July 17, 2020
Avon Park is in Highlands County Florida on US-27 a few miles north of Sebring.
The population of the town is about 9,000. It's in the heart of that part of Florida that is known for its citrus groves.
There are hundreds of thousands of acres of citrus surrounding Avon Park; in the spring the wonderful smell of blossoming orange trees fills the air.
The first settler in the area was Oliver Crosby who moved down from New England in 1884 to study the wildlife.
A couple of years later the folks in the area named the town Lake Forest.
An English settler convinced Crosby that the area reminded her of Stratford-Upon-Avon, her home town in England - as well as that of William Shakespeare - and so the name was changed to Avon Park.
I first visited Avon Park more than 50 years ago and was scared out of my wits one night. After having a happy hour drink in the basement lounge of the Hotel Jacaranda one afternoon, I left to go have dinner in one of the restaurants out along US-27.
While driving back to the hotel well after sunset, the night sky was suddenly illuminated as if it were high noon.
Burning flares were all over the sky like a million flaming stars. I wondered if we were suddenly under nuclear attack. It was then I remembered the existence of the nearby Avon Park Bombing Range.
During World War Two this bombing range was operated by the Army Air Force, and sprawled over 218,000 acres. The huge acreage has been partially sold off over the years, but it still has more than 100,000 acres.
A lot of the acreage is open to the public for hiking and nature watching.
When I last went through Avon Park in November 2019 the old Hotel Jacaranda still looks pretty much like it does on the postcard.
Downtown Avon Park is built along a grassy boulevard mall, and quite a few of the old buildings have been nicely maintained or restored.
The vintage postcard above shows an Avon Park not much different than the scene you would see today. Change the old automobiles into their modern look alike counterparts and you would feel on familiar ground.
Another building that hasn't changed too much since it was built in 1894 is the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer.
This church is an example of Carpenter Gothic architecture, as is the Union Congregational Church.
Union Congregational is also known as Union Evangelical and is at 105 North Forest Avenue. It was built in 1892, and is another example of Carpenter Gothic church architecture.