CLERMONT, Fla. (defeo.biz) — It may seem hard to believe today, but there was once a time in Central Florida history where orange groves, rather than talking mice, ruled the landscape.
That led an enterprising entrepreneur in the 1950s to open a 226-foot-tall tower that would provide visitors with a 360-degree view of the surrounding area and the opportunity to spy oranges groves as far as the eye could see. The Clermont Citrus Tower, situated atop a small hill along U.S. Highway 27 — at one time know as “The Citrus Boulevard” — between Cypress Gardens and Silver Springs, was the first tourist attraction in Central Florida.
It took 13 months, roughly $300,000, five million pounds of concrete and 149,000 pounds of reinforced steel to build the tower, which first opened to visitors in 1956. Counting its antenna, the tower reaches over 500 feet above sea level, making it the highest observation point in the Sunshine State.
At one point, more than 500,000 people visited the tower every year. However, the 1964 extension of the Florida Turnpike provided a waste route for motorists and the tower’s popular among travelers began to wane.
That was only exacerbated with the 1971 opening of Walt Disney World. Today, the tower is a bit of a relic back to a time when citrus groves were a sight to behold.
Several companies have owned the tower over of the years. And, today, instead of orange groves, visitors are treated to a view of development.
Some may call that progress. But, ascending the Clermont Citrus Tower is truly a window into the past.