History Happened Here

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Polk County

Year Founded: 1911


Around 1880, Dr. John Patterson from Murphreesboro, Tennessee settled on what is now Lake Mariana. He was soon followed by Frank and Ruben Fuller from Chicago. The Fullers spurred the building of several stores and built a hotel. The newly formed community adopted the name Sanitaria in reference to a health sanitarium which Dr. Patterson proposed. He had heard of the area’s health benefits and intended to start a health sanitarium to attract visitors to the area.
In 1883 the railroad approached Ruben Fuller and asked him to donate land for a depot in Sanitaria. Mr. Fuller wanted to be paid for the land and the railroad looked elsewhere. One mile down the road they found willing property owners in James Hampton and Hartwell Howard, who donated half of their homesteads to the railroad for the depot. It was built in 1884 on what is now downtown Auburndale. This move signaled the beginning of Auburndale (not yet named) and the end of Sanitaria, which officially closed in 1907.

In July 1884 Major Louis McClain, the civil engineer responsible for the layout of the new town, wrote about the area in a letter to his friend, the editor of the Boston Herald. The editor’s wife said the description reminded her of her hometown, Auburndale, Mass. That town had been named after a line in Oliver Goldsmith’s poem “Deserted Village”: “Sweet Auburn, loveliest village on the plain.”

Although there were still no homes within the town limits of Auburndale in late 1884, the residents of Sanitaria soon moved to the new community, literally bringing their stores with them, board by board. By 1885, there were 130 residents in town. The Post Office was established on June 2, 1884, with James Hampton as the first Postmaster.
By 1900, Auburndale was steadily growing, with its economy largely agricultural. Citrus, watermelons, strawberries and cucumbers were major crops. The cattle industry and lumber mills were also prominent.
E.M. Baynard, a wealthy merchant, citrus grower and cattle rancher, left a legacy for Auburndale in the construction of many of the downtown buildings and two beautiful homes which are still standing today. His first home on West Lake Street was built in 1894 and purchased by the City in 1985. The City restored it to its original charm and now operates it as a historical museum. This Victorian structure is one of the oldest existing homes in Auburndale. Mr. Baynard’s second home was built in 1913 overlooking Lake Stella and is currently occupied by Kersey’s Funeral Home.
In 1898, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church was built and still stands today on Pontotoc Street. Auburndale’s first official school opened in 1890. Only grades one through eight were taught at the school and less than 40 students were enrolled. In 1895 the City had the southernmost library and free reading room in the United States, adding culture to the City.
Alice Kaszer and her mother moved to town in 1911. She purchased a Kodak camera and found her calling in photography. Because of the hundreds of pictures taken by Miss Alice Kaszer, we have a lasting pictorial history of Auburndale.
In December 1913, disaster struck and all but three buildings in the downtown area were destroyed by fire. The town rebuilt with most of the buildings now made of brick.

Auburndale’s first motorized fire truck was purchased in 1927. It was a 1925 American Lefrance fire engine. Although it was taken out of active service years ago, the fire truck fondly referred to as “Grandma” has been restored and can still be seen at the Auburndale Fire Department today.

On May 24, 1911 Auburndale took a big step forward and was incorporated as a town and later became a City on May 8, 1925. The beautiful Spanish style building that now houses City Hall was built in 1927.

Today, the City encompasses approximately 20.12 square miles and has a population of over 14,000.
The City has some of the finest recreational facilities in the County which includes nearly a dozen parks.

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