- October 5, 2016
The first successful canner of orange juice. The innovator of aerial crop dusting. The producer of citrus films.
What you might not know is that the man behind all of these accomplishments and many more is also the one who is credited with the master-planned community we know as Dr. Phillips.
The Phillips family was instrumental in innovation, business and philanthropy, and even today its legacy lives on through Dr. Phillips Charities. How well many Central Florida residents know the extent of the family’s history and lasting impact on the region today, though, could be debated.
Thanks to Dr. Phillips Charities, there is now a tangible account of many aspects of the Phillips family legacy.
HISTORY IN HARDCOVER
“Della’s Roses — The Dr. Phillips Legacy” is one of Dr. Phillips Charities’ more recent projects, spearheaded by Director of Grants Wendy Oliver and Construction Manager Shane Taylor. The book contains information on Della Phillips’ passion for and care of her roses and history of the Phillips family’s settling in Florida. It features myriad photographs and explains how the family legacy and impact on Central Florida lives on today.
“It started last summer, with the full intent to be about Della’s roses,” Oliver said. “(Then we had) the idea of creating a legacy book, a memoir or something (where) we could compile the history of Dr. P. Phillips and also showcase the organizations we support through our grant making. It helps us when we’re telling the Phillips family story. Reading through the book, it kind of opens people’s minds up to why the Phillips family supported these things.
“We thought this would be a beautiful coffee table book for our community,” she said. “In growing that idea, we thought, ‘There really is no place that has the Phillips family history all in one place.’ This was really just a starting point for collecting that information and was really a labor of love.”
To this day, Dr. Phillips Charities maintains Della’s Garden. The rose garden is located in the Dr. Phillips Cemetery and continues to produce dozens of rose blooms. There are more than 40 rose plants at Dr. Phillips Charities headquarters today.
“We grew the story (from the roses) into the Phillips family legacy,” Oliver said. “We don’t feel like it’s a complete book; we still feel there’s things that need to be added to it. It was mostly a labor of love and dedication to the family. Shane and I would get together and stay for several hours and piece together as much information as we could find. We did this book in-house and used our (Dr. Phillips Charities’) own pictures. It’s a homegrown book to tell a big story of a very, very instrumental family in Central Florida.”
Flipping through the book, the reader is treated to historical accounts and flashbacks to Dr. Phillips properties as far back as the 1930s. Dr. Philip “Doc” Phillips not only was a successful businessman and major influence on the Florida citrus industry but also an early patron of the arts in Orlando and a philanthropic enthusiast.
“He was really innovative,” Oliver said. “He did so many things, and so to have a lot of the things he did expressed into one book (is incredible). It’s just interesting to think about all the things he did from a business perspective but also from a philanthropic perspective. Looking at the impact Dr. Phillips made on our community, people don’t realize how much the past influences the future.
“We really hope that this book shows the substantial past of Dr. Phillips to the exciting present,” she said. “We want this book to really showcase the history of a name like Dr. Phillips that is synonymous with philanthropy in Central Florida. … This is a tangible way, not only to share the history, but also share with the community some of the good things other people in the community are doing, something we are proud to support.”
PIECING TOGETHER COMMUNITY
According to the book, Doc and Della were avid patrons of the arts and made it their mission to share the arts with others. The family committed their efforts and monetary donations to enhancing the arts in Central Florida; one of the most well-known pillars of the Phillips legacy in Orlando today is the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
In the 1920s, Dr. Phillips Inc. began the business of building and leasing commercial and industrial buildings on its properties. By the 1960s, the family company owned and operated more than 2 million square feet of commercial and industrial real estate. The Phillips family properties now include an investment portfolio of rental properties managed by Dr. Phillips Inc., and the rental income funds the needs of the community through the contributions of Dr. Phillips Charities.
Perhaps one of the most well-known fruits of the Phillips family’s labor is the Dr. Phillips community. In the 1950s, Doc initiated the creation of a master plan for the community, during a time when the concept of zoning or long-term planning was almost nonexistent in Central Florida.
One of the first developments in Dr. Phillips was the Bay Hill community, with the Village Center following closely behind. Other developments with Doc’s influence weaved in include Dr. Phillips Elementary, the Dr. P. Phillips YMCA, Southwest Middle, Dr. Phillips High, the Orange County Library’s Southwest Branch and Dr. P. Phillips Hospital.
“There’s so much more history that we don’t have it all in the first edition of this book,” Oliver said. “We’ll have more information about how we became a nonprofit and some of the leaders that brought us to the point of becoming what we are today. It’s just a brief glimpse, because so much happened, when you think about this little book and talking about the impact the Phillips family had.
“This is the most comprehensive account we have to date — over 100 years of history that has helped define Central Florida,” she said. “Starting with innovations and business to land development, community service and then works of charity, all of that encompasses the Phillips history. We’re always amazed at the foresight Dr. Phillips had for the future of this town. The book covers some of that and talks about starting the town of Dr. Phillips and the vision he had for this community.”