tracks are on the left, making a loop and running alongside the rear boundary of Central Park, just as they do today. Commercial buildings already line Park Avenue, which appears to be unpaved. Lake Osecola is at the top right and Lake Maitland at the top left. The large, red-roofed building facing Lake Osceola is the Seminole Hotel. The Rollins campus would be further right, outside the frame. LIVING IN WINTER PARK 59 west, was chosen and approved in 1963. (The state office building was demolished in 2012 and is now the site of CNL Heritage Park.) The city’s signature event, the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, debuted in 1960. The idea appears to have originated with Darwin Nichols, an artist and owner of Park Avenue’s Barbizon restaurant, and his friends and fellow artists Don Sill and Bob Anderson. Community activist Jean Oliphant headed a planning group, and funds were raised from Park Avenue merchants. In early February, 1960, the Orlando Evening Star announced the venture with the headline: “Date Set for ‘Arty’ Park Ave. Three Days of Bohemia.” Less than a month after the idea was casually proposed among three friends at the Barbizon, the inaugural show was held in Central Park and attracted 90 exhibitors. (Today, around 225 artists participate and some 300,000 people view the displays, listen to live jazz and nosh festival food.) With its population now topping 17,000, Winter Park attracted more retail development beyond Park Avenue. The Winter Park Mall, with 400,000 square feet under roof, opened in 1964 and was at the time the largest climate controlled mall in the Southeast. The complex was damaged by a major fire in 1969, but was repaired and continued to thrive until the 1980s. The final stores in the mall closed in the late 1990s, and most of the low-slung white structure was razed to make room for Winter Park Village, a sprawling retail and restaurant development with residential lofts. But a generation of Winter Parkers recall buying their school clothes at J.C. Penney and Ivey’s, the two major anchors, and the latest batch of Marvel Comics at Mall News. Winter Park was not entirely untouched by the turbulent 1960s, although it was hardly a hotbed of discontent. Hordes of young people with no apparent political purpose began gathering in Central Park, much to the dismay of Park Avenue merchants, who said they were scaring the customers. And in 1970 about 200 Rollins students protested the war in Vietnam by marching from the campus to the McCarty State Office Building, where the Selective Service offices were located. In 1981, a new attraction opened — literally — when a huge sinkhole began to form in the front yard of Mae Rose Owens, who looked outside the window of her house on West Comstock Street and saw a sycamore tree disappear as if it were being pulled underground by its roots. Owens, who soon realized that a crater was forming in her front yard, packed some belongings and quickly left with her family. Within a few hours, the structure had vanished. To the north, the city swimming pool cracked and its deep end crumbled and disappeared. The hole expanded eastward, swallowing part of Denning Drive, and southward, creeping uncomfortably close to the back walls of several buildings along Fairbanks Avenue. There were no injuries, although five Porsches and a travel trailer behind German Car Service were devoured. City Planner Jeff Briggs, recalling the scene years later to a reporter from the Orlando Sentinel, said, “Where else do you get to see Porsches in a sinkhole except Winter Park?” No one knew how big the hole would get, and no one knew how to stop it from getting bigger. Within a few days, however, the ground appeared to stabilize and onlookers could only marvel at how, in such a densely developed urban area, the abyss had formed only on land that was largely vacant. In the coming days, a circus atmosphere developed as vendors sold food, T-shirts and other souvenirs. One Fairbanks Avenue business charged admission to view the gaping maw, which measured 335 feet wide and 110 feet deep, from a rear balcony.
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