In 1926, a former circus performer and son of a well-loved Lake Mary doctor constructed a building in town to serve as a meeting place for his community of fellow Spanish American war veterans. His name was Frank Evans – one of Lake Mary’s most prominent historical figures – and that building still stands today, now home to the Lake Mary Museum.
A local hub for artifacts, photographs, and a wealth of information on the history of the area, the Lake Mary Museum offers visitors a detailed look into the small town’s past.
Located on Country Club Rd (Lake Mary’s first paved road), you can explore the museum at your own pace, or ask a member of the staff to share an in depth history of the area and its key players. Admission and access to the staff’s knowledge base is completely free.
Many of us fail to dive into the history of our local communities, and this is a key reason Gerald Engle, the museum’s historical curator, is so dedicated to the museum.
“If you don’t have history, you don’t have a community,” Gerald explains.
As he describes it, our history is responsible for much of the makeup of our identity. Learning about the lives of those who came before us allows us to better understand ourselves. And there’s simply no better place to get in touch with Lake Mary’s past than the Lake Mary Museum.
While much is unknown about the very first settlers in Lake Mary and the settlement itself was small, there’s definitely no shortage of fascinating stories and intriguing historical figures to be discovered at the museum.
Take, for example, Axel Sjoblom. A Swedish immigrant, he began his life in Florida working in Henry Sanford’s orange groves to repay the debt for his transport to the states. Yet he walked off the job before his contract was up (a bold move) and was promptly thrown in jail for a few days. He returned eventually (on good terms with Sanford) and went on to become one of Lake Mary’s famous entrepreneurs.
Axel Sjoblom continuously bought and sold land, attracted Northerners to the area, and platted much of Lake Mary, laying the groundwork for the community. He was also notably tough. In his lifetime he was shot (the pistol balls never removed from his body), was attacked by an alligator, and he also suffered a blow to the head during an attempted robbery. Children and adults will also get a kick out of Sjoblom’s wife, Mytilda, who was known for her famous rattlesnake stew. (Yum.)
These stories, and countless others (including how Lake Mary got its name), are waiting for visitors to the museum who want to get acquainted with Lake Mary’s interesting past.
A visit to the Lake Mary museum can be as brief as 30-45 minutes self-guided, or as in depth as a few hours.
Although you can get the gist browsing on your own, the best way to experience the museum is to have a staff member like Gerald give you a free tour to get all of the juicy details. (Make sure to ask Gerald to tell you a ghost story – he’s got several great ones).
In addition to the artifacts housed inside, the museum also offers a free self-guided walking tour pamphlet complete with 40 stops of historical significance. The walking tour was put together by Gerald Engle to help preserve Lake Mary’s history, as many buildings and sites have been torn down over the years.
The museum also hosts monthly events and rotating exhibits. The Annual Local Artists exhibit is on display through September 17th, and a Vintage Halloween Costumes exhibit will be showing September 24th – October 22nd. The museum’s famous Annual Ghost Walk is being revamped this year into a family friendly Halloween event, “A Magical Evening at the Enchanted Museum” taking place on October 22nd. Full details on upcoming events can be found at the museum website. (http://www.lakemarymuseum.com/upcomingevents.html)
For families looking for a fun way to spend the day together, locals who are curious about their community’s history, or visitors who want an out of the ordinary activity, The Lake Mary Museum is a wonderful place to spend a few hours.
About the Lake Mary Museum
The Lake Mary Museum is located at 158 N. County Club Road in Lake Mary. The museum is open 10:00am – 3:00pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and 11:00am – 7:00pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays. For more information, visit www.lakemarymuseum.com or call 407-585-1481.