Orlando’s Historic Districts – Lake Copeland

By Scott Sidler September 30, 2011

  • Established 1984
  • Approximately 110 contributing structures in district
  • Period of significance 1880 – 1930
  • 1st of the Orlando “suburbs” developed mostly before 1930.

Orlando Spreads Out

Clayburn House Lake Copeland
Clayburn House built 1927 by architect James Gamble Rogers II

After being incorporated as a city in 1885 with a burgeoning population of 85 and a size of only 4 square miles, Orlando began to quickly assert itself over its bigger and older competition, Sanford, as the true seat of Orange County. The city grew voraciously in the late 1800s due to the booming citrus industry and was transforming itself from a quiet town to a bustling city by the turn of the century. When Lake Eola Heights, Lake Cherokee, and other first rung neighborhoods were beginning to build out, the area around Lake Copeland was still a farm owned by one family who resided in the neighborhood’s oldest house. The McRae-Raehn House built in the 1880s was originally a farmhouse, though it was remodeled in the 1920s to reflect a Colonial Revival style.

McRae-Raehn House Built 1880s is the earliest structure in the Lake Copeland Historic District

As Orlando’s growth continued into the 20th century, more residents were beginning to look for less populated areas to build their homes. The city was becoming increasingly urban and the congested downtown left some residents looking for a quiet place to live. Lake Copeland was the solution, nearby to downtown though not caught up in the throng of typical urban life.

We’re unsure when the McRae-Raehn farm broke up and was platted by the city, but most of the building in the district took place from the late 1910s until it was all but fully developed by the start of the Great Depression.

Architecture

Most of the houses in the district represent a wide variety of styles from the first half of the 20th century. Popular influences of that era include the Colonial, Mediterranean and Tudor Revival styles, as well as the Bungalow and Minimal Traditional forms.

S.J. Sligh House Built 1925 was the most expensive house of its time in Orlando.

With the Florida Land Boom of the 1920s some of the most magnificent, and expensive, homes were built in this area. For example, the Sligh House built in 1925 on East Copeland Dr. at the extraordinary cost of $25,000, more than 3 times the cost of any of the surrounding homes, is a gorgeous example of a Neoclassical Revival.

Samuel Jefferson Sligh was a citrus magnate from Ocala until the freezes of 1894-95 after which he turned to tomatoes which were also killed off by a freeze before opening a citrus packing business on Robinson St. in the early 1900s. He built this impressive mansion displaying his wealth and aspirations despite legal troubles with the Federal government about shipping unripe or “adulterated” oranges in the 1910s and 1920s.

Also, in the neighborhood is the Clayburn House built in 1927 and designed by a celebrated local architect of the era named James Gamble Rogers II. The house is a stunning example of Mediterranean Revival style with a barrel tiled roof of varying pitches and mock bell tower. At the time Rogers was not “officially” an architect having yet to pass his board exams he designed this and other houses having other architects sign off on his drawings. He is most famous for designing the Casa Feliz in Winter Park and later the Florida Supreme Court Building in Tallahassee in 1948.

The Lake Copeland Historic District remains a quiet neighborhood though much more in the middle of things than it’s original inhabitants hoped for at the time. It was once the outskirts of Orlando, but now is in the midst of the rejuvenated neighborhood called SoDo (South Downtown). Still its unique layout, with few through streets, helps it maintain an intimate and neighborly feel that its residents and visitors alike enjoy.

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