Oakland revisits its roots with “Est. 1887” exhibit

The art and history exhibit opens at the Healthy West Orange Arts and Heritage Center Friday, April 1

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Discover Oakland during its heyday as the headquarters of the Orange Belt Railroad with a thriving business district and opera house and learn about the repercussions the Great Freeze of 1895 had on the town’s progress in becoming a major city in Florida.

“Est. 1887,” the new exhibit at the Healthy West Orange Arts and Heritage Center, explores Oakland’s history as an industrial and social hub of Orange County 135 years ago. Featuring historic photographs, documents and artifacts, “Est. 1887” traces the origins of the town of Oakland and the major players behind its founding, such as Peter Demens, an enterprising Russian immigrant with goals to build a railroad from the St. Johns River to Tampa, and James Gamble Speer, a landowner with dreams of a flourishing town on the southern shore of Lake Apopka.  

Local Central Florida artists — including Joseph Warren, David Minichiello, Anne Fanelli, Heather Lorenz and Mike Jakubowski — display complementary artwork highlighting the area’s unique charm and natural beauty. 

Displays feature artifacts relating to Oakland’s incorporation and include historic minute books giving a glimpse into early government operations, the original town seal and century-old railroad ties. Visitors also can view the center’s cornerstone, the historic Oakland Presbyterian Church’s illuminated stained-glass window, dating back to the 1919 brick structure. 

The exhibit opens Friday, April 1 and will run through June 17. The center, located at 126 W. Petris Ave., is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and for extended hours during special town events, including Celebration Among the Oaks Saturday, April 9, and International Jazz Day April 29.

For more information, visit oaklandfl.gov/artsandheritage.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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