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Lake Mary's History

  

 
 

 
 


      









   
 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

IN THE BEGINNING...

Although Lake Mary's beginning dates back to the 1800's, the City did not incorporate until August 7, 1973. The lake that gave the city its name was named after Mary Sundell, the wife of Rev. J.F. Sundell, who settled on the northern shores of the lake and organized the Presbyterian congregation in 1894. Lake Mary started as a village of two tiny settlements called Bent's Station and Belle Fontaine. They were located along the railroad that ran between Sanford and Orlando.

Lake Mary began life as a citrus-based agricultural community. The then village began to come into its own around 1880 when the South Florida Railroad came through and connected Sanford with Orlando. The railroad established a stop in Lake Mary, putting it on the map. The first Lake Mary Post Office was established in February of 1887.
 

 

EARLY SETTLERS

Early settlers included lumbermen, turpentine workers, families from Fort Reed (Sanford) who had received land grants, and Swedish families who were mainly orange growers. Later came the railroad workers and winter visitors from the north.

In its early years, Lake Mary housed, in addition to the normal establishments, a dance casino,  a bath house, a hotel, and a factory which produced starches, farina and tapioca from the cassava plant, a tropical looking plant with roots that were edible after boiling. Following the killing citrus freezes of 1894 and 1895, the factory saved what was then the citrus community of Bents, near Crystal Lake.

 

LAKE MARY'S VISIONARIES

There were many people involved in the creation of what today is a modern, upscale community, but Frank Evans probably had the most influence on Lake Mary achieving a permanent place in the history of Seminole County.


Frank Evans came to Lake Mary in 1882 with his parents and his two brothers. As a small boy, he was fascinated by the circus and in particular the tight rope act. He perfected his own version of the act and was part of the Bailey Circus before it merged with P.T. Barnum. He entertained up and down the eastern seaboard before his father insisted he return to his studies.


Frank Evans became a brilliant chemist whose company manufactured dyed goods and textiles. He used his talent and financial resources to build and promote Lake Mary as a community, constructing the original Lake Mary Elementary School, many commercial buildings and new homes for the Lake Mary community and the Seminole County area. He founded the Chamber of Commerce in 1923 and became a Seminole County Commissioner in 1926. Many of his descendants still reside in Lake Mary today.

 

Check here frequently for special stories on the different eras in Lake Mary's history and the lives of its citizens as it evolved from a settlement to the unique city it is today. For current information on Lake Mary events and exhibits, visit the coming events section of this website.