Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lake Helen, time warped in Florida

Founded in 1888 by Henry DeLand and named for his daughter Helen, Lake Helen survives as a quaint reminder of not only the past but also of its better days. From a vigorous beginning enjoying rapid growth the town was dealt a near mortal blow in the winter of 1894-95 when the Big Freeze struck. 
Almost entirely dependent on the citrus industry the town was stopped in its tracks as the majority of the groves were wiped out. About half of the inhabitants were ruined and compelled to leave town while the remainder clung to the nascent vacation industry for survival.
Lake Helen was one of numerous towns throughout the US which depended heavily on Sears & Roebuck Mail Order Catalog for its supply of houses. Examples from the early 20th century until the dawn of WWII abound throughout the downtown area and lend a fairy tale aura to the area. There are numerous examples of late 19th century American styles including Bungalow, Neo-Classical, Colonial Revival, Frame Vernacular, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne and many more. The city fathers are working hard to ensure the continuance of these lines in future residential and commercial structures.
Today, with a population of about 2,500, Lake Helen appears to have few visible means of support outside of a bedroom community for the neighboring cities Deltona and DeLand.
See here for a glimpse of the once bustling and prosperous neighborhoods enjoying a quiet and leisurely existence.

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