Historic small town living on the southwest shores of Lake Apopka
The Town of Montverde is a historic community in Lake County, Florida, whose name means “green hill.” Thirty minutes from Downtown Orlando and major attractions, the small community is defined by its rural surroundings while still within close proximity to regional resources. The population as of 2004 U.S. Census Bureau is 942. The town has a total area of 1.8 square miles (4.6 km²), of which, 1.6 square miles (4.1 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km²) of it (11.80%) is water.
Located on the west shore of Lake Apopka along the Lake Wales Ridge, the Town is blessed with rolling topography and views rare in Florida. The area is rich in history, culture, archaeology and natural resources.
The Town has five parks, a community center, baseball field, playground, tennis court and an auditorium in Town Hall. It also has a volunteer Fire Department, a library, a Post Office, a convenience store with gas pumps and various denomination churches. The oldest building in the Town is the historic Harper House, which dates from the mid 1870s.
Along with the Green Mountain Scenic Byway Corridor, the Town of Montverde is in the works to develop, beautify and preserve the area. It is the Town’s goal to maintain the small town atmosphere and sense of community.
The Town of Montverde, the site of an early Indian settlement, has a long and rich history.
Centuries ago this area along the shoreline of Lake Apopka was first populated by Native Americans speaking the Timucua language. By the middle of the 18th century it was populated by the Seminoles after the Timucua Indians were decimated by epidemics. Many Timucua artifacts have been found by area residents on the west shore of Lake Apopka, from scattered isolated artifacts to burial mounds with remains, and a dug out canoe that is on display at the Helen Lehmann Memorial Library in Montverde.
The first non-Native American residents arrived in 1865 and called the town West Lake Apopka–John W. Harden, W.H. Porter, John Griggs, Lt. Jim Franklin, Andrew Shaw and John W. Harden and wife Aramenta. It was later called “Monte Verde,” for its rolling green hills. The Town was incorporated on May 18th, 1925.
From 1887 to 1969, the Town was served by the Tavares and Gulf railroad, which used the connection mainly to haul agricultural products. Past industries included a cement plant, a facility for drying and processing moss for furniture and the original manufacturing plant of the Snapper Mower. Grapes, citrus and vegetables were the main freight, but the freezes and disease ended these industries.
Before the 1940′s, Lake Apopka was a premier sport-fishing destination, with numerous fish camps along the western shore. People traveled from around the world to enjoy the area. The Town of Montverde was one of the locations around the lake providing lodging for overnight stay. After years of lake pollution the fish camps were closed. However, one of these fishing cabins still in existence today and it is displayed by the Library. Currently, Lake Apopka is going through an extensive $130 million project to restore the lake to Class III water quality.
Today, the Town of Montverde has maintained its rural character amidst the inevitable growth that surrounds it. Luxurious residential communities have been developed in unincorporated Montverde and Sugarloaf Mountain. In 2002, the State of Florida granted Montverde’s main road CR455, along with Old SR 50, the designation of a Florida Scenic Highway (known as the Green Mountain Scenic Byway), providing a way to conserve the area, as well as to beautify it. Along with this development, Montverde plans to revitalize its Town Center while preserving its small town atmosphere and living.
Places To Go
The Town of Montverde is located in the middle of the Green Mountain Scenic Byway. The Town, as well as the nearby towns, cities and Byway Corridor area, offer numerous recreational opportunities for everyone.
Kirk Park – an oak shaded park with a pavilion, a playground, the Montverde Community Center, a tennis court, lighted baseball field, picnic tables, and barbecue grills.
Truskett Park – at the east end of Porter Street. It is tree shaded and on Lake Apopka.
Lake Florence Park – located on the east shore of Lake Florence at the western end of Porter Street. There is a playground and a 125-foot dock.
Montverde Academy – 125-acre private and non-profit boarding school campus, established in 1912, with stately buildings and an international student body. Click here to learn more about Montverde’s Academy.
Montverde Town Cemetery – Eight Confederate and one Union veterans are buried there, an extraordinary number of Civil War Veterans for a cemetery of its size in Central Florida.
Montverde Day – an annual town festival held each November in Kirk Park. The festival is sponsored by the Town of Montverde, and is attended by several thousand area residents and visitors. The festival is an opportunity for local arts and craftsmen to display their wares, and there are antique car displays, entertainment by folk musicians, and flea market booths.
Lake Apopka – Lake Apopka was once the second largest lake in Florida and a premier sport-fishing destination, with numerous fish camps along the western shore. As a result of 100 years of canal digging, dike building, draining, muck farming, runoff and discharges from cities, agriculture, and industry, the lake became one the most polluted in Florida. At least 18,000 acres were drained for agricultural purposes, and the lake is now only the fourth largest in the state. The St. Johns River Water Management District is conducting a 25 to 50 year, $130 million plus project to restore the lake to Class III water quality. A Class III water body is fit for wildlife and recreation, and it is hoped that the restoration of the lake will lead to a healthy and sustainable eco-tourism industry. Click here to learn more.
Archeological Resources – The area was once populated by Native American Indians–the Timucua, then Seminole. Twelve archaeological sites have been identified. The sites vary from scattered isolated Timucua artifacts to burial mounds with remains. Many artifacts have been found by area residents on the west shore of Lake Apopka, including a dug out canoe that is on display at the Helen Lehmann Memorial Library in Montverde.
Sugarloaf Mountain – one of the highest point in peninsular Florida at 312 feet.
Cycling — Montverde’s main road CR455, also known as the Green Mountain Scenic Byway, is an internationally recognized resource for competition and touring cycling. It is one of the most heavily used cycling routes in Florida due to its curves, rolling hills and vistas, and is also extremely popular with motorcyclists, antique and sports car clubs, as well as Sunday drivers.
Woodlands Lutheran Camp – a 180-acre camp, conference and retreat center owned by the Florida – Georgia District of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, which offers a wide assortment of recreational activities. The camp is open to the public and offers: Horseback riding, Baseball, Basketball, Tennis Swimming, Canoeing, Primitive camping, Full recreational vehicle hook up sites, Motel style rooms, Dining halls and meeting rooms, Bunkhouses, Cabins with heat and a/c. Woodlands is the home of the HeRD Program, or Horses for Riders with Disabilities, which teaches horseback riding to people with a wide range of disabilities. It is an official site for Special Olympics Equestrian training.
West Orange Trail – located at the southern terminus of the Green Mountain Byway. The trail offers a wonderful opportunity to walk, jog, bike or rollerblade in a countryside environment.
Natural Resources – The Town of Montverde is located along the Lake Wales Ridge. The Lake Wales Ridge is a series of ancient relic sand dunes running like a spine for over 100 miles down the center of the state and is considered by many to be one of the most distinctive natural regions in the United States. The hills are actually a series of ancient islands as much as 2.3 million years old. Plants and animals began to adapt to the unique environments of these hills while the rest of what was to become Florida lay beneath the waters of an ancient sea.
Clay Island – located in the Restoration area on the northern shore of Lake Apopka. The Restoration Area, composed of 20,068 acres, has become known for it’s remarkable diversity of bird species. More than 270 bird species have been counted. 5.7 miles of trails and an observation tower on the shoreline have been created on Clay Island. A better access to this area is currently in the works.
Vistas – The best vistas in Central Florida are located along the area, particularly near Sugarloaf Mountain. The nighttime vista of the eastern shoreline of Lake Apopka is particularly dramatic. Miles of hardwood hammocks and wetlands along the near shoreline are within the view shed.
There’s so much more to see and do. Take a drive down the Green Mountain Scenic Byway and the Town of Montverde and enjoy the rolling hills of Florida, breathe the countryside fresh air and contemplate the beautiful vistas. You’ll have to remind yourself you’re still in Central Florida.