The Early History of Winter Park
David Mizell, Jr. purchased eight acres of land between Lakes Virginia, Mizell and Berry,
and founded the town of Lake View.
The name of Lake View was changed to Osceola and a mail delivery office was established.
Loring A. Chase of Chicago visited the area and envisioned a town situated near existing railroad tracks, surrounded by lakes. He and his friend Oliver E. Chapman purchased 600 acres for $13,000. They named the new town Winter Park and laid out a plan designating home sites, a hotel, churches, schools and parks and began selling lots.
Winter Parks’ first official building, a train depot, was dedicated. Other buildings constructed that year included a hotel, called the Rogers House, and a post office.
A telegraph office began service. Later that year a public school was established in the town hall.
Winter Park now had a population of 600, while Orlando’s population was 4,500. The town of Osceola was absorbed into Winter Park. The Congregational Church announced that Winter Park had been selected to be the site of a new college. The first institute of higher learning in the state was named after Alonzo Rollins, who donated nearly half of the $114,000 raised to persuade the church to select Winter Park as the location for the college.
Citrus growing became the area’s leading economic activity. Winter Park’s first election was held. On New Year’s Eve, the Seminole Hotel officially opened. At the cost of $150,000, it was the state’s largest hotel.
Winter Park was incorporated with a city council and mayoral form of government. The Orlando and Winter Park Railroad, the “Dinky Line,” began service, running from downtown Orlando to Winter Park. The fare was 15 cents each way.
In December there was a severe freeze and a low temperature of 24 degrees was measured in Orlando. All the fruit froze and most the young trees died.
Winter Park’s population was 658. In February, the citrus industry was crippled by a second “Great Freeze,” as temperatures dipped to 17 degrees. The industry would not recover for a decade. In May, the state legislature issued a charter to the town of Winter Park.
A new nine-hole golf course offered a challenge to wintering guests as grazing sheep kept the grass trimmed.
Early 20th Century
Residents and winter visitor’s shopped Park Avenue and lived in family hotels, simple houses and elegant lakeside cottages. By 1923, the citrus groves returned, a new land boom began and Winter Park blossomed into a city of “gracious living.”