Best of news 2015

The talk of the town this year

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  • | 8:42 a.m. December 29, 2015
Photo: Courtesy of the Albin Polasek Museum - The Capen House will celebrate its grand opening as a museum and event venue at its new home on the Polasek's grounds this weekend. Celebrate the Capen is a free event that will be open to the public.
Photo: Courtesy of the Albin Polasek Museum - The Capen House will celebrate its grand opening as a museum and event venue at its new home on the Polasek's grounds this weekend. Celebrate the Capen is a free event that will be open to the public.
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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Historic Capen House reopens this weekend: Oct. 8, 2015

Nearly two years after the 200-ton, 130-year-old Capen-Showalter House was cut in half, lifted onto a barge and floated across Winter Park’s Lake Osceola, its doors opened again at its new home in October. The project, which raised more than a million dollars to save the historic home in 2013, culminated with it being deposited on the lake’s south shore on the property of the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens. The house is now open and hosting tours and events many days of the week. Revisit the full story of how the Capen House came home in The Observer’s Oct. 8 article at

Rollins College names new president: Feb. 26, 2015

Rollins College found its new president in February. A six-month-long search came to an end when Winter Park’s liberal arts college announced Grant Cornwell as its new president. Cornwell previously served as president at The College of Wooster in Ohio, but was nominated by a search committee made up of faculty, staff and students to be Rollins’ 15th president. Cornwell replaced Lewis Duncan, who had been the college’s president for a decade, taking up the mantle in 2004 after former president Rita Bornstein’s 14-year term. Read more about Cornwell at

Breast-shaped strip club building demolished in Winter Park: Feb. 19, 2015

Winter Park’s infamous breast-shaped gentlemen’s club is no more. The city demolished the Christie’s Cabaret building – once home of the Booby Trap – off of Lee Road on Feb. 15 after purchasing the property the building sat on last December. Then-mayor Ken Bradley said the City Commission mainly voted to acquire the property and demolish the building due to its history of crime and drug trafficking. Read the full story of the Booby Trap’s demise in our Feb. 19 article at

Steven Leary, Greg Seidel win Winter Park election: March 10, 2015

Winter Park said hello to a new mayor in March. Steven Leary won the open seat of Winter Park mayor on March 10 after defeating Cynthia Mackinnon in a tight election, earning 52.88 percent of the vote. Leary brought four years of experience as a Winter Park City Commissioner to his newly elected position, as he replaced outgoing Mayor Ken Bradley. Meanwhile, Greg Seidel came out on top in the race for the open City Commission seat over opponent Gary Brewer, capturing 56.15 percent of the vote. Winter Park’s newest city commissioner previously served as the city utility advisory board chairman. Read more about Winter Park’s newest representatives in The Observer’s March 10 election story, at

Dale McDonald wins Maitland mayoral title: March 10, 2015

After two decades of volunteering for the city of Maitland, Dale McDonald earned his first job on the city’s payroll in March as the city’s new mayor. McDonald handily beat out former mayor Doug Kinson for the city’s top elected seat, earning 67.25 percent of the vote. McDonald previously served as chairman of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board, and on various other advisory boards since the 1990s. He replaced outgoing mayor Howard Schieferdecker, who decided not to seek reelection after serving since 2011. Learn more about Maitland’s mayoral race at

Plans in motion to give Winter Park a revamped YMCA: Sept. 24, 2015

Winter Park’s Crosby YMCA is getting torn down and rebuilt – part of a larger facility and partnership that focuses on overall health. The planned facility, which is currently unnamed but is being referred to as “project wellness,” will focus on all three aspects of health: fitness, wellness/clinical and nutrition/education. If everything goes as planned, the facility will start construction in the spring of 2016 and be completed by December 2017. Get all the details about Project Wellness by revisiting our Sept. 24 story at

Missing Marine's gravesite found in Winter Park: Sept. 17, 2015

The long search for the remains of a fallen U.S. Marine ended in the city of culture and heritage this summer – and it all started with a watch and a knife. Vietnam Television International was filming a documentary about the Vietnam War, and how the returning of artifacts from the war can bring healing and reconciliation. Two such artifacts belonged to Vietnam War veteran Capt. John Sherman: an old folding knife and a wristwatch missing the straps. The search revealed that Sherman’s remains were buried in Glen Haven Memorial Park, located within the northeast limits of Winter Park. Visit to read the full story about Sherman’s gravesite was found.

Winter Park celebrates wounded vet's homecoming: Sept. 3, 2015

A wounded soldier finally came home to Winter Park this summer. Winter Park residents and City Commissioners greeted wounded war veteran Sgt. First Class Bacary Sambou of the United States Army as one of their own in August as he was given the keys to his new home – a donation that’s been more than a year in the making. The endeavor to give Sambou a new home in Winter Park all started back in March 2014, when City Commissioners voted to donate a plot of land within the city to the Hannibal Square Community Land Trust, an organization that found Sgt. Sambou through a non-profit called Fairways for Warriors. Revisit Sambou’s story in our Sept. 3 article at

Life-saving cops honored by Maitland City Council: Oct. 8, 2015

When 4-year-old Maurice Venus was pulled from the bottom of Maitland’s Roth Family Jewish Community Center’s pool he wasn’t breathing. No chest movement. No response. No pulse.

Less than 30 seconds after the 9-1-1 came in at 12:45 p.m. on Aug. 23 to report a possible drowning, two Maitland police officers were on the scene. Minutes later, Maurice was breathing again. His pulse beat strong in his carotid artery. Thanks in part to the quick action of Maitland police officers Nickolas Lawrence and Ryan Quinn, Maurice sat happily fidgeting in the Maitland City Council Chambers in September to watch the uniformed duo receive awards for helping to safe his life. Read more about Maitland’s life-saving cops at

Winter Park philanthropist honored with award: Nov. 25, 2015

The legacy of a beloved Winter Park philanthropist will live on thanks to an award now bearing his name. Late Winter Park resident Kenneth Murrah was honored on Nov. 13 with the Central Florida Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Outstanding Philanthropist Award for his dedication to supporting his community and its local organizations.

The award will now be known as the Kenneth F. Murrah, Esq. Award for Outstanding Philanthropist. The honor came less than a month before the one-year anniversary of his death. Murrah passed away on Dec. 5, 2014 from prostate cancer. He was 81. Read more about Murrah at