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8 x May 18 - 31, 2017 x CONTINUED FROM PAGE 6 historic church in Gotha in 2000, but now they have relocated to Winter Garden. The Church of Christ at Gotha occupied the small, white church for a while, but it too has relocated. Since 2006, the Foundation for the Historical Zion Lutheran Church of Gotha has owned the property. A hard freeze in 1886, bad weather in 1888, and a yellow fever epidemic led many settlers to leave the Gotha area. The severe freezes of 1894 and 1895 decimated the groves, and, eventually, Hempel moved back to Buffalo. But, by then, the community was well-established. In 1900, the Census Bureau reported 202 residents in the Gotha vicinity. Ten years later, that number had increased to 298. The area is ripe with history. In 1995, Orange County commissioners designated the Gotha Rural Settlement the county’s first historic preservation district, thus future development must follow the rural and historical character of the community. Palm Cottage Gardens One of the people who bought land in the 1800s was botanist Henry Nehrling, who was born in Howard’s Grove, Wisconsin, to German parents. Nehrling purchased 40 acres from his friend, Francis von Siller, in 1886, without seeing the property and arrived later that same year for the first time. From 1886 to 1904, Nehrling spent one or two months each year clearing and working on his land. He planted oranges and built a small oneroom, pine-walled cabin. He planted palms and magnolias in 1890 and named the property Palm Cottage Gardens. After visiting the Colombian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, Nehrling became interested in fancyleafed caladiums. His work with caladiums would make him famous. Nehrling planted 250,000 caladiums annually and had about 1,500 named varieties. He praised the property, which also includes palms, bamboo, night-blooming cereus, tropical pond lilies and magnolias, for its tranquility and peace. In 1896, he purchased an additional 25.65 acres, and Nehrling and his family moved to Florida in 1902. He bought an 1880s-era abandoned house and kitchen near Lake Olivia, dismantled it, moved it by ox cart, and fixed up the two-story frame vernacular-style home and kitchen. The house, with its heartpine floors and sleeping porch, is located about 200 feet down a narrow drive from Hempel Road on Lake Nally. Nehrling experimented with tropical and subtropical plants, testing more than 3,000 new and rare species for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He introduced hybrid amaryllis and gloriosa lilies to the Florida landscape. Many of those original plants remain on the property. Nehrling entertained Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison and other luminaries at the Hempel Avenue site. Henry Nehrling’s house was the site of the botanist’s passion for caladiums and other tropical plants. Nehrling died at Palm Cottage Gardens in 1929 and is interred at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Gotha. His research has been preserved in manuscripts at Rollins College in Winter Park. In 1979, all but 6 acres of the property were sold off. What remained was purchased in 2009 for CONTINUED ON PAGE 10 Friday, June 16 8:30 p.m. Bill Breeze Park x May 18 - 31, 2017 x 9