España 2020 Ineffable Miami: Clermont by Natalie Carter

Photo by Gianna Bell

Biography

My name is Natalie Carter. I am an Honors College student at Florida International University majoring in Psychology and pursuing a career in the medical field. My goal is to attend medical school and become a neurologist because I am passionate about health and the human brain fascinates me. I was born and raised in a small town outside of Orlando, Florida called Clermont. I moved out of Clermont in the fall of 2018 to continue my education in Miami and have been in Miami ever since.


Geography

Photo on top left from Google Maps, photo on bottom left by Ebyabe CC by 3.0, photo on right by Paris Carter CC by 4.0

Clermont is a small city in Lake County, Florida strategically placed about 22 miles west of Orlando and north of Disney World. It is home to about 37,000 residents (“Clermont Fl Population” 2019) and is one of the fastest growing cities in Central Florida. The rural city has a unique landscape, as it is primarily made up of rolling hills and beautiful lakes. Sugar Loaf Mountain, pictured above, is located right outside of Clermont and has a peak altitude of about 312 feet, making it the fourth highest location in Florida (“Hills in Florida”). These rolling hills act as natural training grounds and attract many professional cyclists and Olympic athletes to come train year-round.

Both photos by Paris Carter CC by 4.0

The chain of lakes, pictured above, is another main attraction in the city. With 8,692 acres of water, families and friends often enjoy the lakes by spending a day boating, fishing, or doing water sports. Clermont is named “Wake-boarding capital of the world” according to the water-skiing community (“Clermont Chain of Lakes”). Although it doesn’t look very clean, the lake’s coffee colored water is filtered by the tall cypress trees that inhabit the lake, making it some of the cleanest water in Florida.

The development of the small city has drastically increased over the past decade. More people are choosing to move here which is constantly causing growth. Since I’ve lived here, I’ve seen the two-lane highways turn into eight lanes, forest area developed into neighborhoods and major plazas, many new restaurants pop up, and even the first movie theatre built. There are still no skyscrapers or malls like there are in Downtown Orlando, but the rural area has definitely grown into a decently developed area.

History

Photographer unknown, retrieved from: https://www.southlakechamber-fl.com/live-and-work/history-south-lake/

Clermont was founded in 1884 by A.F. Wrotnoski and incorporated in 1916 (“Clermont Florida”). Residential life thrived in this area after the Homestead Act of 1862 motivated families to hop on trains in search of new land and life (“History of South Lake”). Clermont quickly prospered and was named “Tomato Capital of Florida” after its rich landscape was used to farm tomatoes, citrus, and cattle (“History of South Lake”). The prosperity quickly came to an end when The Great Freeze hit Florida 10 years later in the winter of 1894. Temperatures dropped to a whopping 18° F and destroyed the agriculture not only in Clermont, but all across the state. The freeze caused Florida’s fruit production to drop from six million boxes to 100,000 boxes per year (Mimna 2017).

Orange groves of Clermont, FL. Photo by Charles Lee Barron, 1962

The economy and agriculture took years to recover, and many residents lost hope in the area and decided to leave. It wasn’t until the 1920’s when Clermont boomed again. Businessmen and developers began to promote the area for its beautiful climate and land which attracted numerous new residents. Business boomed and Clermont was back on its feet once again. In 1922, a man named Edward Denslow bought 1,000 acres of land in Clermont, planted citrus groves, and founded the Postal Colony Company (“Clermont Florida”). The citrus business quickly grew, and Clermont became one of the fastest growing citrus towns in the USA. For miles and miles, all you could see was rolling hills of green citrus plants and just a couple of two-lane roads.

Clermont’s citrus was essential to the small town and thrived all the way from the 1940’s through the 1970’s. In the early 1980’s, more serious freezes hit and wiped out the citrus once again. This time, not many farmers chose to replant their groves and the land was sold to developers. During this time, Clermont began its development towards what it looks like today.

Demographics

According to Data USA, in 2017 Clermont had a population of 32,217 people although today (2020) the population is estimated to be closer to 40,000. The Census states that 51.7% of the population is female and 48.3% is male. The City of Clermont reports that the population is 70.9% White, 22.5% Hispanic or Latino, 13.8% Black or African American, 6.0% Two or More Races, and 4.4% Asian (Solodev). The median household income is $57,804 as of 2017 (“Clermont, Fl.”).

Biography of Brittany Adams- A Clermont resident

Brittany Adams was born on April 25, 2000 in Raleigh, North Carolina. She moved to Clermont when she was six years old and has lived there ever since. She attends the University of Central Florida and is majoring in Natural and Applied Sciences. Her career goal is to attend medical school to one day become a physician’s assistant.


Some of Brittany’s thoughts about Clermont:

Natalie: What is your favorite part about living in Clermont?

Brittany: I like how calm it is here. There is beautiful scenery and I like how I’m not too far away from Orlando.

Natalie: What is one thing you wish you could change about Clermont?

Brittany: I wish I could change the population. Most people that live here are old.

Natalie: If somebody you knew was visiting Clermont, what would you recommend for them to do or see?

Brittany: If somebody was visiting, I’d recommend going for a bike ride around Waterfront Park because that’s about all there is to do here.

Landmarks

Photo by Matt Chilcote CC by-NC-SA 2.0

Citrus Tower

Location:
The Citrus Tower
141 North Hwy 27
Clermont, FL 34711

Phone: 352-394-4061

The Citrus Tower, pictured above, was built in 1956 as a tribute to Florida’s citrus groves and the tremendous success the citrus industry has brought. It is visible from almost every point in Clermont as it stands 226 feet high, although the initial plans to build the tower only said it would be 75 feet tall (“Citrus Tower”). It was one of Florida’s greatest attractions at the time because Disney World had not been built yet. Tourists came from all over to ride the elevator up to the observation deck so they could admire the beautiful view of the orange groves.

The Citrus Tower is still open today and visitors can pay a small fee ($10 for adults, $6 for children) to enjoy the views from the top deck. The views you get now, however, are a tad different compared to when it was first built. Now, most of the orange groves have been developed into businesses and homes but there are still some iconic sites to see. From the deck, you can see the skyline of Downtown Orlando, Disney World’s Space Mountain, the Contemporary Resort Hotel, and EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth (Ugc 2009)!


Townsend House, Photo by Ebyabe CC by 3.0

Townsend House 

Location:
480 West Ave.
Clermont, FL 34711

Phone: (352) 394-6611

The Townsend house was built around 1895. It is an important landmark for Clermont because its residents, James and Sally Townsend, were the first black people to live in Clermont. James and Sally founded the St. Marks African Methodist Episcopal Church and the area’s first black school (“The Townsend house in Clermont, FL”).

The Townsend house was moved from its original location in 2002. Since then, it has resided in Clermont’s Historic Village and has served as a museum for guests to tour. Admission to see the house is free, although guided tours recommend leaving a tip!


Train Depot, Photo by Jared CC by 2.0

Train depot

Location:
490 West ave
Clermont, FL 34711

Phone: 352-593-8496

The train depot sits in Clermont’s Historic Village and has been there since the village was first purchased in 1996. It was originally built around the time of 1925 and was used as a train station on the old railroads that used to run through Clermont. The railroad lines connected Clermont with the surrounding cities such as Tavares, Minneola, Oakland, Sanford, and even St. Petersburg.

In 2011, the train depot was renovated and refurbished. It now is used as a kind of meeting area that can hold up to 40 people. The new renovations also added restrooms and a shaded picnic area so people can relax by the lake. The city will even allow you to hold special events there upon request!

Green

Clermont is a great place to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. The rural town has many quiet parks, trails, and green areas that offer beautiful views of the lakes and are great spots to bring your friends and family to enjoy the sunshine. If you are looking for a nice place to have a relaxing picnic by the lake, somewhere to ride horses, or a long trail to take a run, Clermont is the place to be! The ones described below are my two personal favorites.

Photos by KellyV CC by-ND 2.0

Waterfront park

Location:
100 3rd St.
Clermont, FL 34711

Waterfront Park is located on Lake Minneola between East Avenue and Eighth Street. It is a popular lakeside site with a calm sandy beach, a pier, a paved 30 mile trail, and grassy green fields. People of all ages enjoy waterfront park as it is a great spot for children, taking your dog for a walk, exercising, swimming, bicycling, or just getting some fresh air.

The park is also a hotspot for many events and festivities held by the city. One popular event is Pig on the Pond, a festival full of carnival rides, pig races, and local partnerships that takes place every March. Another event held at the park every March is Clermont Waterfront Festival, which features dragon boat races, a 5k run, and canoe races. The festival also has entertainment, local vendors, and kid areas which makes it a great time to spend with family or friends.


Lake Louisa State Park, Photos by Ebyabe CC by-SA 2.5

lake louisa state park

Location:
7305 U.S. Hwy 27
Clermont FL 34714

Phone: 352-394-3969

Lake Louisa State Park is one of Florida’s 175 state parks. It is truly an outdoor theme park, as it offers several kinds of experiences such as bicycling, boating, camping, equestrian, canoeing, fishing, hiking, and even more! It is the perfect place to get away and dive into a day of nature. Many people enjoy visiting the park from Orlando and other surrounding areas because it is a perfect escape from the city and just a short 30 minute drive. It is nestled off of Highway 27 and stretches all the way to the sandy shores of Lake Louisa. Entrance is just a small fee of $5 per vehicle.

In 1823, the area that is now Lake Louisa State Park was designated to the Seminole Indians as part of their reservation on behalf of the Treaty of Moultrie Creek, however it was never used by the Indians (“History”). The land was then used for settlement in 1910, and then in 1943 it was passed onto the Bronson family who used it for orange groves and a cattle ranch (“History”). Finally, the state purchased the land in 1973 and spent one year turning it into a park. Three years later in 1977 the park opened to the public (“History”).

Transportation

Data taken from Data USA (originally collected by US Census Bureau) https://datausa.io/profile/geo/clermont-fl#housing

As of 2017, the most common method of commuting to work in Clermont is driving. It was reported by the US Census that 82% of people drove alone, 9.32% carpooled, and 7.68% worked at home (“Clermont, FL”). The chart above shows other less common forms of transportation used in households such as bicycling, motorcycling, public transit, walking, and taxiing. The average commute for people in Clermont is 30 minutes, which is slightly higher than the average US worker with an average commute time of 25 minutes (“Clermont, FL”). It was also reported that 3.62% of people have a commute longer than 90 minutes. (“Clermont, FL”).

Driving is the most common way to commute in Clermont because of how spread out most things are. Neighborhoods are located in more secluded places away from commercial areas which are located on the main highway. It would be far too long of a walk from most homes to work. Also, Clermont is located in an area dense with hills. Walking over the hills would give you a great workout that most people aren’t up for daily. Biking over the hills is only something professional cyclists do!

Lake County Connection is another public transportation service offered by the county. They offer local trips for work, school, medical appointments, and other various trips a person may need or want to take for as low at $1. To schedule a trip, all you need to do is call Lake County Connection.

Food

Photos from https://gururestaurantclermont.com/

Guru restaurant 

Location:
2400 South US 27
Suite 101
Clermont, FL 34711

Phone: (352) 241-9884

Guru Restaurant is an authentic, family owned Northern Indian restaurant in Clermont. It was opened in 1990 and since then has served as one of the most popular Indian restaurants in Central Florida, and the only Indian restaurant in Clermont! The restaurant is perched on top of a tall hill which gives guests a unique view of Clermont while they dine either indoors or outdoors. The restaurant is mostly on the casual side, but you could get away with dressing a little nicer than usual if you desired. Guru is available for takeout, catering, and will even host a private event for you.

The menu consists of lamb, chicken, beef, and seafood dishes that can be cooked in various creamy sauces either made mild, medium, or hot. Each dish comes with jasmine rice, but I also highly recommend pairing it with some naan bread as well. There is also a variety of vegetarian dishes offered if you have specific dietary restrictions. To top off your meal, there are many desserts offered- some including kulfi, carrot halva, ras malai, and gulab jamun. The food is truly delicious, and definitely one of my favorite spots to eat when I’m back home.


Photos from https://www.troyscubanfood.com/

Troy’s Cuban deli

Location:
1200 Oakley Seaver Drive
Suite 113
Clermont, FL 34711

Phone: 352-805-4352

Troy’s Cuban Deli serves traditional Cuban food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 7:30am-8:00pm. It is the only Cuban restaurant in Clermont and has proudly been serving delicious food for eight years. It is extremely casual, as it is a deli, and is relatively small with limited seating. Troy’s is not a spot to have a nice, sit-down meal but instead somewhere to go just to appreciate some authentic Cuban food. Most people take their food to-go.

“Troy’s Cuban Deli is famous for its one-of-a-kind authentic taste and culture. We are dedicated to giving our clients the best breads, meats, and fresh vegetables.”

Troy’s Cuban Deli

The menu offers items ranging from small snacks to full meals, so whether you just want some cafecito with Cuban bread or a big serving of arroz con pollo, Troy’s has you covered. You can order things from the kitchen, such as a Cuban sandwich, or you can build your own plate from the hot bar. Building your own plate allows you to choose from different menu items starting with a base of rice (white or yellow) and beans (black or pinto), adding plantains or yuca, and finishing off with your choice of meat. Plates are priced at around $9 and can last you 2-3 days depending on how big your appetite is!


Photos from https://www.facebook.com/clermontfishhouse/

Clermont Fish house 

Location:
110 W Highway 50
Clermont, FL 34711

Phone: (352) 708-5563

The Clermont Fish House is family owned and operated by Laura and Steve Green and Hannah and Pete Harrigan. It opened on March 12, 2015, so it is quite new to the Clermont scene. Although it’s new, it’s built up quite a good reputation over the past five years. It is located off of Highway 50-one of the two major highways in Clermont- and invites guests in for some casual dining.

The fish house is famous for its-who would’ve guessed- fish n’ chips! Other featured menu items include meat pies, chip butty, salads, sides, desserts, and lots of fish! The fish house is also stocked with tons of beer, so it’s a great place to grab some fresh fried fish and kick back with your friends or family.

Business

All images on the left retrieved via Instagram account of Southern Hill Farms – https://www.instagram.com/southernhillfarms/
Image on the right by Max Friederich

Southern hill farm

Location:
16651 Schofield Road
Clermont, FL 34714

Phone: 1 (407) 986-5806

Southern Hill Farms is a local farm that sits on 120 acres of land off of Hwy 27. In order to get to the farm, you must drive down a gorgeous five mile dirt road that takes you away from the city and into the land. The farm is much more than your average farm. It offers several activities to enjoy during the day such as U-Pick blueberries, peaches, zinnias, and sunflowers during the springtime, summer camp for kids, and weddings and private events. While visiting the farm to pick some fresh fruit, you can also stop to enjoy some food and desserts under the pavilion from the local food trucks and bakery while listening to live music. The farm’s bakery produces absolutely delicious blueberry muffins, donuts, and slushies that everybody loves! Other products available for purchase in the gift shop include homemade fruit scrubs, lotions, soaps, hand poured wax candles, fruit jams and spreads, mugs, t-shirts, and glassware.

Farming, agriculture, it’s in our blood. We strive to provide our community, and people all over the world, with the freshest, highest quality fruit available. We believe time on the farm is time well spent, and we want Southern Hill Farms to be a place for our community to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Southern Hill Farm Family

The farm is one of my favorite places to be on a sunny day. The homemade food and desserts truly hit the spot, and picking your own fruit is so much fun. The farm is very kid friendly, so it’s a great place to bring your family. It’s also a great place to have a date!


Photos by Natalie Carter CC by 4.0

clermont farmers market

Location:
685 W Montrose
Clermont, FL 34711

Clermont’s Farmers Market is located in Historic Downtown Clermont and is open every Sunday from 9am-2pm. The market features more than 60 vendors that sell various products such as fresh produce, organic foods, seafood, bakery items, plants, breads, coffee, soaps, and much more. Along with that, there is also live entertainment, cooking demonstrations, and other specialty vendors. You might even see some cute animals like I did (pictured above)! The market is a great place to support and give back to the local businesses and farmers of Clermont. It is worth a visit because the food is great, the produce is fresh, and you will definitely find some pretty unique items being sold there. Not only that, but it is also a refreshing and relaxing way to start off your Sunday!


Photo on left by Mark Sweep, photo on right by Julius Schorzman CC BY-SA 2.0

The Outpouring

Location:
2560 E Hwy 50
Suite 107
Clermont, FL 34711

Phone: (352) 989 4406

The Outpouring is a coffee shop located off the main highway in Clermont. Two of the three co-founders attended the University of Central Florida. The menu offers a selection of different coffee and espresso drinks. Inside they have a large dining area made up of several tables, chairs, and couches. The dining area offers a comfortable and unique feel because the furniture is furniture that you would find in your own home instead of boring, uncomfortable furniture you find in a place like Starbucks.

The unique characteristic about this coffee shop is that it is a non-profit business. The organization started in 2017 when they first began forming relationships with groups in East Africa. The team decided to focus their work in Malawi, a country in Africa. Since then, they’ve opened two children’s homes, worked with refugee camps and hospitals in Africa, and opened this coffee shop. They also do local work with low-income families and help people transition out of homelessness by providing them with basic needs.

This coffee shop offers a great experience. It offers tasty drinks, a comfy environment to socialize or work in, and helps others in a meaningful way while providing to its customers. I recommend paying it a visit, especially if you are a coffee fanatic like I am.

Summary

Lake Minneola, Photo by PIO Clermont CC by 4.0

Overall, Clermont is a great place to live. Being that I grew up here, I personally can say that the small town is very family oriented, safe, and not too busy. Clermont offers many outdoor activities that I myself have really appreciated throughout my childhood. I love spending days on the lakes with my friends and family, as do many others that live here too. I’ve seen the city transform in front of my eyes. It has grown so much since I was a kid and is on its way to developing into a hot spot. The people that live here are friendly and I’ve definitely made a lot of my life-long friends here.

Although I do enjoy the peaceful outdoors and quiet streets, sometimes I do wish that Clermont had more things to do for teenagers and young adults. There still is no mall or leisure shopping plazas, so whenever I go shopping, I have to make a 30 minute drive to Orlando. There are quite a few local businesses and restaurants, but most of the development still consists of basic chain fast-food places and shops. There is also no entertainment industry developed yet, so if you are looking to enjoy a night out somewhere you have to drive out to Orlando. But you can look at this in a positive aspect too. Clermont is not far from Orlando, so taking a drive every now and then to enjoy the city isn’t too bad. It prevents Clermont from becoming too crowded, loud, and dangerous.

In conclusion, I would say Clermont is a wonderful little city to live if you like a more laid-back lifestyle. There is definitely many aspects of the city that you can appreciate such as the delicious local restaurants I described, the beautiful hills that you can’t find anywhere else in Florida, the chain of lakes, and the humbleness of the people. It is a great place for families or older people to live, but teenagers and young adults may get a little bored with not much to do. It is not necessarily a place I’d recommend going out of the way to visit, but if you are in the area feel free to check out some of what it has to offer.

Sources

“Citrus Tower: Clermont, FL.” The Citrus Tower, citrustower.com/.

“Clermont Chain of Lakes – South Lake County’s Pride – Outside of Orlando.” Florida Lakefront, www.floridalakefront.com/popular-lake-communities/orlando/clermont-chain-of-lakes/.

“Clermont Florida. Citrus Capital of Old Florida.” Florida Back Roads Travel, www.florida-backroads-travel.com/clermont-florida.html.

“Clermont, FL.” Data USA, datausa.io/profile/geo/clermont-fl#about.

Clermont Fl Population. (2019-08-28). Retrieved 2020-04-16, from http://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/clermont-fl/

“Hills in Florida: Which Areas/Counties Have the Most Hills? (Orlando: House, Camp).” City, www.city-data.com/forum/florida/1076878-hills-florida-areas-counties-have-most.html.

“History.” Florida State Parks, www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/lake-louisa-state-park/history.

“History of South Lake – South Lake Chamber of Commerce: Clermont, FL.” South Lake Chamber, www.southlakechamber-fl.com/live-and-work/history-south-lake/.

Mimna, Robin. “The Great Freezes and the Collapse of the Florida Citrus Industry.” Medium, Florida History, 22 Oct. 2017, medium.com/florida-history/the-great-freezes-1894-95-and-the-collapse-of-the-florida-orange-industry-7442e5d75337.

Solodev. “Demographics: The Official Site of the City of Clermont, Florida.” Www.clermontfl.gov, www.clermontfl.gov/business/economic-development/demographics.stml.

“The Townsend House in Clermont, FL.” Visit Florida, www.visitflorida.com/en-us/listing.a0t40000007qvpMAAQ.html.

“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Clermont City, Florida.” Census Bureau QuickFacts, www.census.gov/quickfacts/clermontcityflorida.

Ugc. “The Citrus Tower.” Atlas Obscura, Atlas Obscura, 5 Nov. 2009, www.atlasobscura.com/places/citrus-tower.

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