John Ergood, one of Winter Park’s first merchants, stepped out of his general store on the corner of Park Avenue and Morse Boulevard and made his way to the podium set up just beside it.
Peacock Ball celebrates 125 years
Winter Park celebrated 125 years in style at the Historic Association's Peacock Ball Oct. 12.
Still in his apron, Ergood announced the signing of the charter for the incorporation of the city of Winter Park. As he spoke about the city of Winter Park’s achievements and successes, residents smiled and nodded in agreement.
This day would be the first time that most Winter Park residents had ever seen John Ergood, let alone hear him speak. Although one of Winter Park’s most prominent residents, Ergood hasn’t been around very much lately, likely because he’s been dead for 80 years.
On Friday, Oct. 12, the city of Winter Park celebrated and remembered the town’s beginnings and the people who founded the city with speeches and reenactments. Kenneth Murrah played John Ergood and told the community how the little wood building — now Penzey’s Spices — was not only a grocery store for the town, but the second story served as both the town hall and the first public school. The rear of the building functioned as the city’s first post office, and in addition to being the storeowner, Ergood was named postmaster in 1887.
“I think the residents know we have a little gem here,” said Murrah, a Winter Park resident for 68 years. “We have good schools, good leadership, a very attractive business district, and wonderful cultural and educational opportunities.”
“[Our] residents participate in civic life with a determination to maintain the quality of life we enjoy here now,” he said.
Murrah’s wife, Ann Hicks Murrah, has been a Winter Park resident for 36 years. She’s lived in Washington, D.C., and Manhattan as well as other cities, but says Winter Park has something special.
“It’s beautiful and the citizens really care about preserving that beauty,” she said. “I found the re-enactment of the signing of the charter a fitting celebration, with the involvement of so many parts of the community and the impressive cake.”
In addition to the reenactments of John Ergood and Gus Henderson — a newspaper publisher instrumental in the founding of the city — leaders from the community spoke about the history of Winter Park and why it remains such a great town to live in and be a part of today.
Rollins College President Lewis Duncan spoke of the history of both the city of Winter Park and Rollins. “For the last 125 years Winter Park and Rollins College have been interwoven,” he said.
“Anytime to recognize the legacy of the agency, I’ll jump on it,” Police Chief Brett Railey said. The Police Department had its own celebration earlier that day, celebrating its 125th anniversary. Railey gives credit to the community for the department and the city’s accomplishments.
“Everything that happens in every department of the city is [to] the service of the residents,” he said.
Following the ceremony, the speakers, community members and guests gathered around two cakes provided by The Flour Shop and sang “Happy Birthday,” which was led by emcee Thaddeus Seymour, president emeritus of Rollins College. After the cake was cut, people remained at “Ergood Hall,” talking about the city and the history that made it what it is today.
“[The day] was full of helpful reminders of our heritage, and the fact that we shouldn't take the quality of our life here for granted,” Ann said.