Preservation Capen & The Lorax

Preservation Capen kicked off on August 8.  There’s been much activity since then, including approximately $200,000 raised for the effort.  If that’s news to you, I believe you are likely not alone.

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A big part of big tasks is often maintaining momentum, if not increasing it.  A task such as this, not just physically moving a large house across a lake, but raising the money to make that actually happen, requires community support and energy.  It is, in fact, that support and energy which help make it happen.

To that end, I’ve volunteered myself and this space as a conduit between those working behind the scenes and the community at large, the people who need and want to know what is going on with the effort to move The Capen House to The Albin Polsasek Museum & Gardens.  I’m not 100% certain yet if this means I will record updates on the move and write them here in my own way, or if I may simply be providing a space for Polasek Director Debbie Komanski or Historic Preservation Expert Chris French to place their own writings here, or even a combination thereof; but, I hope however it is facilitated we can produce an invigorated community role and energy behind this exciting and sizable task.

So, simply said, watch this space!  Today I can tell you organizers are shooting for a rally to include all Locals who desire to participate, to take place in Central Park.  I’ll provide more info as details are firmed up.  If you believe in this effort, I hope you will take note of such a possibile event, attend if at all possible.  The goal is for it to happen on a Saturday morning soon.

Demolition is PERMANENT.

Demolition is PERMANENT.

I was not in Winter Park in 2001 when Casa Feliz was moved across Interlachen from where it was built to its new home on Park Avenue.  I’ve seen photos and I’ve heard others speak of that time.  If you were not here either, or if you were not an active part of the effort, this is now, I assure you, the ONLY chance we will ever have to be a part of such an effort again.  There are only so many times you are allowed the opportunity to undertake and succeed in such an amazing challenge.  And I assure you, the day you see firsthand — or even online on social media — large portions of The Capen House hoisted upon a barge and floated across Lake Osceola, it will be something you will share and talk about the rest of your life.

Winter Park, you have proven before you can do the BIG task, achieve the grand challenge, make the seemingly impossible a reality.  Preservation Capen is, to me, now something to get behind, put a flag in the ground and say, YES, we are up to this task and Casa Feliz was not a fluke, we WILL make this happen again.  Then, we work together as a community to ensure it is never again necessary because we know who we are and what is important to us, see heritage and historic preservation as more than a marketing slogan to be trotted out when it is convenient.  Community leadership, at all levels I believe, is about ensuring we do not again arrive at such a point.

Preservation Capen, I believe, can be that moment when everyone in the community who prizes our history, appreciates its uniqueness, comes together to ensure The Capen House is not lost, such Local historic structures are better protected and celebrated in the future.  It’s a big task.  A big, important task, I believe.  Let’s make it happen.

A Bit Of Personal Reflection

I remember traveling back to Atlanta in the mid-1990s after being in Cleveland on business.  It was late winter or early spring and I remember being excited to be back in Atlanta after grey days up north, anticipating the bright sunshine we southerners can take too much for granted.  I sat at the window looking out, playing the game of trying to figure out where exactly we were, what was beneath, what I could spot in the distance.  That was the first trip I remember noticing a very unpleasant sight far off in the Atlanta suburbs, the total clearing of all trees over great swaths of land, making way for new housing developments.  The red Georgia clay appeared now where green canopies were before, as I could see mounds of cleared trees here and there about the edges of the expanse of reddish orange beneath us.  I’m sure they planted some trees later and that always amused me, that it couldn’t have been managed, wasn’t seen as beneficial to save the largest specimens, what they could have added to the community.  I couldn’t live in such an environment, where the largest tree wasn’t nearly as tall as the tallest house, where the spaces were so void, lacking, sad.

I don't speak for the trees, but I surely enjoy them.

I don’t speak for the trees, but I surely enjoy them.

I lived in the city, in the well-known Buckhead area.  I don’t remember when I read it or even where, but it must have been around this same time I learned the city of Atlanta had more trees within its city limits – it may have been per square mile, or broken down in some particular way, I don’t remember – than any other city in the country.  I liked that statistic, did from the moment I first read it.  I’m not a tree-hugger, but I am a tree-LUVer and just as yesterday afternoon when I ate lunch beneath a group of them and Tweeted fall seemed to be in the air, I recognize not just their aesthetic benefits, but what they do to cool summer temperatures, provide homes for small animals, put smiles on the faces of tourists who visit my current community.

My impression of the Atlanta area sank a bit that day, as I recognized enormous spaces of land clear cut of trees.  We lived in a 1950s Cape Cod at the time.  There was a huge Oak tree in front of our house, just up the stairs from the driveway, along the walkway to our front door.  Our backyard, much as our yard here in Winter Park, was framed by many large trees of various kinds.  Even when your neighbors are delightful, it’s nice to have some privacy.  And among my fondest memories of living in that house was having guests over to eat dinner on our back deck, a ceiling of trees all about us, the symphony of noise they can produce adding the perfect background to our conversations and laughter.

We moved to Fort Lauderdale in 2001 to a neighborhood called Rio Vista.  It is a large neighborhood and at the time contained more than 1,000 single family homes.  Over the five years we lived there, those numbers changed some as many single family homes on double lots were leveled and replaced with two.  There were some very interesting, cool homes constructed; unfortunately, the majority were built by a Local developer fond of constructing the same house over and over and over.  It honestly made me sick to my stomach to see what was being done to that neighborhood, that anyone was buying the homes being built.  Alas, that was during the “housing boom” of the early 2000s, and they were selling quickly.  We left in 2006, the fond feelings I had for that neighborhood, what it was when we arrived, damaged and bruised, lessened.

When we moved to Winter Park in 2006, we did so after visiting for one weekend, then a trip up for a single day to oversee inspection on the house we had purchased.  We’d considered going back to Atlanta before that, but we just couldn’t return.  A friend had suggested Winter Park and while we knew very little about it when we moved here, the charm and character of Park Avenue and Central Park, the restaurants we’d enjoyed that first weekend (310 & Bosphorous), the brick streets and the diversity of the homes on quiet streets along with a truly amazing and wonderful tree cover all surely played a role in our taking the jump.  For surely the last four, maybe five years, I have been very thankful for our spontaneous decision-making, the experience of calling Winter Park home.

As you get older you learn never to say never, and I’ve learned that the things you come to LUV about an area or a community are not absolutes.  I am as happy today living here in this community as I have ever been.  But what I LUV about it, I understand, is not a given, CAN change.

Trees?  No, stumps.

Trees? No, stumps.

A friend commented to me recently about tree clearing along Denning & Canton, and I noticed more just over Lyman Avenue at New York, south of the Winter Park Farmer’s Market.  I’m assuming the latter may have something to do with Sunrail.  The former may well be among the plans involving Winter Park Village.  I have no information or knowledge about what will be going in either space.  But for both, again without knowing the exact plans, I was dismayed to again see trees, some of them large, along the peripheries of the two properties, taken down with all the rest.  More concrete and pavement on the way where at the moment we have a scene reminiscent of The Lorax.

I take nothing for granted.  I hope others will not, as well, as Winter Park moves forward.  Whether anything in these two situations could have been done any differently, or it is simply food for thought with future projects, the qualities which set Winter Park apart are worth protecting.

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