No pretense, of course, is made that any law can protect people from the consequences of their own bad judgment; but it is the consensus of Florida opinion that the present laws, as administered by the Real Estate Commission, inflict such severe penalties for misrepresentation of any sort on the part of brokers that anyone who buys Florida real estate today has only himself to blame if he is sorry for it afterward. At the height of the speculative boom there were nearly 50,000 real estate salesmen licensed under the tax laws then in force; in 1937 there were fewer than 4,500 who had passed the scrutiny of the Commission and obtained licenses to do business as brokers or salesmen of real estate.
Florida is still interested, very much so, in selling real estate to newcomers. It is not interested in selling lots to people who have no interest in Florida other than the speculative chance of a quick turn-over at a profit; it definitely discourages anything which smacks of the methods and atmosphere of the old boom days. The people who are buying real estate in Florida now, and their number is increasing at a high rate of acceleration, are buying because they intend to live in Florida, all the year or part of the year, to grow oranges and grapefruit or other products of Florida’s prolific soil, or merely to take their ease for the remainder of their lives in Florida’s kindly and beneficent climate.
As the capital of Orange County and the largest city in Florida’s citrus belt, Orlando is the center from which the largest annual volume of citrus fruit is shipped. More than 6,000 carloads of oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and winter vegetables go out of Orlando’s freight terminals every year. Orange County is an important truck-farming region as well as citrus country.
Orlando’s industries naturally center about and derive from its agricultural interests. All but one of the important marketing organizations which handle Florida farm products from source to ultimate market have their headquarters and maintain their largest packing houses in Orlando. The largest of all the citrus canning plants in the state, that of Dr. Phillips, is located here. It was in this plant that some of the advanced scientific research was done which resulted in the successful commercialization of methods of preserving the citrus surplus and carrying it over the between-season slack.
Adjacent to Orlando on the north is the delightful municipality of Winter Park. It is a beautiful little community surrounding five of Florida’s loveliest lakes, an old settled com munity, one of the first of the colonies of northern people, mainly from New England, to be established in Midland Florida. They brought the New England tradition of Congregationalism with them. The first Congregational Church in Florida was established here. Around this nucleus has grown up a community which, in large measure, retains and reflects the atmosphere of New England culture. The azalea gardens and beautiful estates of Winter Park are among the show places of Florida. The town’s winter colony includes many prominent authors, its University Club numbers among its members a majority whose names appear in “Who’s Who In America.” There is a steady growth in the number of winter visitors, for whose accommodation Winter Park has many fine hotels, inns and apartments, and provides a wide variety of outdoor sports, including harness racing.
Winter Park’s claim to being the “cultural resort” of Florida rests largely on the atmosphere created and maintained by the influence of Rollins College. Founded in 1885 through the efforts of the Congregationalists of Florida, Rollins College has grown steadily into an institution with a faculty of 85 and a student body of nearly 400. The oldest standard college in Florida, Rollins has no ambition to be the largest. Its 45 acre campus has been laid out to provide, with its present buildings and those planned for the future, for a maximum of 500 students. Since 1925, when Hamilton Holt retired from the editorship of The Independent to become President of Rollins College, the institution has made great strides. While now strictly undenominational the tone of Rollins is still definitely Christian.
President Holt brought to Rollins some radically new ideas in academic education. His first innovation was to discard the standard lecture and quiz system, which he had felt to be inadequate in his own days at Yale and Columbia, and to substitute for it what is known as the “Rollins Conference Plan.” This was an attempt, which has worked so successfully in practice as to influence many older institutions, to break down the barriers between the teacher and the taught and, as Dr. Holt puts it, to humanize education. This system accounts for the high proportion of faculty to students, averaging one teacher to four students. It also accounts for the frequency with which visitors to Winter Park notice small groups of a half-a-dozen or so assembled under the trees of the campus or on the shore of Lake Virginia, which borders the college grounds, engaged in conversational discussions which do not bear any outward resemblance to traditional classroom routine.
Another innovation by Dr. Holt was what is called at Rollins the “Achievement Plan for Graduation.” Instead of the traditional four annual classes, the student body at Rollins is divided into the Upper Division and the Lower Division. Students advance from the Lower to the Upper not on the basis of credits or time spent, but on their educational achievement, which makes it possible for students to complete courses at a rate of speed in direct proportion to their ability and ambition. This is an effort to individualize the curriculum and, in Dr. Holt’s words, to restore the spirit of adventure to higher education.
In some such fashion did the great universities of the Middle Ages function. Something of the spirit which drew eager students, keen in the pursuit of knowledge, to flock by thousands to Salamanca, Paris, Leyden and Oxford, not to pursue set studies by a rigid, prescribed formula but to absorb by direct contact with the learned men of their time the wisdom and knowledge which they taught, seems to permeate the atmosphere of Rollins. The mediaeval method is further suggested by the practice, initiated by Dr. Holt, of bringing to the college every Winter as special lecturers, distinguished men of letters, journalists, educators and men of affairs. Many of these take part in the annual presentations by radio broadcast of the “Animated Magazine,” which is in effect a public forum for the discussion of current events and the world’s progress.
The architects of Rollins College have been peculiarly successful in adapting the Mediterranean type of architecture to the group of college buildings. Particularly notable is the Knowles Memorial Chapel, designed by Dr. Ralph Adams Cram, the gift of Mrs. Frances Knowles Warren of Boston as a memorial to her father, Francis Knowles, one of the founders of the college and the town. Another is the Annie Russell theatre, a beautiful little playhouse completely equipped for dramatic performances and the headquarters of the college School of Dramatics, which was conducted by the accomplished actress, Miss Annie Russell, until her death in 1936, under an endowment given by Mrs. Edward Bok, who also presented the theatre to the college.
Art, Music, Social Science and Modern Languages are particularly emphasized among the special courses in which Rollins has enlisted the services of famous teachers. It follows that with such a nucleus of culture as this Winter Park has become the Florida home of large numbers of authors, painters, musicians and of non-professional people whose tastes and interests lie in those cultural ranges.
It is worth the tourist’s while to run twenty miles south from Orlando for a quick visit to Kissimmee, the county seat of Osceola County. This old town was the headquarters of the Disston syndicate, from which their 4,000,000-acre purchase of Florida lands in 1881 was managed.
For a time it appeared that this, rather than Orlando, would be the central Florida metropolis. It was the terminal of the railroad when it was first extended southward from Sanford. Boats plying the Kissimmee River to Lake Okeechobee carried settlers and supplies and brought back to the railroad products from the forests and pasture land. Cane fields flourished on East Lake Tohopekaliga, rice fields were green on Fish Lake, peaches, bananas and other tropical fruits added to the prosperity of the county. A million dollar sugar mill was constructed in what is now St. Cloud and a three-story rice mill had a prominent spot on the Kissimmee skyline. About the turn of the century, following the death of Hamilton Disston, his associates withdrew from this part of the county and most of the enterprises which they had fostered were allowed to disintegrate and disappear. Kissimmee remained, and so did the pasture lands and the forests.
In 1909 a group of promoters founded the city of St. Cloud as a colony of Civil War veterans. This has grown to be an attractive and progressive city which is possibly more northern in its atmosphere and population than almost any other community in the State. As the veterans of 1865 have passed from the scene their sons of ’98 and the grandsons of ’17 have moved in to take their places, so that St. Cloud now has a population of approximately 2,000.
Osceola County is one of the leaders in the better beef cattle movement. On the thousands of acres of well-drained pasture land within the county more than 50,000 head are grazed. The Florida pioneer in the improvement of the beef strain is Henry O. Partin of Kissimmee, of the fourth generation of a family of cattlemen who have been breeding livestock in Florida for a century. Mr. Partin was the first to import Brahma bulls, the big, humpbacked sires of the breed of the “sacred cows” of India. He is now the largest breeder of this strain. Sires from the Partin herd play an important part in the grading up of range stock all the way from the Matanzas Inlet to the Peace River and beyond. Through the cattle industry new prosperity has come to Osceola county. Tens of thousands of acres of what was unproductive prairie, much of it abandoned by its former owners and sold for delinquent taxes, have been bought and fenced for cattle pasturage. The day of the free range is over. Besides the old cattle families of this region, the Johnsons, Johnstons, Donegans, Overstreets and Basses, new investors from the North are getting into the cattle business. One of these, N. Roy Carroll, a Cleveland, Ohio, financier, has 20,000 acres in his Carrollton Ranch.
Lumber is one of Osceola county’s important industries, with annual payrolls of around half a million dollars, while the shipping of fresh-water fish to northern markets brings another quarter-million or so into the county. The fish are shipped in canvas bags suspended inside of barrels, which are packed with ice. Motor trucks carry the barreled bass and catfish to Topeka, Oklahoma City, Toledo and Davenport, Iowa, the principal markets.