18 Sep 1999

Mount Dora and Zellwood

In 1846 Dora Ann Drawdy had a farm bordering a lake near what is now Route 441. A Government party surveying Orange County boundaries in 1882 , met Dora Ann Drawdy and she let them camp in her yard and also cooked meals for them and washed their clothes. When the surveyors returned to Washington they bestowed the name of Lake Dora on the body of water bordering her farm. When a settlement was forming, it was first called Royellou, after the postmaster's children, Roy, Ella and Louis, but when the town was firmly founded in 1882 the area was renamed Mount Dora. 'Dora' after the Lake, and 'Mount' because the town rises from the Lake on a series of terraces from the shores, reminding the people of a mountain.

The South Florida Chautauqua at Mount Dora, established in 1885, was one of the first in the South. The assembly grounds and auditorium were in a tract of virgin forest between Lakes Dora and Gertrude. The Chautauqua was abandoned shortly after 1905 when the auditorium was destroyed by fire. (The early years of the 19th century were marked by great msisionary zeal. Camp meetings, great open-air assemblies, began about 1800 to play an important part in the evangelical work of the Methodist Church, now the United Methodist Church. One of the most notable outgrowths of the 'camp meeting ideas' was the Chautauqua Assembly, a highly successful educational endeavor.) The site is now known as Sylvan Shores, a residential development.

The broad streets of Mount Dora overlooking the water are shaded by oaks, magnolias,and a variety of palms. The population today is just less than 8,000, and the town is 184 feet above sea level. Lake Dora is part of the Harris Chain of Lakes, and it is possible to reach the Atlantic Ocean by inland waterways by way of the Oklawaha and St. Johns Rivers.

Zellwood, settled and named by Elwood Zell, prominent Philadelphia publisher, is the winter home of many northern visitors as well as local citrus growers.
Excerpts from the Encarta 98 Encyclopedia

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