Florida Historical Markers Programs - Marker: Osceola





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Osceola

HUNTER ARMS HOTEL
Location:1029 New York Avenue
County: Osceola
City: St. Cloud
Description: Side One: Following World War I, the United States economy was thriving. Florida’s population skyrocketed as cheap land, combined with the improved roads and railways, drew northern tourists and developers to the state. In 1925, Ohio mausoleum builder Grover C. Hunter sought to take advantage of the trends and traveled to St. Cloud. By 1926, he hired Ohio architect Harlan Jones to design a hotel and Ohio contractor W.A. Steffle to build it. This construction forced the relocation of the existing Bon Air hotel and the demolition of the Peckham Building, nicknamed the “New York Stores.” The initial cost was estimated at $100,000, but rose to $250,000 when work began. Jones designed it in the Mediterranean Revival style. His intention was to create what was locally known as a “Spaniflora” atmosphere, which was popular in early St. Cloud. Other businesses on New York Avenue had incorporated similar design elements. The original exterior of the hotel featured walls built of brick and steel, and finished with gray stucco. The “Spaniflora” elements extended to the interior with Spanish tile floors, a coquina rock fireplace, and ceiling beams fashioned from pecky cypress. Side Two: Opening in 1927, the Hunter Arms Hotel operated only during the winter, and guests paid a flat seasonal rate that included a room and two meals a day. The second floor originally offered 44 guest rooms, while the first floor provided space at the front of the building for businesses. Hunter originally built the hotel intending to sell it, but the 1929 stock market crash and the subsequent Great Depression changed his plan. Hunter’s wife, Nona, took over operation of the hotel following his death in 1953, and managed it for many years. The hotel building changed ownership several times and slowly fell into disrepair. It was purchased in 1994 by Ann Young and Sandi Pinkert, who began restoring the building and converted it into a bed-and-breakfast. In 2016, ADMC International bought the building and continued the restoration. Rooms were updated with modern amenities, but the building retained its historic characteristics. The Hunter Arms Hotel occupies 3/4 of a city block, and is considered a key element in the revitalization of St. Cloud’s downtown.
FIRST NATIONAL BANK/ST. CLOUD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Location:1200 New York Avenue
County: Osceola
City: St. Cloud
Description: St. Cloud's First National Bank opened in 1910. This narrow, two story Masonry Vernacular structure was built from locally produced sand brick, wood beams, and concrete block. St. Cloud residents subscribed over $100,000 of capital stock, twice as much as required by the United States Comptroller. It was the only national bank in the county, and the level of capital stock raised was unprecedented. In 1911, the bank issued $10 notes with a picture of the bank’s first president, William H. Lynn. Though the bank failed in December 1917, the building remained an important part of downtown St. Cloud. Many diverse community organizations and businesses were housed in the building, including the People's Bank of St. Cloud in 1919, the US. Spanish War Veterans Headquarters in 1934, and the Golden Age Club in 1970. The building was purchased in 1992 by the Chamber of Commerce, which represents over 500 local businesses, and serves as its headquarters. In 1997, the St. Cloud Chamber was awarded a state historic preservation grant to restore the building with support from Florida Secretary of State Sandra Mortham. Following its restoration, the building has also served as a museum devoted to St. Cloud history.
Sponsors: St. Cloud Main Street, City of St. Cloud, Osceola County Economic Development
HAMILTON DISSTON SUGAR PLANTATION
Location:2700 Lake Shore Blvd
County: Osceola
City: St. Cloud
Description: In 1885, Hamilton Disston, Pennsylvania industrialist and pioneer Florida promoter, established an extensive experimental sugar plantation on the drained lands around St. Cloud. The enterprise, part of Disston's promotional scheme, prospered for several years and operated its own cane mill. After the abolition of the federal bounty on domestic sugar, the business failed and much of the machinery was sold for scrap. The failure caused large scale sugar planting in Florida to be abandoned for many years.
OSCEOLA COUNTY
Location:2 Courthouse Sq, on grounds of Courthouse.
County: Osceola
City: Kissimmee
Description: Osceola County was created in May, 1887 from portions of Orange and Brevard Counties. One of its sponsors was Senator J. Milton Bryan, who suggested the new county be named for Osceola, the great Seminole warrior. The new county was Florida's fortieth and had 815 citizens. Kissimmee was named the county seat. In 1889, Osceola citizens voted a $30,000 bond issue to build this Romanesque Revival style courthouse, which has remained in daily use since 1890. It's significance was recognized by its listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Osceola is Florida's sixth largest county. It has a rich history of cattle raising extending back to the days of the Seminole Indians. Other landmarks in county agricultural and economic history include the rise and decline of Hamilton Disston's Land and sugar empire, steamboating, and lumbering. Cattle and agriculture remain Osceola County's economic bulwarks, although it has experienced growth in manufacturing and tourism since the late 1960s.
Sponsors: sponsored by Kissimmee business and professional women's club in cooperation with department of state
THE DESERT INN
Location:State Highway 441 and State Road 60.
County: Osceola
City: Yeehaw Junction
Description: The Desert Inn was founded as a trading post in the late 1880s. The present building dates before 1925 and served as a supply and recreational center for cattle drovers, lumber men and tourists during the era when much of Osceola County was still undeveloped wilderness. Cowmen working the free ranging cattle on the palmetto prairie and lumber men cutting timber in the nearby pine lands came to the Desert Inn to eat, drink, and dance at this “oasis” where they could enjoy some relief from their arduous labors. Local patrons of the trading post and restaurant included African Americans and Seminoles, who had separate dining facilities in the era of segregation. The construction of roads in the 1930s brought tourists to the area, and a set of overnight cabins were erected behind the original building. Today the Desert Inn continues to be a popular destination for tourists and local residents. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.
Sponsors: The Desert Inn and the Florida Department of State
THE THUNDERSTORM PROJECT
Location:13th St. Between New York and Pennsylvania Ave.
County: Osceola
City: St. Cloud
Description: On a typical summer afternoon thunderstorms will be seen in the skies surrounding this site. So common they are often ignored, thunderstorms are nevertheless vital to the State's economy. They provide most of Florida's annual rainfall, but lightening and strong winds from occasional severe storms can be costly. It was here in the summer of 1946 that scientists used weather radar, aircraft penetration flights, balloon soundings and an extensive network of surface instruments to gather - for the first time - observations which led to an understanding of the structure and life cycle of thunderstorms. This site was chosen because the frequency of thunderstorms in Florida is higher than anywhere else in North America. The Thunderstorm Project was conducted by U.S. Weather Bureau, Air Force, Navy and NACA (forerunner of NASA). Scientists working at the University of Chicago analyzed the resulting data. Theories they developed from observations made here in 1946 - and in the Ohio Phase of the Project the following summer - remain the cornerstone of our understanding of thunderstorms and related weather such as hail, strong winds, heavy rain and tornadoes.
Sponsors: sponsored by meteorologists from around the country in cooperation with the department of state
KENANVILLE SCHOOL
Location:1180 South Canoe Creek Road
County: Osceola
City: Kenansville
Description: This building was constructed in 1917 on five acres of land with $6,000 donated from the estate of Mrs. Mary Lily Kenan Flagler Bingham, (1867-1917), wife of Henry Flagler, the owner and promoter of the Florida East Coast Railroad. Kenansville School is the oldest known public school building in Osceola County. The two-story masonry vernacular brick building, of late 19th, early 20th century design, was erected by A.J. MacDonough, Architect, and Track and Nash Contractor. From 1917 to early 1920, the school housed grades one through 12 with as many as 100 students and five teachers. By 1922, only 29 students were enrolled in grades one through six and were taught by one teacher. The school closed in 1962 and sat empty for 30 years. In 1992 it reopened, serving students from pre-K to second grade and saving the younger children the 35-mile bus ride to St. Cloud. In 2003, the school closed its doors permanently. In 2005, the school was deeded to the Kenansville Community Association, Inc. with the help of the School Board of Osceola County and the Board of County Commissioners of Osceola County. For several decades, the school was one of the state’s outstanding rural schools.
Sponsors: SPONSORED BY THE KENANSVILLE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION, INC. AND THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF STATE
SUGAR BELT RAILWAY/ VFW POST
Location:915 New York Avenue
County: Osceola
City: St. Cloud
Description: The Sugar Belt Railway Line, built in 1889 by Hamilton Disston, transported sugar and citrus between the town of Narcoossee and Kissimmee. The train made the return trip after being reversed on a turntable at Narcoossee operated by muscle power. The rail line ran through what would become the town of St. Cloud, which was surveyed and platted in 1909 as a result of its location, south of Lake Tohopekaliga and near the railroad. St. Cloud was intended for veterans of the Civil War, and was known as “The Soldier City.” In 1910, a wood-frame depot building was erected to handle passenger and freight service. The building also served as a welcome center for new members of the community arriving on the train. The women of St. Cloud began putting books and magazines in the depot, thereby beginning the town’s first library. In 1925, the Sugar Belt Railway, as part of the Atlantic Coast Line, built a new brick building where the old wood frame building stood. The depot ceased to operate in 1942 because of dwindling traffic between Kissimmee and Narcoossee. The Veterans of the Foreign Wars Post 3227 purchased the building to use as their post headquarters in 1943.
Sponsors: St. Cloud Main Street, City of St. Cloud
VETERAN'S MEMORIAL LIBRARY
Location:1012 Massachusetts Avenue
County: Osceola
City: St. Cloud
Description: Side One: The Ladies Improvement Club of St. Cloud organized in 1910 for the betterment of the community through civic projects and the advocacy of literacy. The club established a small area in the Sugar Belt Railway depot for books and magazines for public use. As the community grew, the club relocated the collection to a small building on Pennsylvania Avenue, then later to the second floor of city hall on Florida Avenue and 10th Street. The library became an important focus of the club and community. In 1915, club president Mary George worked with Judge W.G. Peckham to secure lots on Massachusetts Avenue for the construction of a new library building. Within a year, the club raised $700 to pay for the lots. Contributions from Union Army veterans in the Grand Army of the Republic helped fund construction of the library in 1922. It was designed by Orlando architects Ida Annah Ryan, the first woman to earn a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Isabel Roberts, who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright. Ryan and Roberts insisted on a motto. Thomas Carlyle's "The true university is a collection of books" was selected. Side Two: This Grecian style building, constructed by P.E. Morgan, was composed of hollow clay tile with stained stucco exterior finish. The dedication of the Veterans Memorial Library in February 1923 was presided over by the president of the Ladies Improvement Club. Sixty members of the Grand Army of the Republic and forty members of its auxiliary, the Woman's Relief Corps, marched to the library for flag-raising ceremonies. The Ladies Improvement Club, renamed the Woman’s Club of St. Cloud in 1941, maintained and operated the library until it became part of the Osceola County library system in 1968. The building served as the city’s library for over 50 years until the library moved in 1974. Thereafter it was used as a re-sale shop for the American Red Cross and other civic groups until 2000. The City of St. Cloud purchased the building in 2001 and began renovations to establish the St. Cloud Heritage Museum run by the Woman's Club of St. Cloud. The museum opened in February 2008 and houses the records and artifacts of St. Cloud’s history.
Sponsors: St. Cloud Main Street, City of St. Cloud
GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC BUILDING
Location:1101 Massachusetts Avenue
County: Osceola
City: St. Cloud
Description: Side One: The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a nationwide organization founded in 1866 for Union veterans of the Civil War. The town of St. Cloud was founded in 1909 as a community for Union veterans. The L. L. Mitchell Post #34, named for the first Union veteran to die in St. Cloud, was the local GAR chapter. The post’s original hall was located to the rear of this building on land donated by the Seminole Land & Investment Company in 1909. The “old hall” hosted meetings, and other civic and social events. When St. Cloud incorporated in 1911, its first officials were elected in the “old hall.” As the town grew, so did GAR membership, and a larger hall was needed. Tampa architect M. W. Chessman was contracted to lead the construction. Many GAR members donated money and volunteered labor. Post secretary E. E. Scranton wrote: “A splendid GAR building has been erected for memory and in honor of the old boys of the Union Army of ’61 -’65 who saved the country for the generations coming after us, and saved our glorious flag, the Stars and Stripes, from dishonor or disgrace in over 2,000 battles of that great war.” During its height, St. Cloud’s GAR post was the largest in Florida and the second largest post in the country. Side Two: The 150’ x 50’ building has three defining features. There are two panels of inscribed brick flanking the entrance that include soldiers’ names and their regiments, a public auditorium on the first floor with stage and historic painted curtain, and a private assembly room on the second floor for the GAR. Military and community organizations including the Women’s Relief Corps, Army and Navy Union, Sons and Daughters of Union Veterans, Chautauqua Association, Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, Masons and the Order of the Eastern Star all met in the hall. In addition, plays, movies, and graduations were presented here. In 1940, the Florida GAR held its last encampment at this site. The last Union veteran in St. Cloud died in 1943. Author Bruce Catton wrote in regard to the passing of Union veterans, “Something deeply and fundamentally American is gone forever.” The hall was managed by the Masons until 1971 when it was sold to private owners. Dr. Woodrow and Cherry Everett used the top floor for the Northeast Consortium for Engineering Education Research. Dr. Everett housed many of his Civil War era artifacts in a display room designed for preservation. In 1997, the hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Sponsors: St. Cloud Main Street, City of St. Cloud, Sons of Union Veterans, Dr. Woodrow & Cherry Everett