Lake Lucerne has continued to play a significant role in Orlando’s landscape for over 15o years.  Later in the 1880’s it was the site of the Lucerne Hotel, and then the Dr. Phillips home.   Today, the northern part lies under the 408 andOrange Avenue runs rights across it.   It’s an understatement to say the view from the shores of Lake Lucerne are quite different from Mr. Hughey’s days.

Source:

Orlando, A Centennial History, Eve Bacon 1975

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Pineapples, Water Parks, and the History of Lake Ivanhoe

A postcard showing the Ivanhoe Pinery, and a Google map image of the scene today.

A postcard showing the Ivanhoe Pinery, and a Google map image of the scene today.

This is a post written for Bungalower.

The history behind Orlando’s bungalow neighborhoods is a special part of their charm, and each neighborhood has unique stories about its origins. A great example of that is a story about College Park/Ivanhoe Village it was the cozy, residential community as it is today. Over 100 years ago, one man made Lake Ivanhoe the center of the U.S. pineapple industry and later turned the same land into one of Orlando’s first amusement parks.

When Orlando got its start in the 1800’s, Central Florida could have been described as a tropical wilderness. Many of the pioneers who settled here were successful business people that relocated their entrepreneurial drive to Orlando. One such entrepreneur was George I. Russell. Mr. Russell, an early settler near Lake Ivanhoe, was a sharp businessmen and it could be said he had the foresight to build an amusement park here long before Walt Disney ever had the idea.

George Russell moved to Florida in 1885 from Connecticut for the perceived healthy climate. He arrived in Tampa, but fell love and moved to Orlando after visiting here. Shortly after arriving, he and a business partner opened up shop downtown near Pine Street and the railroad tracks selling hay, feed, fertilizer, and grain. It enjoyed a great deal of success and was soon one of the largest businesses of its kind in Florida.

Enjoying the prosperity of his new business, Mr. Russell bought a large parcel of land on the southern side of Lake Ivanhoe. There he built a large home (around where I-4 and the DoubleTree are today).

The tropical fruits that could grow in Florida and not in other parts of the country fascinated many who moved here. The citrus industry was already well established by this time, but seeing pineapples growing around the homes in Orlando sparked an idea for Mr. Russell to grow and harvest them for profit.

He developed his acreage between Lake Concord and Lake Ivanhoe into a pinery (basically a pineapple farm). At first, he planted the pineapple varieties commonly grown in the area, but soon imported varieties from Hawaii and Puerto Rico. In the mid-1890’s, the citrus industry was devastated by freezing temperatures. This created an urgency to protect his pineapples. Wooden sheds were built across the pinery and steam boilers for heat were installed. Mr. Russell found that the plants were not just protected, but thrived in the ideal conditions of the sheds and steam. He added additional pineries until there were over 20 acres of pineapples across the area. In 1900, The Florida Agriculturist proclaimed Orlando as “the Mother of the pineapple business” and noted Florida supplied most of the pineapples to the U.S.

An ad for Russell’s Pineapples in 1897 said the Ivanhoe pineries were “known throughout the United States as producing the finest fruit ever put on the market.” They became so popular that plants, while still planted in local soil, were carefully packed in wooden crates and shipped to Washington D.C. There they were planted in the White House Conservatory to grow and harvest for President McKinley to enjoy fresh Ivanhoe pineapples.

The Florida pineapple industry quickly died out when more trade opened with Cuba. No longer as profitable, Mr. Russell got out of the pineapple business and turned his attention to his third Orlando venture, a water park.

Water slide at Joyland on Lake Ivanhoe in the 1910's.

Water slide at Joyland on Lake Ivanhoe in the 1910’s.

In 1910, he built Russell’s Point (also called Ivanhoe Park). Orlando historian Eve Bacon described it as “an amusement and recreation park on Lake Ivanhoe, that became the favorite gathering place for Orlandoans of all ages.” This made the area the spot for indoor and outdoor fun with a dock, water slides, a dance hall, picnic area, and 50 boats for fishing and enjoying the lake. Movies – silent films at the time – were often featured. Russell’s Point was later called Joyland after a contest was held to rename to the popular entertainment location. The amusement park operated for about nine years.

George Russell grew three successful ventures, the grain and fertilizer business downtown, the pineries, and then Joyland. The Lake Ivanhoe area that was a special part of Mr. Russell’s life would soon become home to many others. He closed Joyland and sold his 30 acres of property in 1919 to be developed into the subdivision from which College Park would emerge.

__________________
Sources: 
The Morning Sentinel , June 3, 1915
Orlando, A Centennial History, Eve Bacon, 1975
Florida Farmer & Fruit Grower, June 4, 1897
University of Florida Digtal Collections
The Florida Agriculturist, Sep 5, 1900
 
A Joyland ad from a 1915 edition of the Morning Sentinel

A Joyland ad from a 1915 edition of the Morning Sentinel

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The Grand Theatre

Top: Grand Theatre - circa 1915 Bottom: The site today is mostly a parking lot - 2013

Top: Grand Theatre circa 1915
Bottom: Mostly a Parking Lot Today 2013

The Grand Theatre

Orlando residents have enjoyed attending live performances and movies in the comfort of a theater since 1884. The first major theatre was an opera house downtown. It was housed in a large wooden frame building with a stage lit by kerosene lamps (This was roughly where the Solaire high-rise apartment building is today).   The Grand Theatre came along in 1912. By this time, Orlando had other theaters, but the growing popularity of motion pictures seemed like a good opportunity for Orlando businessman, Colonel T.J. Watkins. He began constructing the Grand Theatre and Grand Hotel at the Nashville Block located between Central and Pine.

The Grand Theatre opened as a silent movie house, when motion pictures were a draw even without sound. The film projectors were hand-cranked.  Musicians played music live for the films. Popular musicians were even billed along with the movie. A few years after opening, the theatre was one of the first locally to use a photoplayer, which was a sort of automated orchestra for silent films.   In 1915, the theatre introduced a new policy that included partitioning half of the balcony for use by African-American film goers.

"A Romance at Orlando"

“A Romance at Orlando”

“Romance at Orlando”

Today Orlando is better known for movie studios than movies filmed here. Although Universal Studios and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are mostly theme parks, some movies have been filmed here. The list includes Parenthood (1989), The Waterboy (1998), and admit it or not Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector (2006).  When did we get our start in the movie business?  In 1914 with the silent film Romance in Orlando.

Filming made front page news of The Morning Sentinel on December 11, 1913.  Scenes were filmed around Orlando at businesses and the home of city pioneer Braxton Beacham (You might recognize the name from the Beacham Theatre).   The newspaper described a scene in the moving involving a political rally and being filmed at the bandstand.  It mentioned when the camera panned around who among the locals could be seen in the crowd.  The story noted screen time was given to Fire Chief William Dean, City Alderman W.P. Watson, and in terms that seem crass today, “even the old negro Garey, whom everybody knows.”

Romance at Orlando opened at The Grand Theatre January 13 & 14, 1914 just one month after filming.  The Grand seated about 750 people and every seat must have been filled as 3000 people watched the film on those two days.  The Morning Sentinel describing the film as a, “pleasing picture made popular by the appearance of local characters.”

Astor Theatre

Silent films gave way to movies with sound.  Gone With The Wind was such a hit after its 1939 release that The Grand was sold out for two months straight.  In the decade to follow the building began to age and was in need of updating in order to stay relevant.   In 1954, the theatre was completely redecorated, refurbished, and rebranded as the Astor Theatre.  Newer technology — including a sound system and air conditioning — were added.   Two rows of seats were removed from the back to make room for concessions and the women’s room was outfitted with a powder bar.   Now, the ladies could freshen up during intermission.

Ushers await outside the Grand Theatre - Around 1930

Ushers await outside the Grand Theatre – Around 1930

The new name and remodel were not enough to save the Grand.  The screen went dark in the early sixties and the theatre was torn down about 1965.  In the post card scene above, the brick building seen to the right of the theatre still stands (where Backbooth bar is currently located).  Nothing is really left of the Grand Theatre today, but memories of the silver screens golden age.

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The Other Lake Eola Fountain

Sperry Fountain 1940's and 2013

Sperry Fountain
1940’s and 2013

The Other Lake Eola Fountain

We all know the fountain in the middle of Lake Eola — the one surrounded by swan boats and serves as a city icon for Orlando.  That fountain is the Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain, better known as the Centennial Fountain.  However this post is not about that fountain, this is about its less popular sister, the Sperry Fountain.    Not much attention is directed toward the Sperry Fountain, which has been part of the scenery at Lake Eola for a century.

An Orlandoan gives Mayor Sperry advice on cars speeding down Orange Ave. Morning Sentinel - Jan 9 1914

An Orlandoan gives Mayor Sperry advice on cars speeding down Orange Ave.
Morning Sentinel – Jan 9 1914

E. F. Sperry was one of Orlando’s pioneers.  Originally from Connecticut, he moved to Orlando in 1885 after vacationing in the area.   Within a year of moving here, he co-founded the South Florida Foundry and Machine Works.  Providing metal works for iron stairs, balconies, trains, and fencing, it grew into one of Orlando’s earliest industries.  Mr. Sperry did well for himself.  He had a home on East Pine Street and owned property that included the southwest portion of Lake Eola.

When he later sold his interest in the machine works, he remained active in the community.  Sperry served on the city commission, the park commission, the Orlando Citrus Exchange (as president), and was a founding member of the First Unitarian Church of Orlando when it started in 1912.  A progressive man, Sperry was the first president of the Men’s Equal Suffrage League, which worked to help woman gain the right to vote.

His civic involvement led to his election as mayor in 1914.  Around this time he donated his Lake Eola land to the city.  His property completed the shoreline for our city’s most famous park.  (Pioneers Jake Summerlin and J. P. Mussellwhite contributed the rest of property to the city.)   Sperry also provided the $2000 for the fountain that bears his name.

Sperry fountain in the 1960s

Sperry fountain in the 1960s

Sperry never finished his first mayoral term and suddenly passed away in 1916.  His legacy continued when his successor, Mayor James L. Giles, continued the fight for women to gain voting rights.  Less than three years after Sperry’s death, the City Council voted to amend the city charter allowing women to vote in Orlando.

Although the original fountain has been replaced, March 2014 marked 100 years of operation for Mayor Sperry’s fountain.

___________________

  • Orlando Sentinel, 9/8/1996
  • From Florida Sand to “The City Beautiful”, E.H. Gore 1949
  • Orlando, A Centennial History, Eve Bacon 1975
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