History Happened Here

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Windermere

Orange County

Year Founded: 1910Founded by: Cal Palmer

History

Windermere was bestowed its name from Dr. Stanley Scott, whose father purchased 160 acres in this picturesque location in 1885. Dr. Scott built his home on the shore of Lake Butler, and it is believed by many that he named this town after England’s famous Lake Windermere.

In the late 1800′s Windermere became home for northerners who would spend the winters here and supplement their land investment by growing citrus. But back to back to back freezes destroyed the citrus trees and the area became almost dormant. In the early 1900′s, Cal Palmer purchased what was most of the town for $10,000 and platted the area and began to sell property in Windermere where it became a resort area in the early 1900s. Many visitors built winter cabins to enjoy the local fishing. The 1920 census recorded the population of Windermere at 182. In 1925, the town was incorporated with a population of 200. Windermere also played a part in history during World War I. The ladies of the town would meet regularly during the war to make surgical dressings. This resulted in the formation of the Windermere Women’s Club. In 1927, their clubhouse was moved to its present location in the center of town and is now the historic Town Hall and is listed on the National Historic Registry. Today, Windermere is a quaint architectural mixture ranging from small homes to estate homes with sand roads to preserve the small town charm, the chain of lakes and its history.

Almost 3000 people inhabit the Town of Windermere. The community, however, has not based its success on how rapidly it grows, but on how natural and pleasant a community it is to reside. Windermere tries to focus on preserving the town’s nature and strong community atmosphere. The town’s quality of life is its most distinguishing feature with eight public parks, three public piers, a public swimming area, boat ramps, tennis courts, basketball courts and a library. Windermere has been named “Tree City USA” for its commitment to a natural environment for 17 consecutive years.

Pristine sand bottom lakes surround this small West Orange community. The largest lake, Lake Butler, is located on the west, Lake Down on the east and Lake Bessie on the southeast side of town. The boating, fishing and water enthusiast will revel in the system of canals that connects eleven lakes that range from 25 acres to 1614 acres known as the Butler Chain of Lakes. This chain of lakes was designated by the Florida legislature as “Outstanding Florida Waters” which makes living in Windermere so special.

Story of City's Founding

In 1910, John Calvin (Cal) Palmer along with two friends,Dr. J. Howard Hohnson and Howard Lyon, all from Wauseon Ohio, toured Florida for 6 to 8 months before they settled on the Windermere location. After a few days of fishing in the lakes, they fely they had discovered more than an angler's paradise. It had pristine lakes, high and dry land, orange groves and large timber stands. The deserted town of Windermere had no stores, no post office, no school, and basically one family - Samuel Sevier (S.S.) Griffin and his wife and children. Griffin and his wife had purchased the town between 1907 and 1910 through the tax certificate program when previous owners failed to pay their real estate taxes. Palmer approached Griffin and for $10,000, bought what is now downtown Windermere along with some outlying areas, about 2000 acres in all. Palmer and his friend marketed the land in Ohio under the name of the Windermere Improvement Company. Dr. Johnson had a saw mill in Ohio and in 1912 he moved it to Windermere. In 1911 a post office was established and a school was again established. The school probably used the old 1890 school house that had been used before the town was abandoned.The town continued to grow slowly and on February 2, 1925, Windermere was incorporated

Historical Sites

Name: Windermere 1890 Schoolhouse
Location: Seventh Avenue
Historical Significance: One of the oldest, if not the oldest, schoolhouses in Florida

Name: Cal Palmer Office
Location: Main Street
Historical Significance: Windermere founder's office. first Post Office and on the National Historic Register

Name: Windermere Town Hall
Location: Main Street
Historical Significance: Originally Windermere Womens Club, this building was moved to downtown and is on the National Historic Register

Name: Windermere 9/11 memorial
Location: Main Street
Historical Significance: A 680 pound steel beam from the Twin Towers sits atop a granite base behind Windermere's Town Hall.

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