It’s a lesser known legacy, but a stroll through the historic district neighborhood of Mount Dora reveals the tell-tale signs of Carl Sylvanus Risley and his impact on the city.
Related to the Tremains, one of the City’s first families, Fred & Nellie Risley settled in Mount Dora in the 1880s and their son, Carl, was born in 1889. He later went on to establish a concrete business in 1907 that flourished until the 1960s.
The young Risley is credited for most of the original concrete sidewalks throughout Mount Dora and many original driveways poured by Risley are still intact today, detectable by his professional stamp ‘C.S.R.’ or ‘C.S. Risley.’ A century later his concrete street markers are still erected on many cross streets, while his fence posts still enclose some local yards.
By the 1920s, a decorative concrete block known as rock face or rusticated had become popular in the building industry. Carl formed a mold to create this block which has been used extensively as foundations for early homes. The decorative block became known locally as the ‘Risley’ block. Carl and his team of workers created thousands of these decorative blocks that are still visible throughout the historic and Highland Street districts.
The Risley concrete factory was located behind the family’s unique flat panel block home at 742 North Tremain Street. Carl and his team of workers fashioned both rusticated and flat panel building blocks, cemetery copings, gate posts, street markers, birdbaths, planters, roof tile, fireplace blocks, survey markers, patio stepping stones, septic tank covers, and ornamental lawn benches. These heavy concrete items were transported by wagon and pulled by their hardworking mule, Maggie, in the early years. In the 1970s, Girl Scout troops cleaned and repainted the street markers as a community service project. Some street markers have been lost to time and damage, the remaining ones in the city need protection as historical elements. Risley’s concrete works are visible as you stroll or drive through town and are a long-lasting testament to his craft and profession. Along with other early settlers who’ve left their mark, Carl S. Risley also contributed significantly to the development of Mount Dora.
For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, click here. For local things to do, click here and for the area's free mobile app, click here.