58 LIVING IN WINTER PARK Continued from page 55 Also on the site is Showalter Field, where Winter Park High School plays its home football games, and Ward and Cady Way parks, which feature softball fields, tennis courts, a playground and a swimming pool operated by the YMCA. Winter Park’s stature as an upscale retail mecca was bolstered in 1948 with the arrival of Eve Proctor Morrill, a former fashion buyer for major department stores in Philadelphia. Morrill enlivened Park Avenue with The Proctor Shops, one offering sporting goods and the other offering stylish women’s attire. She also championed beautification projects for Winter Park’s quaint but still sleepy downtown, where shop hours were sometimes erratic and more than a few merchants closed for the summer. The Proctor Shops were sold in 1972 and later became Jacobson’s, a popular department store. But Proctor stayed active for decades to come, buying and selling property and raising funds for her favorite causes, including the Florida Symphony Orchestra and PESO (Participation Enriches Science, Music and Art Organizations), an advocacy group that she helped form. The city honored Morrill with an “Eve Proctor Morrill Day’’ in 1985, during which a garden and plaque in Central Park were unveiled. The plaque is inscribed with lines from a poem by Logan Morrill, her late husband: “Love quietly and greatly. Seek immortality in those around you where we live eternally. In each day’s striving justify the lives we might have lived.’’ One of the most significant milestones in the city’s history occurred in 1955 with the opening of Winter Park Memorial Hospital. Today the stateof the-art facility is part of the Florida Hospital system, a group of nonprofit hospitals owned and operated by Adventist Health Systems. In 1956, Robert Langford opened the thoroughly modern Langford Hotel on East New England Avenue, giving Winter Park its first resort-style getaway. The 82-room Langford, which remained a favorite for locals and visitors until its closing in 2000, hosted an eclectic assortment of VIPs, including Lillian Gish, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mamie Eisenhower, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, George McGovern, Charlton Heston, Louis Rukeyser and Ronald and Nancy Reagan, who spent their 25th anniversary there. Langford, who died the year the hotel ceased operation, was one of the first eight inductees into the Florida Tourism Hall of Fame, along with such luminaries as Walt Disney; Dick Pope, founder of Cypress Gardens; and Henry Flagler, whose Florida East Coast Railway opened South Florida for tourism and development. In the late 1950s, Winter Parkers came together to fight a proposed Interstate 4 route that would have paralleled Orange Avenue and then crossed U.S. 17-92 before it turned north toward Maitland. This route would have destroyed the motels lining the east side of U.S. 17-92 from Fairbanks Avenue to Lee Road, colloquially known as the Million Dollar Mile, and would have sliced through property where locals hoped a shopping mall would be built. In addition, many residents feared that an interstate highway so nearby would impact the city’s tranquility. Winter Park voters strongly rejected the proposed route in a 1958 referendum, much to the consternation of some Orlando movers and shakers, such as William H. “Billy” Dial, executive vice president of First National Bank and a major proponent of the route. In a letter to Winter Park Mayor J. Lynn Pflug, Dial wrote that interstate highways should be built “not on the basis of popular vote or referenda, but on traffic and engineering standards by qualified persons with consideration for the needs of the traveling public, the effect the location might have on existing businesses and residents and by the accessibility of the facility to those who, in their daily lives, require its use.” Greene, the former mayor and developer of Greeneda Court, is credited with effectively scuttling the proposal by persuading the Florida Cabinet to approve construction of the Dan T. McCarty State Office Building at the corner of Morse Boulevard and Denning Drive, directly in the interstate’s proposed path. A second route was also scuttled before a third, well to the Postcards from the early 1940s showcase a picturesque canal connecting lakes Virginia and Mizell (top) and a secluded pond at Mead Botanical Garden (bottom). The city’s canals, now frequented by sightseeing boaters, were originally dredged to transport building materials. The garden, named for world-renowned horticulturist Theodore L. Mead, began as about 50 pristine acres of hammocks and wetlands.
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