Lake Placid has become something of a tourist attraction. The small farming community known for its colorful Caladiums was looking to spruce up their image and attract desirable businesses and residents. The town decided that beautification was its primary need. After starting with a few of the basics — new sidewalks, streetlights, curbs, oak trees, palm trees and shrubbery — they didn't stop there. Parks were cleaned up, pathways were paved with bricks, traffic islands were landscaped... and murals began appearing all over town.
Today there are 44 murals in Lake Placid that have earned the small town the title, Town of Murals. The murals are not just beautiful, they depict the rich history of the area and the people that played an important part in that history.
Lake Placid - Town of Murals
Pictured here is the first mural that was unveiled in Lake Placid. "Tea At Southwinds" was painted by the artist, Thomas Freeman. It was dedicated on May 15, 1993, and measures 60 feet wide and 30 feet high.
Dr. Melvil Dewey was an educator who invented the Dewey Decimal System at age 21. Owner of a successful resort in Lake Placid, New York, he thought this location in Florida would be a welcome retreat for his guests. He was credited with getting the Florida state legislature to change the name from Lake Stearns to Lake Placid in 1927.
This mural depicts Dr. Dewey's resort, Litl Loj, as it appeared in the 1940s. It later became known as Southwinds and rivaled his northern resort. The stylish ladies in the painting represented Dewey's guests, pretty and proper, having tea.
In December of every year, volunteers come to Highlands County to take a Christmas bird count. As part of the Florida state birding trail, the Lake Placid area and its natural environment of lakes and woods provide sanctuary for more than 300 winged species that are watched by thousands of birders who either live or visit.
The mural "Birding" was painted by Thomas Brooks and Terry Smith on the side of the Lake Placid Christian School and is 67 feet wide and 12 feet high. It is also the site of Noon Rotary Park, which provides benches and beautiful landscaping.
Lost Cub Mural
Lake Placid's creativity didn't stop with the murals, it also included one-of-a-kind trash bins, or as they are officially called, "Environmental Streetscape Containers." This bear trash container compliments the Lost Cub mural in the background that can "bearly" be seen in this photo. Could the mama bear be looking for her lost cub in the trash can? The Bear trash can was designed and built by Randy Goodman. The artist was Mary Seigfried. The mural was painted by Terry Smith on the side of Tony's Barber Shop in Lake Placid and measures 46 feet wide by 13-1/2 feet high.
The Talk of the Town Mural
Lake Placid's murals depict industry and people that were important to the development of the town. Florence Nowling Booker was one of those important people. She was the town's first and only PBX operator, coming to Lake Placid from Ft. Myers in 1930 as an employee of Intercounty Telephone and Telegraph Company. Florence operated the PBX board during the daytime; and, Mildred Booker, her daughter, and a high school student answered the night calls. PBX operators were an integral part of the community in those days, as they knew the comings and goings of everyone.
The mural depicts a documented phone call between Dr. Dewey's wife Emily and Dr. Alfred Eide on December 26, 1931, after Dr. Dewey suffered a stroke. The mural was painted by Richard Currier and is located on the side of Don's Carpet. It measures 60 feet wide by 11 feet tall.
Captain T. W. Webb Mural
Caladiums. The colorful plants have given Lake Placid the distinction of being the "Caladium Capital of the World." Captain Theodore W. Webb was one of the first Caladium growers in the 1930s. He discovered the bulbs while on a trip to Tampa, put them in the ground when he got home... and we might say the rest is history. I can be said that Caladiums have become to Lake Placid what the tulip fields are to Holland.
Captain Webb also was noted for owning the first and only service station between Sebring and West Palm Beach and he also sponsored the Golden Gloves Boxing Club, known as the Thursday Night Fights. All his interests are depicted in this mural that can be found on the side of Davis and Tompkins, Attorneys at Law, offices and were painted by Richard Currier. In the foreground planted around the tree, you will see the Captain's beloved Caladiums growing.
The Turpentine Industry Mural
During the turn of the century, turpentine was a large industry that created many jobs. A "chipper" would remove the bark of a tree with an ax and cut a "cat face" and insert a metal strip that allowed the pine gum to drain into a clay pot. The pots were emptied into barrels and loaded onto wagons were drawn by mules where they were taken to stills and the turpentine was refined.
The Turpentine Industry mural was painted by John Gutcher and is 62 feet wide x 14 feet high. Nearby you will find a one-of-a-kind turpentine bottle trash bin.
The Post Office Mural
You can hardly make out the scene at the back of this picture, but there was a day in 1919 that the mules that pulled the mail wagon were spooked and the mules, wagon, and mail all went into Buck Lake. Another depiction honors John J. Hoy, Lake Placid Postmaster for 19 years, beginning in 1953. The mural was painted by Richard Currier and measures 70 feet wide by 14-1/2 feet high.
Scrub Jay Mural
Scrub jays are on the federal endangered list and are found only in Florida, particularly in the Lake Placid area. However, where the scrub jay lives, the Florida scrub habitat, one of the most endangered ecosystems in all of North America because of urbanization. Because the scrub jays are faithful to their original territory, once that territory is destroyed, they do not relocate.
Little known scrub jay facts:
- The scrub jay mates for life.
- A breeding pair establishes a territory of about twenty-five acres, which they protect from other jays and predators.
- The hatchlings stay around to help feed the next brood and stand watch for predators, with families staying together in the same territory for many years.
- The friendly birds love peanuts and have been known to take them out of your hand.
This mural is located at Lake Placid's Chamber of Commerce building and was painted by Keith Goodson.
Lake Placid County Fair Mural
This mural (partially pictured here), depicting Lake Placid's County Fair, located at the corner of Interlake and Main Streets, was painted by Connie T. Burns-Watkins. It stretches 108 feet long by 18 feet high.
Lake Placid is home to Toby's Clown School; and, Toby, aka Keith Stokes, has been bringing Clown Medicine to Florida Hospital Lake Placid since 1982. Toby began teaching clowning at Florida Hospital in 1991 and now there are more clowns per capita in Lake Placid than any other town in Florida.
You'll find this bench in front of the Post Office mural on Oak Street in Lake Placid. It's just one of the fun benches and decorative trash containers you'll discover as you explore the town.
There are over 40 murals in Lake Placid. For more detailed pictures and history of each mural, visit Lake Placid Murals and take each individual link at the bottom of the page. Read more about small towns that offer big surprises in Florida.