Hidden Central Florida Treasure
Highland Park, Florida is located on Scenic Highway 17 in rural eastern Polk County, Florida, near Babson Park. The population numbers in the low hundreds, but it is an incorporated community, an actual chartered town.
Highland Park was founded in 1927, and has always been a recreation focused community.
The village is surrounded by an 18-hole golf course designed and built by the well known firm of Stiles & Van Kleek in 1927. It is known today as Lekarica Hills Golf Course.
A Lake Wales businessman, B.K. Bullard, bought 3,000 acres in 1919 that included what is now Highland Park.
Bullard hired Irwin A. Yarnell to promote the community and sell lots. Yarnell produced many ads and brochures that are classics of Florida promotion.
Yarnell built a 25 room mansion in 1923 on a hilltop in Highland Park. It is still there today, and presents a great photo opportunity if you can find a place to stand and take the snapshot either from Scenic Highway 17 or the entrance into Highland Park.
"La Casa de Josephina" was a gift to his wife, Josephine, and it overlooks the entire community. It's architecture is typical of the Florida Boom era of the 1920's, Moorish looking like a Spanish or Italian palace.
The picture above of the Casa was taken in 2007. On a recent visit in January 2012, I observed that the Casa had been painted a dark brown chocolate color.
Different strokes for different folks.
The Village of Highland Park is on the shores of Lake Easy. The lake used to be a favorite destination of weekend sea plane buffs who would fly in and have brunch at Lekarica resort.
Many of the early Highland Park residents were Quakers. They lived in a dormitory, separated into male and female wings.
The dormitory still stands, and is part of the Lekarica Golf and Country Club Resort. The restaurant was not open when I visited on a recent Monday (January 2012), but the original golf course is still played daily by residents and visitors.
The hurricanes in 2004 did a lot of damage to Lekarica, but my recent visit showed that the damage has been repaired. There are plenty of fine vacation cottages on the property and the entire resort is for sale.
Step back in time and enjoy this part of Old Florida. It is a magical feeling to wander around Highland Park.
You can arrange to play golf at the historic course by contacting Lekarica Hills.
Tell them you read about it on Florida Backroads Travel.