Lake Placid, Florida

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Lake Placid, Florida
Official logo of Lake Placid, Florida
Nickname(s): The Caladium Capital of the World,
Town of Murals
Location in Highlands County and the state of Florida
Location in Highlands County and the state of Florida
Coordinates: 27°17′42.9″N 81°22′21.5″W / 27.295250°N 81.372639°W / 27.295250; -81.372639Coordinates: 27°17′42.9″N 81°22′21.5″W / 27.295250°N 81.372639°W / 27.295250; -81.372639
Country  United States
State  Florida
County Highlands
Settled 1912
(as Lake Stearns)
1 December 1925
(as Lake Placid)
6 June 1927
 • Type Mayor-council
(Strong Mayor)
 • Mayor John Holbrook
 • Total 3.650 sq mi (9.45 km2)
 • Land 3.599 sq mi (9.32 km2)
 • Water 0.051 sq mi (0.13 km2)  1.4%
Highest elevation[3] 173 ft (53 m)
Lowest elevation[4] 72 ft (22 m)
Population (2010)[5]
 • Total 2,223
 • Estimate (2017)[5] 2,269
 • Density 622/sq mi (240/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP Codes 33852, 33862
Area code(s) 863
GNIS feature ID 285272[6]
Website Town of Lake Placid

Lake Placid is a town in Highlands County, Florida, United States. As of the 2010 census the population was 2,223 and in 2017 the estimated population was 2,269.[5] It is part of the Sebring Micropolitan Statistical Area.

The town has two nicknames: "Town of Murals" and "The Caladium Capital of the World". Lake Placid has more than 40 murals painted on buildings throughout the town,[7] and 98 percent of the world's caladium bulbs come from Lake Placid.[8]

The town is home to the Lake Placid Tower, a closed concrete block observation tower that is 240 feet (73 m) tall according to early sources[9] or 270 feet (82 m) tall according to late sources.[10] However, government sources exclude a 270-foot height, allowing only a 240-foot height.[11][12]


Lake Placid, which was formerly called "Lake Stearns", was chartered on December 1, 1925. Dr. Melvil Dewey, the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, and the founder of the Lake Placid Club in Lake Placid, New York, proposed that Lake Stearns change its name to "Lake Placid". On April 29, 1927, the Lake Stearns Commissioners accepted Dr. Dewey's proposal. Subsequently, they submitted a request to the Florida State Legislature. On June 6, 1927, the community was chartered as the town of Lake Placid.


Lake Placid is located in central Highlands County at 27°17′42.9″N 81°22′21.5″W / 27.295250°N 81.372639°W / 27.295250; -81.372639 (27.29525, -81.37263).[2] U.S. Route 27 passes through the town, leading north 16 miles (26 km) to Sebring, the county seat, and south 58 miles (93 km) to Clewiston.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Lake Placid has a total area of 3.650 square miles (9.45 km2), of which 3.599 square miles (9.32 km2) are land and 0.051 square miles (0.13 km2), or 1.4%, are water.[2]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 20172,269[5]2.1%

As of the census of 2010,[13] there were 2,223 people, 841 households, 490 family households, and 1,040 housing units in the town.

The racial makeup of the town was 69.6% White, 7.1% Black and African American, 0.4% American Indian and Alaska Native, 1.2% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, 18.9% Some Other Race, and 2.7% from Two or More Races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 46.1% of the population.[13]

There were 841 households of which 58.3% were family households – with one or more people related to the householder or related to one of a same-sex couple by birth, marriage of adoption; and 41.7% were nonfamily households – including same-sex couples with no other relatives. Family households included 29.0% with their own children under 18 years, 37.0% were a husband-wife family, 6.4% were a male householder with no wife present, 14.9% were a female householder with no husband present. Nonfamily households consisted of 12.2% males living alone – 5.8% 65 years and older – and 19.7% females living alone – 19.7% 65 years and older. The average household size was 2.63 and the average family size was 3.21. The median age of the population was 34.4 years.[13]

From the 2016 American Community Survey, the population was spread out with 10% under 5 years old, 15.3% from 5 to 14, 45.2% from 15 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 16.1% who were 65 years of age or older (significant margins of error causes total to exceed 100%). The sex ratio was 106.3 males per 100 females. The educational attainment of the population who were a high school graduate or higher was 59.2%, while 12.3% had a bachelor's degree or higher. The poverty rate of the population 25 years and older was 61.0% if less than a high school graduate, 52.2% if a high school graduate, 26.8% with some college, and 13.4% with a bachelor's degree or higher. The median earnings of the population 25 years and over during the past 12 months was $14,938, consisting of $10,625 if less than a high school graduate, $15,187 if a high school graduate, $18,988 with some college, and $147,961 with a bachelor's degree. The per capita income was $17,318. 54.7% of all people had incomes below the poverty level. All figures from the survey had significant margins of error.[13]



Lake Placid is located in a fringe viewing area; its television stations originate in distant cities. Local television services offer signals from WFTV, the ABC affiliate in Orlando, WINK, the CBS affiliate in Fort Myers/Naples, WFLA, the Tampa Bay area NBC affiliate, and WTVT, the Tampa Bay area Fox affiliate. There are no TV stations whose studios or broadcasting towers are located in Lake Placid.


Lake Placid is part of the Sebring radio market, which is ranked as the 288th largest in the United States by Arbitron.[14] It is the city of license for WWTK 730 kHz and is in that station's primary coverage area, however, there are no radio stations whose studios or broadcasting towers are located in Lake Placid.


Local print media include the weekly The Journal which has covered Lake Placid for almost 60 years; the News-Sun, a Sebring-based newspaper published on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday; and Highlands Today, a daily local supplement to The Tampa Tribune.

Points of interest[edit]

Lake Placid Tower[edit]

Lake Placid Tower, as seen from E. Interlake Boulevard in Lake Placid (2018)

The Lake Placid Tower, formerly named Placid Tower, Tower of Peace or Happiness Tower, located at 461 US Highway 27 N between Tower Street and Lake Clay Drive S in Lake Placid, is a closed observation tower 240 feet (73.2 m) tall according to early sources (before 1982)[9][15][16][17][18] or 270 feet (82.3 m) tall according to late sources (after 1986).[10][19][20][21][22] However, no physical modification of the tower occurred in the interim that would explain a 30-foot increase in height. It rests on ground 142 feet (43 m) above sea level (NAVD 88).[11] As a warning to aircraft, the top of the tower, including antennae, is stated to be 392 feet (119.5 m) above sea level according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).[12] Thus, the height of the tower above ground, including antennae, is 250 feet (76.2 m) (392–142=250), which excludes a 270-foot architectural height, allowing only a 240-foot architectural height. Counting the tower's 8-inch (20.3 cm) courses yields a height above ground of 235–236 feet (71.6–71.9 m),[23] so the lowest few feet of the 240-foot height, that resting on the foundation, is underground, providing space for an elevator pit. According to early sources,[9][24] it has three observation levels, at 192 feet (58.5 m) behind windows, at 200 feet (61.0 m) on an open air balcony, and at 225 feet (68.6 m) in the open air crow's nest, Eagle's Nest, or Birds eye vantage point on top of the elevator shaft but below roof tracery.[25][23][26] The apex of the tower is a red aircraft warning light.[27] The tower is 360 feet (110 m) above sea level according to two late sources,[10][19] the latter stating that that elevation applies to the eagle's nest, which is consistent with the crow's nest elevation of early sources (142+225=367≈360). The tower offered a 40-mile (65 km) panoramic view.[20]

Earnest Oakley Hunt dreamed of building an observation tower when he moved to Orlando in 1938, then moved to Sebring in 1947 and found the perfect location in nearby Lake Placid. He and Robert Gray formed Air View Corporation to build the tower.[9] The tower was designed by architect A. Wynn Howell[25][28] of Lakeland, built by Ridge Builders of Sebring in 1960 for $350,000 (equivalent to $2,200,000 in 2016),[20] and opened January 1, 1961.[9] Most sources state that it was the tallest concrete block structure in the world when it opened,[9][15][16][20][22][19] with 90,000 concrete blocks,[20][9] but the magazine Florida Architect states that it was built of reinforced concrete.[25][29][30] One source states that the tower included 100,000 limestone blocks from Ocala[9] while another states that it was faced with ceramic tile,[25] implying that the tower has a facade of limestone tile. The tower below the balcony is 25 feet 4 inches (7.72 m) square, with its four vertical corners replaced by grooves (each 8 inches (20 cm) per side).[23] The section above the balcony is 21 feet (6.40 m) square, also with corner grooves. Each wall is divided into vertical thirds. The outer thirds are composed of reinforced concrete blocks with a facade of limestone tile. The middle thirds are composed of decorative breeze or fence concrete blocks.[31] The tower has a foundation made from 520 cubic yards (400 m3) of concrete reinforced with 80,000 pounds (36,000 kg) of steel.[9] The tracery atop the tower is made of gold anodized aluminum.[25][27]

Because of low ticket sales, the tower closed in 1982 when the owner would not pay their Internal Revenue Service taxes, but it was re-opened in 1986. The small group of owners still faced sluggish sales, and the tower and its restaurant continued to struggle, despite features such as a petting zoo in its plaza, and a pay phone at the top billed as the "highest pay phone in Florida."[20][22] The last owner who operated the tower as a tourist attraction was Lake Placid Tower Group owned by Mark Cambell since 1992.[32][10] He sold it to CHL Tower Group on November 6, 2003 which has operated it as a cell phone tower ever since.[33][34] Even though the tower closed about 2003, it still has two red "OPEN" signs at its top, facing north and south.[20] Originally, the tower above the balcony had the same basic design scheme as that below it. But after the tower closed, the portion of the tower from the balcony up was redesigned with a white and cyan (blue-green) color scheme. The limestone tile of the outer thirds of the walls were covered with white stucco, and the middle thirds were covered with four thin cyan-colored panels which now block the bird's eye view.[35][36] These panels covered the two opposing triangular openings in the middle third of each wall and the breeze or fence blocks[31] between them. The roof tracery above and the balcony below them were also painted cyan. The Tower View restaurant at the base of the tower closed in 2015.[33][20] The tower is among 35 designated Lake Placid historic structures.[37] It is one of three towers in Central Florida, including the Citrus Tower, built in 1956, 100 miles (160 km) to the north in Clermont, and Bok Tower, built in 1929, 50 miles (80 km) to the north in Lake Wales (Bok Tower was never intended to be an observation tower).

Historical Society Depot Museum[edit]

The Old Lake Placid Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Depot, now the Historical Society Depot Museum of the Lake Placid Historical Society, is a historic Atlantic Coast Line Railroad depot in Lake Placid, Florida. It is located at 12 East Park Street and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


  1. ^ "Town of Lake Placid Departments". Town of Lake Placid. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-08-13. 
  2. ^ a b c "National Places Gazetteer Files: Florida". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved Jul 7, 2017. 
  3. ^ North Magnolia Avenue
  4. ^ Lake June in Winter
  5. ^ a b c d "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 28, 2018. 
  6. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  7. ^ "Florida for Visitors: Lake Placid, Florida". Retrieved 2007-08-13. 
  8. ^ Swanson, Yvonne (11 August 2007). "Caladiums please the eye". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2007-08-13. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kimberly D. Hinder, "Florida's Earliest Tourist Towers: Placid Tower", Looking beyond the highway: Dixie roads and culture, ed. Claudette Stager and Martha Carver, University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 2006. Cites Sebring News articles from early 1961. "either an enclosed observation deck at 192 feet or an open observation deck at 200 feet ... the crow's nest, which was 225 feet above ground. ... the tower topped off at 240 feet". "A. Wynne Howell" (sic).
  10. ^ a b c d HTN Tower Story "Two Hundred and Seventy Feet", "Three Hundred and Sixty".
  11. ^ a b US Topo, Lake Placid, FL, 2015, USGS. Save then open to access images button at upper left.
  12. ^ a b Miami Sectional Aeronautical Chart, Scale 1:500,000, 1 FEB 2018, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). PDF 69.3 MB.
  13. ^ a b c d "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Lake Placid town, Florida. Retrieved 2018-04-15. 
  14. ^ "Ratings–Sebring Market". Arbitron. Retrieved 2007-08-13. 
  15. ^ a b HTN archival postcard 8, "Placid Tower ... World's tallest concrete block Observation Tower –240 feet high–".
  16. ^ a b Florida Memory PC13475, "world's tallest concrete block observation tower – 240 feet high – ", "Aug 13, 1965".
  17. ^ Florida Almanac, 1st edition (1972, p. 408), 2nd edition (1976, p. 336). "Tower of Peace is a 240-foot observation pinnacle". Later editions do not mention the tower.
  18. ^ Al Burt, Florida: A Place in the Sun, 1974, p 171. "Lake Placid Tower (240 feet)".
  19. ^ a b c Bruce Hunt, Visiting Small-Town Florida, Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida, 2003, page 136. "270-foot-high Placid Tower." "Eagle's Nest is 360 feet above sea level".
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h Joey Vars, "Forgotten Tourist Tower" Crow's Nest. The e-print version of this article, by Joey Vars, is at "Forgotten Tourist Tower", Feb 2-8, 2015, Volume 49, Issue 19, p. 4. "At 270 feet high," "A. Wyatt Howell" (sic).
  21. ^ Sandra Friend, Trish Riley & Kathy Wolf, South Florida: An Explorer's Guide, second edition, 2010, Countryman Press, Woodstock, Vermont, p. 185, "tower reaches a height of 270 feet".
  22. ^ a b c "Placid Tower" Road Redux, "270-foot high structure".
  23. ^ a b c Photos from above: Aerial photography and drone services (April 2017), Happiness Tower - Lake Placid FL . Drone survey of tower.
  24. ^ HTN archival postcard 2; "three viewing decks; closed at 192 ft. open 200 ft. eagles nest 225 ft."
  25. ^ a b c d e "Architectural Helps for Tourism", Florida Architect, 12/7, July 1962. "Built of reinforced concrete faced with ceramic tile and capped by roof tracery of gold anodized aluminum"
  26. ^ The tower does not have a traditional flat roof. Instead, the four corners of the tower and the elevator shaft project above the balcony with only a stair and landing on successive sides between them. The corners have small roofs to which the roof tracery is attached. The elevator shaft, 8 feet (2.4 m) square, is topped by a central air conditioning unit and a tall fence made of vertical bars along its edge, both in the open air. The four corners are separated from the elevator shaft by a gap of about 6 feet (2 m), except at landings. The top of the elevator shaft within its fence was the floor of the Eagle's Nest, with views toward the north, east, south, and west through triangular openings in the top of the middle third of each wall.
  27. ^ a b HTN archival postcard 4, shows roof tracery of gold anodized aluminum partly reflecting the sky. "Tower of Peace".
  28. ^ Placid Tower under construction "A. Wynn Howell" on sign.
  29. ^ The concrete blocks in the corners of the tower as well as those in the walls of the elevator shaft are so tall their vertical holes must be reinforced with grout and rebar. The breeze or fence blocks of the middle third of each wall are decorative.
  30. ^ Carter, Tim, "How to Reinforce Concrete Block", Ask the Builder, retrieved July 31, 2018 
  31. ^ a b Breeze or fence blocks have side to side openings, here shaped x̅x̅, long dimension vertical. The most common US concrete block, regular or fence, has modular dimensions, block plus mortar joint, of 8 by 8 by 16 inches (20.3 cm × 20.3 cm × 40.6 cm). Each block is 38 inch (1.0 cm) shorter in each dimension to allow for mortar joints.
  32. ^ Lake Placid Tower Group 1992 deed, Highlands County Property Appraiser, "Consideration: $240,000.00".
  33. ^ a b Evan Williams, Driving Florida's Backroads, Bonita Springs Florida Weekly, May 21, 2015. "a defunct restaurant at its base. ... where people once ate,"
  34. ^ CHL Tower Group 2003 deed, Highlands County Property Appraiser, "Consideration: $1,190,000.00" "6th day of November, 2003".
  35. ^ Bruce Hunt, Southwest view of top of tower in 2009.
  36. ^ In some years all of the top wall openings are covered, while in other years some are not.
  37. ^ Town of Lake Placid (January 14, 2013), 2030 Comprehensive Plan (PDF), Historic Resources Map 

External links[edit]