Sushi Pop uses many of the same ingredients in its craft cocktails as in its food. The Ninja Chronicles (second from left), for example, is a blend of Kikori Whiskey, Pomelo Oleo (a citrus sweetener) and Xocolatl Mole Bitters with subtle cinnamon, cacao and spice elements.

IT’S BOTH RAW AND REFINED

Photography by Rafael Tongol

Longtime sushi maven Chau Trinh is tickled pickled-ginger pink for the opportunity to wow hard-to-impress Winter Parkers. Trinh and his partner, Lou Waldman, also own a Sushi Pop in Oviedo.

It’s all about raw fish at the new Sushi Pop restaurant near Park Avenue — but not in quite the way you’d think. Sure, you can order uncooked yellowtail nigiri or sashimi, just as you can at every other sushi spot in town. 

Yet, I suggest you go bolder. If it’s on the menu during your visit, try the belt fish (tachiuo), served atop seasoned rice bare or with a specially created fennel salsa. The striped bass known as suzuki might be a fun choice, too, served naked or covered lightly with sriracha salt and orange kosho, a citrus-chili blend.

The original Sushi Pop, located in Oviedo, opened in 2011 and quickly won kudos from critics and diners alike for its innovative Japanese-fusion menu. And we do mean innovative.

The concept’s creative leanings take a turn toward the raw here in town. Longtime sushi maven Chau Trinh owns both Sushi Pops with business partner Lou Waldman. And Trinh is tickled pickled-ginger pink for the opportunity to wow hard-to-impress Winter Parkers. 

Indeed, well-traveled diners who are open to culinary exploration — like the folks who read this magazine — inspire the on-trend Trinh. That’s why he has turned this sleek and colorful Lyman Avenue eatery into a from-the-sea playground of sorts.

For starters, Trinh imports Japanese fish-preparation rules along with the hard-to-source fish. More on those rules — which challenge certain long-held assumptions — in a bit. First, let’s order something.

The perfect nigiri (raw fish on rice) or sashimi (raw fish without rice) begins with an ever-changing menu of sometimes-exotic choices. In addition to swimmers from Florida’s coasts and elsewhere — we’re talking New Zealand, Tasmania, you name it — the chefs receive a fish-filled box from Japan twice a week.

Japachae-Pop uses potato-starch noodles and galbi secreto pork grilled at up to 800 degrees on a custom-designed gas-charcoal oven. The noodles, fresh vegetables and aged plum sauce — combined with tender pork — creates a rich, rounded dish.

“What’s inside is always a surprise,” says Trinh. “Our supplier chooses the best quality fish available each time. We open each box, then get our creative juices flowing.”

Trinh and his team examine the contents and start brainstorming about accompaniments. A light yet crucial enhancement such as ginger-shallot sauce, or bourbon-maple syrup with chives and smoked salt, might come to mind. 

Each choice is designed to tease out the natural flavors of the specific kind of fish, Trinh explains. “We scale, fillet, cure and prepare each fish, then design each topping so the fish will really stand out and be tasty,” he says. “Everything we do is to highlight the flavor of the fish.”

Wait, did he say “cure?” Yes, he did. 

In fact, the notion that raw fish should be served just hours after it’s pulled from the water is so American. “The United States is all about having really fresh fish, but in Japan they have a three-day rule,” Trinh says. “The first day you catch it, the second day you let it rest and the third day you prepare it.” 

That resting time, he adds, alleviates the impact of wayward “adrenaline, hormones and rigor mortis” on the gilled creatures. In fact, many high-end sushi restaurants are now curing fish for six or seven days. “We’re doing that with some of ours,” notes Trinh.

Soon, he says, Sushi Pop will introduce omakase seatings — dinners during which cured and other fish will be featured in multicourse meals created by the chefs. (Omakase is a Japanese phrase that means, essentially, “I’ll leave it up to you.”) 

For an assortment of flavors, order the sashimi “moriawase.” It’s an assortment of raw treats made from what’s fresh in the kitchen during your visit.

But if you’re not quite ready to forgo freshness, stick with us. Sushi Pop also offers foods you know and others that provide adventure without straying too far from familiar culinary territory. 

The “seaweeds” — a blend of three types — was fine. And Sushi Pop offers four types of flavoring for its edamame — typically nondescript green soybean pods for munching while waiting for the real food to arrive. 

Here, though, the edamame was nearly destination worthy. The hot beans were plump and vibrant and sprinkled generously with a granular blend of garlic and shichimi pepper — also called shichimi togarashi. The combo was exciting yet not overwhelming. 

After that, the next four dishes could be described as follows: Wow, wow and wow. Take the Madai Tasting, for example. Madai is sea bream, here sliced so thin as to be translucent then placed tenderly in a bowl with chips of purple-skin potatoes and slender wedges of Asian pear. 

A Peruvian-style yellow-pepper sauce called aji amarillo wrapped the fish in a South American hug. Complex layers of taste were achieved through such ingredients as lime juice and lime zest plus myoga ginger, which Trinh describes as “a bud of a flower that tastes like a shallot and ginger had a baby.” 

The edamame (above) consists of plump and vibrant hot beans sprinkled generously with a granular blend of garlic and shichimi pepper — also called shichimi togarashi. The Rising Sun sushi roll (below) encompasses battered-and-fried tempura green beans, tuna, and spicy mayo with Japanese scallops and orange chili sauce.

The result was a starter that was at once sweet and sour, silky and crunchy, with the tiniest jolt of heat.

Japchae-Pop pays homage to a Korean dish that uses potato-starch noodles, Trinh says. All I know is, at my table we battled over wads of galbi secreto pork, which were grilled at up to 800 degrees on a custom-designed gas-charcoal oven. The noodles, fresh vegetables and aged plum sauce — combined with tender pork — creates a rich, rounded dish.

Equally satisfying was a soupy/stewy concoction called Goldentile. The namesake fish, steamed and fork-tender, was swimming in a yellow lemongrass-lobster broth laced with sambal chili and dotted with roasted baby carrots, dandelion greens and fresh herbs. 

I’m a sucker for lemongrass under any circumstances, and here the aromatic veggie was elevated to enchanting.

I tried two sushi rolls, too. Rising Sun consisted of battered-and-fried tempura green beans, tuna, and spicy mayo with Japanese scallops and orange chili sauce. For old time’s sake, I also had the ceviche roll. I first tried one at Thornton Park’s Shari Sushi years ago, when Trinh helmed the kitchen there. The restaurant was a chic ground-breaker at the time.

While neither roll had me swooning the way the Goldentile, the Japchae-Pop and the Madai Tasting did, sampling the perfectly lovely if not thrilling rice-and-fish rolls led me to engage Trinh in a discussion about rice. 

As you might imagine, this chef’s sushi rice — which is also used with all nigiri dishes — is made with exceptional thought. Essentially, Sushi Pop’s rice begins with Koshihikari premium sushi rice.

“In Japan,” Trinh says, “a lot of great sushiya (sushi chefs) use red rice vinegar, which colors the rice a sort of burgundy. It’s really strong and really pungent. It’s fantastic with mackerel and oilier fish that can stand up to that type of flavor.”

Trinh mixes two different types of vinegar: red rice vinegar and white rice vinegar, which he pours over the hot rice as soon as it comes out of the pot. Then he adds a bit of kombu, which is cured kelp, plus salt and sugar. “The rice is a little bit salty and a little bit sweet,” he says.

How can you not want to try that now that you know so much about it?

As of press time, the only dessert on the Sushi Pop menu is the P.M.S., a molten chocolate cake with peanut-butter powder served with salted-caramel ice cream. Personally, it’s enough for me. But be aware that variety is on the way.

Sushi Pop uses many of the same ingredients in its craft cocktails as in its food. The Ninja Chronicles (second from left), for example, is a blend of Kikori Whiskey, Pomelo Oleo (a citrus sweetener) and Xocolatl Mole Bitters with subtle cinnamon, cacao and spice elements.

As for beverages, Sushi Pop uses many of the same ingredients in its craft cocktails as in its food — and these spirited sippers are designed to complement the dishes Trinh prepares. 

The Ninja Chronicles, for example, was simple but perfect with my meal. It’s a blend of Kikori Whiskey, Pomelo Oleo (a citrus sweetener) and Xocolatl Mole Bitters, with subtle cinnamon, cacao and spice elements. Don’t ask too many questions — trust the Sushi Pop team to do right by you behind the bar. 

The setting for all these well-contemplated Asian flavors is a dining room that features bright pink and yellow hues together with gray and black. It’s a cheerful environment for dinner. (In March the restaurant began opening for lunch, calling itself ChauHaus and serving Vietnamese specialties.) 

The Winter Park location is more refined than its Oviedo counterpart, with no anime decorating the walls. The dining room is open with the sushi bar in middle. Artfully blurred wallpaper and banquette coverings add a touch of whimsy.

Sushi Pop was so new during my visit that it hadn’t yet had its grand opening. But everything ran exceptionally well for a project-in-progress. Hopefully the service team will decide to plunk down a stack of small plates when groups share — or at least give each person one large dinner plate.

Also, it would serve Sushi Pop well to be less pretentious with the written menu. Each offering should be described in plain language rather than Asian foodie-speak. Example: the tachiuo dish was described like this: sanbaizu, kombu, cucumber, shiso, myoga, momiji, oboshi.” The only one I’m sure about is cucumber.

Those issues are small purple potatoes and easily fixable as the new Sushi Pop matures. So I strongly suggest that you stop in. Even if you think you’ve tried it all, Trinh may surprise you with some tasty new tricks. 

Sushi Pop
115 East Lyman Avenue, Winter Park
321-203-2282
sushipoprestaurant.com

Joy Wallace Dickinson’s grandparents, Bill and Alice Wallace, owned a grocery store along the Million-Dollar Mile. It was called B and D Market, located at 1000 South Orlando Avenue. Shown (left) are the Wallaces and their 5-year-old granddaughter. Now a journalist and a local historian, Dickinson (below) recently gave a nostalgic presentation about Winter Park’s once-thriving motor court industry for the Winter Park History Museum.

WISH YOU WERE HERE

One of the better motels along U.S. Highway 17-92 in Winter Park was the Lake Shore Motor Court. It was a member of Quality Courts United — now the Choice Hotels International chain — which was formed in 1939 by independent owners who established mandatory quality standards and referred business to one another.

More than a century ago, during the winter months, wealthy Northerners ensconced themselves at luxury resort hotels in fledgling Winter Park. Many visitors ended up investing in the community and ultimately moving here.

By the 1930s and 1940s, middle-class families were flocking to more modest accommodations — including tourist cottages — along U.S. Highway 17-92 (the colloquially named “Million-Dollar Mile”). And by the 1950s, Winter Park boasted the swank and swinging Langford Resort Hotel, where the Empire Room supper club epitomized Rat Pack culture.

The Winter Park History Museum, consequently, has been saluting the golden age of local hotels and motels in its current exhibition, Wish You Were Here: The Hotels & Motels of Winter Park. The exhibition runs until June 6, 2020. 

The cozy museum space is packed with sometimes-kitschy ephemera from the city’s classic motels and motor courts — including a re-created guest room using authentic furnishings, right down to the matchbooks and the Gideon bible in the end-table drawer. 

Also examined are the luxurious resort hotels that attracted monied Northerners to Winter Park in the late 1880s. There’s even a re-imagined Victorian-era children’s playroom of the sort where guests of the posh Seminole Hotel or Alabama Hotel might have stashed their youngsters while they were out boating.

Winter Park History Museum Executive Director Susan Skolfield says artifacts for Wish You Were Here were donated or loaned. The wall-sized backdrop, created by graphic artist Will Setzer, shows the Genius Preserve and one of its feathered residents.

A nostalgic highlight of the exhibition is the original piano from the Empire Room as well as the hotel’s poolside bar from which untold gallons of tropical drinks were served. And take time to read the wall panels, which are dense with vintage photographs and carefully researched descriptions.

Linda Kulmann, the museum’s archivist and past board president, wrote the panels, which range from histories of early boarding houses to a locator map of mom-and-pop motor courts once located along U.S. Highway 17-92 (also known as Orlando Avenue). 

Susan Skolfield, the museum’s executive director, says artifacts on display for the exhibition were donated or loaned. The Langford piano, for example, was loaned by the family that purchased it at auction when the hotel closed.

“Because our space is small, every item has to mean something,” adds Skolfield, who says more than 20 volunteers began scouting for materials a year in advance of the exhibition’s opening. “We’re always creating as we go along.” 

Helping to make the most of the space — which measures less than 1,000 square feet — is Camilo Velasquez, an art instructor at Valencia College, Rollins College and the Crealdé School of Art. 

“You might say I’m the make-up man,” says Velasquez, who stages and designs most of the museum’s exhibitions. Creative use of lighting and object placement can make the compact venue appear larger, he says.

Linda Kulmann (top left), the museum’s archivist and past board president, wrote copy for Wish You Were Here’s informative panels, which offer a historical perspective on Winter Park’s guest accommodations, from boarding houses to resort hotels. Helping to make the most of the museum’s compact space is Camilo Velasquez (top right), an art instructor at Valencia College, Rollins College and the Crealdé School of Art, who is responsible for staging and exhibit design. Wish You Were Here is packed with sometimes-kitschy ephemera, including a telephone and directory from the Langford Resort Hotel (that’s also the Langford’s original poolside bar) and are-created motel guest room using authentic furnishings, right down to the matchbooks and the Gideon bible in the end-table drawer.

Home Away from Home

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the exhibition is the emphasis on the Million-Dollar Mile, which was a much more modest destination than its hyperbolic name suggests. 

Its friendly vibe and affordably priced accommodations appealed to middle-class travelers, who for several decades created something of a subculture along U.S. Highway 17-92.

Which begs the question: Why did these visitors come to Winter Park instead of Orlando, a much larger city? Why, for that matter, did they come to Winter Park instead of New Smyrna Beach or Daytona Beach? Wouldn’t a vacationer driving from the icy Midwest or Northeast find a beach destination more appealing?

Of course, Winter Park had attractions of its own. There was quaint Park Avenue for shopping and a gorgeous Chain of Lakes for recreation. Rollins College, the state’s oldest institution of higher learning, enlivened the cultural scene for residents and visitors alike. And the beaches weren’t far away by car.

But the Million-Dollar Mile’s appeal may have had more to do with its folksy ambience. It was an unfussy home away from home, sans the snow.

“Families from up north built long-term relationships with the motor court owners and just kept coming back,” speculates Kulmann. “Some of it was probably familiarity.”

Local historian Joy Wallace Dickinson, whose grandparents owned a grocery store on the periphery of the Million-Dollar Mile — B and D Market, at 1000 South Orlando Avenue — agrees. 

“People also tended to stay in places their friends told them about,” she says. “There were plenty of annual visitors who just enjoyed it here and spread the word among their friends. A kind of community developed.”

It didn’t hurt that Winter Park was a convenient place to stop en route to South Florida, Dickinson adds. “It’s right in the middle of the state,” she says. “I expect quite a few people who stayed along the Million-Dollar Mile were coming back from, or were on their way to, someplace else.”

Joy Wallace Dickinson’s grandparents, Bill and Alice Wallace, owned a grocery store along the Million-Dollar Mile. It was called B and D Market, located at 1000 South Orlando Avenue. Shown (above) are the Wallaces and their 5-year-old granddaughter. Now a journalist and a local historian, Dickinson (below) recently gave a nostalgic presentation about Winter Park’s once-thriving motor court industry for the Winter Park History Museum.

Dickinson, who recently gave a presentation about Winter Park’s motor court heyday during the museum’s monthly membership meeting, noted that Orange Blossom Trail — today synonymous with sleaze — was once also dotted with family-oriented motels, including the eye-catching Wigwam Village, which was demolished in 1973.

Virtually all of Winter Park’s motor courts were mom-and-pop, meaning that they were literally owned and managed primarily by husbands and wives — many of whom lived and raised families in the motor courts that they managed. 

For travelers, it was comforting to be greeted warmly by a hospitable couple who would meet them at the office door, personally escort them to their rooms or cottages, and help them unload their luggage. 

Many were annual extended-stay customers who developed close friendships with the owners. The courtyards created a back-home familiarity as both owners and travelers gathered for evening conversations while children frolicked in courtyard pools and playgrounds. 

Old acquaintances were renewed and new acquaintances were made as guests gathered to gossip and swap tales of their road experiences. They dined nearby at Anderson’s Restaurant, grabbed a burger at Roper’s Grill — which boasted one of the first “animated” neon signs in Central Florida — or enjoyed a sugar fix at the Donut Dinette. 

If it was a special occasion, D’Agostino’s Villa Nova or the Imperial House — “where the royal rib reigns supreme” — offered more upscale options. In nearby Orlando, nightclubs advertised programs packed with comics and crooners.

It should be remembered, however, that such idyllic getaways were available only to white families in the Jim Crow era. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, African-American families often consulted The Negro Motorist Green Book to find lodgings, businesses and gas stations that would serve them. Likely, none in Winter Park would have been listed.

Wright’s Motor Lodge (300 South Orlando Avenue), built in the 1930s by Mr. and Mrs. Herbert B. Wright, was one of the first to be constructed along the Million-Dollar Mile. By the 1950s it was owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. J. Stephan. 

A postcard printed by the Stephans touted Wright’s — they hadn’t changed the name — as “the right place to stay.” Other advantages: “New fireproof buildings. Private baths with tile showers. Plenty of hot water at all times. Innerspring mattresses. Insulated rooms. Cool in summer, warm in winter. Cottages off the road.” 

Down the road at 848 South Orlando Avenue — today the site of a Steak ’n Shake — was Baggett’s Cottages, described as “modern in every respect” with a location “in the midst of an orange grove where guests can pick their own oranges right off the tree.”

Other motor courts with identifiable owners included Dandee Cottages (103 North Orlando Avenue) owned by Mr. and Mrs. Edward Wittman; 17-92 Motor Court (401 North Orlando Avenue) owned by Mr. and Mrs. D.I. Sigman; Colonial Motor Court (400 South Orlando Avenue) owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jim Ward; and Greystone Manor Motor Court (700 South Orlando Avenue) owned by Mr. and Mrs. Carl Bleyl.

The Lake Shore Motor Court (215 South Orlando Avenue) exemplified the best of these mom-and-pop operations. It was a member of Quality Courts United — now the Choice Hotels International chain — which was formed in 1939 by seven independent owners who established mandatory quality standards and referred business to one another. 

As it grew and morphed into a franchise, Quality Courts United also worked to overcome negative perceptions of motor courts as either seedy or hideouts for gangsters and other undesirables. 

Members were endorsed by the American Automobile Association and received a stamp of approval from nationally known travel and food writer Duncan Hines.

In its brochures, the Lake Shore Motor Court touted its Quality Courts United membership as well as its playground and its private beach on Lake Killarney. Promised one promotional flyer: “The accommodations are certain to please the most fastidious of travelers and vacationers.”

Changing Times

The three-decade motor court era in Winter Park was not destined to last. Fundamental changes in the roadside-accommodation industry were well underway by the 1970s. 

By the late 1950s, some motor courts had added second stories and offered amenities normally associated with downtown hotels. These larger accommodations were advertised as “motels,” a portmanteau of motor and hotel. 

Individually owned motels became cookie-cutter corporate properties designed to resemble downtown hotels. Holiday Inn was an early example of such a franchise. Quality standards may have become more predictable, but the quirky charm of motel architecture from the 1920s through the 1950s was lost forever. 

Additionally, multistory accommodations such as Winter Park’s legendary Langford Hotel contained all the amenities of a downtown hotel as well as parking facilities and an outdoor pool of the sort ordinarily associated with roadside motels and motor courts. 

The Million-Dollar Mile was lined with inexpensive restaurants that catered to locals as well as motor court guests. One of the most colorful of those eateries was Roper’s Grill, which boasted that “it takes 3 minutes to prove we have the best hamburger.”

The Langford, located at the corner of New England and Interlachen avenues, was also within walking distance of Rollins and Park Avenue. It was closed in 2000 and demolished in 2003. The upscale Alfond Inn, developed by Rollins, now occupies this choice piece of real estate.

These developments, along with the construction of Interstate 4 and the arrival of Disney World — which spurred construction of countless hotels on and around the attraction — led to the decline and, by the 1990s, the demise of motels and motor courts  along U.S. Highway 17-92. 

“The small, family-owned motels, where friends meet on vacations and return year after year to the same kitchenettes and swimming pools, may soon go the way of downtown grocery stores and 35-cent gas,” wrote the Orlando Sentinel in 1979. “For the remaining ‘ma and pa’ motels along U.S. Highway 17-92 in Winter Park, the future appears bleak.”

When the iconic Mount Vernon Inn (110 South Orlando Avenue) was razed in 2015, Winter Park lost the last remnant of motel culture along the Million-Dollar Mile, which is now brimming with new dining and retail projects. These days, motorists can’t even see Lake Killarney from the traffic-choked highway.

There is, however, one remaining vestige of those simpler days: La Siesta Court was located at 325 South Orlando Avenue. Today it has retained its U-shaped bones but has been refashioned into a series of retail stores, including the popular Black Bean Deli. 

Wish You Were Here, like all History Museum exhibitions, is free and open to the public — although donations are gladly accepted. The museum is in the Farmers’ Market building at 200 West New England Avenue. 

Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, visit wphistory.org. 

Portions of this story incorporate research by Jack Lane, professor emeritus of history at Rollins College.

Henry Peter, a self taught artist known for the photographic quality of his paintings, has found collectors on four continent for his meticulous (and vivid) depictions of outdoor scenes. He describes his work as “simple and direct; free of artifice and superficial mannerisms.”

LET’S JUST BE REALISTIC

Henry Peter, a self taught artist known for the photographic quality of his paintings, has found collectors on four continent for his meticulous (and vivid) depictions of outdoor scenes. He describes his work as “simple and direct; free of artifice and superficial mannerisms.”

Henry Peter, a native of Burglengenfeld, Germany, and a resident of Brevard County, is primarily a self-taught artist. Which is remarkable considering the photographic quality of his paintings.

Peter is one of Winter Park Magazine’s most popular cover artists. Just last fall, he provided a cover image of the iconic exedra in Kraft Azalea Garden. This issue, he turns his attention to the popular Scenic Boat Tour, which traverses two lush canals connecting lakes Osceola, Maitland and Virginia.

The original painting, called Cap’n Dan’s Tour, is a vertical image, so only a detail is shown on the cover. The entire, uncropped work is reproduced on page 8. The Scenic Boat Tour is one of Florida’s oldest attractions, in operation since 1938, and has for generations been a must for local visitors.

As a 12-year-old in Engelwood, New Jersey, Peter recalls receiving a few lessons on color and theory from painter Margaret Stucki, a vehement realist who, ironically, moved to Brevard County in 1973 and taught art for Rollins College when it offered evening programs at Patrick Air Force Base.

“When I moved down here, I tried to get in touch with her but didn’t hear back,” says Peter of Stucki, who wrote a book denouncing contemporary art as “crud.” She died in 2017 — but would likely be pleased that her former pupil has garnered a large following with his meticulous (and vivid) depictions of outdoor scenes.

The first work by Peter to appear on the cover of Winter Park Magazine was a 2015 image of the Venetian Canal and the Palmer Avenue Bridge. Several dozen readers emailed to ask who had taken the beautiful photograph — which was, in fact, an oil painting.

Peter earned a degree in philosophy from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and after graduation apprenticed in a machine shop. But by the late 1980s, his paintings had begun winning regional and national awards.

In 1993, Peter made his first trip to Florida, where he displayed his work at the Old Island Days Festival. He moved to Key West a decade later, then relocated to Titusville in 2008.

Peter’s paintings have been selected for the Top 100 in the prestigious Arts for the Parks competition, a program created by the National Park Academy of the Arts to benefit the National Park Conservation Alliance.

He was a mainstay at Key West’s Gingerbread Square Gallery for almost two decades and has been represented by the Fredlund Gallery in Winter Park.

Peter describes his work as “simple and direct; free of artifice and superficial mannerisms.” He enjoys being artistically unpredictable, and applies his keen eye and steady hand to a broad range of subjects — not just landscapes.

You can find Peter’s paintings on display at the Cocco & Salem Gallery in Key West, Palm Avenue Fine Arts in Sarasota and the Village Gallery in Orlando.

John and Gail Sinclair are a power couple in the cultural community. John is chair of the department of music at Rollins and artistic director of the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park. Gail is executive director of the college’s Winter Park Institute and runs its popular speaker series. Photo by Rafael Tongol

HEMINGWAY WAS HERE

Gail Sinclair, a noted scholar on the works of Ernest Hemingway, uncovered the previously untold story of Hemingway’s youngest sister, who caused a stir at Rollins College in the early 1930s. Photo by Rafael Tongol

If Gail Sinclair and Ernest Hemingway had been contemporaries, it’s doubtful that the pair would have hung out much together. Sinclair, executive director of the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College, is a sweet-natured, soft-spoken scholar who loves analyzing literature and contemplating nature.

Hemingway, of course, was a hard-driving, hard-drinking, larger-than-life alpha male who hunted big game on the savannah, cheered toreadors as they slaughtered bulls, rushed to war zones and pummeled opponents senseless in boxing matches. 

But Papa’s internal demons won the final bout in 1961, when the writer of The Sun Also Rises.(1926), A Farewell to Arms (1929), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) and The Old Man and the Sea (1951) blew his brains out with a double-barreled shotgun.

Sinclair is among the most respected Hemingway experts in the U.S., having notched seemingly countless publications and presentations about the iconic author. She’s also a longtime officer in the Ernest Hemingway Society and Foundation and is on the editorial board of The Hemingway Review. 

You can imagine, then, Sinclair’s excitement when she discovered that Carol Hemingway, Ernest’s youngest sister, had attended Rollins from 1930 through 1932.

Sinclair learned about the connection at a 2002 Hemingway Society conference in Stresa, Italy, where she sat in on a presentation by Donald Junkins from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Junkins showed a videotaped interview with Carol Hemingway Gardner — who at age 91 was the author’s only surviving sibling.

“During the interview she mentioned Rollins twice,” recalls Sinclair, who had been a visiting assistant professor of literature at the college for two years. “As soon as I got back, I got her address from the alumni office and wrote her, asking if we could speak.”

Sinclair heard back from Gardner’s daughter, who said that her mother was willing to be interviewed. Within two weeks, Sinclair boarded a flight to Hartford, Connecticut — the nearest city with an airport — and drove for an hour and a half to historic Sheffield, Massachusetts, in Berkshire County.

“I called Mrs. Gardner’s home and told her who I was and that I wanted to confirm our meeting,” recalls Sinclair. “She was very polite and said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, but I couldn’t possibly meet with you. I already have an appointment.’ For a minute I thought the trip had been for naught. But I realized that the appointment she was referring to was with me.”

Sinclair spent several hours with Gardner — who had not seen or spoken to her famous brother since a nasty falling out in 1932 — and found the retired schoolteacher to be hospitable but content to live outside the spotlight. 

Few in Sheffield even knew that Gardner’s maiden name was Hemingway.

“She did have very fond memories of Rollins,” says Sinclair, who gave Gardner a book about the college’s history. Shortly following the interview, Gardner broke a hip and her health declined rapidly. She died just weeks later.

Sinclair later filled in the details about young Carol’s tumultuous time at Rollins — and her irrevocable split with Ernest — through private correspondence and archival records.

Carol Hemingway was a free spirit who as a student cohabitated with her boyfriend and wrote a story for the campus literary magazine that hinted at a same-sex romance. Photo Restoration and Colorization by Will Setzer/Circle 7 Design Studio

TUMULTUOUS TERM

Carol attended college in Winter Park so she could more easily visit Ernest, who had a home in Key West. Ernest, 12 years Carol’s senior, had become her legal guardian following the suicide of their father, a physician, in Oak Park, Illinois. 

A free spirit not unlike her brother, Carol’s unconventional behavior apparently raised eyebrows right away. Sympathetic English professor Kathleen Sproul was concerned enough to write President Hamilton Holt, who was traveling at the time.

 Sproul — whose detective novels included Death and the Professors — lamented to Holt that “certain influential people” considered Carol to be an undesirable sort of student. 

“Colleges for many years have done their best to strangle the creative mind and to set up taboos about the individual who can’t help being different from the run of society,” she wrote. “That difference is precious! Rollins, which can be a very great college, ought to try to conserve the greatness of her students.”

Replied Holt: “Don’t worry about Carol Hemingway. It is good that we have clashes of opinion at Rollins provided it does not lead to factional animosities. I like the girl, and if you find that some people are trying to depress her, do your share to express her, or get her to express herself, which is better.”

What prompted Sproul’s adamant defense is unknown. But Carol would soon give the campus plenty to have clashes of opinion about.

In 1931 she wrote “The Girls” for The Flamingo, a student literary magazine. The 600-word short story — deftly told using the terse but multilayered language popularized by her brother — seemed to imply a same-sex romantic relationship between two androgynously named friends, Lou and Glen.

However, it was Carol’s torrid relationship with John “Jack” Fentress Gardner, who had transferred to Rollins from Princeton, that rankled college officials and caused her famous older brother — no shrinking violet — to become uncharacteristically prudish. 

Complicating matters, Carol and Jack appear to have cohabitated in Lakeside Cottage, a campus dormitory. When this transgression became known in late 1932, Carol left Winter Park for Vienna, Austria, where Jack joined her in early 1933.

PRUDISH PAPA

Ernest despised Jack — though he may well have despised any suitor — and sent his sister scathing and hurtful letters, one of which accused her, without evidence, of saving money for an abortion. 

That Hemingway behaved like a jackass isn’t shocking — he was often cruel to those closest to him — but the depth of his vitriol toward his cherished youngest sister remains jarring today. The siblings never again communicated.

Jack and Carol were married in 1933 and tried to re-enroll at Rollins as a couple. But Holt — who positioned himself as a progressive but often behaved as a patriarch — was having none of it. In a memo to Dean Winslow Anderson he wrote:

“I don’t think we should let Jack Gardner and Carol come back even if they pay the full tuition. … I think the thing to do is write Carol and her husband why we cannot take them back, namely, that we had direct evidence that they were living together in Lakeside [a college dormatory] before they left.”

Nevertheless, despite Holt and Hemingway, love prevailed over long odds.

Jack became an author and educator who wrote about spiritualism, transcendentalism and anthroposophy (a philosophy based upon Austrian esotericist Rudolf Steiner’s belief that an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world exists.) 

He was the longtime headmaster of the Waldorf School of Garden City on New York’s Long Island. Waldorf schools — which use curricula based upon Steiner’s theories of child development — seek to develop intellectual, artistic and practical skills while cultivating imagination and creativity.

John “Jack” Fentress Gardner died in 1998. He and Carol Hemingway Gardner — who didn’t attend her brother’s funeral and, sadly given her obvious aptitude, never wrote for publication again — were married for 65 years.

Quite a story, all right. It might have been written as a work of fiction by Hemingway or perhaps F. Scott Fitzgerald, another Lost Generation icon about whom Sinclair has academic expertise. She serves on the board of directors of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society.

John and Gail Sinclair are a power couple in the cultural community. John is chair of the department of music at Rollins and artistic director of the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park. Gail is executive director of the college’s Winter Park Institute and runs its popular speaker series. Photo by Rafael Tongol

SCHOLARLY SLEUTH

Hemingway and Fitzgerald make rarified company for a girl born in rural Wisconsin to parents who didn’t graduate from high school. But Sinclair, always a voracious learner, earned an undergraduate degree in education and a master’s degree in English from the University of Missouri Kansas City.

In 1977 she married her high-school sweetheart, an ambitious young conductor named John Sinclair. “My first date with John was a blind date,” she recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘This guy is going to go places, and I want to go, too.’”

Luckily, they didn’t have to go too many places before putting down roots in Winter Park. In 1985, after a stop at East Texas Baptist University, John was named chair of the department of music at Rollins. In 1990 he also became artistic director of the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park.

The Sinclairs share a fierce Midwestern work ethic. While John became one of the region’s most high-profile arts personalities, Gail taught American literature at Boone High School and earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of South Florida in Tampa. 

She commuted to classes — a 180-mile round trip. “That was before cellphones,” she says. “I considered that drive to be my night off.”

In 2007, after years as an adjunct and a visiting assistant professor, she was named executive director of the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College, which runs a popular speaker series. She also teaches in the college’s Master of Liberal Studies program.

Sinclair — whose favorite books are To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby — has a professorial demeanor but is also self-deprecating and wryly funny. She’s proud of her Ph.D. but recognizes that great literature and classical music are thought by some to be superfluous — and even a bit snooty.

The couple’s young niece, for example, once told her teacher that her aunt and uncle were doctors and might be able talk about their work with the class during Career Day.

Recalls Sinclair: “The teacher asked what kind of doctors we were, and after thinking about it for a moment, our niece replied, ‘I don’t know, but I don’t think they’re the kind that help anybody.’”

It’s true, Sinclair says, that reading a good book isn’t likely to cure cancer. But that doesn’t mean literature — and, of course, music — isn’t crucial to societal health.

Adds Sinclair: “John and I comfort ourselves by educating young men and women, many of whom will be significant in concrete ways — the change makers and helpers, as Fred Rogers would say.” (The Sinclairs were close to the beloved Rogers, a 1953 Rollins graduate known worldwide for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.)

“But we also know that the arts are a necessary influence in history’s great civilizations — and music and literature are key elements in that realm,” she adds. “This may be an exalted way of justifying what we do for a living. But like medicine’s creed, we at least do no harm, and hopefully we provide some benefit.” 


 

TWO GIRLS 

BY CAROL HEMINGWAY

They sat on the third-floor fire escape of the dormitory and let their legs hang over the edge. Lou, slim-shouldered, hunched over her cigarette, and Glen leaned on one elbow and swung first one leg then the other with a slow rhythm. With large shallow eyes she watched Lou.

“The way you smoke is killing,” she said. You’re pretending to inhale. Don’t just hold the smoke in your mouth; draw some in and then let it out slowly,”

Lou still stared at the lake, puffed with a violent intake of breath, and started coughing. Glen didn’t laugh.

“I don’t care if I do look silly. Inhaling is bad for you anyway.”

“Listen. How do you ever expect to enjoy smoking if you don’t do it properly? You’re always talking about enjoying life. You’re a funny one. I’m not trying to kill you.”

Lou obediently tried again.

“I do want to enjoy things,” she said. “I want to enjoy everything in the whole world. I’ve been enjoying the lake.” She looked out over the water. “This morning there was a faint mist on it like the delicate film left by breath on a mirror. This afternoon I loved it. The steady sun made it look warm as a silent friendly companion. Last night it was —”

“Gosh, don’t start raving about the lake last night. I was out canoeing with that beast. There was just too damn much of your lake last night. I didn’t think I’d ever get home.” Glen lay back, pulled her knees up, and braced her heels against the edge of the platform.

“But Glen, didn’t you notice last night how the lake seemed to leer. It was repulsive as a cesspool. The stars were cool and disinterested, and there was a languid, insulting-sort-of breeze. I guess I just imagined a lot of things, sitting here by myself. I felt so very much alone.”

“You sweet kid. But for hell sake don’t get pensive. I’m not in the mood for pensiveness. Lighting another cigarette, she said “I wish I had a horse down here. I’d like to take him out in a gallop down all the long straight roads I could find.”

She stood up, looked down at Lou, and then far past her. There was a silence.

“Listen,” she stated with decision. “I’ve heard people say there’s something funny between us. It’s not good to have stories like that going around.” She looked down at Lou. “Because there isn’t anything, is there?”

Lou looked up at her cigarette and then continued to gaze at the water. She flicked her cigarette away.

“I wish I could see where the falling stars land,” she said, looking at the bright tip glowing on the ground. “I’m so tired. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep. I’m going to stay here. You can go in if you want to,” She was still watching the ground. She quivered slightly.

“It’s funny the way you can’t get away from yourself in the dark,” she went on. “It’s much easier to hide in the light. In the dark real fears take advantage.”

“Look out. You’ll be quoting in a minute.”

There was a violent convulsion of Lou’s body. Glen grabbed her around the waist.

“Say, you came near falling off,” Glen said.

“I’m a little dizzy, I guess.” She relaxed a little in Glen’s strong circle of arms.

“Poor little kid,” said Glen. “I’ll carry you in to bed.”

Cynthia Edmonds, who lives in the Winter Park house where she grew up, says that plein-air painting “inspires me in a profound way, and observing nature helps me to understand the shape, form and infinite colors of my subjects.”

IT’S A PAINTERLY PASSION

Cynthia Edmonds, who lives in the Winter Park house where she grew up, says that plein-air painting “inspires me in a profound way, and observing nature helps me to understand the shape, form and infinite colors of my subjects.”

Award-winning plein-air painter Cynthia Edmonds discovered her passion for art while taking classes at Rollins College as a child growing up in Winter Park. 

Her love of art led her to high-school art camp at Florida State University, where she returned to earn a bachelor’s degree in fashion illustration. Edmonds worked for many years as an advertising illustrator for local fashion retailers, including Ivey’s, Jordan Marsh and Hattie Frederick. 

She later earned a master’s degree in fine art from the University of Florida and moved to Washington, D.C., and later Seattle. There she worked as a photo art director and catalogue designer for Nordstrom while simultaneously discovering the wonder of oil painting. 

“Each day painting en plein air was an exciting challenge to capture the ever-changing light and shadow,” she says. “Working on location inspires me in a profound way, and observing nature helps me to understand the shape, form and infinite colors of my subjects.”

Edmonds, who returned to Florida in 2001 to devote her time to painting its colorful landscapes, now lives in the Winter Park house where she was raised.

A signature member of the American Impressionist Society and Plein Air Florida, she participates in plein-air exhibitions throughout the U.S. — including the annual Paint Out Winter Park, sponsored by the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. 

The cover image on this issue of Winter Park Magazine, “Lake Berry Bananas,” was painted during the Polasek’s invitation-only event, when artists fan out across the city looking for intriguing subjects. Edmonds found this tranquil setting along Lake Berry, near the Windsong neighborhood. 

Edmonds’ paintings can be found in collections at the University of Central Florida and the Maitland Art Center. Her paintings are also included in the St. Joe Company’s Forgotten Coast Collection and the Shands Arts in Medicine Collection at the Venice (Florida) Regional Medical Center. 

Aficionados of Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival memorabilia will recall that Edmonds’ image of Greeneda Court on Park Avenue adorned the official festival poster back in 2007.

Edmonds loves to paint in her certified wildlife habitat garden, but also finds inspiration in France, Italy and Maine. More of Edmonds’ work can be seen at www.cynthiaedmonds.com. 

— Randy Noles

Carnivores will be excited by the meat entrées, including veal porterhouse with pan seared fingerling potatoes, collard greens and a chipotle cranberry sauce.

HAMILTON’S, REIMAGINED

Photographs by Rafael Tongol

The Macallan 12-year butterscotch pudding with salted toffee brittle and whipped cream has been a house specialty since Hamilton’s Kitchen opened five years ago.

Most of us begin having “who am I?” moments during adolescence. We determine what sort of people we aspire to become, then adapt our appearances, hobbies, vocations and habits accordingly. At five years old, Hamilton’s Kitchen is at a similar crossroads.

The restaurant debuted along with the award-winning Alfond Inn, the art-filled boutique hotel in which it’s located. Rollins College owns the much-lauded Alfond, which was recently ranked No. 2 in Florida during the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.

Not long after, in an article entitled “The Soul of the Swanky South,” Winter Park Magazine described Hamilton’s Kitchen as “Modern Southern” and reported on the chef’s goal of making the indoor-outdoor space with an open kitchen appealing not only to lodgers but to the entire community.

The restaurant remains a Winter Park favorite. The décor is hearty and warm — call it polished-rustic — although the artwork in the lobby and behind the restaurant’s reception stand is different because the college’s Cornell Fine Arts Museum swaps pieces periodically. 

Certain classics remain on the Hamilton’s Kitchen menu, and the Modern-Southern ambiance continues to permeate. Still, today’s culinary team is in the process of redefining the restaurant without losing its core competencies.

Chef Stephen Doyle, who joined Hamilton’s in July 2017, and Assistant General Manager Christopher Giannone, who has been with the hotel since its opening in August 2013, are the masterminds.

You may have enjoyed Doyle’s food before. His resumé includes lengthy stints at Healthy Chef Creations, Church Street Station and the historic Tap Room at Dubsdread.

“We’re still going for a Southern-Florida-Caribbean vibe,” Doyle says, describing tweaks to the menu. “We’re also moving toward lighter foods, so diners won’t feel sluggish after eating.” 

Chef Stephen Doyle (left), who joined the culinary team in July 2017, and Assistant General Manager Christopher Giannone (right), who has been with the hotel since its opening in August 2013, are tweaking the Hamilton’s Kitchen menu, adding new items and keeping old favorites.

Still, the first new dish he describes sounds mighty hearty. It’s a braised Moroccan lamb shank with a chickpea stew that takes 36 hours to prepare from start to finish. The substantial entrée is most certainly not Southern, Floridian nor Caribbean. Sounds tasty, though. 

I can personally attest to the veal porterhouse with a porcini-cabernet sauce. The veal, a lovely slab of meat — Hamilton’s Kitchen is one of only a handful of places where you can get veal for dinner in this town — is served over just-tender baby carrots. 

Alongside is a curly whipped mound of Colcannon mashed potatoes, an Irish specialty laced with kale, bacon and onion. Did I eat every bit of it? Oh, yes. And did I quibble that the dish wasn’t particularly reminiscent of the South, the Caribbean or the Sunshine State – or low in fat? Oh, no.

Carnivores will be pleased to learn that Doyle and Giannone are excited about their ventures into “more unique meats,” including beef aged on the premises for one to two months, and Kurobuta pork. 

They’re also always on the lookout for what Doyle calls “the next newest coolest thing.” An example is Maple Blis — technically Blis bourbon-barrel-aged maple syrup — which is so much better than maple syrup that it’s an injustice to refer to it by its generic name, they say. Maple Blis is added sparingly to select dishes.

“We want to cook with the right ingredients, serve them on a beautiful plate, allow the natural colors to do the work and not add much in terms of sauce painting,” Doyle notes.

Let’s not focus on culinary boundaries, particularly since Doyle doesn’t. Let’s instead take Hamilton’s Kitchen for what it is — an eclectic restaurant that doesn’t fit neatly into a single niche — and then talk about what’s coming up.

I’d say, overall, that it’s an inviting place with a menu that’s familiar enough to appeal to timid eaters and sufficiently creative to attract culinary adventurers. 

Most appetizers are on the familiar side: a cheese board, a shrimp cocktail and a Caesar salad — albeit with brioche croutons — and a house-made dressing. 

Being daring, though, we opted for a trio of cranberry-walnut-goat cheese truffles atop a smear of black garlic, and an order of tuna tartare. The chopped raw tuna, with its avocado accompaniment and soy glaze, was a fresh, flavorful starter adorned with a “chip” of fried salmon skin.

Starters include cranberry-walnut-goat cheese truffles atop a smear of black garlic (above left), and tuna tartare with avocado and soy glaze accompanied by a “chip” of fried salmon skin (above right).

Dinner entrèes encompass a little of everything. Those wishing to play it safe with old favorites might order Italian meatballs, a pork rib-eye or Scottish salmon with a citrus-coconut sauce. (Hey, it may sound exotic but it’s salmon, for heaven’s sake.)

Besides the veal porterhouse, my dining companion and I opted for the lemon-sage chicken butternut gnocchi. The orbs themselves are made in the kitchen from potatoes and squash — which must be quite a labor-intensive job. 

The gnocchi is tossed with heirloom tomatoes, portobello mushrooms and petite spinach, then topped with tender lemony skin-on chicken and laced in an herb-butter sauce. Walnut-crusted halibut, cashew-crusted grouper and crispy duck with a blackberry element are among the other offerings. 

At my table, we added an asiago risotto with asparagus just so we could try it. After sprinkling on a dash of salt, we enjoyed the creamy, cheesy taste.

The desserts looked exceptional, but most were seasonal. I prefer to write about foods my readers can order, even if they don’t visit for six months. What a burden! (Not.) 

That left me with the Macallan 12-year butterscotch pudding, which has been a house specialty since Hamilton’s Kitchen opened. I remember the dessert looking more impressive than the pale confection in a mason jar that showed up at our table. 

Still, the creamy, spirited pudding with salted toffee brittle and whipped cream wows me every time I indulge. No wonder it remains on the menu no matter who’s running the kitchen. “I’d die in a bathtub of that pudding,” Doyle says. So obviously it’s not going anywhere under his watch.

A restaurant isn’t only about food, of course. Which brings us to wine. At Hamilton’s Kitchen, the wine list focuses on small-batch and family wineries in Sonoma County and the Russian River Valley, with a strong emphasis on fine French and Italian wines.

“We use a lot of wines that you may not see at the grocery store,” Giannone notes, adding that wines from Napa Valley, South Africa and South America are also available. 

Plans are in the works to add a device in the bar, located adjacent to the restaurant, that would allow an opened bottle of wine to remain fresh for three months. Giannone plans to stock it with splurge wines that might retail for $250 to $350 a bottle. 

“That way, guests can buy a glass for $40 to $60 and give it a whirl” without committing to a huge expense, he says.

Exceptional service is another goal. “We’re hospitality-forward, meaning we care about the whole experience, not just great food,” Giannone notes. 

Carnivores will be excited by the meat entrées, including veal porterhouse with pan seared fingerling potatoes, collard greens and a chipotle cranberry sauce.

Toward that goal, he and Doyle may bring back tableside elements, perhaps delivering fish cooked in parchment “papillote” then slicing the paper open at the table so guests are treated to the aroma as the scented steam floats above the plate.

The pair have several additional surprises in the works. Among them are chef’s nightly specials, more frequent live music in the lounge or dining room, day-of-the-week specials (such as prime ribs every Tuesday) and happy hour specials in the bar on “Shake It Off Thursday.” 

If you live nearby and need a go-to place, check out Hamilton’s Kitchen again if you haven’t been lately. The same suggestion applies if you’re seeking a special occasion destination. 

Since the menu is varied and the ambiance relaxed, plus outdoor tables are on a patio secluded from traffic, this restaurant has a lot to offer — even now as it seeks to redefine itself. 

Hamilton’s Kitchen
300 East New England Avenue
407-998-8089
thealfondinn.com/dining/hamiltons_kitchen

Carnivores will be excited by the meat entrées, including veal porterhouse with pan seared fingerling potatoes, collard greens and a chipotle cranberry sauce.

Crustacean Destination

JoAnne McMahon is the multi-restaurant entrepreneur behind Blu on the Avenue, where the seafood is fresh and unpretentious. She also owns 310 Park South and, coming soon, Bovine.

It’s kind of all about lobster at Blu on the Avenue. The clawed crustaceans are flown in daily from Maine — where else? — and the swordfish, like the menu’s other finny features, are just as fresh.

Yet, while Blu’s dining room has a certain panache, the space isn’t so formal that you’d feel uneasy settling around a table for dinner with your whiny toddler or bickering teens. 

“It’s not a special-occasion, white-tablecloth establishment,” explains JoAnne McMahon, the multi-restaurant entrepreneur behind this five-year-old eatery. “It’s a little bit more upscale than the 310 concept. It’s hipper, I guess.” 

The 310 to which McMahon refers is neighboring 310 Park South, her first table-service restaurant, which now has clones in downtown Orlando and Lake Nona. Even more so than Blu, 310 was designed to be the opposite of stuffy. 

“Back in 1999, when I opened 310, Park Avenue had very few restaurants, and the restaurants it had were very high end,” she recalls. “They didn’t welcome children. None of them even had highchairs.”

McMahon, who also owns the Partridge Tree gift shop on Park Avenue, recalls that her retail customers often asked her where to take their children for lunch. “There wasn’t much to recommend,” she says.

Over the subsequent two decades, 310 has become an Avenue stalwart, offering family friendly fare from burgers to steaks. Jeans and T-shirts are entirely appropriate attire.

McMahon kept approachability in mind as she developed Blu. It, too, offers highchairs, although the ambiance is more urbane than that of its laid-back sibling. A swervy ceiling feature above the bar adds a sliver of sleek, as do dual waterfalls behind the bar. Subtle theming, such as pictures of sand and shells, carry forth the nautical vibe.

The seafood selections are fresh. The kitchen makes its own sauces and dressings from scratch, while most of the produce is raised locally. Still, the presentation at Blu is noticeably un-fancy. 

The seafood platter at Blu has a highbrow name: plateau de fruits de mer. Its oysters, shrimp and jumbo lump crabmeat are welcomingly fresh and served on a metal compartmentalized plate with a trio of dips.

While the restaurant offers upmarket dishes such as sea scallop risotto and filet Oscar, the menu lists far more sandwich and salad selections than fine-dining entrées. Similarly, the food is presented in an unpretentious way. 

The seafood platter, for example, has a highbrow name: plateau de fruits de mer. Its oysters, shrimp and jumbo lump crabmeat are welcomingly fresh. But they’re served on a metal compartmentalized plate with a trio of dips in the middle and plastic-wrapped saltine-style crackers. 

My dining companion and I concluded that the light brown dip, a mignonette, must have been for the crab, since the cocktail sauce obviously went with the shrimp. And the horseradish — well, that could have gone with the shrimp, too. 

Our server confirmed that the mignonette is, indeed, for the crab, so that’s how we ate it. An internet search later revealed that mignonette dip is designed specifically to pair with raw oysters. I would have welcomed that information as the platter was served. 

Our “Super Shrimp” sushi roll was presented with more dramatic flair. It sits atop a long deep-green leaf placed on a stylishly curved oblong plate and embellished with a zigzag of eel sauce. The base is tempura shrimp, and the flavors work well.

As for entrées, our server told us that “anything with lobster” was the house specialty. That gave us three tempting options: lobster carbonara, a lobster roll and a lobster cobb salad. 

We went with the carbonara, and it was a sound choice. Sublimely sweet Maine lobster chunks are tossed with prosciutto, scallions and Grana Padano cheese along with delightfully thick bucatini pasta. 

Blu’s carbonara (above right) is made with sublimely sweet Maine lobster chunks tossed with prosciutto, scallions and Grana Padano cheese along with delightfully thick bucatini pasta. The “Super Shrimp” sushi roll (above left) sits atop a long deep-green leaf placed on a stylishly curved oblong plate and embellished with a zigzag of eel sauce. Almond coated swordfish (bottom left) is grilled, then topped with brown butter and served with sweet potato purée and a load of way-too-tasty fried brussels sprouts.

We also ordered the swordfish, which is coated in a layer of thin almond slices, then grilled. Add brown butter, a sweet potato purée and a load of way-too-tasty fried brussels sprouts and you’ve got a satisfying meal.

I usually skip dessert, but when the server explained that McMahon personally prepares the sweet indulgences — including the peanut butter pie — I couldn’t say no. The pie is a moussey, nutty confection on a crust made of chocolate wafer crumbs. We were full, but scooped up every bite.

McMahon has certainly succeeded in creating a seafood restaurant that’s far more high-end than a fried shrimp joint, yet quite a bit humbler than a fine-dining restaurant. That’s a nice, comfortable niche to occupy.

At press time, McMahon was preparing to open a new steakhouse, called Bovine, located across Park Avenue in the space occupied for decades by Park Plaza Gardens. There’ll be some upscale touches, she says, such as Caesar salads prepared tableside.

Still, since Bovine is part of the 310/Blu family, you know the ambiance won’t be stuffy. Notes McMahon: “It’ll be affordable, even as we bring back traditional steakhouse service.”

I’ll bet Bovine’s will even have highchairs. 

Blu on the Avenue
326 South Park Avenue
407-960-3778
bluontheavenue.com

Carnivores will be excited by the meat entrées, including veal porterhouse with pan seared fingerling potatoes, collard greens and a chipotle cranberry sauce.

A College's Civic Tuition

Rollins College has embarked on a major building initiative, both on and off campus. Reviewing plans are (left to right) Ed Kania, vice president for business and finance; Jeffrey Eisenbarth, who recently retired from the post now held by Kania; Allan Keen, chair of the college’s board of trustees; and Grant Cornwell, president of the college since 2015. Photo by Rafael Tongol

Few colleges and college towns are as intertwined, geographically and historically, as Rollins College and Winter Park. But when the college recently announced its biggest off-campus building initiative in years — a cluster of three projects dubbed the Innovation Triangle — some locals instinctively balked.

“Rollins consumes City of Winter Park services and does not pay property taxes,” wrote one poster on a Facebook page devoted to discussions of city-related political issues. 

This easily debunked view persists in some circles, and usually comes up whenever the college buys property located outside the boundaries of its 70-acre campus hugging Lake Virginia.

Since Rollins has been a player in the local commercial real estate market since the late ’90s, its economic impact on the city has been a relatively frequent topic of discussion.

On one point, there’s apparent unanimity. The presence of a prestigious liberal arts institution is confirmation of Winter Park’s stature as the cultural and intellectual mecca of Central Florida. It’s hard to put a price tag on that.

Still, the questions persist. Is the college a beguiling but costly jewel in Winter Park’s crown, valuable primarily for its prestige? Or is it a powerful economic engine whose presence is crucial to the community’s prosperity?

It’s fair to say that the relationship is symbiotic. But it’s not fair — or accurate — to say that Rollins doesn’t pay property taxes. What’s more, property taxes comprise only a fraction of the college’s contribution to the city’s ongoing prosperity.

“We haven’t commissioned a formal economic impact study in a number of years,” says Allan E. Keen, chairman and CEO of The Keewin Real Property Company and chair of the college’s board of trustees. “There just hasn’t been a need. In our view, the facts are pretty obvious.”

The last such report was in 2008. A 27-page tome by Pittsburgh-based Tripp Umbach estimated that in 2006, the college generated $56.9 million in economic activity for the City of Winter Park, $110.6 million for Orange County and $204.9 million for the State of Florida.

Tripp Umbach, like all such consultants, used complex calculations to determine the college’s direct and indirect economic impact. In addition to taxes paid and estimated local spending, it analyzed such factors as volunteer hours from students and faculty to quantify the college’s social and quality-of-life benefits. 

Similar analyses are frequently used by local governments to justify use of taxpayer dollars for construction of high-profile projects such as sports facilities or convention centers. The resulting documents are generally obtuse to non-economists — and subject to suspicion because vested interests usually commission them.

However, a few easy-to-understand numbers related to Rollins offer an unambiguous and irrefutable overview of the college’s importance to the city’s economy.

DOLLARS AND CENTS

All Rollins-owned property in Winter Park is valued at a whopping $196,726,893, according to the college’s Office of Business and Finance and the Orange County Property Appraiser’s Office.

Property used for educational purposes — including the 70-acre main campus — is tax exempt. So last year, no taxes were paid on property valued at $117,322,856.

However, property not used for educational purposes, valued at $79,404,037, remained on the tax rolls. In 2017, the college ponied up $998,445 — an increase of $148,222 from 2015 — making it the city’s second-largest payer of property taxes.

At the current millage rate of $4.09 per $1,000 of taxable value, almost a third of that amount — $324,945 — bolstered the city’s general fund. The remainder went to Orange County and Orange County Public Schools. (The millage rate has remained unchanged for a decade, but valuations have soared.)

Within the city, only sprawling Winter Park Village, a major mixed-use development on U.S. Highway 17-92, had a higher property tax bill than Rollins. That’s because the college rarely changes the taxable status of its real estate purchases. And its commercial properties are taxed no differently than those owned by for-profit investors.

“So, people think Rollins doesn’t pay property taxes,” sighs Jeffrey Eisenbarth, the college’s recently retired vice president for business and finance. “That’s an urban legend. And it doesn’t seem to go away, no matter how many times we show and tell.”

In fact, the college’s property tax bill has soared since the Alfond Inn’s 2013 opening. The boutique hotel, which sits on a 3.3-acre parcel at the corner of New England and Interlachen avenues, is valued at $26,164,543. It received a property tax bill of $359,626 in 2017 — an increase of $98,510 from two years ago.

Of more than 60 properties bought by the college since 1993, 45 of them — or 75 percent — have remained on the tax rolls, adds Eisenbarth, who ended a productive 10-year stint at the college in May. He was replaced by Ed Kania, who held a comparable post at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. 

Likewise, Rollins-owned properties get no breaks when it comes to utilities, which have been owned by the city since a 2005 break from Florida Power & Light. 

In the 12 months prior to September 2018, the college spent $2,257,517 on electricity, making it the city’s largest user. The college’s water bill — $153,310 — was behind only AdventHealth, formerly Winter Park Memorial Hospital. 

Rollins employees and students clearly bolster local businesses, says Betsy Gardner Eckbert, president and CEO of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. “When students leave for the summer, we feel the impact downtown,” she says.

The college has 726 full-time-equivalent staffers and faculty members who earn a cumulative $71,801,893 per year. There are 3,093 students, including those enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts — the day school — and its two evening programs, the Hamilton Holt School and the Roy E. Crummer Graduate School of Business. 

That’s a lot of money and a lot of people within walking distance of Winter Park’s busy Central Business District. And the college itself spends heavily on an array of products and services from local suppliers. 

What would a formal economic impact study show now? Nine years ago, when Tripp Howard calculated $56.9 million, the college’s property taxes were just $140,000 and its payroll was just $46.4 million. 

Since then, its property taxes have increased seven-fold — due in large part to development of the Alfond — and its payroll has leapt by 54 percent. Depending upon the methodology used, a consultant could likely justify a figure north of $100 million today.

And Gardner Eckbert notes that the college’s international students often have parents who are prime relocation prospects. The chamber has even initiated a “global membership” to keep moms and dads around the world connected to — and interested in — Winter Park

BUILDING ON SUCCESS

Rollins entered the commercial real estate arena in 1999, when it developed SunTrust Plaza and an accompanying parking garage on the 400 block of Park Avenue South. Not everyone was happy about it.

The college already owned the 2.5-acre site, upon which sat a three-story brick building that once housed the Winter Park Grade School, later Park Avenue Elementary. Rollins, which had bought the property in 1961, used the building for classrooms and offices. But by the late 1980s, it had fallen into disrepair and had become structurally unsafe.

The college announced plans to demolish the building — which had been built in 1916 — and redevelop the site. The move inflamed preservationists, some business owners and many longtime residents who had attended the school and retained a sentimental attachment to it.

Still, after much debate, SunTrust Plaza was opened as a three-story, 82,000-square-foot complex abutting an 850-space parking garage. Today’s tenants include Gap, Starbucks, Restoration Hardware and Merrill Lynch, as well as its namesake bank.

At 40 feet tall, the structure exceeds the city’s height limit by 10 feet. But with the third story partially recessed, it doesn’t feel out of scale with the rest of Park Avenue. And last year it generated $273,615 in property tax revenue.

Subsequently, Rollins began buying various commercial properties along the south side of West Fairbanks Avenue, from the campus entrance to the railroad tracks.

In 2012, it redeveloped Winter Park Plaza — a strip center anchored by Ethos, a vegetarian restaurant — and is now landlord to an array of businesses, from a waxing salon to a vitamin emporium.

The center’s original developers had defaulted on a $7 million note, and the college snapped it up for $2.8 million via an online auction. It generated $49,279 in property taxes last year.

Other college-owned commercial properties lining Fairbanks bring in considerably less, but all contribute proportionally, based upon their assessments. A few properties, however, have been removed from the tax rolls as they’ve been converted to educational use.

In 2015, for example, Rollins jumped across Fairbanks to buy its only property on the north side of the street — the building at 315 West Fairbanks that for years housed the law offices of the late Russell Troutman. 

That building — which now houses the Hamilton Holt School — no longer generates tax revenue. Neither does 200 West Fairbanks, once home to a bar and restaurant and now site of the college bookstore. 

In 2007, Rollins began buying up townhomes, corralling nine units on Orchard Avenue near Mead Botanical Garden. The college uses these and other scattered townhomes and single-family homes for faculty housing. New hires pay market rate for rent and may remain for a maximum of three years.

The homes remain on the tax rolls because they’re considered incidental to the college’s core educational mission. Faculty housing generated $81,981 in property taxes last year.

In the Central Business District, Rollins owns the Samuel B. Lawrence Center, a city block gifted to the college in 1994. A four-story commercial building on the site, home to Valley National Bank and other tenants, generated $89,530 in property taxes last year. 

Although the Lawrence Center is slated for redevelopment through the Innovation Triangle initiative, the commercial building will stay and remain on the tax rolls.

A WIN WITH THE INN

Still, the biggest commercial project ever undertaken by the college was the Alfond. “I was on the job two months and got the job of hotel developer,” recalls Eisenbarth, who had been hired from a comparable post at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. 

The Alfond family — longtime college benefactors — had already committed to contributing $12.5 million for the project, with the condition that profits be used to provide scholarships and endow a scholarship fund. But $12.5 million wasn’t nearly enough to get the job done.

Instead of partnering with a developer, though, Eisenbarth and Keen recommended that the college finance the remainder with a $20 million loan from its reserves, to be repaid over 25 years at 4.5 percent interest.

In 2009, the college spent $9.9 million for a 3.3-acre parcel at the corner of New England and Interlachen avenues, just blocks from the campus.

On the site once stood the legendary Langford Hotel, a local landmark that closed in 2000 and was demolished in 2003. Ground was broken for the new hotel in November 2011, and its grand opening was in August 2013.

Almost immediately, the 112-room facility began earning rave reviews. Most recently, in Conde Nast Traveler’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards, it was rated No. 1 in Florida, No. 7 in the U.S. and No. 63 in the world. It also holds a AAA Four-Diamond rating.

But if you’re an accountant, you’ll be more impressed by the numbers. Last year, the Alfond grossed more than $16 million and earned an operating profit of more than $6 million.

From the net, the college was repaid $1.2 million. The remainder bolstered Alfond Scholars, a program established by the hotel’s namesake family. This agreement will continue for 25 years and is expected to eventually boost the scholarship endowment to $125 million.

The Alfond Inn is the biggest — and most lucrative — of the college’s commercial developments. Profits endow a scholarship fund.

FOR THE FUTURE

Keen says the college isn’t looking to buy more property unless it’s strategically placed near the campus or offers proximity to other college-owned assets. “We try to be a good neighbor,” he notes. “That’s why nobody builds anything prettier or better than we do.”

Not that they don’t try. Comparably sized colleges, particularly those in unremarkable towns or even rural areas, are increasingly promoting mixed-use commercial and residential development around their campuses to help lure students and faculty.

But such colleges rarely have the expertise — or the cash — to do it themselves. So they take on development partners who assume the risks (and reap most of the rewards).

However, creating an appealing college-town atmosphere around Rollins has never been necessary. It’s hard to improve on Winter Park just the way it is — and has been for generations.

So why is Rollins in the development business? Because it can be, for one reason, blessed as it is with resources, expertise and an enviable location. 

But it’s also positioning itself for growth — perhaps decades from now — and in the meantime generating healthy returns in both asset value and profit. Not including the Alfond, the college’s commercial real estate ventures in 2017 grossed $4.7 million and netted $2.6 million — an eye-popping 55 percent margin.

“The campus is landlocked and lake-locked,” says Keen. “When we buy property, it isn’t to sell. Rollins has been here for 130 years, so we hope to keep what we buy basically forever. Obviously, that means we look further ahead than most buyers would.”

Eventually, Keen says, much of the real estate Rollins absorbs may be used for campus expansion. But “eventually,” in this context, may mean generations from now. In the meantime, profits are supplementing the college’s budget and allowing for more generous financial assistance programs than would otherwise be possible. 

“The sole purpose of our commercial real estate holdings is to provide revenue to support financial aid for our students,” says President Grant Cornwell. “We’re committed to keeping Rollins financially accessible to qualified students without regard to their socioeconomic status. The only way we can do this is by having sources of revenue other than tuition to support our budget.” 

That’s especially important, considering that Rollins is the most expensive college in the state, according to a survey in Business Insider. Tuition, room, board and other expenses amount to $67,110 per year — more than triple what a state university costs. 

But very few actually spend that much. According to the college, the average financial aid package for students who show a demonstrated need is $35,000 — and more than 85 percent of students receive assistance in some form.

“It’s certainly not a trend for small liberal arts colleges to do what we’ve done, because no other small liberal arts college is located in Winter Park,” says Cornwell. “Unlike other colleges, we’re incredibly fortunate in that we happen to be situated in such a beautiful, charming and prosperous city.”


ROLLINS EARNS NATIONAL KUDOS

For the 24th consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report has ranked Rollins College among the top two regional universities in the South in its annual rankings of “Best Colleges.”

Rollins was ranked No. 2 among the 165 colleges and universities in that category, which encompasses schools that provide a full range of undergraduate and master’s-level programs. Elon University in Elon, North Carolina, finished first.

“Rollins is proud to be recognized so prominently among the nation’s best colleges year after year,” says Rollins President Grant Cornwell. “Our longevity at the top of this ranking is a testament to the college’s long tradition of academic excellence, the rigor of a Rollins education and the achievement of our innovative faculty and industrious students.”

The U.S. News & World Report rankings evaluate colleges and universities on 16 measures of academic quality, including such widely accepted indicators of excellence as student retention, graduation rates and qualifications of faculty members.

In addition to ranking among the top regional universities in the South, Rollins was recognized for its strong commitment to undergraduate teaching, its high proportion of international undergraduates and for having one of the best undergraduate business programs in the country. 

The college was also named one of the South’s most innovative schools. And it made the list of schools whose 2017 graduates had the lightest debt loads. The average was $32,700 for those who completed undergraduate degree programs.


INNOVATION TRIANGLE IS MOVING FORWARD

The conceptual site plan for the Lawrence Center included a parking garage. The garage is being reconsidered, but the rest of the redevelopment is proceeding as planned.

Rollins recently announced — and then unexpectedly placed on temporary hold — plans for what it dubbed the Innovation Triangle, which involves redeveloping the Samuel B. Lawrence Center and expanding the Alfond Inn.

Occupying a city block in downtown Winter Park, the Lawrence Center — owned by the college since 1994 — is bounded on the north by New England Avenue, the south by Lyman Avenue, the west by Knowles Avenue and the east by Interlachen Avenue, across the street from the Alfond.

According to preliminary plans, the four-story, 40,000-square-foot building now occupied by Valley National Bank and other tenants would remain on the site’s northwest corner. Two new buildings — one housing the Roy E. Crummer Graduate School of Business and one housing the Cornell Fine Arts Museum — would be built on the southeast and northeast corners, respectively. 

The Pioneer Building, on the southwest corner, would be razed and replaced by a two-story, three-level parking garage. The city had expressed interest in negotiating a public/private partnership that could have added one or two levels and at least 120 additional spaces of public parking.

However, in late August the college announced that it was delaying the Innovation Triangle projects “in order to explore and evaluate some cost-saving and project-sharing opportunities that will benefit the college and the community,” according to a statement.

Plans for the Alfond expansion were set to go before the Winter Park Planning & Zoning Commission in September. The Lawrence Center redevelopment was scheduled for consideration in October, when the college planned to seek a conditional use permit for the property’s site plan. 

Later, once details for the buildings had been finalized, a zoning change from O-1 (office) to PQP (public, quasi-public) would have been required before the Lawrence Center could get underway.

Had the college changed course? Had the spectre of public opposition to city participation in a parking garage prompted a retrenchment?

“The hotel expansion, the business school and the museum are all absolutely going forward,” says Allan E. Keen, chairman and CEO of The Keewin Real Property Company and chair of the college’s board of trustees. “And they’re going forward apace. I regret it if anyone took our statement to mean there’d be a prolonged delay, or that we’d abandoned any of these strategic initiatives. We’re just working some details out.”

More specifically, college officials wanted to think through the parking options. While a garage at the Lawrence Center in which the city partnered might have been welcomed by visitors to the Central Business District, it wouldn’t alleviate the long-standing parking shortage on the main campus. 

Soon to exacerbate the problem is a new $40 million student residential complex, which is being built to replace the mundane maintenance and storage buildings now occupying prime Lake Virginia real estate. 

The housing is needed because the college is raising its two-year residency requirement to three years, moving juniors onto campus. When it all shakes out, college official estimate that about 200 more students will list 1000 Holt Avenue as their address.

Of course, most juniors already drive to class from wherever they live. But having them as full-time residents will mean more cars, more of the time, vying for space. 

One of several possibilities being discussed is construction of a parking garage on a college-owned surface lot bordered by Fairbanks Avenue and Ollie Avenue, abutting Dinky Dock Park. If that happens, the spaces would be only for college use.

None of this has any relevance to the Alfond expansion, which has included in its design about 150 additional parking spaces in an underground garage. The hotel project was conceptually included as part of the Innovation Triangle but is unaffected by what happens — or doesn’t happen — in the Lawrence Center, according to Keen.

Plans call for the addition of 70 rooms to the 112-room hotel along with a 7,000-square-foot spa and health club, a 4,000-square-foot meeting space/gallery and 323 square feet of retail space.

“We want to do this expansion in the most efficient and effective way possible,” says Keen. “But all of the projects we’ve announced are moving ahead.”

Rollins President Grant Cornwell says that the Innovation Triangle initiative will strengthen three of the college’s major strategic assets by further integrating them into the community.

Cornwell notes that the Alfond clearly needs additional capacity for lodging and events. “What I hear from fellow Winter Park residents all the time is they can’t imagine Winter Park without the Alfond,” he says. “I also hear that they can never get a room. We know now is the right time to move forward with the proposed expansion.”

Having the museum and the business school join the hotel in a downtown location, he adds, will “impact business synergies and provide an enhanced arts and culture presence” in the Central Business District.

“Rollins greatly values our history and involvement with Winter Park,” Cornwell continues. “We’re proud that our being here and the programs we offer are high on the list of what makes Winter Park a great place to live and work.”

The Alfond and the Cornell are already soulmates, notes museum director Ena Heller. Ted and Barbara Alfond, both members of the Class of ’68, gave the college $12.5 million to jump-start construction of the hotel. They also donated a world-class contemporary art collection, pieces of which are displayed at the hotel on a rotating basis. 

More space will allow more of the museum’s encyclopedic collection to be on view, Heller says. The current Cornell building, tucked away on the Rollins campus, is just 10,000 square feet. The proposed building is about 36,000 square feet.

“It’s very exciting,” notes Heller, who adds that the move will make the museum more inviting for the public and more conducive for teaching — which is crucial for a curricular museum with a college affiliation. 

“There’ll be more galleries, room for lectures and a seamless connection between the museum and the Alfond,” she says. “The facility we have now is inadequate for events and classes.”

Best of all, upon completion of the new Cornell, both the northern and the southern reaches of the Central Business District will be anchored by world-class museums. The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, located on Park Avenue North, has been a major downtown draw since 1997.

The Crummer, which operates on the main campus from Roy E. Crummer Hall and the Bush Executive Center, will also be a benefit to the Central Business District, says Cornwell. Its new building is expected to be 80,000 square feet.

“The thought was to encourage linkages between the Crummer’s resources and those who run businesses in Winter Park,” he notes. “We see a natural synergy here that we can improve upon.”

The Innovation Triangle’s timetable is flexible, says Keen, but will happen as quickly as possible. Funding from an anonymous donor is already in place for the Alfond expansion, which is expected to cost between $35 and $45 million.

The Cornell and Crummer projects, however, will depend entirely upon fundraising. The business school could cost between $50 and $60 million and the museum between $30 and $40 million, all of which must be raised through philanthropy.

At first glance, Cornwell notes, a hotel, a museum and a business school appear to have little in common. But, he adds, placing the trio of projects under the Innovation Triangle umbrella makes sense for a place as eclectic as Rollins.

“As an educational institution, we constantly strive to stimulate new learning paradigms and encourage the application of new ideas to complex problems,” Cornwell says. “Specifically, the Innovation Triangle highlights the intersections of art, business and interdisciplinary teaching and learning.”

Picture-Perfect Paintings

Henry Peter, a self taught artist known for the photographic quality of his paintings, has found collectors on four continent for his meticulous (and vivid) depictions of outdoor scenes. He describes his work as “simple and direct; free of artifice and superficial mannerisms.”

Henry Peter, a native of Burglengenfeld, Germany and a resident of Brevard County, is primarily a self-taught artist. Which is remarkable considering the photographic quality of his paintings, such as the image of the iconic exedra in Kraft Azalea Garden on this issue’s cover. 

As a 12-year-old in Engelwood, New Jersey, Peter recalls receiving a few lessons on color and theory from painter Margaret Stucki, a vehement realist who, ironically, moved to Brevard County in 1973 and taught art for Rollins College when it offered evening programs at Patrick Air Force Base.

“When I moved down here, I tried to get in touch with her but didn’t hear back,” says Henry of Stucki, who wrote a book denouncing contemporary art as “crud.” She died in 2017 — but would likely be pleased that her former pupil has garnered a large following with his meticulous (and vivid) depictions of outdoor scenes.

The first work by Henry to appear on the cover of Winter Park Magazine was a 2015 image of the Venetian Canal and the Palmer Avenue Bridge. Several dozen readers emailed to ask who had taken the beautiful photograph — which was, in fact, an oil painting.

Henry earned a degree in philosophy from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and after graduation apprenticed in a machine shop. But by the late 1980s, his paintings had begun winning regional and national awards. 

In 1993, Henry made his first trip to Florida, where he displayed his work at the Old Island Days Festival. He moved to Key West a decade later, then relocated to Titusville in 2008.

Henry’s paintings have been selected for the Top 100 in the prestigious Arts for the Parks competition, a program created by the National Park Academy of the Arts to benefit the National Park Conservation Alliance.

He was a mainstay at Key West’s Gingerbread Square Gallery for almost two decades and has been represented by the Fredlund Gallery in Winter Park. His paintings have found collectors on four continents.

Henry describes his work as “simple and direct; free of artifice and superficial mannerisms.” He enjoys being artistically unpredictable and applies his keen eye and steady hand to a broad range of subjects — not just landscapes.

Kraft Azalea Garden, a 5.2-acre enclave that hugs the shore of Lake Maitland along Alabama Drive, is open daily from 8 a.m. until dusk. The exedra — a word derived from the Greek “ex” (out) and “hedra” (seat) — is one of Winter Park’s most cherished symbols. 

The project was funded in 1969 by siblings Kenneth H. Kraft and Elizabeth Kraft Schweizer to honor George and Maud Kraft, their parents for whom the park is named. Its inscription reads: “Pause friend. Let beauty refresh the spirit.”

You can find Henry’s paintings on display at the Cocco & Salem Gallery in Key West, Palm Avenue Fine Arts of Sarasota and the Village Gallery in Orlando. 

The Calm Before The Storm

Miami Springs-based artist Linda Apriletti prefers Florida settings, and says she enjoys hearing that her images evoke a sense of peace and tranquility.

Plein air artist Linda Apriletti’s primary goal through her work “is to communicate the uncommon beauty found in nature.” The Miami Springs-based artist prefers Florida settings, and says she enjoys hearing that her images evoke a sense of peace.

Apriletti was recently in Central Florida for the 2018 Winter Park Paint Out, held by the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. “April Showers,” the painting that adorns the cover of Winter Park Magazine, is a scene from the museum’s grounds, which overlook Lake Osceola. 

“I was scheduled to paint on the Polasek grounds that Monday morning,” she says. “It was a very overcast day, with threatening gray clouds and a 90 percent chance of rain.”

Apriletti figured she had a few hours of dry weather before things turned nasty. “I decided to go for it, and painted this cypress tree and the flower garden by the lake,” she adds. “The bright yellow of the flowers was a great complement to the gray sky that day.”

Although her college degrees are in accounting and taxation, Apriletti pursued her lifelong love of painting while employed as an accountant. She also honed her skills — first in pastels and later in oils — by attending workshops during her vacations. 

It was at a workshop in Rocky Mountain National Park that she discovered her passion for plein air painting. She launched a full-time career as an artist in 2011 — and never looked back.

“Painting outside is critical to helping me observe and understand patterns in nature,” she says. 

Much of Apriletti’s work focuses on Everglades National Park and Big Cypress Nature Preserve, where she has staged solo exhibitions. She was artist in residence at Big Cypress Nature Preserve in 2012. But she also paints in Maine and on Martha’s Vineyard.

Apriletti particularly likes palm trees as subjects. Luckily for her, inspiration is always close at hand — she has more than 25 species growing in her yard. 

Visit lindaapriletti.com to see more of her paintings.

connect with us

Winter Park Publishing
Company, LLC.
201 West Canton Ave., Ste. 125B
Winter Park, FL 32789

ph: 407-647-0225
fx: 407-647-0145

Copyright 2019