the disappearance of a resort community
Fred Harley Huddleston
presented to Professor F. Blair Reeves
as partial fulfillment of the requirements of the course AE 68^-
During the growth period of the railroads of Florida in the latter part of the nineteenth century, countless communities were established alons; the routes and were de-pendent to this lifeline of rails for survival. With the decline of the railroads so did these water stop communities decline unless they had devised another means of support or had already disappeared through some disaster or lack of purpose.
These towns which played a vital role in the development of the State of Florida have been largly ignored in terms of recording their development and physical remains.
One such community is Interlachen, Florida. Once a viable community, a succession of disasters reduced it to a ghost of its former self and is today attempting to revive itself without destroying its own identity. This study is an attempt to record what Interlachen was and what survives today as a potential!tool in developing a plan for Interlachen's future.
Interlachen is located fifteen miles from Palatka 06 the Atlantic Coast Railroad. Geographically the town is situated on1 a hisch ridge of ground between Lake Chipo and Lake Lagonda.
In 1881, N.R. Gruell, chief engineer of the Florida Southern Railway, arrived with his corps of engineers at a point one or two miles south of the present site of Interlachen when attention was called to the picturesque spot between the lakes, then having one log cabin and previously having been the site of an Indian village. He camped there and was so taken with the spot that the rail line was rerouted through it and his employer sent a team to survey a towns ite. The survey was conducted by Mr. W.C. Valentine that same year under the authority of Charles Francis Sr., president of the Florida Southern Railroad.
The community was named Blue Pond and the first house was constructed by Mr. Charles Augustus Brush in 1881 and was a one story board and batten house which is today finished in clapboard. Another early settler was Mr. Joe Stock whose family arrived on a flatbed car as there was no access to the community except by rail.
The Healthy water of the area became well known and a resort economy was established along with orange groves. The majority of early settlers came from New
Ensrland and named the streets of the town after those in Boston (i.e., State Street, Boylston Street, Washington Street, Tremont Street, and Beacon Street). By the time the official Town Plat was drawn in I885, the town con^ tained shops, a hotel, several residences, and a Congregational Church. Some of the earlier houses were winter houses along the shore of Lake Lagonda and were named after birds such as "Wren". The majority of structures weretconstruoted between 1885 and I89O and were primarily resort houses for winter use. At one point the town could boast four hotels, a depot which handled four pas-sanger trains a day and contained a screened-in collection of rare plants and birds, a floating dock where concerts were regularly scheduled, and a bank with an elaborate grill for its teller cages.
The name of Blue Pond was changed to Interlachen, being named after a town in Switzerland whose name meant Between-the-lakes. This was necessary as the postal authorities would not grant a post office to a town whose name contained two words; such a name was considered confusing.
The community was incorporated in 1888 and the population was estimated as being about 10,000. This figure would be questioned in part by the physical evidence that survives today if it were not for the fact that the ma-
joriety of these people lived in tents along Lake L^gonda, having claimed their land, these settlers were working in the orange groves saving to build more substancial homes. Unfortimatly, the freezes of the late 1880's and the great freeze of 1895 wiped out the hopes of these people and they fled south. Three of the four hotels burned and the largest local business, the Hastings Seed Company, left for Atlanta in I889 along with the predecessor of the magazine, Progressive Farmer which was called the Florida Rualist while in Interlachen. The New England families stopped returning for the winter season and the houses were, on a whole, deserted except where New Englanders had returned for retirement.
The town remained in this deserted tate until the latter 1960's when families began to move into some of the large houses and a few new ones were built. The voids in the town fabric are reminders that the town has lost its depot, bank, hotels, and numerous houses through demolition, neglect, fire, and storms; Interlachen cannot afford to lose much more.
Few of Interlachen's surviving early structures can be easily and accuratly dated. A number of buildings are known to have existed by 1884 but the large number of houses built after this date and before 1895 are hard to date accuratly.
Though the numbers of architectural examples are not great, what has' survived are refined statements of design that are usually reserved for urban settings, not resort communities.
Brush House, first building,
Buckeye Country Store, 1884
Photograph, c. I890
City Hall, I892
Depot, model of
(built by Mrs. Iris Waldock)
9 Biggers House
12 Smith House
Levi Nagle House
Decker House, 1948
17 Site of Lagonda Hotel
The Lagonda Hotel, photo, c. 1890
22 Waldock Home
23 Vance Home
24 Brush Home
25 Episcopol Church, site of one hotel
26 Methodist Church, Front c. 1910, Rear moved from Palatka c. 1880
27 Lakeview House Hotel, 1884
30 "Haunted House" Residence
31 Congregational Church, 1884
33 Persino Home, c. 1890
43 Stock House, c. 1885
45 Nick's Mark
Little documented evidence of Interlachen history-exists today. The vast majority of the information provided in this paper comes from older residents who have related their rememberances to other members of the community and to newspaper reporters.
Dowda, Robert B., The History of Palatka and Putnam County, 1939; unpublished typescript.
Times Union and Journal, Jacksonville, Florida; August 27, 1972.
United Methodist Church