By Margaret Mary Stoetzel
The Centennial year in Mountain Lake was spectacular, with an electric mixture of social, cultural, philanthropic and recreational activities. A well kept secret in central Florida, it was designed in 1916 by the famed Landscape Architect, Fredrick Law Olmsted, Jr. Seth J. Raynor, one of the most celebrated golf course designers of the time, designed their 18 hole golf course, set in the 1000 plus acres, rich with citrus and natural beauty. Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, the Colony House, serves as the clubhouse and inn and was the center of the Centennial activities. Yes, Mountain Lake, it’s the highest point on the Florida peninsula, studded with inland lakes, winding road, soft rolling hills and 135 homes that pay tribute to 100 years of traditional Florida architecture with a little contemporary mixed in. True to tradition the Centennial was a family affair, children, parents and grandparents all participated in the year long party.
So what is the Chicago connection?
Throughout the first 100 years, Chicago families from Barrington, Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, Winnetka, Hinsdale, and Wayne have made Mountain Lake their winter retreat.
I.W. Colburn, renowned Chicago architect, not only restored his fabulous home, but built homes for Chicago families including the Robert Brookers of Chicago and the Lyman Smith’s of Barrington.
Steve Rugo, a Chicago architect of national reach, designed a new “Pool House” after Hurricane Charlie devastated the park, a facility with casual dining and a great fitness center. He was also the architect for Myrna and Wes Christopherson’s restoration that includes Mark Hampton interiors.
Former Christopherson Residence
The Centennial Season began with a vintage golf weekend. Men dressed in three plus ones played a tournament with” Hickory Sticks” and gutta percha balls. Not to be outdone, the ladies in full skirts, kept pace. The members dressed in vintage attire for evening cocktails and dinner. Feasting on a menu inspired by Delmonico’s, the restaurant most famous in 1916, with vintage wines complimenting each course, the evening lasted into the wee hours.
Vintage Golf Weekend
1916 Seth Rayner Golf Course
The walls of the Colony House came alive with the Members Art Show. Who knew that our small community housed such amazing talent from Chicago and the world?
Chicago’s own designer Susan Grimm shared her treasures including jewelry and hand painted glass. Arabella Decker, recently deceased, whose work can be viewed at the Coastal Arts league Gallery and Museum in California displayed sculptures and painting. Portraits of Missy Dersey, formerly of Lake Forest, and Stephania Gould, her sister of Barrington, painted by their mother, Doris Smith, were charming and warm. Heidi Stoetzel Edwards, prominent Florida Landscape artist, shared her sketches of the 18th fairway. Most endearing was the needlepoint by Emily Scheonhofen, of Lake Forest and Barrington, all 18 holes on the golf course which was recently donated to the club. Photography, sculptures, water colors, oil painting, drawings, wood carvings and jewelry were among the disciplines displayed by members.
Needlepoint by Emily Schoenhofen
Music lovers delighted in The Speaker and Music Series, set in the historic living room of the Colony. The Atttacca Quartet performed Hyden’s string quartets, The University of Wisconsin School of Music brought the accomplished Vitraz Woodwind Quint. The Juilliard School of Music Quartet was also heavenly performance. The classic presentations were imaginative and inspiring, taken from the great composers of yesterday and today. But it was just the beginning. From New York, The Six of Clubs, a passionate Sextet, preformed a cappella from the songs of American finest Broadway and Hollywood musicals. The Ten of New York fired back, an outstanding Men’s a cappella group, founded over 100 years ago with roots in New York City’s Glee Club had a repertoire including sacred and college songs. Exciting, uplifting and talented performances, in a myriad of styles, educated and entertained us.
Juilliard Hsin Piano Trio
But philanthropy and music start at home. In the shadow of Bok Tower Gardens sits the Lake Wales High School and Bok Academy. Standing 205 feet above the park (thus the mountain), the Bok Tower is an architectural achievement, the “Taj Mahal” in pink marble with noble clarion bells. Edward Bok gave his “singing tower” as a gift to America in February of 1929, an enduring token of his appreciation for the opportunities he had been given. The surrounding gardens were also designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead Jr. and Milton Medary. With encouragement, guidance and love from the Mountain Lake community these two Lake Wales schools have been transformed from a failing school district to one of the finest in Central Florida. It was most appropriate the Lake Wales High School kicked off the Gala Weekend on March 17, marching up the 18th signature hole to the beautifully attired Colony House playing the music for St. Patrick’s Day.
Then the party began!
Family day kicked off with the Vintage Car show. Dwight Cleveland’s grandparents resided in Mountain Lake for over 35 years. He spent many holiday’s in their spirited home equipped with a putting green at the entrance, so everyone could practice their short game. But Peter Cleveland, recent graduate from The Hill, was surely thinking this “little red one” would be a great car to take to College. But it was the parade of golf carts decorated by the children that stole the show.
Dana Hutton’s children, Jay and Cassie Hutton, of Chicago, are 4th generation Mountain Lake. Her grandfather, Orville Ceasar, was an inventor and co-founder of Greyhound Bus Corporation and an early resident of Mountain Lake.
Food trucks came from Orlando to start the Friday Family night. Anne and Steve Deli, of Chicago, enjoyed the Lobster Rolls and danced under the fireworks that lit the night skies.
Anne and Steve Deli
Fireworks at Family Night
The highlight was the elegant Dinner Dance. The committee transformed the Colony House with soft shade of coral and white for the flowers, linens and draperies. Member photos were taken with vintage scenes in the background. The staff dressed in 1916 costumes and served dinner in the room lit with silver candelabras.
The men dressed in vintage tuxedos and white dinner jackets. George Jameson, of Glenview, escorted his parents, Betty and Paul, who just celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
The ladies donned everything from the latest couture to an authentic Worth gown from 1916. The ever elegant Gabriella Cleveland looks just beautiful.
Dwight and Gabriela Cleveland and Margaret Mary and John Stoetzel
Stephanie Gould, of Barrington and Sun Valley, and her nephew Jay Hutton danced the night way to the music of the Bob Hardwick Orchestra.
Stephanie Gould and Jay Hutton
The party continued into the wee hours and the dance floor was full until the lights went out. Margaret Mary Stoetzel and Cassie Hutton kept the party going along with Terry Grimm who gave the night his famous thumbs up.
Margaret Mary Stoetzel and Cassie Hutton
Terry Grimm giving the thumbs up
Respecting the traditions of the last 100 years Mountain Lake will be embracing the future celebrating the Century’s first Season beginning in November 2016. It’s a hidden secret in Florida hosting generations of families in elegant homes, a beautiful club house and with amazing recreational facilities.