Historian left legacy of knowledge about beloved town by the lakes

Sentinel Staff Writer

My holiday is over now,

I'm leaving in a day,

For the north where home is calling,

Where there is work to do,

But Windermere, dear Windermere,

How I shall long for you.

Undated poem in 'Windermere Among the Lakes: The Story of a Small Town'

'It is an inexpressible joy to stand in Windermere and look upon the clearwater of the lakes," a 1911 brochure exclaimed about the small west Orangetown that has inspired devotion from residents and visitors for more than acentury.

Very probably, few have loved it as much as Carl Patterson, who gave me acopy of that brochure, the same way he generously shared so many things aboutOrange County history.

Regularly, letters from Carl would appear with translations from the Germanof early articles about Gotha, facts about famed horticulturist HenryNehrling, even background on what may be the area's most historic outhouse --a survivor from a Works Progress Administration program that Carl researchedas thoroughly as if it were a Greek temple.

A Realtor, former Windermere mayor, town planner and head of the town'sHistoric Preservation Board, Carl was also one of the fathers of Orange Countyhistory, and Father's Day is a great time to remember him.

A retired Army lieutenant colonel, in his 80s he retained a military man'sattention to detail, but in phone messages to me and to many others, he wouldsign off as simply "Carl."

About this time last year, as he did every year, he'd call folks on hislist of history buddies and invite us to visit Windermere for an inspiringsmall-town Fourth of July.

Come for the town's pancake breakfast, he would say, and visit the tablewhere he would be camped out with displays about Windermere's history andcopies of his book -- for years an amalgam of Carl's writings and a plethoraof Xeroxed photos and documents that grew bigger each year.

Land of the lakes

If you stopped by for pancakes and history, Carl might tell you how thetown got its start in the mid-1880s, about the time an influx of Englishsettlers hit Orange County.

Around 1885, the Rev. Joseph Hill Scott -- an Englishman -- bought about150 acres on the shore of Lake Butler.

His son, Oxford grad Dr. Stanley Scott, homesteaded the property and"bestowed the name Windermere, many believe after the famous Lake Windermerein England," according to Carl.

By the way, "mere" means "lake," from the same root as "marine."

Soon the railroad came through, linking Windermere to Kissimmee by 1889,the same year the town's plat was officially recorded.

But the Great Freeze of 1894-95 knocked settlers for a loop, and the town'sdevelopment really got its start in 1910, when two Ohioans visited Windermereand knew they had found something special.

The pair, Dr. J.H. Johnson and J. Calvin Palmer, called Cal, bought "allthe land in the old town and some acreage outside and formed the WindermereImprovement Company," Carl wrote several years ago in his homemade history.

The town of the lakes was incorporated in 1925, a couple of years after theWindermere Union Church Chapel was built.

A historian's legacy

"Carl and Jane were members of that church," Mary Hayes of Windermere saidlast week. She is on the committee collecting donations of money and volunteerlabor to preserve and move the church.

And if you know much about Windermere, you already know why she used thepast tense, why Carl and his Janey, his wife for 60 years, won't be at thepancake breakfast this year on the Fourth of July.

Late last October, Carl and Janey were killed in an automobile accident onState Road 50 near Brooksville.

It's hard to find words to say how sad that is for their family andfriends, and a small part of the sadness is that Carl didn't live to see thefinal form of his beloved history of Windermere -- the transformation of allthose pages into a printed book.

About two years ago, he began working with editor Peggy Sias Lantz totransform his whopping photocopied binder into a hardcover volume.

It was tough work -- so many pictures, so many facts to look up and check,so many details to pin down.

But Carl knew it was almost final. He had seen and corrected the pageproofs before his death. And his history of a small town would have a formatas large as Carl's heart.

In April, the publisher, developer Kevin Azzouz, gave away about 2,000copies of Windermere Among the Lakes: The Story of a Small Town. The idea wasfor each household in town to have a copy.

If your family lives in Windermere and you haven't received a book, checkin with the Suzi Karr Realty Office (527 Main St., 407-876-3688).

The office also has a limited number of copies for purchase for $29 eachfor Windermere folks who would like extra copies or for others who would liketo add them to their library.

Windermere's Web site,, also has information aboutthe effort to preserve the old Union Church Chapel as a community center.

Joy Wallace Dickinson can be reached at or 407-420-6082, or by good old- fashioned letter at the Sentinel, 633 N. Orange Ave., Orlando, FL 32801.

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