- February 19, 2016
WINTER GARDEN There are many aspects that make downtown Winter Garden what it is today: a blend of businesses old and new, historic sites, refurbished architecture and, of course, the West Orange Trail.
Another important feature is the set of vehicles the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation maintains and displays downtown, which any WGHF representative will be quick to tell you. To keep this quirkiness and historicity, officials have begun a GoFundMe campaign to restore four vehicles.
“How many other cities do you know that showcase a caboose, fire truck and tractors in their city center?” WGHF Program Director Jim Crescitelli wrote to potential donors. “The offbeat icons in front of the Winter Garden Heritage Museum are part of what make our city unforgettable. They provide the perfect backdrop for photos, give us a glimpse into our history and make us smile. They furnish a playground for the young, the young-at-heart and the just plain curious. They make our city unique!”
And WGHF personnel want their vehicles to match the caboose with already arranged aesthetic and cosmetic upgrades, such as new paint and tires, WGHF Director Cynthia Cardona said. They just need to raise the funds: $8,000 for Winter Garden Fire Pumper No. 1, $8,000 combined for Fordson and Case tractors and $8,500 for a 1907 citrus spray wagon – a total of $24,500.
“It's a match, so in other words it's a … grant,” Cardona said. “We were given the task of raising a certain amount. We were given a price by the gentleman that's actually restoring the truck. The Bond Foundation was kind enough to do a match, so for every dollar we raise, they'll give a dollar. That's how the GoFundMe came about.”
Crescitelli said those who donate will also obtain a one-year WGHF membership.
“The truck and items began to appear at Winter Garden Heritage Museum in 1998 through the early 2000s,” Crescitelli said.
Story & Pounds' LP Gas Co. converted the Case tractor, a grove tractor with shields, to liquefied petroleum gas from diesel, he said. The tractor had been on display at the Central Florida Fair for years before WGHM inherited it in 1998, he said. It is the orange and yellow tractor within the Pounds Motor Co. collection, Cardona said.
The other tractor, a Fordson, is also part of the Pounds Motor Co. collection and matches the history of the company, founded by Ocoee native and Florida Agricultural and Florida Citrus halls of fame inductee Hoyle Pounds, Cardona said.
“They were a family-owned business; they were in operation from 1920 to 2009; and they were the largest dealer of tractors east of the Mississippi River,” she said. “Hoyle Pounds invented the rubber tractor tire, so that's important not just locally but nationally – that kind of changed the face of agriculture in itself. So that tractor is part of that history.”
Jerry Chicone and Ward Britt had bought the Fordson tractor for the museum from Kissimmee, Crescitelli said. It is a duplicate of one in the Orange County Regional History Center, with patent numbers showing it originally had solid rubber tires, he said.
The fire truck, a 1954 American La France model, was sold from the city of Winter Garden and then relocated to Astatul and owned by Matt Austin, Crescitelli said.
“Pounds Motors fixed it up,” he said. “Then Austin gave it to WGHM. A Mr. Richard Hudson would put new tires on it when needed.”
Cardona said this fire pumper – which still sports No. 1 – likely was in use from the 1950s to the late '60s. Unlike the rest of these vehicles, it can still be driven – carefully. Around the time Cardona believes WGHM inherited this truck – the mid-1990s – someone had to paint it red again.
“In 1973, it was painted yellow for some reason,” she said. “At that point, it would have been a quirky sort of marketing piece for the fire department. … They get a lot of use, and at the time they were super expensive, so it was a feather in our cap for Winter Garden Fire Department to actually have one.”
Perhaps an even more impressive feather in WGHM's cap is its 1907 Cypress sprayer wagon. Crescitelli said the OCRHC had no room for it, so officials there offered it to WGHM.
“Then WGHM found out it belonged to the Brileys of nearby Oakland,” he said. “It had been in their barn, and a Mr. Louis Briley saw it at WGHM and remembered playing on it.”
But for Cardona, this vehicle is important and impressive beyond its age.
“Given the fact the area has a strong agricultural background and history, I don't think kids really grasp the concept – or even some adults – that that's how we used to irrigate, whereas now some of that is relegated to machines,” she said.
At press time, the GoFundMe campaign has 14 donations amounting to $1,600. Visit the GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/fqrdcnak and the WGHF site, WGHF.org.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected]