The charming, heirloom town of Mount Dora owes its genteel development to Lakeside Inn. They grew up together and remain inseparable in the minds of the townspeople. Throughout the Lakeside estate, the names of Mount Dora pioneers echo through the decades -- a postmaster named Tremain, a homesteader named Dora, an inventor named Edgerton, a president named Coolidge.
Snake Hunts & Orange Juice
In the early 1880s, the wee town of Royellou consisted of little more than a post office. Its postmaster, Ross Tremain, named the lakeside outpost after his three children, Roy, Ella and Louis. The sixteen families who lived along Lake Dora, named for the area's first homesteader, decided Royallou needed a hotel. When the town's name changed to Mount Dora -- the "mount" part for its dizzying height (for Florida) of 184 feet above sea level - town father John Alexander entered into a partnership with Annie MacDonald Stone Donnelly, her husband John P. Donnelly, and Colonel John A. McDonald. They opened Alexander House in 1883, which still stands as Lakeside Inn's most historic building.
The first guests of the two-story, 10-room Alexander House were intrepid sports enthusiasts who arrived by a series of long boat trips from the cold north. For the most adventurous of the guests, snake hunts were organized, but most guests were content with the superb lake fishing. The ladies, attired in the long dresses of the day's fashion, enjoyed picnics with fresh orange juice, considered a delicacy at the time.
In 1893, the Inn was sold to Miss Emma Boone who changed its name to Lake House. Charles Edgerton, who would soon have a major influence on the Inn's growth, visited Mount Dora with his family from Philadelphia every year. They fell in love with Lake House and its new wrap-around verandah, everyone's favorite meeting spot, where guests relaxed "on tilted chairs and puffed their cigars." Eventually the railroad brought the Edgertons and other visitors right to the Inn's back door. The Inn's trusty porter, Old Jim, met the trains with a handcart and pulled their trunks up the hill to the hotel. In 1903, Lake House was renamed Lakeside Inn by Emma Boone and her new husband George D. Thayer
Bathtub Gin & Sailing Rigs
During the 1920s, the Gatsby Era was in full swing and Lakeside Inn enjoyed its heyday despite Prohibition. Rumor has it that Lakeside served as a speak-easy. A trap door at the base of the lobby's reception desk stirs speculation of the Inn's clandestine past. Lake Dora's reputation as a boating mecca was no secret, however, to anyone who knew Mount Dora back then, and drew many anglers and boaters from points north. The annual sailing regatta and antique boat show are testament to the town's boating tradition.
Presidents & an Elephant on Skis
In 1924, Charles Edgerton bought Lakeside Inn and remained its owner for the next 55 years. He and his partners built an Olympic-sized swimming pool and two new guest house buildings named The Gables and The Terrace. In 1930, President Calvin Coolidge dedicated the new buildings during his month of post-retirement relaxation at Lakeside Inn with his wife.
The Edgertons entertained governors, senators, and such illuminati as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Charles' son Richard eventually took over ownership and the family continued to contribute both to the growth of the city and its anchor, Lakeside Inn.
In 1979, during Edgerton's last year as owner, the Inn closed down for the winter season for the filming of Honky Tonk Freeway, a John Schlesinger picture (Midnight Cowboy, Marathon Man). The Inn was painted pink for the occasion and an Indian elephant was shipped in and taught to water-ski on Lake Dora.
Redemption & Perseverance
After Richard Edgerton's retirement, rumors swirled that Lakeside Inn would be demolished. He came to its defense, saying, "Mount Dora desperately needs the Inn to be open. It performed a vital function in bringing families of substance to live here and help form Mount Dora's present quality of life."
Lakeside Inn dodged the wrecking ball to survive as one of Florida's few historic wooden hotels and as the heart of its community. With such a glamorous backdrop and relaxed atmosphere, guests wouldn't be out of place here in spats. or flip-flops. Here is Florida at its roots, a place where play and relaxation never went out of style.