Save the Historic Homes on Lake Eola

Lake Eola Historic HomesLake Eola’s last remaining historic homes are in danger of destruction. Yesterday I learned of the City of Orlando’s plans to remove 5 historic (according the Orlando Sentinel these homes are only “semi-historic” whatever that may mean) homes dating from 1915-1930 that border Lake Eola park in order to add what will presumably be green space and expand the park’s existing borders by approximately 1 acre. While I think more and bigger parks are a wonderful part of any city the idea of tearing down the only remaining homes on Orlando’s central lake is appalling!

Lake Eola was the birthplace of Orlando and the source of many of the legends of how the city was named. From the beginning it was a place that served as home to many Orlando residents. Most sides of the lake were peppered with gorgeous houses built by the wealthiest citizens since it was the most desirable and central location in town. Sadly, over the years the houses have been replaced by office buildings and high rise condos. And through the changes that Orlando has undergone this one quiet block on Washington St. has remained as a historic time capsule of the way Lake Eola used to be.

Lake Eola as it was

Lake Eola as it once was. Speckled with homes along its banks.

Now Mayor Buddy Dyer and the rest of the city commissioners have decided that The City Beautiful, as Orlando is known, should be a little less beautiful. Instead of saving one small piece of old Lake Eola for future generations to experience they feel that the citizens will be better served by another playground or dog park. Comissioner Patty Sheehan was quoted as saying “It’s been very difficult, and a lot of folks are very upset. But we have to remember the greater good here, and that is getting 1.36 acres added to Lake Eola Park.” The “greater good”? Perhaps our representatives are confused about what the greater good truly is.

The 5 remaining buildings are being offered for FREE to anyone who will pay to move them off of the city’s property.You can contact Greg Chelius of The Trust For Public Land at (850) 222-7911 Ext. 24 to inquire about acquiring one of the homes to move. However, if they cannot secure a home for them before November or December 2012 then the homes will be demolished. Losing these homes, one is the former home of the late Nobel Peace Prize winner John R. Mott, would be a tragic blow to Orlando’s endangered past.

Orlando has always been one focused more on tomorrowland than on its own past and that sad fact shows in the dwindling supply of historic buildings remaining. I only hope that the public outcry will reach the ears of those in power before it is too late and we loose one more important part of our city’s story. I’m reminded of William Morris’ words on this subject. “These old buildings do not belong to us only, they belong to our forefathers and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not in any sense our own property to do with as we like. We are only trustees for those that comes after us.”

Please sign the petition below and speak up to save Orlando from becoming the city with no memory. This city has a rich and very endangered history that has been disappearing all too quickly. Please help us save it for future generations!

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by Scott Sidler

I'm a historic preservationist and author. I help old house lovers understand & restore their homes so they can enjoy the history and character that surrounds them more everyday! When not working, writing or teaching about old houses I spend most of my time fixing up my own 1929 bungalow with my wife Delores and son Charley.

http://www.austinhomerestorations.com

8 comments

  1. Ashley on said:

    That’s terrible Scott! Ughhhh. Sent my letter as soon as I read!

  2. Paige on said:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I love those Lake Eola homes and I can remember adoring them ever since I first moved to Orlando (when I was 5 years old). They have become a constant daydream of mine. From imagining myself living in them, to pretending that will be where I have my future private practice one day. Orlando’s history is as important as it’s future and it will truly be a sad day in this town if those homes do get demolished. We have already lost so much of the historical buildings that made this city “the City Beautiful”. I will be sending my letter today. Again, thank you for sharing.

  3. Carynn Jackson on said:

    Thanks for bringing this urgent issue to light, Scott! It would be a grave misfortune for the community to have these (much more than semi) historic homes erased from the face of the city. Not only does this decision speak volumes about the carelessness of the city’s interest in its history, but it sends a message that the places and buildings which still cling to a community’s roots are disposable. You’re right, evidently the people who are in charge and supposed to preserve the integrity and history of the city have forgotten what the “greater good” actually is. I will certainly be composing a strongly worded letter to the Mayor, as well as passing along this information to many others. Let’s save the buildings!!

  4. It really is crazy how blind to the past our city usually is. Glad you sent off a message to the Mayor. Hopefully it will do some good!

  5. gloria on said:

    We are having a farewell party in the historic Dr. Mott’s house at 528 E. Washington St.
    Thursday November 8th from 6-9! Come down and see this house in all it’s glory before the city tears it down! We are an interior design firm that has fixed this house up and appreciates its charm and historical signifigance. We have loved being here. call us for more info on moving/art party. 407.898.2552

  6. Tonie on said:

    I am a Single Mom of 3 grown Sons and a Disabled American Veteran. I’ve been looking to buy a home in the Orlando/Metro area for the past 18 months and am just having a time of it. This being not only my retirement home, but the home i’ve always dreamed of in my head and that being an old home like a Victorian or Craftsman style with the wonderful wrap around porches, beautiful crown moldings with all the unique character and charm they possess from days gone by…When searching today, I came across your 2012 article about the historical homes by Lake Eola being in danger of destruction due to the added green spaces downtown. I find it so hard to comprehend how there is just so few of them in town and the surrounding area. You go to Saint Petersburg, Jacksonville, Lake Worth & Saint Augustine and there is so many of them. What happened here in
    Orlando? Why is there so few of those styles of houses here, where they here and just all torn down or just so few were ever built here because people didn’t like the styles? And why aren’t newer home builders not building these style of houses again and building these God Butt Ugly, HOA cookie cutter houses all painted tan and brown? peeeeuke! Do you notice no one ever builds porches on their houses anymore? No wonder, no one gets to know their neighbors, because there is nowhere to sit outside to enjoy the end of the evening after dinner, waving to the neighbors as they stroll by walking their dogs…or walking after their children on their tricycles. ;)

    • Tonie, Orlando grew up after the Victorian architecture craze so there are few examples of that around. The historic districts downtown have lots of examples of early 20th century bungalows, craftsmen, foursquare, and a few Victorians thrown in for good measure. If you like older and grander houses try looking in Sanford. There are some real beauties in the historic district there.

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