July 27, 2020
Fruitland Park is a small town of about 4,000 people on US-441/US-27 north of Leesburg, Florida. It is just south and east of the sprawling retirement community of The Villages.
Fruitland Park is on the western side of Lake Griffin in an area known as Dead River. The area of the town was originally settled before the American Civil War.
The first settler was Calvin Lee, who set out the area's first citrus grove. Another early settler was a horticulturist named Major Orlando P. Rooks. He and his wife built a house on Crystal Lake in 1877.
Major Rooks came up with the name Fruitland Park because of all the nurseries and groves that had sprung up in the area. There is an Orlando P. Rooks buried in Lone Oak Cemetery in Leesburg. The gravestone identifies him as a veteran of Co. D, Kansas Infantry.
Maybe it's the same Mr. Rooks; we don't know. If not, it's a pretty large coincidence.
One of the oldest buildings still in use in the town is Holy Trinity Episcopal Church at 2201 Spring Lake Road. This church is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, and is an example of Carpenter Gothic architecture.
Fruitland Park is a tranquil contrast to the bustling activity in The Villages. Once you get off the main highway, U.S.-441, you will find yourself in nice quiet neighborhoods shaded with canopied oaks and other trees.
There are many well preserved older houses and a sprinkling of more modern ones.
Fruitland Park received a brand new Lake County Library in 2019. It is a beautiful structure that captures the Old Florida feel both inside and outside.
The structure is built on the site of The Casino, a historic community center built in 1914. It was demolished and removed from the site in 2017 and replaced by the library.
The library will give you a nice pamphlet titled "Fruitland Park Historic Trail" that lists 43 historic sites you can see on a self-guided tour.
An interesting place to dine in Fruitland Park is The Rose Plantation. It is in a historic home that was built in 1917 by a wealthy Massachusetts newspaper publisher.
It overlooks Fountain Lake on a four acre parcel with beautiful landscaping. The mansion has been turned into a fine family owned restaurant.
This is not a fast food place. It is elegant dining with fine china and silverware, with meals served on linen tablecloths. The fare is American food and wine.
The restaurant has a fine selection of seafood and steak. Their filet mignon is excellent. They have a wide choice of salads and appetizers.
You need to dress up here for dinner. The dress code is "business casual" to "semi-formal." You'd best wear a collared shirt. You won't be able to get in if you are wearing a tee shirt, flip-flops, baseball caps, or shorts.
If you forget, they will loan you a pair of pants.
Lunch is a bit less formal. Soups, salads, and sandwiches are served. Lunch dress code is casual and shorts are allowed. No smoking is permitted on the property.
The Rose Plantation is open for lunch Tue - Fri, 12:00 to 2:00 pm. It is open for dinner Tue - Sat, 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
Reservations can be made at 352-805-4340, and for more information see the website of The Rose Plantation.