Article by Chuck Seaver, South Lake Tablet

In a time when downtown Clermont remained dark at night, and electricity would be promised to the downtown businesses and streets by the summer of 1915, there would be a matrimonial union that would last for nearly seven decades and would help shape the downtown Clermont streetscape for generations to come.

Robert “Percy” Seaver and Winnie Hooks were married on September 8, 1915, in the First United Methodist Church on 7th Street and West Broome Street, Clermont. The two would spend the next sixty-nine years shaping not only the footsteps of their own six children but also countless children who were driven to church on Sunday mornings by Percy and the adopted children that they would help along the way.


Winnie Hooks was a Clermont native born to Robert C. and Nellie Hollis Hooks on June 10, 1896. Robert Hooks’ father, Herring Hooks, is considered one of the first area settlers when he purchased land on Lake Minnehaha for one dollar an acre in 1874. Winnie was born in a residence on Montrose Street that would remain her home until she and her husband Percy, bought the home next door at 865 West Montrose Street in 1927. A location that would realize many transitions over the years, including a police station that was eventually built on the site in 1993.

Percy was the owner and operator of a barber shop, Seaver’s Barber Shop, on Montrose Street that he had purchased in 1913 when he settled in the area. A time when Clermont possessed only three automobile owners. The barbershop, now known as the Village Barbershop, 769 West Montrose Street, continues to operate today under the ownership of Mike Hoskinson. The barbershop has been recognized throughout recent years as the oldest, continuing business establishment in Clermont. A business that has remained in place for one hundred ten years this year and has only had three owners.

The house that was previously located at 865 West Montrose Street was a place of history by itself. The original back portion of the home, built in 1885, was the Ludlum family home. The original portion of the home had one large upstairs room, with a kitchen-dining room and two bedrooms on the ground floor. The front portion of the home had once belonged to the Steve Cooper family that was originally located on Lakeshore Drive, near the Hooks Street area of Clermont.  Area historians have implied the home was located on the grounds of the present-day Minnehaha Trailer Park, but to date, no firm documentation has been found to support the idea. The home was moved in the early 1900’s from the Lakeshore Drive area to the West Montrose Street location with rolling logs and a mule team led by John Page. Steve Cooper’s daughter, Ruth Page and Cooper’s wife ran a boarding house and bakery from the home for many years after it was moved to the Montrose Street location.


In 1927, a life together in a home that would see six children, Oakley, Judd and Leonard Seaver as well as sisters Dorothy Seaver-Lassiter, Nelle Seaver and Betty Magruder-Seaver all grow up. On the couple’s 60th wedding anniversary in 1975, they enjoyed fifteen grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren, numbers that have since doubled and tripled in grand, great, and great-great-grandchildren.

Winnie left her job as an educator in 1915, with a salary of $50.00 a month. She was one of four teachers at the Clermont School on Second Street and Oak Street, the only school in the area at the time. Winnie wanted to focus on family and her true passion for being outdoors. The couple began rooting ornamental plant cuttings and started seedlings for annual seasonal-type plants with the intent to landscape their own homestead. Winnie was once quoted as saying “I never cared much for housework so being outside seems only natural.” The hobby soon turned into a business when the two discovered that they both had “green thumbs” when it came to the ornamental- horticulture field. With the encouragement of friends and family, the couple decided to create Seaver’s Nursery on the available property of the home.  The nursery provided a variety of annuals, shrubs, trees, and seedlings.

Through the years, the family experienced good and bad times but never lost focus on family and faith. The great depression, wartimes and winter freezes were no match for the couple’s determination in serving community, God, and family. Percy, a Deacon at the First Baptist Church of Clermont, located at Fifth and Montrose Streets at the time, realized that there were children who would like to go to Sunday School but had no way to get there. With a little financial help from the church, an old milk delivery truck was purchased and converted into a bus in the sideyard of the Montrose Street home. The bus affectionately became known as “old black Maria” by the children in recognition of the bus’ exterior color.

Winnie became known as a constant staple of the downtown area by her whistling abilities. While working outside, Winnie would whistle hymnals and she would whistle loudly. Guy Lillard, owner of Guys Service Station in the 1960’s, West Montrose and West Avenue would often say “I always know how Miss Seaver feels by the volume of her whistling. I know that it’s time to get her a BC Powder ready if she isn’t whistling loud.”

Winnie’s other favorite hobby was cooking, and her home kitchen was well known throughout the community for her southern-style cooking, desserts and johnny cakes. Meals were often prepared for families in town who were struggling, especially if there were children involved. After their six children were grown, Winnie and Percy converted the upstairs bedrooms of their home into tenant-efficiency apartments. The efficiencies were rented to locals who either needed a little help or didn’t have anywhere else to go. Daughter Betty once opened a bookstore in one of the downstairs rooms of the home. The Idle Moments Bookstore was an added segment of the old home’s history. The bookstore was closed after some time, but the nostalgia lives on in those who remember the platter of cookies or fudge prepared by Winnie for customers who were browsing the bookstore.


A back portion of the property was sold to the City of Clermont in 1962 to accommodate a parking area for the new police and fire station that was built on the now vacant lot at Desoto Street and West Avenue. Percy utilized that section of the property to house hens and chickens for the sale of eggs and poultry to the local community. The hen houses were never re-established on the Seaver homestead after the sale of the property.

Time rolled on and the aging Seavers decided to close the nursery portion of the grounds due to their ages, but Percy continued his hobby of vegetable gardening and various fruit tree harvesting until his death in 1985 at the age of 93. Winnie remained at the home in declining health with the assistance of her daughter Nelle until her death in 1989 at the age of 92.

The siblings were now faced with the tough decision of what to do with their childhood home and a big part of downtown Clermont’s history. The home, affectionately known in the downtown area as “the big house” would eventually be sold to the City of Clermont in 1990 and demolished. In 1993, the Clermont Police Department moved into a brand-new police station that was constructed on the Seaver homestead. The older station on Desoto Street remained in place for several years as a Lake County Sheriff’s Office substation and a Clermont Fire Department engine storage facility. Eventually, a new and much larger police headquarters was built at 3600 South Highway 27, Clermont. The Montrose Street property was again sold in 2018 by the city to Performance Medical Partners, LLC. The property currently remains vacant.

A few reminders and natural landmarks remain on and around the property such as the large, sweet gum tree that once shaded the front Florida room of the home, still rests majestically on the property at the Montrose Street entrance to the parking area. Guy Lillard’s service station, now known as Bee’s Automotive, 898 West Montrose Street remains in place across the street.  The Brice Cleaners, a family business that was also across the street during “the big house” era is now home to Clermont Office Suites, 836 West Montrose Street.  

Downtown Clermont has changed immensely from its sand roadway days of the 1890s to the current paved and bricked roads that adorn the area presently. Businesses are currently bustling again in downtown, a common practice in the early settlement days of the town when there were no other business districts in Clermont other than the downtown area. Many of my childhood memories surface with a smile when the birds are chirping in the area and remind those of us who grew up near or in the Seaver house that Winnie’s whistle is still in the air if you listen close enough and let your imagination take a pleasant stroll back in time.

Visit for further information about the pioneer days and families of Clermont and the surrounding South Lake Community.

( Photos provided by Chuck Seaver)

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