appointed. Hooker, as he had likely hoped, was appointed the first president of the college that was named in honor of its largest donor. Cross, who had presented Daytona’s case before the association, became known as “The Mother of Rollins,” and today the college’s Lucy Cross Center for Women and Their Allies keeps her name at the forefront in a way that surely would have pleased her. Rollins himself, who ironically never earned a college degree, attended two annual meetings of the board of trustees before he died in 1887. MAKING IT OFFICIAL Lyman, not content to rest on his laurels, quickly set his sights on another opportunity. He approached Chase and offered to buy his holdings through a combination of cash and stock in a new entity, the Winter Park Company. Chase, who had bought out the ailing Chapman in 1885 for $40,000, agreed. Shareholders in the Winter Park Company included prominent citizens whose names will still be familiar to anyone who drives regularly along the city’s streets: In addition to Lyman, Chase and Rollins, partners included F.G. Webster, William Comstock, J.F. Welbourne and Franklin Fairbanks. Among the company’s powers were laying out roads, buying and building hotels and “the sole and exclusive right to build, equip, maintain and operate a street railway or railways.” One of its first acts was to borrow $150,000 from Francis Knowles, a retired Massachusetts industrialist, to build the 400-room Seminole Hotel, a luxurious resort between lakes Osceola and Virginia boasting steam heat and private bathrooms. The hotel, which was the largest in the state when it opened in 1886, was served by two yachts, the Alice, which launched on Lake Osceola, and the Fanny Knowles, which launched on Lake Virginia. Guests could listen to an orchestra, use the bowling alley or play tennis and croquet. Fishing on the surrounding lakes was also a popular pastime. The Winter Park Company also built a mule-drawn streetcar line, known as the Seminole Hotel Horse Car, along New England Avenue west to the railroad depot. That first winter season, there were more than 2,300 registered guests. President Grover Cleveland visited in 1889, followed in 1890 by President Benjamin Harrison. Northern newspapers were taking notice. In an 1896 dispatch headlined “A Bright New England Town in Central Florida,” an unnamed New York Times reporter described Winter Park as “one of the neatest, cleanest and prettiest towns in Florida, with street after street lined with handsome, modern cottages and larger homes.” The scribe, who stayed at the Seminole Hotel and was accorded redcarpet treatment during his visit, took special pains to mention that Winter Park’s homes were painted, unlike those in other Florida cities, “where the use of paint is apparently totally unknown.” As a growing cadre of moneyed Northerners built homes and opened businesses, Hannibal Square was becoming a vibrant community in its own right. Assisted by the white Congregationalists, a black Congregational church was built in 1884. Methodist and Baptist Missionary churches followed. There was also an elementary school and a bustling commercial district. One prominent African-American entrepreneur, Gus Henderson, moved to Winter Park from Lake City in 1886 and founded the South Florida Colored Printing & Publishing Company. He became involved in Winter Park civic affairs, founded a weekly newspaper called The Winter Park Advocate, and encouraged his friends and neighbors to support the Winter Park Company’s newly announced plans to incorporate. Nearly everyone thought that incorporation was a wise step. The issue became mired in controversy primarily because some white residents opposed having Hannibal Square included in the town limits. An article in Lochmede, another Winter Park newspaper, noted that there was considerable consternation over the idea of “residents who did not own 50 LIVING IN WINTER PARK land — and who were primarily black — levying taxes upon landowning residents from which they themselves would be exempt.” Some Hannibal Square residents did indeed rent land from the Winter Park Company, which also employed them as laborers. Others, however, were homeowners and taxpayers. Henderson argued that it made no difference. Every registered voter, regardless of whether or not he was a landowner, had a right to be heard on this important issue. Further complicating matters, local Democrats feared that the inclusion of Hannibal Square and its solidly Republican voting bloc would skew the balance of political power. In fact, at the time there were more black voters (64) than white voters (47) in Winter Park. Surely the idea of African Americans holding a voting majority was unsettling to some, even in a community where racial harmony generally prevailed. On the afternoon of September 10, 1887, only 57 registered voters — almost all white — showed up at Ergood’s Hall for a meeting to decide on incorporation. A quorum, however, required a minimum of 73 attendees. Only five more registered voters could be rounded up for a second meeting later that evening. Because no action could be taken, another meeting was called for October 12. Why had black voters stayed away? Winter Park businessman J.C. Stovin, a native of England who favored incorporation but opposed including Hannibal Square, had convinced many west side residents that incorporation was a ruse to make them pay high taxes and lay bricks on city streets. Henderson and others went to work, going door to door and pleading with their friends and neighbors to exercise their rights as free citizens and attend the next incorporation meeting. It was certainly pointed out that the principals of the Winter Park Company, particularly Chase, had treated blacks fairly, even compassionately, and should expect their support in return. A curfew forbade blacks from crossing the railroad tracks that divided east from west after nightfall. But on the evening of October 12, Henderson led a group of black registered voters from Hannibal Square directly to Ergood’s Hall. Some accounts claim that a band and children waving banners accompanied the west side delegation. In any case, a quorum was achieved and incorporation — with Hannibal Square included — was approved by a vote of 71 to 2. In addition, two black men, Walter B. Simpson and Frank R. Israel, were elected aldermen. They were the first, and the last, black elected officials in Winter Park. White, of Ergood & White, was elected as the first mayor. The union of Hannibal Square and the Town of Winter Park was to be temporary, however. In 1893, Comstock led an effort by Democrats to remove the west side neighborhood from the town limits. Although Winter Park officials refused to change the boundaries, the Florida Legislature did so over their opposition. “It is, in my opinion, a scheme originated by those who desire to run the town government and feel that their only chance is to take out the mass of the colored voters,” said a letter writer to the Advocate. Hannibal Square wasn’t a part of incorporated Winter Park again until 1925, when local leaders sought to change its status from town (fewer than 300 registered voters) to city (300 or more registered voters). Immediately on the heels of incorporation, the Town Improvement Association, later renamed the Winter Park Village Improvement Association and ultimately the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, was organized with the goals of planting trees, repairing sidewalks, maintaining parks and encouraging residents to be sociable. Also in the active 1880s, a reading circle of nine women led by Hooker’s wife, Elizabeth, began an effort to establish the Winter Park Circulating Library Association. The small collection of books was placed in the home of a reading circle member until the library got its own facility, on an Inter- DIGITAL ART BY CHIP WESTON Gus Henderson, an African- American newspaper editor, was instrumental in rallying support among Hannibal Square residents for incorporation.
To see the actual publication please follow the link above