WARNING – This trail may pass through one or more neighborhoods which, although full of history, may now be unsafe for individuals on foot, or which may make you feel unsafe there. Hikers have been approached by individuals who have asked for handouts or who have inquired (not always in a friendly manner) why the hikers are in their neighborhood. Drugs and other inappropriate items have been found by hikers in some neighborhoods. It is suggested that you drive the hike routes first to see if you will feel comfortable walking them and, if you don’t think it’s a good place for you walk, you might want to consider (1) traveling with a large group, (2) doing the route on bicycles, or (3) choosing another hike route. The degree of comfort will vary with the individual and with the time and season of the hike, so you need to make the determination using your best judgment. If you hike the trail, you accept all risks involved.
Minneola Historical Trail
Copyright 2005 by Steve Rajtar
Click here for a printable PDF of this Hike Plan – Minneola Historical Trail
(From Interstate 4, drive west on SR 50, north on US 27, west and southwest on Grand Hwy. and Palm St. to park at Clermont Waterfront Park. Pay the parking fee.)(0.0 miles so far)
Southeast shore of Lake Minneola, near the intersection of Lake Minneola Dr. and 2nd St.
1….Clermont Waterfront Park
This section of shoreline, formerly called the Jaycee Public Beach, was donated as a park by Clermont Mayor C.O. Roe in 1917.
(Walk northeast on Palm St. and east on Grand Hwy. to the intersection with US 27.)(1.1)
Southwest corner of US 27 and Grand Hwy.
2….Site of Skyline Motel
Clermont’s first motel was the Skyline, located close to the city limits. It was built in 1952 by A.W. Thacker, who chose Clermont for his retirement home. The small concrete block structure was torn down about 50 years later and replaced by a gas station and convenience store.
(Cross to the southeast corner and walk east 300 feet on Grand Hwy. (which becomes Citrus Tower Blvd.), and look to the south.)(1.2)
East side of US 27, between Grand Hwy. and
A.W. Thacker bought this hill and formed the Florida Towers Corporation. In June of 1955, construction began on the Citrus Tower. It had its official opening 13 months later. The tower is 26 feet square and contains 149,000 pounds of reinforcing steel and 50 tons of concrete. Its top is 200 feet above the ground and 543 feet above sea level, providing a view of over 2000 square miles. Before severe freezes in the early 1980s, most of that view was of citrus trees. The tower was designed to withstand winds of up to 190 miles per hour.
(Continue east on Citrus Tower Blvd. to the intersection with Hatteras Rd.)(1.8)
Intersection of Citrus Tower Blvd. and Hatteras Rd.
An early settler in Mohawk was Mr. Palmer, who in 1882 sold his land to Charles H. Stokes of Lee Center, New York. Stokes built a home, and in it was the Mohawk post office. In about 1900 expanded it into a hunting and fishing lodge, known as the Jolly Palms.
(Continue east on Mohawk Rd. until it makes a 90 degree turn to the left, and look to the south.)(1.9)
Shore of Jack’s Lake
5….Site of Hull Homestead
George W. Hull from Canada, and Ralph C. Humiston from the Chicago area, were the leading individuals in founding Minneola. In 1882, Hull acquired 120 acres bordering Lake Afton, now known as Jack’s Lake, located to the south of here over the ridge. A post office was set up in Hull’s home in 1883, with him as the postmaster. Hull acquired 120 acres from the Parish homestead, added 80 acres, and laid out the town. He completed his survey and map in 1884, and named it Minneola. He renamed Cow House Lake as Lake Minneola. The Hulls moved south of Clermont in 1890 to Monte Vista on Lake Nellie. He served as postmaster there and had a store on what is now Oswalt Rd. The Hulls donated land for the Monte Vista Baptist Church, cemetery and school.
(Walk north on Mohawk Rd., west on Old SR 50, east on Washington St., and north on Grassy Lake Rd. to the intersection with Pearl St.)(3.5)
East side of Grassy Lake Rd., across from Pearl St.
Ralph C. Humiston donated the land for this cemetery in 1884. The entrance gate was dedicated in his honor in 1953 by the Minneola Progressivites.
(Continue north on Grassy Lake Rd., then walk east on Plum Lake Dr. and south and east on Plum Lake Cir. to the bottom of the hill.)(3.8)
North shore of Plum Lake
7….Site of Smith Homestead
Near here was the homestead of Minneola’s first settlers, Capt. William A. Smith and wife, Sylvania, known as Uncle Bily and Aunt Sally, and her aunt Elizabeth Parish. They arrived here from Georgia following the Civil War. He built a log cabin on the north shore of Plum Lake, also known as Lake Juniata or Stokes’ Lake. Later, they moved to the north shore of Cow House Lake, now known as Lake Minneola.
(Continue east on Plum Lake Cir., then walk north and west on Plum Lake Dr., south on Grassy Lake Rd., and west on Pearl St. to the intersection with Oakland Ave.)(4.5)
Northeast corner of Pearl St. and Oakland Ave. (300 E. Pearl St.)
8….Minneola Elementary School
This school was built in 1964. Howard Wade served as its first principal.
(Continue west on Pearl St. to the intersection with Galena Ave.)(4.7)
Southwest corner of Pearl St. and Galena Ave. (105 S. Galena Ave.)
9….First Baptist Church of Minneola
Forty-five charter members started this church in the town Community Building on November 13, 1955, with Rev. Cody Johnson as the first pastor. The first portion of the church building was completed here on December 23, 1956. An addition was dedicated exactly five years later.
(Walk north on Galena Ave., west on Minneola St., and south on US 27 to the intersection with Pearl St.)(5.2)
Northwest corner of US 27 and Pearl St. (100-A 9. US 27)
10….Lakes & Hills
A restaurant owned by Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Matz opened here in the early 1950s. It was later remodeled into a real estate office.
(Look across to the southwest corner.)(5.2)
Southwest corner of US 27 and Pearl St. (100 S. US 27)
This restaurant was started by Jack Underwood in the early 1950s.
(Look across to the southeast corner.)(5.2)
Southeast corner of US 27 and Pearl St.
12….Site of Minneola Citrus Shop
In the early 1950s, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mann established the Minneola Gift Shop and Express Shippers on that corner. It was torn down and replaced in about 2000.
(Walk west on Pearl St. to the intersection with Main Ave.)(5.3)
Northeast corner of Main Ave. and Pearl St. (101 Main Ave.)
Minneola incorporated in December of 1925, with A.A. Pitt as its first mayor. The name of the town came from an Indian phrase meaning “many waters”. The first residence was built by Dr. W.M. Reeves, the town’s first physician, who had arrived in 1882. He first homesteaded 160 acres east of Lake Louise, south of Clermont, and then moved to Minneola.
(Cross to the southwest corner.)(5.3)
Southwest corner of Main Ave. and Pearl St. (100 Main Ave.)
The first school in Minneola was established near the railroad in 1885, with Mrs. Summerall as its first teacher. This building was later erected at this site and served as a school until Clermont and Minneola schools were considered in 1915. It was later converted into a residence with a high peaked roof with interesting shingle detail.
(Continue south on Main Ave. to the intersection with Osceola St.)(5.4)
Northwest corner of Main Ave. and Osceola St. (110 Main Ave.)
In 1904, W.T. and Laura Heddon came to Minneola from Dowajiac, Michigan. Their family manufactured fishing tackle, and for years they tested their products in the lakes of Central Florida. Their first home was built in 1909, and the second in 1915 was at the location. Mr. Heddon built the town’s first public water system and served as mayor from 1933 to 1937.
(Walk west on Osceola St. to the intersection with Lakeshore Dr. and look west northwest across the lake.)(5.4)
Northwest shore of Lake Minneola
16….Site of Wilson Homestead
In 1880, Cyrus Henry Wilson and his wife, Lida, arrived here. They acquired and developed this land near the Palatlakaha River with a flourishing citrus grove. A bridge, island and small lake near here still bear the Wilson name. When the railroads arrived in the area, Wilson built a packing house on the south shore of this lake, and Wilson’s small steamboat took the fruit from here to the packing house.
(Look northwest across the lake.)(5.4)
Intersection of CR 561A and Jalarmy Rd. (16510 Palisades Blvd.)
17….Palisades Country Club and Golf Course
In 1926, this country club was established on land that had previously belonged to Cyrus Wilson, and later by Ella M. Johnston. The clubhouse was a large frame two-story many-gabled building with 12-foot verandas on all four side. The property was sold in 1934 to W. Hal Adkinson, who drastically remodeled the clubhouse for his family home. He increased his grove holdings to 400 acres, which he named Ja-lar-my for his children, James, Larry and Myra. Later, Adkinson lined the road along the north shore of Lake Minneola and around the
estate with 1300 palm trees. Adkinson died in 1954, and the residence portion of the property was sold in 1976. It is now called Clairview Groves.
(Walk south on Lakeshore Dr., east on Chester St., and south on Main Ave. to the intersection with Washington St. and look east across the street.)(5.7)
Northeast corner of Main Ave. and Washington St. (409 Main Ave.)
18….Christian and Missionary Alliance Church
The Minneola Methodist Church was first built in the northeast part of Minneola in 1888, and was used both as a church and a school until a regular school building was erected. In April of 1894, A.K. Rowan donated this site and paid to have the building moved onto it. It was then dedicated as the Methodist Episcopal Church, North. In 1925, the building was acquired by the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. The original building was torn down and a new one was erected in 1976-78.
(Cross to the southwest corner and look across the street to the east.)(5.7)
Southeast corner of Main Ave. and Washington St.
19….Site of Wilson Store
Robert Foley built the first store in Minneola in 1884. Stark Wilson followed shortly thereafter with a store on this site. To the south of this site later were the post office, then the P.K. Garage, and to the south of that in 1912, Campbell’s Store was built. It burned down in 1945.
(Continue south 215 feet on Main Ave.)(5.8)
Northwest corner of Main Ave. and Fairview St. (508 Main Ave.)
Robert and Elizabeth Straker arrived in Minneola in 1884. Robert died in a mill accident, and Elizabeth operated the commissary for the lumber people. She then built and operated a boarding house for mill workers, adding several additions. The Straker House became known for comfort and good food. It burned down in
about 1912, and was replaced with the present structure. A lumber mill and train station were nearby. After
the Depression, the lodge was remodeled into apartments, and it was operated without overnight guests from 1964 until 1980. Then, Steve and Shari Parrish acquired it and restored a Victorian atmosphere. It opened in 1990 as the Lake Minneola Inn, a bed and breakfast establishment. It features wraparound porches
on both the first and second floors and elaborate shingle work.
(Continue south on Main Ave. to the intersection with Fairview St.)(5.8)
Southwest corner of Main Ave. and Fairview St. (600-602 Main Ave.)
This three-unit business block was built by J.O. Foulk in 1928-29.
(Continue south on Main Ave. to the intersection with Summerhill Ct.)(6.1)
Intersection of Main Ave. and Summerhill Ct.
22….Site of Railroad Depots
Approximately here were located two railroad depots, one on each side of Main Ave. At this point, the railroad tracks ran from the southwest to the northeast.
(Continue south on Main Ave., then walk west on Silverton St. and southwest on Lake Minneola Dr. and the paved bike path to the point of beginning.)(7.0)
Clermont: Gem of the Hills, by Miriam W. Johnson and Rosemary Y. Young (Rose Printing Company, Inc. 1984)
Guide to the Small and Historic Lodgings of Florida, by Herbert L. Hiller
(Pineapple Press, Inc. 1991)
Lake County, Florida: A Pictorial History, by Emmett Peter, Jr. (The Donning Company 1994)
Memories of Mount Dora and Lake County, by David Edgerton (1983)
Through Schoolhouse Doors: A History of Lake County Schools, by The Lake County Retired
Teachers Association (Rose Printing Co., Inc. 1982)