Every town has gone through a number of changes due to economic cycles and social movements. These changes are good and bad, but sometimes a town needs a boost. The need for change becomes so great that it takes something monumental to bring it back to life. This is what happened to Hannibal Square in Winter Park, Florida. Winter Park has a rich history that began on an 8-acre parcel. In 1858, David Mizell bought the parcel and named it Lakeview. In 1881, it became Winter Park, the “first planned community in Central Florida.” Loring Chase and Oliver Chapman bought 600 acres and turned it into a wealthy resort, which was frequented by northerners who wanted to escape harsh winters. In addition to Loring Chase and Oliver Chapman, there were six other founders of the town: Charles Morse, Colonel Franklin Fairbanks, Francois Knowles, William Temple, William Comstock and Alonzo Rollins. In 1885, Rollins donated money and land to establish Rollins College, which is the “first recognized college in Florida.”
The resort was made possible by the town’s founders persuading a railroad company to extend its line to Winter Park. The town was built by free African Americans, which is proudly displayed through exhibitions and artifacts in the Hannibal Square Heritage Center. Hannibal Square has gone through many changes over the decades. It began to fall into disrepair in the 1990s with a “commercial strip dotted with rooming houses and a bar that had tables nailed to the floor because they would be used as weapons.” The square needed to be renovated. One of the many buildings to be renovated was the Grant Chapel. The 84-year-old chapel was moved to a new location in 2013 for preservation. It was moved to the corner of Lyman and New York Avenues and received a new garden, a basement, two staircases, a fountain and stone walkway. Another project is Ravaudage, an ongoing large-scale 75-acre mixed-use development.
Winter Park has become a desired address in Florida, with its close proximity to Orlando and its location on the banks of Lake Virginia. The town has gone through many changes, but has come out on top. Hannibal Square is an example of area has come back to life, with its shops, dining and businesses. Rollins College also provides a unique educational landscape. The new developments do not mean the past is forgotten; they have merely been renovated to provide further enjoyment by residents and visitors.