Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Avon Park Depot Museum

By Margaret Wheaton

Today a group of us met for lunch in the California Zephyr Silver Palm Dining car in Avon Park, Florida.

We first visited the museum located in the railroad Depot building to learn about the history of Avon Park. The community was founded in the days of ox-carts and horse-drawn buggies. It was first known as Lake Forest, but the wife of the early business manager from England said that it reminded her of her home in Stratford-on-Avon. The city name was then changed to Avon Park.

The Seaboard Coast Line railroad provided transportation for agricultural products and helped the growth of the area. When Amtrak took over the rail lines and closed the Avon Park train station, the building was given to the city. It was then leased to the Historical Society for use as a museum.

The Silver Palm Dining Car was originally a sleeper car on the California Zephyr Line. Next
it was converted to a dining car for the Auto-train line from Florida to Kentucky and then retired when that line went bankrupt. Several years later it was purchased and refurbished by the Avon Park Historical Society. It is operated by an enthusiastic team of volunteers. They are not visible in my sketch because they are busy inside, washing dishes and cleaning the car for their next guests.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Bloomin' Arts Festival

by Margaret Wheaton

When the azaleas, camellias and tabebuia trees are ablaze with color, it is time for the Bloomin’ Arts Festival in Bartow, Florida. The artists set up their booths in the streets around the Old Polk County Courthouse, which now serves as the Polk County Historical Museum and Genealogical Library. The booths are shaded by massive live oak trees draped with Spanish moss. People flock to the festival to enjoy the art, music, flower show, quilt show, food, and classic cars.

Saturday, March 5, 2016


By Margaret Wheaton

We are continuing to celebrate the Centennial of the City of Lake Alfred by dedicating our historical buildings. This little building was originally the First Bank of Lake Alfred, built in 1921. It now serves as the home of the Lake Alfred Historical Society. I am so happy that it has survived all these years.

The Mayor and City Commission, the City Manager, the Curator of the museum, the Board of the Historical Society, and interested citizens gathered on Thursday morning to see the bronze plaque unveiled. It says:

“The First Bank of Lake Alfred was housed in the Florida Fruitlands Company office until this building was constructed to serve as the bank of Lake Alfred. The first bank was established in 1909 and known as the Snell National Bank, privately owned by the S. W. Snell Company. Mr. Frank C. Gardner had a large safe in his home to supplement the Florida Fruitlands Company payroll until the Bank of Lake Alfred opened its doors in 1921. It continued to serve as the community’s bank for many years until the late 1970s. After closing it sat vacant and eventually became property of the City of Lake Alfred, which lead to a partnership with the Lake Alfred Historical Society to establish its office and museum.”

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Virtual Walk in the Woods

By Margaret Wheaton

Imagine a walk in a quiet Florida forest with a guide who can tell you about the local plants and animals as well as the history of the area. To top it off, give him the ability to share poetry that conveys his love of nature. That describes a lovely afternoon with naturalist, guide, author, and poet Steve Franklin.

Steve frequently guides nature tours at Mackay Gardens and Lakeside Preserve in Lake Alfred. Now there is a way to enjoy a tour if you can’t schedule the time to visit Mackay. Steve has created "A Virtual Tour of Mackay Gardens and Lakeside Preserve" using PowerPoint.

The LakeAlfred Historical Society arranged for Steve to present his Virtual Tour on Tuesday, March 1, at the Lake Alfred Public Library. Steve's next Nature Walk at Mackay Gardens and Lakeside Preserve will be this Sunday, March 6th at 2pm.

By the way, “Mackay” rhymes with “sky.”