Sunday, April 17, 2022

Fruitland Park

Monday April 4 and I'm on the Easy B club ride around Spring Lake which takes a break in Fruitland Park. Couldn't be better as I'm writing this article for the club newsletter and need a couple of pictures.

The original railroad depot sign in Fruitland Park Library

We stop at the covered picnic tables at the recreation complex on Gardenia Avenue which is interesting as it is where the railroad passed through. A little further south on Gardenia is the new swimming pool which sits at the end of Railroad Street and is the site of the old depot.

The tracks that became Gardenia Avenue circa 1890

The railroads had a huge influence on the location and development of towns in the area. The gentleman who named the town, Major O.P. Rooks, moved to the area in 1876 and took out Homestead Rights giving him 160 acres of land which would be his after 5 years. To convince the Florida Southern Railroad to run through Fruitland Park, Rooks and others granted the railroad 160 acres to change their planned route which was east of Dead River. Fruitland Park was surveyed and platted out by the railroad surveyor shortly before the first train arrived in 1883.

Confusion reigned for a while. Rooks had named the town Fruitland Park in 1876 but the postal authorities already had a Fruitland so renamed it Gardenia. The railroad in turn already had a town named Gardenia on their tracks. For a while mail was delivered to the Gardenia post office and freight to the Fruitland Park depot which were side by side! Eventually the railroad won out with Fruitland Park - seems they had more clout than the post office.

Dick Stack leads the B group on Gardenia Avenue

Something to consider the next time you're taking a break in Fruitland Park. If Rooks hadn't succeeded in convincing the railroad to move there'd be no Gardenia Avenue and we'd be taking a break in a town somewhere east of Dead River and who knows what it would be called?

For route information click here.

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