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Citrus Groves   A major industry in Florida since the 1880s . . . the Temple orange was discovered

Many early settlers came to Winter Park with their sights set on the citrus industry.  By the 1880's, citrus growing was the leading activity, and virtually every family who lived in Winter Park year-round had a stake in the industry.  In 1886 land was selling for $1.25 an acre, and there were more than 850 acres of groves in the area.

On December 27, 1894, however, the temperature plummeted to 24 degrees.  The Big Freeze had struck.  Almost all of Central Florida's groves suffered major losses, and many tourists were driven away.  January brought warmer weather and renewed hope, but a second freeze hit on February 9, 1895, bringing a temperature of 17 degrees and killing not only the crop of oranges, as the freeze in December had, but also the trees themselves.  Affected groves resembled the aftermath of a forest fire.  Many growers were forced to return to the North.  Due to the lengthy replanting process, it wasn't until 1911-12 that the first good post-freeze crop appeared.  Tourists and farmers slowly returned to the area after hearing reports of renewed prosperity.

The Temple orange was discovered during this time.  Native to the Orient and later transplanted to the West, the orange was brought to Florida by a man who had traveled to Jamaica after the Big Freeze to purchase budwood there.  In Central Florida, word spread quickly about this different kind of fruit, a hybrid between the sweet orange and the tangerine.  Mr. Gillett, president of the Buckeye Nursery in Tampa, purchased some of this budwood, as well as the sole right to propagate the new variety.  Gillett sold the orange under the name of the Temple orange, in honor of W. C. Temple, the former manager of the Florida Citrus Exchange (1910-1913), who had initially informed Gillett of the new fruit.  These oranges were grown on the old Wyeth grove on Palmer Avenue (later Temple Grove) owned at the time by Louis A. Hakes, whose son was the first to notify Temple of the different quality of the new orange.  The orange was introduced and catalogued by Buckeye Nursery in 1917, the year W. C. Temple died.

Another fruit became significant by the 1950's:   the lemon.  The Winter Park Land Company owned lemon groves on Genius Drive in Winter Park, Lake Jessup in Seminole County, and at Estero in Lee County.  The crop of Villa Franca lemons was harvested every November and sent to the Libby Plant at Ocala for processing.


 
Photo of the parent Temple orange tree.

Item: Photograph
Description: Parent Temple orange tree.

Date: undated

Orange picking methods require the use of gloves.

Item: Photograph
Description: Orange picking methods require the use of gloves.

Date: undated

 
Photo of the lemon harvest on Genuis Drive in November 1956.

Item: Photograph
Description: Lemon harvest on Genius Drive.  Pictured is Harry Harding, Grove Superintendent.

Date: November 1956

 
Photo of Grove workers and grove truck on Genius Drive during lemon harvest, November 1956. Item: Photograph
Description: Grove workers and grove truck on Genius Drive during lemon harvest.

Date: November 1956

Photo of the Winter Park Land Company lemon harvest, Genius Drive, November 1956. Item: Photograph
Description: The Winter Park Land Company lemon harvest, Genius Drive.

Date: November 1956

 
Photo of the Big Freeze of 1894-1895. Item: Photograph
Description: The Big Freeze

Date: 1894-1895




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E-mail: bwhite@wppl.org
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