History of Winter Park
Winter Park began when an eight-acre parcel purchased in 1858 by David Mizell, Jr. He called the area Lakeview. In 1881, Loring Chase bought 600 acres of land with Oliver Chapman, and by late summer the town of Winter Park was plotted. After considerable effort, a railroad was persuaded to extend its line, then under construction, to the new town. The next year, 1882, the railroad depot was constructed and was distinguished as the town’s first building. Chase and Chapman built a store at the corner of what is now Park Avenue and Morse Boulevard that housed the first mercantile establishment, post office and assembly room. This building still stands.
Chartered in 1887, the City was developed as a winter resort for wealthy Northerners seeking refuge from the harsh winters and a tranquil place to live. Lakeview was renamed Osceola in 1870 and included in the area renamed Winter Park in 1881 by Chase and Chapman. The two men were engaged in an informal discussion and decided they wanted the name to be something about a park in the winter thus the name Winter Park.
The first telegraphic communication from Winter Park was a message to U.S. President Chester A. Arthur on New Year’s Day in 1883. In the same month, the first school was opened. In 1885, the Winter Park Public Library was founded, and in 1886 the first municipal election was held. In the following two years, 102 voters incorporated the town and the Winter Park Improvement Association was founded which continued throughout the years to become the Chamber of Commerce.
By 1886, surrounding land was selling for $1.25 per acre and many citrus groves, totaling 850 acres, were cultivated. The world famous “Temple” orange was discovered in Winter Park and developed in the surrounding groves. The original tree still stands on private property within the city. By 1905, the population of the city was 461.
The chief economic asset in early years, as now, was entertaining winter visitors. The largest hotel in the state, The Seminole, flourished in Winter Park for many years. The winter climate, beautiful forests, swales and fertile soil exerted strong influences on the early settlers and visitors, but the strongest attraction to Central Florida then, as now, was the numerous lakes.
Throughout the years, many cultural advantages have evolved in Winter Park. Rollins College was founded in 1885 by a committee of Congregational ministers as the first institution of higher learning in the state. A tradition of academic excellence and high regard for the arts in all forms has resulted in the nationally recognized Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, the Bach Festival, a strong drama community with many fine presentations each year as well as an almost continuous round of recitals, exhibitions and other manifestations of culture and arts. The expanded Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, which houses the most comprehensive collection of Tiffany art in the world, opened in July 1995. As a result of these cultural activities, Winter Park has drawn a wide range of distinguished visitors and residents to its environs.