The area now known as Winter Garden was once home to a large number of Native Americans. Artifacts found around the lake indicate that Indians inhabited the land for thousands of years, up until the colonization of Florida by Spanish explorers. The earliest European settlers, attracted to the fertile muck soil around Lake Apopka, began arriving around 1845 after the Armed Occupation Act encouraged settlement and Florida became a state. Trade goods were transported south on the St. John’s River to Mellonville (Sanford), across sandy trails by horse, mule and oxcart to The Lodge (later known as Apopka), then floated across Lake Apopka to the south shore.
It wasn’t until the Orange Belt Railway arrived in 1886 that the community really began to grow. With this rail line and the later addition of a second railroad, settlers began arriving in the area to take advantage of the fertile soil, mild temperatures, and good transportation. When farmers built a train depot in 1893, they named the stop “Winter Garden” in honor of the year-round growing opportunities here. Citrus became the “cash crop” in the area and farmers planted large tracts of orange groves. The city grew quickly as more and more boxcars of vegetables and fruit were shipped out of the two downtown train stations.
In the 1920s, with the arrival of paved highways and the Model T, Florida became a tourist destination. Winter Garden attracted fishermen who heard stories of the “large-mouth bass capital” known as Lake Apopka. Local businessmen pooled their resources and built the Edgewater Hotel in 1927, a state-of-the-art inn built to accommodate fishermen. Trailer City, located on the lake, was one of Central Florida’s earliest trailer camps, built in the1930s with funds from Roosevelt’s New Deal. In addition, twenty-five fishing camps lined the shores of the lake, offering many amenities to attract tin-can tourists.
During the 1940s, Winter Garden proclaimed itself as the largest citrus shipping point in the world. Eight citrus packing houses were located within the city limits. Hoyle Pounds opened Pounds Motor Company in downtown Winter Garden in 1920 and for more than 80 years, citrus farmers from across the state came to purchase and service their farm equipment there. At one time, Pounds operated the nation’s largest Case tractor dealership east of the Mississippi. In addition to selling equipment, Hoyle was famous for adapting farm equipment for better use in the citrus industry. His most famous invention was rubber tires for tractors.
During World War II, the citrus industry boomed as the federal government, eager to provide soldiers with vitamins necessary to fight disease, purchased large quantities of canned orange juice to send to troops around the world. The Winter Garden Citrus Growers Cooperative built a juice plant to take advantage of the demand. After the war, sales of the metallic-tasting canned juice diminished somewhat. Luckily, shortly after the war, scientists invented better tasting frozen-concentrated orange juice and the demand for the product sky-rocketed. The Winter Garden Citrus Growers Association began manufacturing frozen concentrate in April of 1950.
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Notes & Currency
- 18__ Fernandina $3 Obsolete Note
- 1882 $50 Jacksonville Note Charter #3869
- 1902 $10 Punta Gorda Note Charter #10512
- 1882 $5 Palatka Note Charter #3223
- 1902 $5 Key West Note Charter #7942