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Clermont

Lake County

Year Founded: 1884Founded by: Thomas J. Hooks

History

The City of Clermont was founded in 1884 and incorporated in 1916. The city is located in south Lake County, approximately 22 miles west of Orlando and 22 miles southeast of Leesburg. 

Clermont was designed to be a “model town” with uniform building standards, shade trees, and sidewalks. The planners dreamed of making Clermont “the most desirable winter resort in America.”  Many of Clermont’s early settlers were veterans of the Civil War and included soldiers from both the Union and Confederate Armies.  By 1890, Clermont had developed into the largest tomato producer in Florida. Pioneer families were growing 3,000 acres of tomatoes around Clermont. Clermont’s canals were the major route used for transporting tomatoes for shipment from the train depot on the south side of Lake Minneola. The tomato industry drove Clermont’s prosperity in the 1880′s and early 1890′s.

In December 1894, the Great Freeze occurred and it took nearly a decade to recover.  The dream of Clermont as a model town had not died with the Great Freeze. New developers promoted the town nationally with having the lowest death rate of any city in the nation, attributed to the climate and and healthy environment, and had more paved streets per capita than any city in Florida. In Clermont’s early development, lakeside lots were less desirable than those on higher ground, since elevated homes afforded better cross ventilation.  As Clermont thrived, so did its downtown area. Citizens voted in 1926 to build a $27,000 city hall and fire station at the southeast corner of Eighth Street and Desoto Avenue. The basement contained a fire truck, police headquarters, and a jail. During the 1920′s, the roadways in and around Clermont saw great improvements. One of them was the “Roller Coaster Road,” which stretched from the end of Minnehaha Avenue, east to the Orange County line. The name was given to this stretch of road after it was built because of its high hills and deep valleys. This stretch of roadway is currently Highway 50.

After World War II, Clermont literally bloomed as mature citrus groves and America’s thirst for orange juice grew. From the end of World War II through 1989, citrus reigned in Clermont.   

Built in 1956, the Citrus Tower was one of Florida’s first man-made attractions and was the state’s highest observation point. The tower cost about $250,000. Tourists and residents enjoyed a 360 degree view of the city nestled by miles of lush citrus groves extending eastward to the Orange County lines.

Clermont’s citrus era ended in the 1980′s when Central Florida was hit by three hard freezes in 1983, 1985 and 1989. Within months after the Christmas 1989 freeze, the rolling green hills became brown and barren. Although fortunes were lost, it opened the doorway for new developments. The landscape changed bringing new vistas and new neighbors.

In the early 1990′s Clermont’s new identity began to emerge with a focus on outdoor activities and sports. Because of the rolling hills and chain of lakes, Clermont hosts more triathlons than any other city in the State. With expanded parks and fields, the city has hosted the National Girls Softball Finals.The pristine lakes offer a haven for fishing, boating, skiing and wakeboarding enthusiasts.

Clermont is a dynamic and varied city that is home to a diverse population and thriving commercial and business ventures. As the largest City in Lake County, Clermont continues to support the vision of our founders as a model town.

Story of City's Founding

In 1884, Thomas J. Hooks sold several hundred acres of land to a group from Vineland, New Jersey who organized the "Clermont Improvement Company". The General Manager was Arthur Wrotnowski, who was born in Clermont-Ferrand, France. The group selected the name "Clermont" for their town site. Mr. Wrotnowski was a civil engineer and provided a detailed survey which included the lakes and streets. Very few of these names have changed.

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