The Roots of Center Crest
as written by
Mary Collins (Lot 124, 1985)
Under the Treaty of 1821 with Spain, by which the United States acquired "The Floridas", all of the public and vacant lands in the ceded territory became the property of the United States. It is stated that these lands were purchased for approximately 14.5 cents per acre.
The Act of Congress approved March 3, 1845, admitting Florida into the Union of States reserved to the United States and exempted from taxation the public lands lying therein while remaining the property of the United States.
In 1884 the United States patented to JOHN G SINCLAIR the land that CENTER CREST is now built on along with other lands in the area, but in the same year Mr. Sinclair sold a 1/2 interest in these lands to another main and this 1/2 interest changed hands several times thereafter, until all interests were purchased by the TIMMONS-BLOUNT COMPANY. This company in 1906 changed its name to PENINSULAR NAVAL STORES COMPANY.
In 1909 the Peninsular Naval Stores sold the lands to FLORIDA DEVELOPMENT COMPANY who platted much of the surrounding area into 5 acre tracts including the lands upon which CENTER CREST now stands.
The first school in the area was located approximately 1 mile west of the Baptist Church located on the old Davenport-Loughman Road. This was a one room school and some of the first teachers migrated to Haines City.
The Town of Davenport was incorporated March 11, 1915, at which time the town "SEAL" was decided upon and the town limits were set. There were 26 voting at that organizational meeting and 24 voted "yes" and 2 voted "no". The first mayor of Davenport was Judge E. Hutchinson by unanimous vote. The first policeman or City Marshal as he was known was T.J. McKnight, father of one of the present councilmen.
Stories about how DAVENPORT got its name are many, but a couple of the more popular ideas were that it was named after General Davenport and the other was this it was named Davenport after a very poular railroad conductor.
From 1885 to 1898 the Post Office and Depot were located in a box car. In 1913, prior to the formal incorporation of Davenport, there arrived in town a young engineer named Henry Nafziger, who was successful in damming Horse Creek, which ran through the area, and making a holding pond, supplying the first power to the area. He still lives on Maple Street.
There was a turpentine still located just this side of the railroad crossing on the site of the "Taylor" Building or as some people call the"Crossing". About 1911 a Mr. Gustaf Torgerson bought land, sight unseen, cleared and planted a ten acre grove. This was the father of one of the present town councilmen. The Methodist Church was organized also in 1911.
By the time of the organizational meeting the town of Davenport was a lively place. There was a pavilion with bath house and beach on Lake Davenport and many dances were held there. In 1916 there was a motor speed boat record broken on Lake Davenport. (This is the lake that is at the foot of the hill of the drive into Center Crest and which did run under the concrete bridge on the left and was a part of the lake on the left going toward town from Center Crest. The pavilion was located on the side of the lake nearest the railroad.)
By 1920 the population was 140 persons and in 1925 it had grown to 440. The road through Davenport was paved in 1917. A man named Col. B. F. Floyd, a horticulturalist started Wilson-Toomer Fertilizer Company. Mr. Floyd needed workers for their grove caretaking company and journeyed to the State University in Gainesville. He hired a young man about to graduate in 1924 to become the head of the caretaking. This man was the husband of Mary W. Collins. He remained with the company at the same job for 30 years, until his retirement. C. C. Collins was also one of the earlier mayors of Davenport, having served during the late 1920's.
The Holly Hill Golf Club and Holly Hill Hotel were built in 1924. The Golf Course, which was only nine holes, was built that year. The second nine holes, upon which CENTER CREST is built was completed in approximately 1926.
After Wilson-Toomer Fertilizer Co., acquired the property upon which CENTER CREST is built, there were several owners of the property. The Golf Course Property (CENTER CREST) and the large wooden hotel which was by then occupying the land where the Bishop Gray Inn is now located followed a common ownership for many years.
Wilson-Toomer sold it to a man named Hazen J. Titus, who promoted the Hotel and Golf Course to northern folks as a place to stay and play while owning "groves" in sunny Florida. He featured a large baked potato on all the menus of the Hotel. Visitors were brought in via train and taken to the various five acre tract.
Mr. Titus lost the property through foreclosure and Wilson-Toomer regained the hotel and golf course. They later sold it to the Polk County Land Mortgage Company, who later sold it to Prudential Land Company.
During this time the hotel continued to operate, but the golf course was closed down. In the original planning of the golf course the property upon which the former home of Mary W. Collins was located had been reserved for the Country Club and Club House of the golf course.
When the golf course was closed, Wilson-Toomer sold the club house site to C. C. Collins, who then cut the available timber that was used in the house that still stands on the site, and which was the home of Mary and C. C. until his death in 1982 and Mary's subsequent move into Center Crest in 1984.
In the early 1940's the golf course was reactivated for a short time but closed again during World War II. Never to reopen.
In 1944 Prudential Land Company sold the property of CENTER CREST to a West Virginia Training School that reportedly had plans for building on the property. They instead fenced the land and turned it into pasture land.
In 1948 the West Virginia Training School sold the property to one Perry Eyler from Cincinnati. Mr. Eyler sold the property to a Mr. Frank J. Parsch from Minneapolis, and the property was set out into a grove in 1952.
Neglect, freezes and dry weather took its toll of the grove and in 1970, because of ill health
Mr. Rogers and Mr. Blythe sold the property to Holly Hill Acres, Ltd. This was a limited partnership consisting of several owners living in Utah and one partner living in Orlando. But they retained title to the CENTER CREST property until they were able to have the property rezoned for mobile homes. They could not secure the necessary funds and also because they did not own the right-of-way to Highway 547, they decide to sell the property in 1978 to Theodor and Josephine Sager, the father and mother of the Ted Sager known to many of the CENTER CREST residents.
In the sale to Mr. Theodor Sager, a deal was made to trade a fifty foot right-of-way for a drive into the property for a fifty foot strip of land on the east property line, thereby securing entrance for the property to Highway 547. But Mr. and Mrs. Sager returned to Switzerland for Mrs. Sager to have hip surgery and they did not return to this country.
In 1980 Theodore Sager and Josephine Sager deeded the CENTER CREST property to Ted Sager and Annaliese Sager, his wife. Mr. and Mrs. Sager had a new young grove planted on the property and had a deep irrigation well dug. To this water system they connected a micro-jet system for watering the new young trees. During the freeze in 1981 all the trees were covered by ice forming from the micro-jet system. In November 1982 Ted and Annaliese Sager sold the property to Rigi Corporation.
In March 1982 Rigi Corporation through an intermediary contacted Mary W. Collins to secure her cooperation in requesting annexation into the Town of Davenport. This was necessary because of the fifty-foot strip between the land owned by Rigi Corporation and the City Limits Line on the East.
The Summer of 1982 was spent in following the necessary procedures in the annexation process. When the lands of CENTER CREST were taken into the City and the necessary paperwork was done in Tallahassee, work was finally begun on the property towards making this a park. The land was leveled, the streets laid out and work was begun on the sewer lines, water lines and electric lines.
Portions of the preparations went fast and smoothly, but some of the work took what seemed ages to complete. Finally the Club House began to take shape and things began to look as if there really might be a park.
Carl and Pam Jones were moved onto the property to be the "watchdogs". They stayed on in various positions until Christmas time in 1984. Finally in November 1983, Jay Burrill move a trailer onto a lot in CENTER CREST and promptly went back to Michigan. By Christmas, Ed and Helen Krajinke had moved into the park and LeRoy and Elaine Miller were renting a lot next door to the office.
From this point on many of you will recall the ups and downs of the Open House, the various folks moving in and some only staying overnight in their new homes before starting back north for the Summer.
So goes the story of the lands and beginnings of CENTER CREST.
It is with a sincere desire to have something available as a background for those coming to Center Crest in later years that perhaps would be interested in the beginings and background of the park that I have undertaken the research and writing of this brief history of the Roots of CENTER CREST.
Lot 124 Center Crest (1985)
By Mary W. Collins