Early Floridians Were Green Pioneers

by Mike Miller
(Mount Dora, Florida)

Melbourne Florida Ice Plant

Melbourne Florida Ice Plant

Melbourne Florida Ice Plant
Artesian Well

In the early days just before and after the beginning of the twentieth century, most Florida towns did not have electricity.


The first electric plants in most towns were at the local ice house. The big generators that powered the ice making equipment were also used to distribute power to those nearby residents who had enough money to pay for it.

Some of those old ice houses still stand. One that comes to mind is on U.S. 1 in Melbourne. It's a former Florida Power and Light facility that is now on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

An old ice plant in Mount Dora was converted into a community theater back in 1949. The 1925 vintage brick building was located at the current site of the Mount Dora Marina.

Although the plant was torn down in 1987 to make room for dry boat storage, the theater moved to a different site on city propery. Its heritage is preserved in the name of the current new and improved facility: Sonnentag Theatre at the Icehouse.


Some parts of Florida have natural artesian wells. These are wells that flow continually, bringing up water from the underlying aquifers like a miniature Old Faithful. Most of these wells have been capped in the past 50 years to conserve water.

Wells can also be drilled in these areas and the water will flow upward under pressure with no electrical or mechanical help required.

Some early pioneers installed generators on the well head and provided power for their own household needs.

One such pioneer I recall hearing about was the developer of Indialantic By The Sea. Indialantic is on the barrier island across from Melbourne.

Early developer Ernest Kouven-Hoven had a house in what is now Indialantic that got its power from an artesian well generator.

He also built the first bridge across the Indian River lagoon connecting Melbourne to his new town of Indialantic.


Other early pioneers in the days before electricity installed elevated black iron water tanks outside the house. The dark iron absorbed the sun's rays and heated the water for use in the house.

So solar power was being used way back in the day.

Comments for Early Floridians Were Green Pioneers

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Jul 03, 2012
Green Gables
by: Mike Miller


Thanks a lot for the link to the Green Gables site. I've driven by that place many times and never knew the story. The name Wells is certainly prominent in Melbourne, with the auditorium and adjacent park, but I didn't know anything about the man himself.



Jul 03, 2012
Green Gables in Melbourne
by: John Daly

Oral tradition says that William T. Wells had his home, Green Gables, wired for electricity when it was built in 1896. The electricity was supplied by an artesian well. We haven't found any documentation or artifacts. Another rumor was that Couch Pump in Grant supplied the equipment. See www.GreenGables.org

Mar 04, 2011
by: Mike Miller

Greg: thanks for your comment. It's good to know I have a least one visitor.

Mar 04, 2011
You Learn Something New Every Day!
by: Greg May

Mike, thanks for that great article! Now I know why the Icehouse Playhouse was so named!

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