Winter Springs Condominiums

WINTER SPRINGSWinter Springs Condominiums
Demographics: Median age is 34.5; 86.6 percent white, 5.5 percent black, 15 percent Hispanic
Median household income: $73,494
Schools: Rainbow Elementary, Keeth Elementary, Layer Elementary, Highlands Elementary, Winter Springs Elementary, Indian Trails Middle School, Winter Springs High School; private schools are Bridges Academy and Lawton Chiles Preparatory School
Entertainment: Environmental Center, Spark! Family Enrichment Center, Little People’s Theatre Company

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The name Winter Springs evokes warm waters and perhaps a place that Northerners could consider a haven during harshly cold months in other regions. Both characteristics would certainly apply to Seminole County’s most populous city that has been able to retain an Old Florida charm while larger cities around it became more urban with high rise condos and office towers.

Winter Springs is steeped in history, much of it tied to early commerce. A New York merchant named Moses Levy was able to amass hundreds of thousands of acres, including all of what is now Winter Springs, by securing land grants from the Spanish before the United States acquired Florida from the country in 1821.

The earliest homesteads were surrounded by citrus groves around Lake Jesup and Lake Charm once the federal government opened the land to settlers in the 1850s. Named in 1837 for a prominent general in the Seminole Wars, Lake Jesup became a natural commerce center as wharves established there and nearby Clifton Springs were the southernmost stop for steamboats. From there, goods had to be hauled by wagon to places like Orlando, Maitland and Sanford.

A store belonging to George C. Brantley was established as early as 1865 and the owner subsequently established a nearby site he called Tuskawilla. A post office was soon built there. Meanwhile, the warm, sulfurous Clifton Springs began to attract its own share of settlers and merchants.

There was an attempt to blaze a wagon trail for the construction of a railroad line between Lake Jesup and Orlando, but that venture failed. Then, in April of 1882, a few of the areas citrus growers and merchants founded the Lake Jesup Steamboat Company, a venture that would, they hoped, transport their fruit to market. Eventually local residents bought an interest in a 100-foot flat-bottom boat that could easily navigate the shallow Lake Jesup and ran as far north as Jacksonville. The venture lasted only a few months when the boat sank in a strong storm.

For the next several decades the area that would become Winter Springs remained sparsely populated. When the city was incorporated in 1959 as North Orlando less than 600 people lived there. In 1972, it changed its name to Winter Springs and with about 15 square miles of land, it is now the largest city in Seminole County. The current population is more than 33,200.

The names of established neighborhoods in Winter Springs – Carrington Woods, Chestnut Estates, Chelsea Woods, Oak Forest and Winding Hollow, among them – probably best describe the city’s attributes and character. It’s a leafy suburb of more than 11,300 households, nearly 80 percent of them occupied by families. Seven public schools and two private schools are located within the city limits. And residential construction continues today in the city. Two of the most recently proposed developments are Jesup’s Landing by Mattamy Homes and Winter Springs Village (formerly known as Sonesta Pointe).

Winter Springs also has plenty of public green spaces. There are nine parks in the city with amenities such as sports fields and courts, playgrounds, picnic pavilions, nature trails, fishing piers and a splash fountain.

For dining out, there are many options, including restaurants like Tuscany’s, Casey’s Grill, Gators Dockside and Thai Basil.

In 2011, CNN Money Magazine listed Winter Springs among the 100 best places to live in the United States.