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When the General Congregational Association of Florida announced plans to found a college somewhere in Florida, competition among cities was intense. An article in the Florida Times-Union�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� places, and in sparsely settled com munities.” Nonetheless, Winter Park won — and the inaugural class in 1885 met in the First Congregational Church until campus buildings were constructed the following year. stand erect, though your skin may be black, and say, ‘I, too, am a free, intelligent citizen with a thought of my own in my head and a ballot in my hand and I demand recognition and a voice in the management of affairs.” In the meantime, the marketing campaign orchestrated by Chase and Chapman was working. Winter Park’s population grew from about a dozen scattered families in 1881 to more than 600 people by 1884. The first commercial building, a railroad passenger depot, was completed early in 1882, followed by the town’s first hotel, the Rogers House, located on Interlachen Avenue. Park Avenue’s first commercial building came next. The two-story structure, which is still standing at the corner of Park Avenue and Morse Boulevard, housed the Pioneer Store, with John Ergood and Robert White as proprietors. The second floor was used for social functions, church meetings and civic gatherings. Locals soon began referring to the first-floor general mercantile store as Ergood & White and to the building in its entirety as Ergood’s Hall. Shortly thereafter, downtown Winter Park encompassed a general store, a bakery, a saw mill, a wagon factory, an ice house and a combination livery stable and blacksmith shop. Judge Lewis H. Lawrence, a wealthy boot and shoe manufacturer from Utica, New York, sent the first telegraph message Dr. Edward Hooker was pastor ���������������������������������������������������������� and the founding president of Rollins College. from Winter Park on January 1, 1883, to his friend, President Chester A. Arthur. It read, “Happy New Year. First message from office opened here today. No North. No South.” Prominent people began making the trek southward to visit their wealthy friends. One was President Arthur, who visited Lawrence and declared Winter Park to be “the prettiest spot I have seen in Florida.” He had said essentially the same thing about Sanford the day before, but the sentiments likely were sincere. 48 LIVING IN WINTER PARK Some stayed and made more enduring civic contributions. Minneapolis businessman Frederick Lyman, who retired to Winter Park in 1882, led the effort to found the First Congregational Church of Winter Park. Congregationalism is a progressive denomination whose New England roots appealed to Winter Park’s substantial Northern contingent. The church’s first pastor, Dr. Edward Hooker, arrived from Massachusetts in 1883 and quickly mobilized an influential flock. Led by Lyman and Hooker, funds were raised to build a sanctuary, the town’s first, on New England Avenue in 1885. Congregationalists, who consider education to be as much a part of their mission as spreading the gospel, founded some of the first colleges in the U.S., including Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth. Adhering to that tradition, the Winter Park church and its members, many of whom were driven by both financial and altruistic motives, acted quickly to bring an institution of higher learning, the first in Florida, to their small but ambitious town. AN EDUCATED GAMBLE The opportunity came in 1884, when the General Congregational Association of Florida met, prophetically, in Winter Park. Among those pushing for a church-related college in Central Florida was a remarkable woman named Lucy Cross, an Oberlin College graduate who lived in Daytona and founded the Daytona Institute for Young Women in 1880. Cross discussed her notion with the Rev. C.M. Bingham, a Congregationalist minister in Daytona. At the assembly, Bingham presented a paper written by Cross on the formation of a college “for the education of the DIGITAL ART BY CHIP WESTON


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