Steel Sentinel – 110 Station Street, Oviedo
Hollywood has its cultural icon as hillside letters. Las Vegas has its celebrated sign with flashing glittering lights. Oviedo, the charming suburb in Central Florida, has her historic hallmark as a tall welcoming water beacon. The approximately 125 ft tall steel ambassador was built in the mid 1940s and moved from North Florida to Oviedo by the Nelson Company in 1962. The steel structure that was destined to be a local landmark was brought for the purpose of providing a water source to assist the volunteer fire department.
The utilitarian icon has a water container measuring 50 feet in diameter and 25 feet deep. The bowl holds over 15 swimming pools worth of water or approximately 300,000 gallons of water. A simple red marker on the outside of the tank alerts the water keeper when the diesel pulley system needs to draw more water from the well.
Times are changing in Oviedo. The streets of downtown are being widened, former railways are being made into bike trails, but the water tower remains a familiar faithful constant still providing fire protection for her city and a homing device for families. Due to liability and safety concerns few legally climb the seventy plus steps to the top of the tower. However, shortly after the terrorist attack of September 11 the water tower received a patriotic painting of the Stars and Stripes symbolizing the patriotic heart of small towns across the USA.
Around the tower’s base chickens still roam the legs. From the catwalk circling the top of the bowl views of the changing growing city are evident. California may have its glitzy sign and Nevada its neon namesake, but I’ll take Oviedo’s historic steel sentinel as my iconic bridge from the past to the future.
Stenko’s Store – 1973 W. S.R. 426
In the sluggish, stagnant air of the humid Florida sun, it is the rare breeze or gust of wind that breaks the heavy atmosphere. These small disruptions in the oppressive heat bring the listless air to life. Wind truly is the revolutionary of weather, creating upheaval in an otherwise unmoving, unchanging world.
It is on the backs of trains that this wind of change was carried into Florida, dancing and swirling in the wake of the vast locomotives and ending its journey at the Slavia railroad depot. Though depicted as just a mere shed behind the Stano General Store, the unsuspecting building was the origin of opportunity for Slovaks. Trying to escape the corruption of the industrialized Midwest of the early 1900s, the Slovaks sought a simpler life on the farms and packaging plants of Oviedo. Their movement was led by members of the Holy Trinity Slovak Lutheran Church, traveling from Cleveland, Ohio.
The railroad depot and the neighboring general store became the hub of activity for the area. Founded by the first president of St. Lukes Lutheran church Martin Stano, the general store was the centerpiece of Slavia. It served as a general store, gas station and post office, while its pink façade was the first sight of those arriving at the Slavia railroad depot.
Though the former railroad lines have been transformed to walking trails and the depot is no longer standing, the history and impact of the Slovak people still linger and their dreams and determination helped foster the community we have today. Each car that passes the little pink store on the side of 426, briefly stirring up the former dances of the air, can serve as a reminder of the hopeful people who once flowed in and out of our town.
* * * * * *
In 2015, we challenged graduating Seniors to capture in words the following theme: “Time is on my side.” Trevor Beach, a homeschooler who teamed up with Lake Howell for extra curricular activities, caught our attention with this essay and is continued his studies at Seminole State.
The Oviedo Woman’s Club – 414 King Street
After a hard night’s work bussing tables for a New Year’s Eve, girls-only party, my friend Paul and I trudge out of the Oviedo Woman’s Club kitchen. When the clock strikes midnight, we all celebrate, not realizing that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Oviedo Woman’s Club at 414 King Street. This clubhouse represents a special time in my life, as it marks my first paying job – my New Year’s Eve stint as a waiter. Looking back, I draw parallels between that night and .I wonder what my first job would be if I lived 100 years ago. Would I pack citrus in cypress boxes for the Nelson & Co. Moonbeam brand? Would I be harvesting celery in a nearby farm? Would I stock ammunition in Brannon and Hunt’s hardware store?
In 1914, the girls-only group built a clubhouse before eventually selling it in 1961. You can feel the history pass through you like a cool breeze when you enter, as if its founder R.L. Croom still watches over the clubhouse, laughing as she plants Cherokee roses with her friends.
On my way to the job, the infamous Oviedo chickens blocked our path. I wonder if earlier Oviedo residents had to shoo these “chicken ancestors” out of the way of their newfangled motorcars as they drove down King Street. At the 2013 New Year’s party, girls munched on pretzels, potato chips and, ironically, chicken wings. Back in 1914, I can imagine the club members at their meetings feasting on Butler Boston’s Jamaican-grafted oranges as well as freshly picked celery from the nearby farms. Much like the girls at the New Year’s party, I bet the women of yesteryear enjoyed the same ideal: a group of ladies getting together for fun and fellowship and having a good time.
* * *
The Oviedo Preservation Project challenged the Class of 2014 to write a 300 word essay on how a particular historic building impacted their other passions in life. The winning author, Hailey Malles, graduated from Oviedo High School and headed to the University of Florida.
The Estes House – 213 W. Broadway Street, Oviedo
Stopped by a traffic light, I catch sight of the Estes house. The mystery of it draws me in. I imagine a woman staring back at me. Having always been passionate about writing, a ghost story flourishes in my mind. Made of perfect bricks (finished on all four sides), this distinctive house captivates me. The Estes house is the perfect setting…
Looking from the upstairs window I see a girl looking at me from her car, but she can’t see me. I died in 2000. My name is Ruby Estes, but my friends called me Birdie. My husband, R.W., completed our house in 1942. It has four bedrooms and three bathrooms, setting it apart from other houses built during WWII. The house has stood witness to many events, including both of my daughters’ wedding receptions. Now, people only see an old house worth tearing down, tearing my memories down with it. I’ve watched people approach by night, past the 100+ year old camphor tree, entering the house. They cracked the kitchen door’s circular window; they smashed the magnificent chandelier that was so beautifully grand. I elicited a cry, seeing them destroy parts of my home. Ascending the rickety staircase, they saw me, a ghost. The vandals ran through my daughters’ bedroom to the balcony. They had no choice but to jump.
A car horn brings me back to reality. The Estes house inspires me to write. Many old buildings are overlooked, and perceived as ancient things worth tearing down. I think they’re worth renovating. I have found this unique home intriguing enough to make me contemplate the depth and history of old houses in general. They are more than just the materials they’re made of—they’re thousands of stories woven together into the fabric that we call our hometown, Oviedo.
* * *
The class of 2013 wrote about a favorite historic Oviedo building and why it mattered. The winning author, Myriam Gutstein, earned our inaugural $500 scholarship prize, and we are grateful for the support of the community, which will let us continue this program again next year. Myriam graduated from Oviedo High School and is currently attending Rollins College. She moved to Oviedo from Canada her midway through high school.
The Lawton House – 200 W. Broadway Street
Winner of The Oviedo Preservation Project’s 2013 Essay Scholarship Contest
By Myriam Gutstein
“BANG! BOOM! CRACK!” I heard the engine fizzle as I slowly opened the door. Floods of emotions far through my mind. Did it really work? “No…it couldn’t have. It’s impossible!” I thought as I wandered out of my self-made time machine. The buildings I laid eyes on just as few minutes ago were replaced by fields of beautiful grass. I tried remembering which year I entered into the machine. “Ahh! It’s currently 1910,” I recalled aloud.
A beautiful lady wearing a feminine, picturesque gown strolled out of her quaint home followed by a handsome man. I scurried behind a tree, hoping they wouldn’t notice me as I eaves dropped on their conversation.
“Look, Lottie Lee,” the man called as he was leaving. “I can’t help around the house today! I have my classes at Rollins College!” A smile crawled its way onto my face when I realized that I would be attending the same school as this man. The lady, Ms. Lottie Lee, caught up with the man. “Thomas Willington Lawton! My honorable, most generous father, J.H. Lee, Sr. was kind enough to sell us this house and it is our duty to keep it in proper condition! After all, your mother, Narcissa Melissa Lawton, was the matriarch of the largest Oviedo family; we must pass down her name with honor, and, consequently, a proper home!”
Before Mr. & Mrs. Lawton could see me, I ran back to my machine, jumped in, and plugged in the numbers “2013.” Astonished from my experience, I returned home. The fields of grass were replaced by other buildings and the hustle and bustle of cars. The 103 years separating my experiences shared one thing: the Lawton House remained, standing strong, and with a fierce sense of pride. I could still hear their voices trailing through my mind as I walked towards the quaint building. The people walked the same paths I did, attended the same school I will, and helped create and found this beautiful town – Oviedo. Confucius once said, “Study the past if you would define the future.” And I will. The Lawtons will never have to worry about their quaint home being preserved. The future generations have done a wonderful job.