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E The very earth is lyric With red hibiscus bloom; The flame-vine and azalea Are threads on beauty’s loom. The orange trees shed incense Along the common road, Then bow them down in worship Beneath their golden load. dwin Osgood Grover, who rhapsodized so eloquently about Winter Park in the 1930s, was the professor of books at Rollins College. Like many Winter Parkers, his roots were in New England. Yet he fell in love with this sophisticated, subtropical paradise, where beauty, education and the arts were celebrated. Grover’s poem, “Lyric Florida,” vividly describes the area as it would have looked during his tenure at Rollins. But it also would have been accurate a half century earlier or a half century later. Winter Park is still lush with foliage and, at certain times and in certain places, the warm air still carries the scent of citrus. It’s still a place where a quirky professor and an unorthodox artist can sip coffee at a sidewalk café alongside a matronly clubwoman and a straight-laced stockbroker. Founded as a getaway for Northeastern tycoons, today’s Winter Park is considerably more egalitarian than its developers probably expected or intended. Although a Winter Park address carries considerable panache, most residents are not millionaires. The median household income in 2014 was 44 LIVING IN WINTER PARK Downtown Winter Park in the late 1880s encompassed a general store, a bakery, a saw mill, a wagon factory, an ice house and a combination livery stable and blacksmith shop. about $95,536 versus just over $57,176 statewide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s an impressive number, to be sure, but a neighboring Orange County community, Windermere, is ahead at $111,457. Money, however, isn’t the only measure of a community’s worth. Although Winter Park was advertised as a refuge for “men of means,” early promoters also envisioned a place that was enlightened, welcoming and, to use a more modern term, livable. In that regard, today’s Winter Park remains remarkably true to their vision. PIONEER DAYS Prior to the 1850s, the area that would become Winter Park had few permanent settlers. A rough-and-tumble character named David Mizell Jr., large family in tow, arrived in 1858 from Alachua County, near Gainesville, and bought an eight-acre tract between present-day lakes Virginia, Mizell and Berry, where he built a cabin and began farming and raising cattle. Mizell named his homestead, appropriately, Lake View, which was also adopted as the name of the fledgling settlement that formed around it. In 1870, Lake View got a post office and a new name, Osceola, in honor of the Seminole warrior who had died in American captivity more than 30 years earlier. In the late 1860s, Mizell was elected to the Orange County Commission and the state Legislature. His eldest son, also named David, was appointed Orange County sheriff, while another son, John, served as a judge of the Orange County Court. The legendary sheriff, who was killed in 1870 while trying to settle a dispute over the sale of two cows, is buried in a small family plot just beyond the entrance to what is now the P. Leu Botanical Gardens in Orlando. Father and son are often confused in local histories, but it’s the elder Mizell who was arguably Winter Park’s earliest non-native pioneer. A few years later, Wilson Phelps of Chicago visited the area and was entranced by its thick woods and shimmering lakes. In 1874 he bought a DIGITAL ART BY CHIP WESTON


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