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BEACON HILL-ALTA VISTA HISTORIC DISTRICT, RG2465, 1990-1991

Historical Note

The Beacon Hill/Alta Vista neighborhood is located along the west side of South Florida Avenue, south of downtown Lakeland. As the name suggests, it was originally two separate developments. The Alta Vista neighborhood comprises Belvedere and Maxwell Streets and Fairview Avenue, while the Beacon Hill neighborhood consists of Cherokee, Comanche, Hiawatha, Pawnee, Pueblo, Seminole, and Shawnee Trails. Both neighborhoods were developed as part of the real estate boom which swept through Florida in the 1920's. The two neighborhoods were considered as one when the area became a candidate for historic district status in 1990.

Alta Vista was the first of the two neighborhoods to be platted when developer Augustus H. Devane submitted plans in March of 1923. The eighty lot development, whose name means "high place," was described in newspaper ads as having ". . .lovely spacious villa sites 65 feet wide by 140 feet deep [with] stately palms and tropical shrubbery." Lot prices ranged from $600 to $2000 and most were sold by the end of 1924.

The Beacon Hill neighborhood, which was probably named after the fashionable Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, was platted in late 1924 by developers Malcolm G. Waring, Alpheus M. Davis, and George Coogle. It was promoted as a neighborhood "synonymous with genuine contentment." As noted above, all the streets in the Beacon Hill development were named after Native American tribes or people. Lots in the development ranged in price from $2500 to $4500.

Annexation by the city of Lakeland brought both neighborhoods within the city limits by the end of 1924. Construction ensued rapidly and sixty-two homes were completed before the boom collapsed in the late 1920's. Construction continued in both neighborhoods even after the collapse of the real estate boom, albeit at a much slower pace through the 1930's and 1940's. Construction continued at even slower pace in the post-war years and, by 1990, there were approximately 150 structures in the area.

Residents of the Beacon Hill neighborhood approached the Lakeland Community Development Office in 1990 to request a structural resource survey to determine if the neighborhood was eligible for designation as an historic district. The Community Development Office supported the residents and decided to include the neighboring Alta Vista development in the survey. An Historic Preservation Grant was awarded by the state of Florida to fund the survey. Consultants were hired by the city to conduct research on the neighborhood and complete the structural resource survey.

The completed survey identified eighty-nine structures in the area as having been built before the cut-off date of 1945. Volunteers from the neighborhood were then enlisted to do site surveys for each of the identified structures. After the site surveys confirmed the number of structures in the neighborhood meeting the criteria, Beacon Hill/Alta Vista became the third neighborhood in Lakeland to be accorded historic district status by the Lakeland City Commission. It also gained listing on the National Register of Historic Places.