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Harry P Leu Gardens....A History.
The Harry P Leu gardens are in Forest Avenue in Orlando.
The history of the house and gardens start in 1885 when John Thomas Mizell built a farmhouse on the site. Later in 1902 one Duncan Pell bought more land that now makes the majority of the current acreage.
Next owner of the house and gardens was Joseph Woodward and he made more improvements to the home.
Finally, after a period as a rental home, Leu purchased the home and gardens.
Now a little about Harry P. He was a native Floridian who was born in Orlando (but only just since his parents had moved to Orlando from Maitland the very day he was born)
An early indication of his business brain came when he was only 10 years old. He attended a funeral with his family and sold fans he had purchased for 5 cents for 10; a 100% profit.
At 12 he was delivering the news papaer that later became The Orlando Sentinel. By the time he was 16 he worked in a livery stable and after he graduated he took a job setting up machinery at Cain and O Berry Boiler Co.
This job did not satisfy our man for long and he set off for New York to take a business course. On completion of this course his mother wanted him home and his ex employer sought his return.
He bacame the book keeper, clerk and time keeper. His employer encouraged him yo buy stock in the company and slowly, over time, he had the controlling shares.
He changed the company focus to industrial supplies and opened a branch in Miami.
The next significant event in his life was his marriage to the gentle natured Mary Jane. She was some 20 years younger than Harry but they were a good partnership.
Now married, he decided to buy the home now known as Harry P Leu which cost him some $40000; a huge sum in 1936.
Together they set about re modelling the home and indulging their passion for the gardens. They travelled the world to find specimens and managed to grow some plants that had been impossible in Floridas extreme climate.
They were so proud of their work that they started allowing the public in to view the gardens.
He sold his business in 1950 and devoted his time to good works and of course his wonderful gardens.
By 1960, the Leus were ready to donate the home and gardens to the city. They insisted that the place was to be non profit making and also that the city could not sell or dispose of any of his old estate.
Thus for a reasonable cost we can enjoy this wonderful home and its grounds today
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