LIVING IN WINTER PARK 55 Mary Pickford, novelist Faith Baldwin and RCA Chairman David Sarnoff visited Winter Park and spoke to crowds of thousands. During the 1930s, the University Club was organized as well as the Hannibal Square Library. In 1932, the Annie Russell Theater was built on the Rollins campus in honor of popular stage actress Annie Russell, who had retired to Winter Park in 1918 and had become a professor of theater arts at the college. Mead Botanical Garden, named for renowned horticulturalist and Oviedo resident Theodore Mead, was opened in 1940. Its amphitheater, completed in 1959, remains a favorite venue for weddings, concerts and other special events. The Bach Festival Society of Winter Park was founded in 1935 by Isabelle Sprague-Smith, a former New York artist and school principal, who was the president and driving force behind the organization until her death in 1950. The future of the festival was in doubt until John Tiedtke, a Rollins professor and the first dean of the college’s graduate programs, stepped in to serve as chairman of the Board of Trustees, a position he held until his death in 2004. During the Great Depression, Winter Park benefited from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s various recovery programs. For example, workers from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration widened and deepened the canals connecting Winter Park’s lakes. Still, hundreds of properties fell into foreclosure during the depths of the downturn. In 1932, the city defaulted on $134,000 in bonds and interest, slashing its budget to remain solvent. As the economy began to improve, activity in Winter Park picked up. Between 1940 and 1950, the population increased nearly 75 percent, to more than 8,000 people. Many of them saw the latest movies at the 850- seat Colony Theater, which opened on Park Avenue in 1940. During World War II, matinees at the Colony cost 39 cents and evening shows cost 44 cents. Although the theater closed in 1975 and was converted to retail use, the iconic Art Deco sign has been preserved as a delightfully gaudy reminder of a simpler time. Like communities across the country, Winter Park supported the war effort in numerous ways. A variety of relief groups were organized and Rollins offered courses in “War Problems” and “Literature and Psychology of Propaganda.” In 1945, architect James Gamble Rogers II was hired by developer Raymond Greene, who would be elected mayor in 1953, to design a fashionable retail complex on Park Avenue South. The result, Greeneda Court, set the stage for the European ambience that would come to define Park Avenue in the decades to come. MODERN TIMES As World War II drew to a close, the Showalter brothers, Howard and Sandy, along with their cousin, Ford “Buck” Rogers, opened the Showalter Airpark on 100 acres south of Oviedo Road (now Aloma Avenue) and west of present-day S.R. 436. The land had been part of the golf course at the long-defunct Aloma Country Club. For the trio, building an upscale airpark where flying lessons and charter flights could be offered was the fulfillment of a longstanding dream. The family later opened similar airparks in Sanford and Orlando, where Showalter Flying Service is still in operation at what is now Orlando Executive Airport. The final Winter Park landing took place in 1963. Real estate developers bought the airpark property, which today encompasses the Winter Park Village Apartments and much of the Winter Park Pines subdivision. Continued on page 58 Rollins College began earning national attention under the presidency of Hamilton Holt, a charismatic innovator.
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