About Seminole County
A Good Place To Call Home!
Seminole County has a very rich history. Read below to learn more about Seminole County and it’s origination. Also, learn something about the cities and communities within the county.
The History Behind Seminole County.
On July 21, 1821, two counties formed Florida: Escambia to the west and St. Johns to the east. In 1824, the area to the south of St. Johns County was designated Mosquito County, with its seat at Enterprise. The county’s name was changed to Orange County in 1845 when Florida became a state, and over the next 70 years, several other counties were created. Seminole County was one of the last to split.
Seminole County was created on April 25, 1913, out of the northern portion of Orange County by the Florida Legislature. It was named for the Seminole people who historically lived throughout the area. The name “Seminole” is thought to be derived from the Spanish word cimarron, meaning “wild” or “runaway.”
When Altamonte Springs was incorporated in 1920, its population totaled only 5,000. But, that was before developers turned this erstwhile whistle stop into a thriving suburb. Today, Altamonte Springs, population 42,300, is the hub of shopping and entertainment. Construction of the Altamonte Town Center, a 25-acre district featuring an additional 1 million-plus square feet of restaurants, stores, offices, condominiums and apartments, all linked to nearby neighborhoods via a pedestrian bridge straddling busy S.R. 436, is nearly complete.
This project was designed to shift the focus toward adjacent Crane’s Roost Park and its 40-acre manmade lake which already hosts many community events, such as the City of Altamonte Springs fourth of July celebration, Red Hot, And Boom!
Founded by World War I veteran Hibbard Casselberry, who in 1926 bought 3,000 acres to grow ferns, Casselberry emerged as a suburban residential community after World War II. By the time it was incorporated, in 1965, Casselberry encompassed a number of family-oriented subdivisions and a budding business district near the intersection of S.R. 436 and U.S. 17-92.
A new City Center, slated for 14.7 acres on Triplet Lake Drive, will contain a community center as well as a restaurant, small shops and possibly townhomes.In addition, the park just north of City Hall is being revamped and expanded to include an amphitheater on Lake Concord. The new and improved facility will host the city’s biannual jazz fest as well as a chili cook-off, art shows and other special events. Casselberry’s renaissance is also being bolstered by the redevelopment of the old Seminole Greyhound Park property off Seminola Boulevard.
The community, which has floundered somewhat in recent years, is in line for a boost thanks to improvements on U.S. 17-92, which will include wider sidewalks and decorative street lights.
ABOUT LAKE MARY
Lake Mary is one of Central Florida’s hottest growth areas, thanks in large part to the dogged persistence of Jeno Paulucci, a blustery self-made millionaire who made his first fortune selling frozen Chinese food and a second one selling frozen pizza.The city today sits at the epicenter of Florida’s High-Tech Corridor, which follows I-4 from Tampa through Seminole County and northeast to Daytona Beach and Melbourne. Along the route, government and industry have joined forces to attract leading-edge companies in such fields as telecommunications, medical technology, and microelectronics. In Lake Mary, population 14,000, dozens of such companies have set up shop in several sprawling business centers that have combined to create a Central Florida version of Silicon Valley. The resulting tracts of easily accessible land caught the eye of Paulucci, founder of Chun King. In the late 1970’s, he announced plans to build a luxurious residential development and business hub called Heathrow. Few thought the audacious Paulucci would be successful, and the project floundered at first. But then the plainspoken old salesman quieted naysayers by persuading the American Automobile Association to relocate from suburban Washington, D.C., to his Heathrow Business Center.
The AAA coup, at that time Central Florida’s most important corporate relocation in decades, jump-started Heathrow and opened the door for all the business and residential development that followed. Of course, all those high-paid techies who now call Lake Mary home require upscale housing, which is easily found through an array of gated golf course communities loaded with swimming and tennis clubs, private lakes and jogging trails through nature preserves. Lake Mary officials are using a $100,000 federal grant to advance plans to redevelop the old downtown area to better reflect the city’s prosperous image and another Lake Mary town center has just been completed at Colonial Town Park, a 175-acre mixed-use development at a new I-4 interchange. The development features shops, restaurants, and apartments in a village setting.
Of all Seminole County’s municipalities, Longwood, population 13,700, has the most history to preserve—and has done the best job of preserving it. But it’s still a modern place, with a plethora of exclusive country club communities, office parks and shopping centers. In 1873 a New Englander named Edward Henck homesteaded a tract of land that he named Longwood, after a Boston suburb he had helped plan.
Henck was also the town’s first postmaster and its first mayor. And in what may have been his spare time, Henck co-founded the South Florida Railroad and built a line connecting Sanford and Orlando, which enabled Longwood to boom as a citrus- and lumber-shipping center as well as a winter resort destination.
But as crucial as Henck was to Longwood’s development, it was a carpenter named Josiah Clouser, a Henck employee, whose legacy is most visible. Clouser, a Pennsylvanian, constructed most of the buildings still standing in Longwood’s remarkable historic district. The district is a two-block area on Warren and Church avenues near the intersection of C.R. 427 and C.R. 434.Popular annual events include the Longwood Arts and Crafts Festival, held the weekend before Thanksgiving, and the Founders Day Spring Arts and Crafts Festival, held in March.On the outskirts of the city toward neighboring Apopka in Orange County is Wekiva Springs State Park. And on General Hutchinson Avenue is Big Tree State Park, home of “The Senator,” said to be the oldest and largest cypress tree in the state.
While Oviedo might be one of Central Florida’s oldest communities—it was first settled some 140 years ago—this Seminole County boomtown knows how to embrace newcomers. Indeed, few Central Florida municipalities have witnessed the kind of growth Oviedo has seen in recent years. The town’s population is closing in on 30,000-more than a tenfold increase since 1980.Oviedo’s growth was a long time coming.
The area’s first settlers, who put down stakes near Lake Jesup in the 1860s, called it Solary’s Wharf. Longtime locals point to 1964 as perhaps the most significant year in Oviedo’s history. That’s when a desolate 1,145-acre tract in rural northeast Orange County, about seven miles east of the city, was selected as the site for Florida Technological University (now the University of Central Florida).
Initially, the carpetbagging Ph.D.s and the wary farmers made an unlikely combination. But they were united by their desire to maintain Oviedo’s small-town ambiance and to cling to its agricultural heritage.Indeed, the biggest worry among many longtime residents these days is that Oviedo’s sleepy old downtown might go the way of the long-gone orange groves and celery fields. Oviedo Place, a.k.a. “the new downtown,” is planned for what’s now a tangerine grove just north of Mitchell Hammock Road. Not that the old downtown is particularly quaint. For those just passing through who are forced to stop at the gnarly intersection of state roads 419, 426 and 434, there’s not a lot to catch the eye: the Town House restaurant, a huge Baptist church and a two-block row of fading cinder-block buildings housing an assortment of mom-and-pop businesses.
Take the time to wander the side streets, however, and an altogether different picture of Oviedo emerges, one of the gracious old homes, rolling grass lawns, and moss-shrouded oak trees. Indeed, the Oviedo Historical Trail lists no fewer than 85 sites, including the home of pioneer postmaster George Browne, Built in 1885, and the James Wilson House, built in 1938 on Lake Charm Circle.Another big draw for relocators is the Oviedo area’s public schools, all of which received A’s when the state Department of Education handed out grades last summer.
Located on the shores of Lake Monroe, Sanford once rivaled Orlando as the region’s largest city. A major distribution center for vegetables and citrus, it was known as “The Celery Capital of the World.”But agriculture is no longer king in Sanford, population 38,300. Today it’s the Seminole County seat, making county government the leading employer.And, after years of stagnation, Sanford is also a city on the rise, thanks to a burgeoning airport—one of the fastest-growing in the country—and a downtown redevelopment project.Sanford’s first permanent settlement was Camp Monroe, a fort on the south bank of Lake Monroe built in 1836 to protect settlers from Indians. A year later Capt.
Charles Mellon was killed during an Indian attack, so the garrison was renamed in his honor.The community that grew up around the fort became known as Mellonville, and in 1845 was named the county seat of what was then Orange County. (Seminole County was carved out in 1913.)Because Lake Monroe provided easy access to the St. Johns River for shipping to other Florida markets, citrus growing developed as a major industry.In 1870, Gen. Henry S. Sanford, former minister to Belgium, purchased approximately 12,500 acres and laid out a town, which he named for himself, just west of Fort Mellon.Ten years later, ground was broken for the South Florida Railroad connecting Mellonville, Lake Mary, Longwood and Altamonte Springs with Jacksonville, the state’s most important port city. It seemed that big things were in store in 1883, when Mellonville was absorbed by Sanford.However, late in the decade a fire destroyed numerous buildings, and residents were hit with a yellow-fever epidemic.
Those disasters, on top of freezes that ravaged the citrus crops, caused Sanford’s population to dip from 5,000 to 2,000. Vegetables, especially cold-resistant celery, later became the city’s most important cash crop.Seminole County’s suburban growth in the 1960s and ’70s mostly passed Sanford by, and the once-beautiful city became a bit shabby.Today, however, Sanford is enjoying a resurgence that is in part tied to increased air travel at the Orlando-Sanford International Airport. The facility, located on Sanford’s east side, has a two-story international terminal, a separate domestic terminal, a U.S. Customs Office and three paved runways.In fact, airport adjacency was the catalyst behind Cameron Heights, a 261-acre master-planned community that was winding its way through the governmental approval process at press time. The proposed project will contain around 1,000 homes as well as commercial development and an office park.County officials are planning a number of road improvements around the airport that would open up even more land for development. An extension of Lake Mary Boulevard to S.R. 415, expected to be complete next year, would complete a loop around the airport and spark a building boom in an area that now contains woods, pastures and scattered homes.In historic downtown Sanford, work is complete on the $11 million Sanford Riverwalk, which includes sidewalks and bike trails along Lake Monroe between Mellonville and French avenues.Also downtown, a 24-story, 564-unit condominium development overlooking Lake Monroe is planned. The project, dubbed River’s Edge, would be by far the city’s largest multifamily residential complex.
One of the most important downtown attractions is the Helen Stairs Theater, a renovated movie house that hosts theatrical productions and live concerts.And work has recently finished on a streetscape project to enhance First Street, downtown’s main drag, between Oak and Sanford avenues. Under the $2.2 million project, the original brick beneath the asphalt was restored, sidewalks were being widened and parking spaces changed from angled to parallel.Relocators to Sanford can choose from an array of new subdivisions on the city’s outskirts, or they can latch on to a Victorian fixer-upper in the rapidly gentrifying city center.
ABOUT WINTER SPRINGS
Until the mid-1950s, Winter Springs was nothing more than several square miles of scrub pine and palmettos. That’s when developers Raymond Moss and William Edgemon bought the land, subdivided it and introduced the Village of North Orlando.At the start of the 1970s, a time of rampant growth throughout Central Florida, the area was still called North Orlando and contained one small grocery store and roughly 300 homes straddling S.R. 434.Tuscawilla, eastern Seminole County’s first upscale golf course community, changed all that. Also, a new city charter was adopted in 1972, changing the city’s name to Winter Springs.Today, the city’s growth rivals that of adjacent Oviedo. In the past two decades, population has increased 800 percent, to more than 31,600. And more growth is on the way, through both residential and commercial development.Officials are now eyeing more of the so-called Black Hammock, a marshy wilderness north of the city, where scattered homes are set on three- to five-acre lots. Over the years, the city has annexed several Black Hammock parcels and re-zoned them to allow new subdivisions, much to the chagrin of many Black Hammock residents.In any case, Winter Springs is moving ahead on other fronts. Because the city has never had a downtown per se, elected officials welcomed news that a South Carolina-based developer wanted to build a 240-acre Town Center at the corner of S.R. 434 and Tuskawilla Road, which at this time is nearly finished and features many restaurants, boutique shops and more!