Since its establishment in 1888, Lake Eola Park has served as an iconic symbol for the City of Orlando. Donated by local cattle rancher Jacob Summerlin, the park is protected against future development in perpetuity including a reverter clause transferring the land back to Summerlin’s descendants if the park is ever developed. As a result, the park has served as the backdrop to Orlando’s growth from a small citrus town to a bustling city.
In its early days, the park served as a popular swimming spot known as Sandy Beach, helping residents cool down on Florida’s hot summer days. As the city grew, the park changed and adapted to its growing city. The first Lake Eola fountain was installed in 1912 and was replaced in 1957 by the current Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain.
In 1922, swans were introduced into the park from nearby Lake Lucerne and have since become mascots of the city. Throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, Lake Eola Park was a bustling place with visitors strolling its paths and attending concerts and events.
By the 1980s however, the park had fallen into disrepair with few regular users and a large homeless population affecting the park and surrounding areas. Additionally, pollution started to become a major problem with oil, air conditioning coolants, and debris flowing into the lake with every rain. The city installed filters to help control pollution and plans were put forth to revitalize the park and reinvigorate the downtown. Completed in 1988 at a cost of $3.3 million, the renovation included much of what you see today at the park – wide sidewalks with brick borders, restrooms, and black railings. Also added were the bandshell, Japanese garden with giant marble piece from sister city Taipei, Taiwan, and the Ting, a Chinese pagoda-like structure. The new and improved Lake Eola Park reopened to much fanfare with regular users returning to the park, helping to reinvigorate surrounding neighborhoods.
Fueled by the momentum put into place in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, downtown Orlando has continued to grow and evolve over the last three decades becoming a bustling metropolis attracting visitors worldwide.