Lake Helen became incorporated in the summer of 1888. The village was the brain-child of Henry DeLand, and he named his new village, Lake Helen after his daughter.
Lake Helen was originally a Winter retreat for north-easterners and with the addition of two hotels, the Harlan Hotel (after his son and pictured right), and a little later the Granville Hotel, it became a destination spot for New Englanders anxious to retreat from the harsh Winters.
Lake Helen flourished. Citrus groves were planted and thrived, a sawmill and the Bond Brick Company were established. It was an arduous journey early on by steamer and horse or mule wagon from the St. Johns River, but it 1887 the railroad came to Lake Helen.
Lake Helen grew quickly, with many new homes being built each season, of the local southern yellow pine. Many of them still stand today as a tribute to the craftsmanship of the times. This was the “Boom Time” for Lake Helen.
Sadly the winter of 1894-1895 brought the “big freeze”. Most of the citrus trees were destroyed and many families lost everything. Many people left and some replanted but it was never the same.
Lake Helen carried on into the 20’s and 30’s but time seemed to “pass her by”. Because she remained undiscovered she continued to be a quaint little community off the beaten path, with tree-lined streets and a slow pace that is ever so inviting.
It is a place to walk or ride your bike on lazy sun dappled lanes. Stop a few minutes and chat with your neighbors. You’ll always get a friendly wave and a smile.
Welcome to the City of Lake Helen – “Its Lure Is Lasting” — written by Lewis C. Long