Darling of Orange County
Birthplace of Lake County
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Lake County, established May 27, 1887, was carved from portions of Orange and Sumter counties. The Legislature had defined borders but allowed the twenty-two hundred plus registered voters to decide where to place the county seat. Four elections and a courtroom battle later, Tavares, on August 10, 1888, finally became the official seat. The selection process lasted 440 days from start to finish.
An 1880 dream of two Orlando Attorneys, Tavares was founded on a historic parcel known as “Hull Place”, the homestead of pioneers James and Nancy Hull. The lawyers however did not purchase the land directly from the Hull’s. Attorneys Alexander St. Clair-Abrams and partner Robert L. Summerlin bought the undeveloped property, with its “bearing grove”, from the estate of George C. Brantley.
Platted as a city in 1881, Tavares, when Lake County was formed in 1887, had 20 trains daily passing through its downtown corridor, “more than any Florida depot”, said an 1887 visiting correspondent. In six years Tavares, the darling community of Orange County, had blossomed into a Florida railroad hub at the center of 40 plus want-to-be towns in two counties that, as of May 27, 1887, became 40 plus want-to-be Lake County communities.
TAVARES: Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County, is a history of how Florida’s “Great Lake Region” transitioned from a 19th century wilderness into a vibrant Citrus Belt district. Amazing pioneers dared to dream big– dared to imagine creating such places as Leesburg, Lady Lake, Mount Dora, Montverde, Eldorado, Eustis, Umatilla, Astor, Clermont, Yalaha, and Tavares, to name but a few.
This is a story of triumph over tragedy; of homesteaders becoming town builders; of steamboats and railroads forging a new homeland, and of remarkable men and women who made it happen. There is even a touch of mystery and intrigue.
Tavares: Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County is a history of the earliest days of settlements of Florida’s Lake County.