Sunday, August 1, 2021

Lady Lake

 I’m riding east on 466 and turn right just after Lady Lake Cemetery which takes me down to McClendon Street which is like a time warp. No longer the busy county road but instead the green and shaded laid back rural Lady Lake community. I meander through here to the Old Dixie Highway and there on the opposite corner beside the road is the Lady Lake railroad depot complete with tracks, freight cars and a caboose.  Originally the rails lay on the other side of the street but have been relocated and the depot has been repurposed as the Lady Lake Historical Society and Museum. It is open on Tuesday and Saturday mornings and is well worth a visit, especially on Tuesdays when you can also go to the farmers market in front of the adjacent Chamber of Commerce. 

 Around 1880 Sam Sligh was one of the first to settle in this area at Sligh’s Landing on Lake Griffin, about four miles to the east, where he took advantage of the steamboat trade plying between Palatka and Leesburg. Sligh, an entrepreneur, ran a grist mill, cotton gin, post office and a stage coach line from Ocala to Leesburg. This only lasted until 1884 when the railroad en route to Leesburg built a depot at Lady Lake. Sligh and the other residents of Sligh’s Landing promptly upped sticks and moved to the new community to take advantage of the railroad’s cheap and fast transportation. In all probability Sligh’s stage coach line had taken a big hit.
Moving right along, slowly that is, I go south on Old Dixie, turn left onto Lady Lake Boulevard and continue along it by crossing 441 – not recommended. But across 441 opposite the Chamber of Commerce I want to see the The Hotel Lady Lake. I can’t see it of course because it is long gone but I can see the white front wall and the original steps leading up to the hotel’s front lawn and I imagine a grand hotel along with the railroad depot dominating the center of a bustling community.
Ahead of me lies the best part of this ride. For nearly a mile I ride along Lady Lake Boulevard under a beautiful canopy of Spanish Moss laden oak trees which provide shade while the morning sun puts on a splendid light display through the branches. For all of this we can thank two early settlers, Mr. Loveard Lee (yes, he was known as Love Lee) and Dr. Newton Stevens who wishing to beautify the town planted small oak trees along the boulevard from Lady Lake the town to Lady Lake the lake. And we all know that “Blessed are those who plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.” although no one quite knows who said it! 
To the end of this canopy road I see the right turn sign which our club rides follow but I am going straight ahead to see Lady Lake, not the town but the lake itself. The road is a cul-de-sac which has beautiful views of the lake and some wonderful lakefront homes.

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