Early Englewood History

Diana Harris
April 28/2014

Englewood originally planned as a “grove town”

In 1896 the original platt for the town of Englewood was recorded by the three Nichols brothers. They had purchased almost 2,000 acres bordering on Lemon Bay and had grandiose ideas for a planned community they named for their hometown outside of Chicago.

Englewood was to be a thriving Florida “grove town”. The Nichols brothers aimed for a lemon growing area since lemons were in high demand for treating scurvy and influenza, both serious health threats at the time. Lemons then were very costly because they had to be imported mostly from Spain so the Nichols saw good profit in their production.

The entrepreneurs’ game plan was to sell residential acreage, on which to build homes, for $30 an acre. But the buyer had to agree to also buy another 10 acres of grove land on which to grow lemons.

Everyone was to make money, the Nichols brothers on their real estate sales, the buyers on the lemons they would produce. Many small citrus trees were actually planted in the area.

Everyone agreed it was grand scheme except Mother Nature. Severe back-to-back freezes killed all the immature lemon trees that had been planted. The lowest temperature recorded was 14 degrees.

With the failure of the groves the Nichols brothers quickly changed their plans and started promoting Englewood as a resort area featuring excellent hunting, fishing and water activities. Englewood became one of the first winter resort spots in Florida.

The Nichols built a beautiful upscale hotel complete with a ballroom overlooking Lemon Bay catering to wealthy and adventurous tourists. Several well-known people of the day came to visit but the success was short lived. The Englewood Inn burned to the ground in 1909. That left no place of proper elegance for the kind of visitors the Nichols brothers had been attracting. Besides, getting to Englewood was extremely difficult. As train lines became more common in Florida it was easier to go somewhere else; after all, these early tourists were the kind of people who had their own railroad cars.

So ended the Nichols brothers’ dreams of a grove town and then, a wealthy northern tourist trade for Englewood. The only citrus legacies the area has been left with are the two beautiful names; Lemon Bay and Grove City.