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Mountain Lake: A Look Inside Building a Legacy

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Mountain Lake: A Look Inside Building a Legacy

by James Coulter


Have you ever heard of Mountain Lake Estates? It’s a small community about five minutes away from Lake Wales, but even many Lake Wales residents haven’t heard of it.

In fact, the Lake Wales Museum has received many questions about Mountain Lake Estates that they decided to create an exhibit detailing the history of the community and its connection to Lake Wales.

“It is all about the history of the Mountain Lake Community and the perseverance for them to get the community started…and all the wonderful ways they have contributed to Lake Wales,” said Jennifer D’Hollander, Museum Director.

“Mountain Lake: A Look Inside Building a Legacy” will be hosted at the museum until Feb. 16, 2019. The exhibit showcases the history of Mountain Lake Estates, one of the oldest private golf and estate communities in the country, with photographs, memorabilia, and other artifacts donated from local institutions, many of which were founded by members of the estates.

Throughout the years, many members of the private community have contributed to Lake Wales, helping to found local institutions such as Bok Tower Gardens and Vanguard School, as well as provide funding towards them, especially with the local museum and library.

One such member, Fredrick Olmstead, Jr., was a famous landscape architect who not only helped design Mountain Lake, but also performed surveying for the city itself, explained Bartholomew DelCamp, Museum Curator.

“If we didn’t have Mountain Lake here, then Lake Wales would look drastically different then how we have it today,” he said.

DelCamp proposed the idea for the exhibit and moved forwards bringing it into development through research and collaboration with local institutions such as Bok Tower Gardens, Vanguard School, and Mountain Lake Estates.

DelCamp himself has worked at the estates for 12 years now, currently working within the archives part-time when not serving as the museum curator. His work within the archives has allowed him to gain information about potential artifacts, as well as obtain them for the exhibit.

“People were more than willing to help out with the exhibit when I explained what it was for,” he said. “And they were willing to lend us artifacts such as the photographs and some of the uniforms and other things.”

Through his own research, DelCamp uncovered many interesting aspects about the community. Most notably, he learned about its overall perseverance even within the toughest times, from its founder’s suicide to the loss of many local orange groves over the years.

“But no matter what happened to them, Mountain Lake has always managed to persevere and survive as a community, and it is really interesting to see how they have done that,” he said.

Overall, the museum hopes that the exhibit will enlighten both local residents and visitors about the history of the local Mountain Lake community and the influence it had upon the history of Lake Wales itself.

“What all of us can learn is that…to look inside and understand what that community is and how they have contributed to the community as a whole, like building a legacy, and that legacy is Lake Wales,” D’Hollander said.

“Mountain Lake: A Look Inside Building a Legacy” will be hosted at the Lake Wales Museum until Feb. 16, 2019. The museum is located at 325 S Scenic Hwy, Lake Wales, FL 33853, and provides free public admission daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

As part of the exhibit, the museum will be hosting a History Talk lecture later this month on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m., with a discussion about the history and legacy of the local community followed by light refreshments. The event will be free to the public.

For more information, visit their website at: http://www.cityoflakewales.com/439/Depot-Museum

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