Inwood boom

This photograph by Robert Dahlgren shows the Inwood Sales office of the Haven Villa Corporation. Several of the “boom era” homes still exist along 26th St., NW. When the boom went bust, vast areas of Inwood remained undeveloped.

Inwood is a large unincorporated area in northwest Winter Haven. It is bounded by the shore of Lake Cannon to the east, Havendale Boulevard to the north, 42nd Street to the west and Avenue G or Lake Deer to the South. It has evolved into a diverse mixture of mostly blue-collar families. It is also home to Garner Elementary, Westwood Middle and the Inwood Elementary School.

This writer's family settled there in 1959, and my parents lived out their lives on 26th Street near Lake Cannon. While Inwood is nearly completely developed, it was actually raw land — and hot property — during the Florida Boom.

Inwood was one of four primary areas promoted by the Haven Villa Corporation, with the others being Aldora Park, Elbert Hills and Eloise Woods. It was part of the "boom real estate market" throughout Florida during which property was changing hands sometimes several times per month — or even per week. Land values skyrocketed, speculation was rampant and Inwood was a part of the frenzy.

Real Estate activity was so intense that newsletters were often printed promoting the various developments available. The "Inwood Bulletin" contained both hype and exaggeration.

The publication noted that the engineering department of the Haven Villa Corporation "keeps more than a hundred trucks and almost six hundred men at work six days in the week, in order that the development of Inwood may forge ahead on schedule."

One story tells of a gentleman from St. Petersburg that purchased a lot in Inwood Unit 5. At the time of purchase there were few improvements in that particular section. Some five weeks later he revisited the site. "Lo and behold — Where before there was but one roadway marked off on one side of (his) lot (he found) a paved asphalt boulevard with heavy traffic running on it." Adjacent and within several blocks of his lot it was reported that he found several residences under construction.

"It doesn't seem possible that so much could be accomplished in 30 days," was the comment of this gentlemen, as he stood on the corner lot, surveying the property. "You have not only the prettiest and fastest growing town in Florida, but you have the prettiest and fastest growing development in Florida."

Another section of the bulletin quoted noted film author Lionel Parrish, who had just completed a new story for silent film star Lillian Gish. He was reported to have visited Inwood and described it as "A Place of Dreams Come True."

Parrish was quoted as having wrote "I came to Winter Haven with a bit of the skeptic, but in twenty-four hours it got under the skin of the questioner and my eyes opened wide, and the language of the heart spoke, and in language clearly declared: ‘Please make a home for me here.’”

He continued, "Florida, and Winter Haven in particular, will know me again, and the next time I come will be with the mantel of permanency."

In conclusion Parrish wrote, "Life holds two heritages. That is work and love. One is as necessary to the other as sun and air, and Winter Haven has its beautiful women. Its land values must, and do, increase in bounds, but that side of the question is one that does not sway me altogether, it's the romance, the stillness of the night with its voices that go with the night hours, it's the enchantment that bids me come again, and in its own language I respond.”

Information for this column was taken from a promotional tract “The Inwood Bulletin.”

The Museum of Winter Haven History is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to Noon. An exhibit tour is offered at 10 a.m. Group tours are available for four or more people by appointment. The museum, located at 660 Pope Avenue and Lake Howard Drive, is free and open to the public. Come explore. For further information contact Bob Gernert, 863-206-6855 or bobgernert@gmail.com.

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