Joy Wallace Dickinson
12:22 PM EST, January 27, 2013
Before we leave the first month of 2013, it's a good time to note that we've entered a bonanza year for Florida anniversaries. To begin with, happy 500th birthday to us! The Spanish explorer Ponce de León landed on Florida's shores in 1513.
Like me, you may have learned in school that Ponce "discovered" Florida and also that he stumbled upon the peninsula on a quest for the fountain of youth. We now know that neither of these things was true.
Native Americans first came to our peninsula many thousands of years before Europeans landed. Historians also think that, in spite of appeal of the fountain-of-youth legend, Ponce and other Spanish explorers were looking for gold and potential slaves and to extend their king's dominion. That fabled search for youth-bestowing waters belongs in the kingdom of myth.
Orlando's Rick Kilby has written a book about the Ponce myth and its power; we'll tell you more when it comes out from the University Press of Florida this spring.
Where Ponce first stepped onto a Florida beach in early April 1513 remains a subject of debate; leading candidates include the St. Augustine and Melbourne areas. But it is clear that he named our land La Florida (the land of the flowers) and that we've got a long, diverse heritage to celebrate. In terms of early European landings, our history beats those "powdered-wig" states to the north all to heck.
You may have seen the "Viva Florida 500" logo popping up on announcements of programs, exhibits, and books to honor the big birthday (see vivaflorida.org). The Orange County Library System has planned a plethora of programs, as have many other organizations.
Seminole celebrates 100
The year 2013 also marks a milestone for Seminole County, created by the state Legislature in April 1913. Henry Sanford's city on the St. Johns finally became a county seat — the dream of its namesake.
State Rep. Forrest Lake of Sanford and Sen. Arthur E. Donegon of Kissimmee cut the deal that won state approval to carve out the northern 352 square miles of Orange County to create Seminole, as historian Jim Robison has written. (Jim's recently published book "Around Oviedo" adds to his rich contributions to Central Florida history.)
For details on the many centennial-inspired programs, go to historicseminole.org.
A banner year
Here's a quick look at a few Orlando happenings in 1913, as described by historian Eve Bacon.
The city's first daily newspaper, the Daily Sentinel, began publication Feb. 11, 1913. The steam-driven press that its editor, Josiah Ferris, had previously used to publish a weekly edition couldn't keep up with the demands of daily production, so Ferris replaced it with an electric-powered model.
Seriously, can you believe how much has changed in a century? We've gone from a steam-powered printing press to the speed of the Internet.
In 1913, an Orlando ordinance required that all hacks, drays and other licensed vehicles carry lights on both sides and on the front, and all ice wagons had to carry scales.
Also that year, businessmen Braxton Beacham and James L. Giles transferred to the Yowell & Duckworth Co. ownership of a lot at the southeast corner of Orange and Central avenues, and J.F. Ange and H. F. Bates secured the contract to build a department store on the site.
The chosen building material was buff-colored "Shawnee" brick made in Ohio, described as "the best pressed brick made." Perhaps it was, because what began as the Yowell-Duckworth building is still there; it was enlarged in the 1920s and is now an office building.
The corner was a historic site in the city's development. First an oak grove where outdoor meetings took place, it later was home to a livery stable and eventually the department store that over the years was known as Yowell-Duckworth, Yowell-Drew, Yowell-Drew-Ivey, and eventually Ivey's.
Joy Wallace Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by good old-fashioned letter at the Sentinel, 633 N. Orange Ave., Orlando, FL 32801.
Copyright © 2013, Orlando Sentinel