Mount Dora, known for its southern charm and New England look, boasts history that is just as engaging. On January 11, the book of two local authors, "A Brief History of Mount Dora", will hit book store shelves.
Gary McKechnie's and Nancy Howell's relationships with local historians and longtime residents led to great stories. They collected and used the most entertaining and intriguing historical facts in their new book. This is the first local history to be published since 2001, yet it reportedly is more comprehensive than previous works. It's also written in a casual style that makes it light and entertaining reading.
The authors moved from Orlando to Mount Dora in 1992, and jumped into the small town with both feet with a desire to enhance things culturally. Today, the couple is very involved in the Mount Dora Music Festival and owns a piece of local history, The Coconut Cottage, a bed & breakfast in the historic district of Mount Dora.
Mount Dora, also known as the "New England of the South", began with the arrival of pioneer families such as the Drawdys, Williams, Simpsons and Tremains and Pages. In the 1880s, it became a popular destination for Chautauqua events, when visitors gathered beside Lake Gertrude and Lake Dora for educational and cultural enrichment.
In the twentieth century, Mount Dora was home to a boating industry, weathered economic setbacks and racial conflict. At one point, the historic downtown was painted pale pink for the campy 1981 box office flop, "Honky Tony Freeway".