“DeSoto Ends Banner Year: Building and Development Total Nearly $7,000,000,” announced the Dec. 31, 1925, newspaper. The article reported that “bank resources reached a total of almost $5,000,000.00 [and] post office receipts have made a gain of more $5,000.00.”

The 1926 Arcadia city directory listed 22 contractors, whereas only seven were included in the 1921 directory. During the 1920s building boom, many homes were constructed in new subdivisions, such as Villa Rica Park.

On July 3, 1922, Robert A. Mills and his wife Delilah Mills sold for $3,000 the property that would become Villa Rica Park, as recorded in Deed Book 163. Two streets were probably named for him: Mills Avenue (that borders the subdivision to the west) and Robert Avenue (that parallels Mills one block to the east). Luther Avenue and Roger Avenue near Memorial Elementary School are probably namesakes of his youngest sons.

The July 14, 1922, DeSoto County News announced a huge tract northeast of the new grammar school — now Memorial Elementary — was planned for development. The purchaser was the Nocatee Fruit Co. On Feb. 2, 1925, it sold the property to the owners of the Nocatee Fruit Co.: W. G. Welles, B. F. Welles, and A. T. Shelfer, according to Deed Book 189.

On Jan. 22, 1925, W. G. Welles and his wife Oddie Welles; B. F. Welles and his wife Viola A. Welles; and A. T. Shelfer and his wife Leanna Shelfer had conveyed the property to E. B. Rood, trustee, residing in Manatee County, as recorded in Deed Book 177.

On Aug. 24, Rood as a trustee, plus he and his wife, sold the property to Sunshine Investments, according to Deed Book 192. The sale was subject to a mortgage of $36,220, held by B. F. Welles, W. G. Welles, and A. T. Shelfer.

On Sept. 7, Sunshine Investments, Inc., sold the property to Sunniland Development and Investment Corporation, as recorded in Deed Book 178. The deed was given subject to the first mortgage, plus a second mortgage of $28,100, payable to E. B. Rood, trustee.

Established on July 20, Sunniland Development and Investment Co. was dissolved by proclamation on Sept. 14, 1936. Sunniland developed Villa Rica, meaning “Rich Village.”

In the July 23, 1925, newspaper, Sunniland announced that “the 200 acres in the eastern part of the city near Memorial Grammar school, purchased a few weeks ago, will be made into an exclusive, modern subdivision. Already the engineers are at work planning this tract and work will be rushed so as to have the subdivision ready for this coming winter’s program.

“This tract lies along Mills avenue on the west with Maple street running east and west although through the center. Imposing entrance arches will be placed at the main gateways and columns at the street entrances.”

The grand opening grossed $150,000 in sales, as reported in the Nov. 19 Arcadian. The Jan. 21, 1926, issue reported, “Lots that sold for $250.00 last year sold for $2,000.00 profit. Other $200.00 parcels are selling at $1,000.00, $1,250.00, and $1,500.00.” Advertisements touted “paved streets, sidewalks, city water, electric lights, white way, sewerage, drainage, beautification.”

The Sunniland Corporation had its offices in the IOOF/WOW Building, formerly the Gordon Hotel, 200-202 W. Oak St. The Sunniland Hotel was upstairs, and the El Patio Coffee Shop probably shared the first floor with the corporation, as noted in the 1926 Arcadia city directory. The hotel had an annex at 317 W. Oak, an address that no longer exists, but may have been the house now located at 315 W. Oak St.

R. F. Saxon Jr. was president of Sunniland; J. G. Brightwell was vice-president; and J. Edens Barrentine was secretary/treasurer. They hired G. D. & H. D. Mendenhall, consulting engineers, to draw the plat recorded on Jan. 13, 1926, in Plat Book 5.

Next week: History of one of the first homes built in Villa Rica Park


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