History
While Spring Lake may not have the storied history that is common among many communities it still has its background regarding a number of past events. This section of our site, which we hope will expand as residents share information, attempts to give a brief background on people, businesses, and events. If you have pictures or stories you would like to share, please contact us.

History

Mr. Duane Palmer came to Spring Lake from the north in 1930 and bought most of his property from the Davis family and several other local families. Mr. Palmer owned most of the land north of Rt. 98, and sold it to Westinghouse when they wanted to build the community of Spring Lake. Mr. Palmer kept Pine Ranch, which is the land directly across Rt. 98, at the curve, across from the driving range; the Graves family now owns that land. Duane Palmer Blvd. is named after Mr. Palmer.

The first building permit in Spring Lake was issued in 1972 and throughout the 70’s the community grew and developed. On July 26, 1980 the Spring Lake Golf Course marked its grand opening. That same year the Community Center remodeling was completed, and has remained in its current location since that time.

Over the years most people have simply referred to the Spring Lake Improvement District as SLID. Created by a Special Act of the State Legislature in 1971, it is a unit of government similar to a municipality. The exception is that the District does not have authority over land use, zoning, development codes, police, or fire. Throughout Florida special districts were established to promote development; there are over 2,000 special districts in the State. Coral Ridge Properties, which was a subsidiary of Westinghouse Electric, took the leadership role in the development of Spring Lake.

The District is responsible for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the water management system for drainage and flood control. All permitting comes from the South Florida Water Management District. It is also responsible for the supply of potable water, mosquito control, street lighting, lot mowing, and the operation and maintenance of recreational facilities.

Spring Lake was originally designed to have gravity flow drainage through water control structures that go west to east, to a pumping station. The system drains approximately 3,324 acres; 200 acres of canal surface; and 17.1 miles of canal network.

There are five Commissioners who are elected by the voters; three by landowners (one vote for each lot) and two by popular vote.


SPRING LAKE COMMUNITY CENTER:

As the population of Spring Lake grew throughout the ‘70’s and into the 80’s the community could find relaxation and leisure under the Pine Breeze Park screened shelter, the original community center. It was soon completely enclosed, remodeled, and air-conditioned with free labor supplied by members of the Spring Lake Community Club, with materials supplied by the developer, Coral Ridge Properties. A tennis court was also added to the Park area in the mid 70’s.

The structure was doubled in size with restrooms and a kitchen in the summer of 1980. The Community Club marked the completion of its building addition with a reception and informal ribbon cutting ceremony. Coral Ridge Properties, who also supplied refreshments of wine and cheese, presented a plaque recognizing the efforts of the club’s volunteer builders.

The Community Center is currently reserved for a number of activities and functions. Rental is available at no cost to Spring Lake residents, but groups are responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of the facility after their group function.

PUMP STATION:

Without proper drainage systems, most of Spring Lake would be uninhabitable. On May 11, 1973 the South Florida Water Management District issued a permit to Spring Lake for the “construction and operation of a water management system serving 4,934 acres of residential and commercial lands by swales, canals, and detention lakes, and includes a 260,000 gallons per minute pump station discharging into Arbuckle Creek via an auxiliary channel. In 1974 a pump station was built on the east side of Duane Palmer Blvd. The station has two automated, electrically driven pumps and two diesel driven pumps for emergency measures. Designed usage for normal elevation maintenance of the canals requires the operation of only one pump for approximately 3.5 hours, with amounts of rainfall determining the frequency of running times for the other pumps.

SHOPPING PLAZA:

Information gleaned from historical documents and old newspaper articles show that the need for stores and services in Spring Lake were as great in the early days of our development as they are today. Groundbreaking for the original plaza took place in July of 1973 and the county commissioners and county engineer attended the dedication ceremonies. The plaza was built by Coral Ridge Properties and was designed to have two phases. The first building was constructed at a cost of $134,000 and the second building for slightly more. The grand opening for the first building was held on May 2, 1974.

By 1977 the second building was completed and the plaza had numerous businesses as tenants. In fact, there were more services there in 1977 then there was in 2009. The stores listed in a January 1977 newspaper were:

*Spring Lake Development Administrative Offices

*Annabelle’s Boutique, dresses, and leisurewear

*Kelevon Appliance Center; Westinghouse products

*Hair Gallery

*Sebrino’s Italian Restaurant

*Hughes Spring Lake meat market, plants, produce, groceries

*Smiley’s Ceramics

*C&B Hardware

*Spring Lake Draperies

VILLAGE II

Historical records show that from December 29, 1973 to January 5, 1974 an Open House was held to view a model home. On March 2, 1974, Florida National Properties, a Development arm of Coral Ridge Properties and a subsidiary of Westinghouse advertised a Grand Opening for Village II. Headlines on most of the publications: “Follow the yellow brick roads to Florida as it should be.”

By January of 1975 eight new homes were advertised and presented at the Parade of Homes. Stump Construction, L&T Construction, Carla Enterprises, Yolman Builders, Whittington Construction, and C&L Construction built all the homes. All homes shown were in the price range of $30,800 to $42, 900, which also included the lot.

TAMPA TRIBUNE, JUNE 16, 1975

SEBRING: The Spring Lake Community, a modern housing development, has increased in value 434% during its five years of existence, records in the Highlands county tax assessor’s office state. The 3,500 acre development, about eight miles south of Sebring on U.S. 98 toward Okeechobee, has an assessed value of $7.6 million compared to $175,000 five years ago. Tax Assessor Billy Martin said 96 homes are contained in the acreage. Don Stanick, Spring Lake Controller, said the most recent evaluation includes 86 homes assessed at $2,137,000 in Village I, while 10 homes in Village II are assessed at $279,000.

Next year’s evaluation will include a total of 157 homes as construction continues in both Villages. Coral Ridge Properties, builders of Spring Lake, has announced that two additional Villages will begin construction with models available later in the next year.

TAMPA TRIBUNE, JANUARY 15, 1977

SEBRING: New home construction is expected to be almost doubled during 1977 at Spring Lake, a community being developed by Coral Ridge Properties, Inc. about eight miles southeast of Sebring. J.H. Ryan, general manager of Spring Lake and assistant vice-president of Coral Ridge Properties, said Thursday that 200 homes would be built during the year, compared to 112 in 1976. Mr. Ryan spoke to a group of 30 banking representatives, builders, and the news media at a preview gathering. He said the community has 230 homes and a population of 500, with an annual disposable income of $1.5 million. He said the disposable income would reach $8 million when the projected 200homes for 1977 are completed and occupied.

Spring Lake is the fastest growing subdivision in Highlands County, doubling the construction activity of its nearest competitor. The total investment at Spring Lake to date is listed at $19.5 million.

SPRING LAKE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

In a Sebring news article dated October 12, 1981, the groundbreaking for the Spring Lake United Methodist Church was announced. The story describes how a Lillian Palmer told people at the consecration of the grounds how she and her late husband, Duane Palmer, came to Spring Lake in 1930 from New York. They farmed over 1,000 acres, which eventually became our Spring Lake community. The Rev. Perry James held the official groundbreaking ceremonies and Lakeland District Superintendent Dr. Jimmy Jones led a host of dignitaries from the area. Jones officially constituted the church on Easer Sunday of 1981 after it was organized by a Planning Committee, which, the article stated, included Mr. And Mrs. Reed McLean Jr., Dr. Odell Miley, Freda Hawkins, and others.

Foster Alter was the administrative Board chairman; Jim Zimmerman headed the building committee; and Clayton Hall was the finance chairman. The congregation raised the money to construct a chapel with a multipurpose room on acres bought in 1979.

In another article dated February 10, 1982, the newspaper noted the church had experienced a steady growth in interest and cooperation of members and friends. A Bible study groups was meeting with Clayton Hall as one of the teachers. Mrs. John Gill as president was leading an active Women’s group. Howard Pike was president of the men’s organization.

THE SPRING LAKE BREEZE

In 1973, two years after the creation of Spring Lake, a group of residents and business people came together to establish a complimentary newspaper that was called The Breeze. The original paper was distributed for about 10 years and then went inactive. In February of 2007 the paper was re-activated and mailed to each homeowner on a monthly basis. Past issues of the updated paper can be accessed on the current web site

SPRING LAKE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

On October 3, 1976 about 150 people gathered at the shopping center in the heart of Spring Lake to formally organize the Spring Lake Presbyterian church. It was an anticipated moment for people like Mary Yontek, whose husband had recently died and she needed a project to fill her mind and heart and the new community needed a church. The Rev. Barbara Yontek, Mary’s daughter, had contacted St. John’s Presbytery and Jack Ryan, sales manager of Coral Ridge Properties, developers of Spring Lake, to suggest the community’s need for a church.

Teenager Donna Greenhalgh was first in line to put her name to the document that petitioned the Presbytery to form the congregation as a church of the United Presbyterian Church, USA. Forty-nine other people followed, putting their names to the list of charter members. Before this evening there had been fifteen months of investigating, searching, and meetings led by representatives of the Presbytery. Their mission was to determine if there was sufficient interest in the community to form a church. Dr. Harry Bryan was the first of these emissaries from Orlando. Realizing the zeal among residents, Bryan began worship services in rented quarters at the shopping center. The first was held on December 7, 1975. Neighboring congregations in Sebring, and as far away as Alabama, supplied resources for worship.

The search for a permanent pastor ended when the Rev. Paul Stauning, a pastor in Harrisburg, Pa. accepted the call. He was installed as pastor on October 2, 1977. With funds given by the Presbytery and raised by the congregation, the present buildings were dedicated on November 26, 1978.

SPRING LAKE BAPTIST CHURCH

Located at the intersection of Rt. 98 and Spring Lake Blvd., the Spring Lake Baptist Church has a unique origin. In November of 1978 Pastor Arthur P. Mann and his wife arrived at Spring Lake after leaving an established church in Stevens Point, Michigan. Their objective, as directed by the Hiawatha Baptist Mission in Grand Rapids was to establish a fundamental Baptist church in the Spring Lake area.

Upon arriving to Spring Lake Pastor Mann and his wife began holding services in their living room and soon had assembled a small but dedicated congregation. Soon the house was remodeled to accommodate a larger congregation, and as they grew a church building was inevitable. Within two years of his arrival Pastor Mann and his group, now grown to 30, managed to purchase the land the church currently stands on. The land and building required no outside financial help and was fully supported by the congregation.

The 3,000 square foot sanctuary, which has seating for 160, was constructed in less than 90 days by a team of five construction missionaries, their wives, and volunteer helpers from Michigan, Iowa, and Spring Lake.

SPRING LAKE GOLF COURSE

In January 1977, Coral Ridge Properties Vice-President and General Manager of Spring Lake announced plans for the construction of an 18-hole golf course complex. The budget was estimated at $1.5 million with a targeted completion date of late 1978. Well known golf course builder R.E. (Bob) Werk, President of American Golf Course Company, was contracted to construct and operate the facility.

It wasn’t until1978, after negotiations with Werk failed, that David Garard was hired by Coral Ridge Properties to supervise construction of the golf course. Old newspaper articles point out “the land was a swamp!” As a result of the amount of muck, fill from 35 acres of canals were used to bring the land up above the water level. Despite the unique headaches involved, the construction steadily progressed to its completion, and on July 28, 1980, the 18-hole championship layout was opened for play. David and his wife, Inez, managed the golf course for a number of years. He also constructed what is now known as the Bobcat Run course in Spring Lake.

On that first day of play Spring Lake property owner Douglas Kennedy and his son teed off to become the first paying golfers to play the course. Next up was a foursome consisting of Spring Lake residents Charlie Grindle and Ken Harris with their guest George McMillan, and Spring Lake golf pro Doug Key.

After many years of success, the golf course was eventually sold at auction in 1985 to Mike Tellschow, a businessman from West Palm Beach. The addition of a clubhouse, golf villas, and 18 additional holes of golf over the years turned the property into a popular Golf Resort, attracting golfers and buyers from around the United States and Europe.


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