Many people over the decades have talked about preserving the architecturally significant buildings and distinctive landmarks that make up the visual history of Mount Dora. It all started somewhere, with someone who cared.
There are a few among us who have accepted the torch passed to them by our predecessors and who still work diligently on that task to preserve our city – but do you know how that preservation mindset all started?
The Mount Dora Historical Society was formed in 1953. The purpose of the Society was stated in the original by-laws: “To do justice to those pioneers who have played a part in the founding of Mount Dora; to keep and preserve all that is known, in trust, for those who are to come after us; to increase the extent of knowledge of the history of Mount Dora; and to teach our children that the first essential knowledge of the history of Mount Dora is an object well worthy of our best efforts.”
January 6, 1953 at a meeting of the Mount Dora City Council Esther Wyatt Bishop, then a member of the Council, in an endeavor to honor the early settlers of Mount Dora, proposed that the history of Mount Dora be written. She asked Council to back this venture. The proposal was carried by a unanimous vote and Mrs. Bishop was appointed chairman to select her committee. At that same meeting Mr. Lou Heaton, then Mayor, proposed that a historical society be organized to carry out this project.
An organizational luncheon was planned at the home of the chairman on January 9, 1953, and her selected committee was as follows: Mary True Crosswhite, Adrienne Sadler, Orin W. Sadler Jr., Edith Edeburn Keller, Harriet Mallory, Josephine Sadler Simpson, and Lou. L. Heaton.
In 1954 three more were added to the original committee: Pearl Overhiser, Frank Bridgman, and Frederick Slight. Officers and Directors were elected, a charter was obtained, by-laws drawn up and a membership drive launched. Presidents of the Society were: Orin W. Sadler, JR (1954-55, 1957), Frank E. Bridgman (1955-56) and W. D. Patton (1958-1959).
The Historical Society archives were begun in 1956 with the purchase of a cabinet that was stored in City Hall. The first item collected was a picture of City Hall as a residence. The Society also kept a scrapbook of their activities.
In 1955, there were 33 individual members and 31 family members. In 1957, dues were $2 for an individual and $3 for a couple. Meetings were held several times a year and featured papers written about the founding families in Mount Dora and the surrounding communities.
The book The Story Of Mount Dora was published in 1960. The Society also hosted the annual meeting of the Florida Historical Society in the spring of 1960 at the Lakeside Inn.
Most of the content of this article is reprinted from pages 150 and 151 of The Story of Mount Dora by R. J. Longstreet. Additional information was gleaned from the 1953-1959 minutes of the Governing Board.
The Mount Dora Historical Society is still actively preserving Mount Dora’s history through their archives and through the Mount Dora History Museum open Tuesday through Sunday from 1:00-4:00 pm at 450 Royellou Lane. For more information, call 352-383-0006 or visit: www.mountdorahistoricalsociety.org.