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In the 1890s, the Orlando & Winter Park Railway, otherwise known as the Dinky Line, ran between Winter Park and Orlando, hugging the shores of Lake Virginia. The train’s notorious unreliability even spawned a song: “Oh the Dinky Line moves along like a man with one lung/Yet it shrieks like a kid with hot mush on his tongue/I guess this is the moral, though it’s never been sung/That the poor little thing started smoking too young.” LIVING IN WINTER PARK 49 South, in the South.” In it, Cross posed a challenge disguised as a question: “I ask you gentleman to discuss thoroughly the question, ‘Shall an effort be made to found a college in Florida?’” Delegates responded by asking Hooker to prepare “a report on the public school system in Florida, and higher education,” to be presented a year later, at the 1885 annual meeting in Mount Dora. Hooker, who had been appalled at the crudeness and ignorance he had encountered in Central Florida and worried about the role the church should play in “building a wholesome order” in the area, took his assignment seriously. The paper, read by Hooker at the January meeting, was entitled “The Mission of Congregationalism in Florida.” He began by summarizing what he called “Congregationalism’s mission of Christian education.” Then he directly and forcefully addressed the issue Cross had raised. No area of the nation, Hooker insisted, was more in need of a college. Europeans had arrived in Florida 50 years before the Plymouth settlement, he noted. Why, then, should Florida be so far behind New England? Hooker also argued that the growth and prosperity of Florida depended just as much on education as agriculture. Businesspeople from other parts of the country wouldn’t invest in Florida if there were no educational opportunities for their children, he warned. Spurred to action by Hooker’s presentation, the association adopted a resolution agreeing with its premise and appointing a committee of five members, including Hooker and Lyman, to receive “inducements” for the location of a college. Those inducements, it was determined, would be unveiled and evaluated at a special meeting in April. Church leaders then solicited offers from civic leaders who wanted the institution in their towns. The respondents were Jacksonville, Mount Dora, Daytona Beach, Orange City and Winter Park, where the indefatigable Lyman was already hard at work raising funds. The competition was fierce. An article in the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, at the time the state’s largest city, suggested that it was a bad idea “to locate colleges in out-of-the-way places, and in sparsely settled communities.” Perhaps, but Winter Parkers knew that their town wouldn’t be an “out-of-the-way place” for long, and that a college would boost its profile and its prestige immeasurably. When the association reconvened on April 14, again in Mount Dora, it reviewed the five proposals. Lyman’s and Hooker’s membership on the committee worked to Winter Park’s advantage; they arranged to have their proposal heard last so they could gauge the strength of the other presentations. Mount Dora offered cash, lumber and land in a package valued at $35,564. Jacksonville and Daytona offered $13,000 and $11,500, respectively, along with tracts of land for a campus. Orange City committed about $25,000. Lyman would later write: “As one proposal after another was read, it became evident to me … that the other towns were hopelessly outdistanced, and I was correspondingly elated but managed to maintain a calm exterior, perhaps even to assume an aspect of gloom, which was misleading,” Winter Park’s offer, which encompassed stock, land and cash, was valued at $114,180. Some $50,000 of that amount had been pledged by Alonzo Rollins, a Maine native who made his fortune in Chicago selling dyes to woolen mills before retiring to Winter Park for health reasons. Competitors howled that Winter Park’s Lake Virginia site was basically a swamp, prompting delegates to visit and see for themselves before making a final decision. Three days later, after judging the land to be high and dry, the association voted to accept Winter Park’s offer. On April 28, 1885, a meeting was held at Sanford’s Lyman Bank, owned by Moses Lyman, a relative of Frederick Lyman’s. In the bank’s conference room, the college’s constitution and bylaws were adopted and 21 trustees COURTESY OF THE ROLLINS COLLEGE DEPARTMENT OF ARCHIVES AND SPECIAL COLLECTIONS


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