The city of Winter Park near Orlando was built as a resort for the rich and famous of the 19th century. It is full of incredible houses and buildings that are best seen from the many lakes that surround it

Just outside of Orlando is the city of Winter Park which looks out over a series of lakes and is full of museums. It’s a destination for lovers of the outdoors, boat cruises, architecture and the arts, with a long history of tourism. Along the shores of the city’s many lakes, you’ll find excellent examples of Winter Park’s built heritage, which is best seen from a boat.

Winter Park was originally designed as a resort town. In the 1880s, Loring Chase, a Great Floridian, was recuperating in the area and fell in love with its nature. Along with his friend, Oliver Everett Chapman, he bought huge tracts of land on which to build a new town. Their plan was to promote the area to people from the northern states as a place to spend the winter. 

The standards set for the new buildings in the town were high. As soon as Winter Park was ready, the value of the properties skyrocketed. It immediately became a place for presidents to holiday with the visit of Chester A. Arthur in 1888. The fabulous parks and grand buildings attracted the wealthy, who developed an arts scene that now brings hundreds of thousands every year to festivals in the city.

The majestic Casa Feliz was rescued by the city

Casa Feliz is considered to be the crown jewel of Winter Park’s buildings. This majestic house in the style of an Andalusian farmhouse gained its name — Happy House in English — because of the many parties that were thrown within its walls. In the 2000s, the building was rescued from demolition, moved to its current location, restored and converted into a museum.

It was the home of the Barbour family, who made their money manufacturing chemical dyes. The Barbours approached the architect James Rogers to build their house, told him he had free reign, and he created what became his signature work. Casa Feliz has a courtyard covered in beautiful majolica tiles, a stunning living room with a high vaulted ceiling, and a bell tower. The house is surrounded by lush landscaping.

A memorial to Winter Park’s first residents

As a retreat for the rich and famous, many of the most stunning buildings were built on estates on the shorefront of the lakes. An excellent example is the Capen-Showalter House, which can now be found on Lake Osceola in the Albin Polasek Museum. This Victorian, Tudor Revival mansion was built for one of Winter Park’s first residents, James Seymour Capen, as a folky farmhouse.

The Capens sold their home to the Showalter family in the twenties. They turned it into the fantastic house that it now is by adding Tudor details. Like Casa Feliz, the Capen-Showalter House was rescued by the Winter Park community at the beginning of the 21st century. It was moved to its current location and preserved as a monument to Winter Park’s origins.

Winter Park’s Chain of Lakes is made up of six different bodies of water connected by charming Venetian canals. They are surrounded by lush tropical Floridian vegetation and full of incredible birds, otters and turtles. As well as the multi-million dollar homes built to enjoy this natural beauty, more than 60 parks and many museums, you’ll see Rollins College from the water. This prestigious school is famous for its Spanish and Mediterranean Revival-style campus.

The sun rises over Lake Eola Park in Orlando, Florida. The still lake reflects trees and skyscrapers bathed in orange light

Take a City tour of orlando and enjoy a cruise through winter lake

Posted in Orlando, United States
Social tagging ,