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George Walker: Winter Garden's Mayor with a Mission
It’s 1933, the depths of the Great Depression. The country is reeling from a global financial meltdown after the stock market crash of 1929. Life itself seems to be at a standstill… bread lines snake their way through the cities, and small-towns across America are devastated as millions lose jobs, savings, and hope. Entire families leave their hometowns and fan out across the land, desperate for new opportunities. Winter Garden itself is experiencing financial difficulties: “City Financial Crisis Rapidly Nears Climax,” the Winter Garden Journal headlines. “Next payroll will deplete the treasury. Payment will leave council with no funds for police or street lighting.” Despite this dire situation, Winter Garden (population 2500) is faring somewhat better than many towns its size The central shipping point for a citrus empire that covers tens of thousands of acres in West Orange County, it stays busy shipping citrus and vegetables from a half dozen packinghouses ranged along two railroad lines. Southern Fruit opens a grapefruit canning plant in February 1933, offering jobs for up to 200 former employees – preferablyWinter Garden residents. Enter George Walker. During the Depression, Walker saw the need for civic improvements- and jobs- and set about putting Winter Garden to work. When more federal funding for projects became available under President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), one of many “alphabet’ agencies designed to provide employment, Walker sprang into action and set about overseeing the city’s improvement. In December 1933, the inaugural issue of Winter Garden’s Town Crier trumpeted “Prosperity Turns the Corner.” An accompanying article announced that “government work of some kind will continue until industry demands the labor.” By the end of the 1930s, with the help of $250,000 in WPA funds, the city had a new city hall and fire station; a municipal swimming pool; a rebuilt seawall along Lake Apopka; Lakefront Park, which included recreational facilities, a community hall and auditorium, a dock, boat basins, and covered boathouses; and improved streets and new sidewalks. Walker Field, a sports complex built on Park Avenue, was completed under Walker’s tenure and then named in his honor. These improvements put money in the pockets of city residents and helped create a city ready to face the challenge of an impending world war. Two dozen narrated images tell about the life and legacy of this remarkable man. BONUS: We will also be “cutting the ribbon” on our newly-refurbished C&O Caboose, positioned next to the History Center on Plant Street.
300 West Plant St, Winter Garden, FL 34787
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Jun 1 - Aug 31, 2023
Jun 1 - Aug 31, 2023