The Lakeview Fishing Lodge was a popular place for anglers, who traveled from all over the world to head out on Lake Apopka for a day of fishing.
In its heyday, Lake Apopka was brimming with fishermen hoping to snag a trophy fish from the famous body of water once referred to as the largemouth bass capital of the world.
To accommodate the thousands of anglers who flocked to Winter Garden in the 1920s through the 1950s, locals started building small fish camps around the perimeter of the then-50,000-acre lake. At one point, there were more than 20 camps dotting the shoreline.
Several of these camps were built in Winter Garden, including the Lakeview Fishing Lodge, which was open for business in 1948. It spanned about three acres along the water. Now called Lakeview Lodge Apartments, the camp off Lakeview Avenue on the southeastern shore offered 10 duplex-style efficiencies, each no more than 400 square feet.
No record can be found of the original owner. A Mr. Woosley was said to have owned the lodge in the mid-1950s and offered bait, boat rentals and a fishing dock.
Guy and Jennie Neff managed the property for more than 10 years, according to the family.
Former Winter Garden resident Elaine Moorman recalled the Neffs selling the fishing lodge to her parents, Joseph F. and Helen Lechowicz, in 1960. She lived on the property during her high school years.
“It was quite a bustling fishing lodge,” she said. “Snowbirds would come down in the winter and fish, (and) they would stay about three months at a time.”
Fishermen could fish from the dock or rent one of the lodge’s 12 boats; it wasn’t unusual for the anglers to close the day with 100 specks or bass, she said.
“That’s when the lake was fantastic,” she said.
The Lechowicz family lived in the northernmost of the five cottages — it had been converted from two apartments to create one dwelling.
Moorman’s father sold bait, crickets, worms, sodas and snacks at the dock store near the lake. One of her jobs was to count out the crickets; she paid herself in candy. She also helped clean the cottages and the boats.
Behind the dock store was a dock with about a dozen boat slips.
The fish camp was its own small community, and her parents frequently held fish fries so everyone could get to know their neighbors.
“A lot of good times,” Moorman said.
In 1983, the Lechowiczes sold the property to Larry and Harriette Grimes and their son, Marc Grimes. Larry Grimes collected the rent every week, Harriette Grimes said.
The Grimeses posted a list of rules for their tenants to follow. Among them: “Do not use oven for heating; it is not vented” and “Smoking in bed may mean the loss of your life.”
A manager lived in a building near the water. The fishing dock was still there but in terrible shape, she said.
Harriette Grimes remembered several times when the lake water was so high that it flooded the apartments. They had to dig a ditch to keep the water away.
“We had dreams,” she said. “We thought it would be cute if we put in a door and made one a two-bedroom, two-bath (house). But it didn’t happen.”
Roger and Clemence Godin bought the lodge in 2000 and rented out the apartments.
The Godin Trust sold the Lakeview Lodge Apartments and two properties at 117 W. Division St. and 712 N. Lakeview Ave. to the city in 2018 for $1.6 million. The purchase of the three parcels will allow the city to create a park that connects Bradford and Newton parks, City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said.
He said there are no definite plans yet.
“We bought that for long-term,” he said. “We didn’t want to lose the land to make that one contiguous park.”