By Susan Myers Mount Dora Buzz Historical Columnist
Across the street from Donnelly Park on Fifth Avenue in downtown Mount Dora sits a nearly century-old brick building. The unassuming commercial building, originally known as the Ingram Building, doesn’t appear in most of the City’s historic photos. Today many people are likely to drive by without casting it a glance, but it’s one of the most minimally altered buildings in the historic district and provides a unique glimpse back at Mount Dora’s architecture in the early 20th Century.
William Ingram, an attorney and investor from Chester, West Virginia, commissioned the building in 1923. He and his wife Besse spent the winters in Mount Dora at their home located at 140 E. Seventh Avenue. The building consisted of three stores on the ground floor and seven apartments on the second floor. Many individuals and businesses have rented space in this building over the last 98 years.
During the 1920s Land Boom, the Sylvan Shores Development Company was one of the first tenants in this building and L.R. Heim was promoting his new development west of Lake Gertrude at the time. In 1928, the Chamber of Commerce opened an office in the Ingram Building for a few years. They later relocated it down the street to the Simpson Building because people complained about walking up the hill to the office. Mrs. M.A. Duval and her son rented a space to open The Blue Heron Delicatessen and Sandwich Shop. A “cold plate lunch” was served for the price of $.25 during the Roaring ’20s.
The City of Mount Dora did not escape the tragic effects of the 1930s Great Depression. Many businesses failed, yet some individuals took a risk and forged ahead with a new business venture. Some were successful, while others were short-lived. In 1931, William Davenport and his son Hugh were two of the risk-takers. They operated a successful shop in Clermont and felt that Mount Dora was an excellent place to establish another Davenport’s Furniture Exchange. During the depression, the local Girl Scout troop used one of the empty stores to hold a country fair. They used the proceeds to help pay the registration fees for new scouts during this tough economic time.
As the economy slowly progressed, two new businesses opened in 1938. Snowbird resident Professor Edgar Ashley established Ashley Art Galleries to display his art during the peak tourist months during the winter. In addition, The Blue Heron Tea Room, owned by Captain and Mrs. B.C. Jones replaced the Blue Heron Delicatessen, but diners could still enjoy the view of Donnelly Park. At some point, the building was appropriately renamed the Parkview Building. An article in the Mount Dora Topic dated August 4, 1938, mentioned, “It is places like this that advertise our community in far off cities when our winter visitors return to their homes and recount to their friends their pleasant experiences in the southland.”
Following the recession of the 1930s, Ingram sold the building in 1940 to Mary Learned of Braintree, Massachusetts, and W.M. Kennedy of Sylvan Shores. New Mount Dora resident and plumber, A.D. Johnson, joined the two other tenants in establishing his place of business there in 1945.
In the 1950s, the Blue Heron Tea Room relocated and the Peppermint Stick Restaurant assumed its spot. It was owned and operated by Bob and Eleanor Alderman. One of the most popular businesses in the Parkview Building was Romer’s Bakery. Two generations of the Eugene Romer family catered to the sweet tooth of Mount Dora residents from 1957 – 1985. Many residents still talk about their favorite item from Romer’s Bakery which ranged from breads, cakes, cookies, pastries, holiday treats, and glazed donuts.
Soon the tumultuous 1960s were upon us. With an upcoming election looming, the Democratic Party rented a storefront and set up campaign headquarters in 1964, headed by Frances Bland and local attorney Roy Christopher. Their effort to elect Lyndon B. Johnson as our 36th President seemed to have paid off.
In the mid-1970s, the Peppermint Stick Restaurant, now owned by Dave & Peggy Curtis, Village Green Antiques, and Romer’s Bakery steadily occupied the three storefronts. After 1985, Sally Dress Shop briefly rented a space.
In 1996, the Mount Dora Center for the Arts (MDCA) purchased the Parkview Building where they operated their gallery in the eastern storefront, and provided art classes upstairs. MDCA also leased two downstairs spaces -- one to Scoops on 5th, an old-fashioned ice cream and sweets shop, and the other space to Artisans on 5th, an artists’ co-op. In 2021 the building was purchased by G3 Development.
Downtown Mount Dora’s historic Parkview Building, located at 138 E 5th Avenue, will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2023.
Sources: Mount Dora Topic newspaper issues: January 14, 1926; June 20, 1929; July 4, 1929; November 14, 1929; May 7, 1931; December 2, 1937; August 4, 1938; September 7, 1939; July 18, 1940; August 22, 1940; September 12, 1940; December 2, 1940; April 5, 1945; February 6, 1947; April 4, 1957; April 25, 1957; August 1, 1957; October 18, 1964; November 19, 1964; May 23, 1974; December 26, 1974. Photos: Mount Dora Archives Follow Mount Dora Buzz on Facebook and Instagram. For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, visit the area's websiteand download the area's free mobile app.