The Lake Lawsona Historic District holds a special place in my heart since it is where my wife and I reside in our 1929 vernacular bungalow that we have been slowly restoring (when I am not too busy working on other people’s homes.) The Lake Lawsona Historic District consists of the Lawsona/Fern Creek and Thornton Park Neighborhoods. The neighborhood was developed between 1911 and the 1950s and other than the Thornton Park Shopping District is almost entirely residential. The neighborhood is full of Craftsman, Minimal Traditional, Colonial Revival, and a few Mediterranean, Mission, and Tudor Revivals. Despite its residential nature the most historically important structures in the neighborhood are not local homes.
The first is the Dickinson-Azalea Park which was undeveloped land purchased in 1916 by State Senator Walter Rose. Developing this property appealed to Rose because of its natural setting, flowing creek and proximity to downtown Orlando. Rose platted all but 5 acres of the land for housing and then set about cleaning up the creek before deeding it to the city in 1924. Unfortunately, the city did not have a parks department at the time and the park was neglected until, in 1935, The Civitan Club stepped in and agreed to maintain the park along with the help of other local organizations like the Orlando Garden Club. The park has become a beautiful oasis near downtown and in the spring is covered with lush azalea blossoms.
The next structure of significance is located inside or should we say above Dickinson-Azalea Park and is the Washington St. Bridge built in 1926. Prior to its construction there was a small wooden bridge over Fern Creek that was quickly becoming unable to support the increasing traffic as the city continued to grow eastward. At the same time that the bridge was built the pine straw covering that was Washington St. was replaced by the bricks which remain to this day. The bridge was built by the Concrete Steel Bridge Co. of Miami, FL for $10,400 as a reinforced concrete closed spandrel bridge with three arches.
Also, in the area is Howard Middle School which was built in 1926 as Orlando High School, the city’s first high school. It was transitioned to a junior high school in 1952 coinciding with the opening of Edgewater and William R. Boone High Schools, then in 1987 it became Howard Middle School. The school is a beautiful example of The Neoclassical Revival Style
Thornton Park was the first area of the district to be developed in the 1910s and 1920s and is the area
closest to Lake Eola and borders the Downtown Historic District. Though encompassing only a small area of the historic neighborhood it is probably the best known area because of the Thornton Park Shopping District which is full of exclusive restaurants and boutique shops that attract a mix of both young professionals and urban dwellers. As a result, the area has become a lively 24/7 neighborhood, with a diverse mix of people. It is a very walkable neighborhood with sidewalk cafe’s hosting plenty of local residents and their pets.
The Lake Lawsona Historic District is a neighborhood that is part lively gathering place for locals and part sleepy little neighborhood of historic homes and brick lined streets where residents still sit on front porches under the shade of towering Live Oak trees draped with Spanish Moss. And to us, it is in one word…Home.