by Chuck Seaver, SOUTH LAKE TABLET

Kehlor Park, 466 West Minneola Avenue, Clermont has a long, enduring history from its first beginnings in 1918 when the property was donated by Lamira Kehlor. Mrs. Kehlor was the widow of millionaire James P. Kehlor, a flour miller of East St. Louis, Missouri. The couple visited Clermont each year during the winter and resided at their seasonal home, the Gables House, located on West Minneola Avenue at 5th Street. The couple also owned several parcels of land in town, including the vacant lots directly across the street and north of the Gables House. The Kehlor’s were well-known throughout the community for having generous hearts and often donated large sums of money towards civic organizations and other needs in the Clermont area.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Kehlor’s winter visit of 1918 would be her last visit to Clermont as she passed away in April of that same year at her St. Louis home. Upon her death, it was announced that the property lots 13-20 in block 50 of the city plot would be bequeathed by Kehlor to the Town of Clermont for a recreational park.

The City of Clermont soon added several shuffleboard courts complete with benches and wooden covers for shade. A wood frame structure was also built on the property and would serve as a community recreation center. The center was home to a variety of activities, from card and board games to a philosophy club. The town’s first band was formed in 1915 and according to local historical documents, was “homeless” at the time.  A bandstand, gazebo style, was added to the grounds near the recreation center. Although the stand has since been demolished and never rebuilt, it is believed that the stand was built soon after the recreation center. Tennis courts were later added to the park along with horseshoe pits that remain today.


The park has been the home for many years of family fun which included needed maintenance to the courts and grounds, including a new recreation center in 2019 that replaced the original wood structure. Both buildings were affectionately named after the Kehlor family. The City of Clermont eventually took charge of the park and currently maintains the grounds that were once maintained by a private recreation club that directed all activities and care of the property.


Recently, staff members of the City of Clermont’s Parks and Recreation Department took on the task of cleaning out one of the storage buildings at Kehlor Park. Little did employees Heather New and Jennifer Stills realize that they were about to unlock a treasure trove of historical documents dating back to 1934. Documents that included early by-laws for membership and operation of the private recreation club. A member roster that included “old” Clermont family names such as Roe, Peacock, Stokes, Sanger, Stackhouse, Seaver, Pool, Porter, and Simms, just to name a few, was found in near pristine condition.

A letter from then-Clermont City Manager H.C. Brown, dated August of 1937, details his concerns to a winter resident from Salamanca, New York about the limited recreation facilities that the city had available at the time. Members of Council listed on the letter include President O.H. Keene, Vice-President Geo A. Robinson, Albert M. Johnson, R.L. Lassiter and F.B. Roe. The find included sales receipts from the original Publix located in Historical Downtown Clermont on Montrose Street at 7th Street, the site of the current City Hall Park. Detailed financial statements of the club’s expenditures and income revealed an August 1935 club value of $67.67. A thank you letter from club secretary W.G. Smith, dated December 29, 1934, details appreciation to the Mount Dora, Florida Lawn Bowling Club for its donation of bowling balls to the Clermont Recreation Club.

“We could not believe how well the documents and pictures held up after all these years. We were not expecting to find all of this when we started cleaning out the shed,” says New. “The documents have held up extremely well considering that the documents and pictures appear to have been stored in a tin-roofed, metal shed with no climate control at all for decades is just amazing,” says Stills. The team intends to organize the findings by date and purpose and then turn the findings over to the Clermont Historic Village for preservation.


Visit for a full listing of recreation activities.

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