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By Robert Connors
Managing Editor 

Work Progresses On Historic Restoration Project

244 Park Avenue Emerges from Behind Stucco Mask


Last updated 12/28/2021 at 7:05pm

Robert Connors

Work is progressing in restoring the early façade of the 1919 building at 244 East Park Avenue in downtown Lake Wales. It is one of a large collection of Florida Boom Era architecture, among the best in the state.

Those who appreciate the unique qualities of the Florida Boom Era architecture that has long identified Lake Wales will be pleased to see that one building in the historic district is gradually returning to its original look.

An ambitious project to remove a heavy layer of stucco and rock lath that had turned the building into what one observer called "an ice cube" is progressing under the direction of Dundee contractor John Olsen. Crews have been painstakingly removing the boards and the thick mortar from the original brick, revealing the outlines of the windows that graced the building decades ago.

The project is a personal cause for Lake Wales attorney Robin Gibson, who also serves as Deputy Mayor of Lake Wales. Gibson has described to many how the ugly blank wall gnawed at him until he determined to fix the problem. He purchased the building specifically to conduct the historic restoration project.

The removal of the wall also revealed that someone had removed the name of the original builder at some point many years ago, setting off a bit of a treasure hunt based upon the question: where could they be, and can they be recovered?

Gibson speculated that they may have been taken by family members of builder JK Rhodes before they were to be covered, and might have ended up in a garage or barn somewhere locally. Gibson is hopeful that someone from the family might be contacted and allow them to be located and restored to their place of honor.

The restoration of the windows is expected to increase the ambiance of that portion of Park Avenue, aiding in creating the "living room" feel that the Lake Wales Connected streetscaping project hopes to create. That project is slated to begin during 2022.


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