Fruitland Park is preparing to open its new state-of-the-art library, but the city is making sure to honor its past at the same time.
The $3 million, 12,000-square-foot facility, located at 604 W. Berckman St., opens July 19 with a ribbon-cutting, presentations, refreshments and live music. But while residents are enjoying the festivities and exploring the new building, two pieces of the city’s history will be on full display as well.
The foyer of the library, which boasts a coastal theme, is dedicated to the old Casino Community Building. It even contains original oak floors and windows from the historic building that once stood on the same site.
Towering above the new facility is a piece of history that many Fruitland Park residents might not be aware of. The windmill, which stands in front of the library, was used to pump water throughout the city from 1915 until the mid-1950s and actually stood about 50 feet away from where it’s now located. It eventually ended up on Gerald Mills’ farm in Oxford and up until a couple of years ago was being used to provide water for his cattle.
But now, after all those years of serving the city outside the historic Gardenia Hotel that was on the same site, the windmill is back home and standing watch over the library – a fact that makes many Fruitland Park officials quite happy.
“We’re building our future by using our past,” said Library Director Jo-Ann Glendinning. “Inside there’s a dedication to the Casino building and it just seemed right to have the windmill back on its original location. It’s a great feature and historically, it’s great for our children to see what was here in the past.”
City Manager Gary La Venia called the windmill, which was built in 1914 in Chicago, an amazing piece of machinery.
“It works like it’s brand new. That thing spins and you don’t hear a sound, not even a squeak,” he said. “The workmanship is incredible. It’s great and it belongs in the city.”
Vice Mayor John Gunter agreed.
“I’m glad we got it back,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of compliments on it so far. In fact, we’ve gotten more compliments on the windmill than the library,” he added with a chuckle.
Commissioner Chris Bell said he’s a big believer in knowing and understanding the history of the city. And that means the windmill is back where it belongs, he added.
“That was our first water system and it showed an independence for the city,” he said of the important role the windmill played for more than 40 years. “All I’ve heard are good things from the residents. Everybody loves the library, but when we put the windmill up, that was it.”
Mayor Chris Cheshire called the windmill an important piece of the city’s history and said they were lucky to find it.
“The contrast of the old windmill with the new library is timeless,” he said. “It bridges the gap between the old Fruitland Park and the new Fruitland Park.”