Lake Georgia
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Lake Georgia – Orlando’s Bootlegging Lake

Lake Georgia is tucked away and out of sight in the bustling east side of Orlando. Hidden from view, known by few, and yet one of the most desirable lakes to live on.  And, it’s no ordinary lake.  Lake Georgia has a rich history embroiled in bootlegging and speakeasies common during the early 1920s. Aside from the fascinating history, Lake Georgia is one of the cleanest bodies of water in Orlando.  It has a sand bottom and is spring-fed and it’s the perfect getaway from city life.

Lake Georgia

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The Research

Most of the research for this article was derived from Goldenrod Gazzette of the Goldenrod Historical Society Inc., which closed in 2018. The artifacts were donated to Orange County Regional History Center.  Currently, these artifacts are not available online at Orange County Regional History Center. As such, written permission to use and publish the artifacts was granted to Brit On The Move™.

If you believe there’s an error or have additional insight to add, please feel free to reach out, and I’ll gladly update accordingly. All other content is written based on my personal experience living on Lake Georgia!

Lake Georgia Fact File

Lake Georiga is an 83-acre private lake located in Unincorporated Orange County. 100% private, there is no public access whatsoever. And only a couple of homes have boat ramps.

  • Surface Area: 83 acres
  • Mean Depth: 11 ft
  • Maximum Depth: No data available
  • Approximate Volume: 300,206,921 gallons
  • Water Quality: 32 (good) as of 7/21/2021. Scale is 0 – 100, with 100 being the worst. Source: Orange County Wateratlas
  • Natural Major Drainage Basin: Little Econ River Drainage Basin

Water Quality

Good! The water on this lake is clear and clean. You can see the Orange County Environmental Protection Division: 2008 Water Quality Report & Lake Georgia Fact Sheet.

Lake Georgia

The History of Lake Georgia

Before we dive in, I want to explain why I felt it necessary to tackle what some would say is already written. First of all, I am a writer, and I live here, so it was inevitable. Plus,  I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of the Golden Rod Gazzette Extra from a kind neighbor. While the context and history are there, it isn’t easy to read, and it’s not in chronological order. This could be the writing style of the time or that of the original author. Regardless, it needed a modern overhaul. And, given that these artifacts are not available online, this is a way for all generations to be able to read the old and the new online. 

1862 – 1896

As Florida began to recover from the Civil War,  the Homestead Act of 1862, an act “To secure Homesteads to actual Settlers on the Public Domain,” was set in place. The 1862 Homestead Act offered all the chance of up to 160 acres of land for free if they settled there for at least five years, managed to cultivate at least 5 acres, and built their homes in the form of a cabin.

One of these homesteaders was Mr. Sherman Adams, who secured 80 acres in 1891.  Mr. Adams’s dream was to grow a citrus grove on his land, but the winter froze his 1894 and 1895 crops destroying years of hard work. While no one knows for sure, locals at the time claim that he died of a broken spirit and heart because of this.

Original Grant To Sherman Adams

Origional Grant To Sherman 3_23_1891 Lake Georgia

Image Credit: Goldenrod Gazzette of the Goldenrod Historical Society Inc. & Orange County Regional History Center

Sherman Adams died in 1896. The land was passed to his son Alfred N. Adams. Alfred did not stay on the land and did not pay the taxes. Ultimately, the property was abandoned.

1896 – 1924

  • 1904 – Mr. J.M. Williamson bought the land with a tax deed for $1.40.  Mr. Williamson died in 1916, and his widow Mary F. Williamson inherited the land. Mary F. Williamson eventually sold the land to Colonel John N. Bradshaw, who owned it for two days before selling it to Harvey T. Warren in 1924. Mr. Warren and his family moved to Florida from New York with dreams of cultivating celery here.
  • 1924 – Lots 1 to 7 were recorded as Harvey T. Warren Subdivision at the Orange County Courthouse. When Warren recorded the subdivision, there was no Lake Georgia Drive. It did not exist back then, nor were there any roads around Lake Georgia. The only access was via a dirt road – state road 426. This dirt road leads to Sherman Admas Grove.

H. T. Warren Subdivision 

H T Warren Subdivision Lake Georgia

Image Credit: Goldenrod Gazzette of the Goldenrod Historical Society Inc. & Orange County Regional History Center

Five days later, Mr. Warren sold lots 2, 4, and 7 to Jeannie P. M. Baker.

1924 – 1930

  • 1928 – Jeannie P. M. Baker died, and lots 2, 4, and 7 were granted to her son Leonard Woods Baker via quickclaim deed.
  • 1930 –  Mr. L.P. Mills of Mills Lumber Company of Ovideo filled a Materialman’s lien on all the original seven lots of the H. T. Warren Subdivision.

Materialman’s Lien: A type of lien that gives a security interest in property to someone who supplies materials used during work performed on that property.  Basically, a mechanic’s lien by another name. This lien forced Mr. Warren into bankruptcy.

1930- 1934 

  • 1934 Mr. Warren was able to buy back lots 2, 4, and 7 from Jeannie P. M. Baker, and he was able to overcome the liens on lots 1, 3, 5, and 6.

Essentially, in 1934 Mr. Warren and his wife Mary once again owned all the lots of the H. T. Warren Subdivision.

  • 1934 – Mr. & Mrs. Warren sold lots 1 through 7 to Cheney and Marie Hayes Cheney. The Cheneys were once prominent folks who owned lumber yards in Michigan. Like many other families, they were hit by the stock collapse of 1929. Their move to Florida was their escape and chance to live in what they considered “stomachable poverty.

At this time, there were four houses and a fish camp on Lake Georgia. The houses were on lots 3 and 4 opposite the island. Mr. and Mrs. Cheney lived in the house on lot four known as the “West Guest House” or “Aunt’s House.” Their daughters, Peggy and Barbara Cheney, lived in the “Center Guest Cottage” or “Imler’s House” on lot 3. The Duckworths- Eugene, Ethel, and their son, Bill lived in “Echo Lodge,” the big house or main house on lot 3. It appears that the Duckworths were initially renting.

1936 – 1951

  • 1936 – Mr. and Mrs. Cheney fell on hard times, and hard to mortgage the land for $3,000. The Duckworths settled (or paid off) this mortgage of $3,000 in return for lot 3. 
  • 1936 – Barbara Cheney married Bill Duckworth in 1936 and lived in the “Eastern GateHouse,” eventually moving into Echo Lodge with their daughter Ann until 1951.
  • 1941 – Mr. Cheney sold all of their remaining property to the Duckworths except for where they lived on lots 4 and 5. 
  • 1946 – Mr. Cheney died, and his wife Marie sold lot four and part of lot 5 to George M. Barley and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Barley.
  • 1950 – The Barleys sold their property to Harrold and Hattie Ringer.
  • 1951 – The Duckworths sold lots 1, 2, 3,5, 6, and 7 to F.J. Sharp and his wife, Angeline Sharp.

A Guide To Lake Georgia Through Its Settlers

  • 1891 – Mr. Sherman Adams secured 80 acres in 1891.
  • 1896 –  Alfred N. Adam inherited the land from Mr. Sherman Adams.
  • 1904 –  Mr. J.M. Williamson acquires the land.
  • 1916 –   Mary F. Williamson inherited the land.
  • 1924 –  John N. Bradshaw owns the land.
  • 1924 – Harvey T. Warren owns the land.
  • 1924 – Jeannie P. M. Baker acquires lots 2, 4, and 7.
  • 1928 –  Leonard Woods Baker inherits lots 2, 4, and 7.
  • 1934 – Mr. Warren buys back the entire property, all 7 lots.
  • 1934 – Cheney and Marie Hayes Cheney buys the entire property, all 7 lots.
  • 1936 – The Duckworths acquired lot 3. 
  • 1941 – The Duckworths acquire lots 1, 2, 6, and 7.
  • 1946 – The Barleys buy lots 4 and 5.
  • 1950 – The Ringers buy lots 4 and 5.
  • 1951 – The Duckworths sold lots 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 to F.J. Sharp and his wife, Angeline Sharp. *Note, I could not determine how the Dusckworts acquired lot 5.
Water Tower

Image Credit: Goldenrod Gazzette of the Goldenrod Historical Society Inc. & Orange County Regional History Center

Goldenrod Gazette 

Here is the original Goldenrod Gazette. Image Credits: Goldenrod Gazette of the Goldenrod Historical Society Inc. & Orange County Regional History Center

The Lakes Prohibition History

The 1930s brought the Great Depression. It came with hard times and despair, but the 1920s ban on alcohol was reversed in 1933. 

From 1920 through December 1933, alcohol was prohibited.  Lake Georgia was rife for bootlegging. Aka, the illegal manufacturing and distribution of alcohol. This spectacle was born because the subdivision was located in Orange County, yet you could only access it through the dirt roads of Seminole County. Now, for those not familiar with why this nuance matters, it’s because counties, like states, have their independent governing bodies. Navigating from one county to another on the water enabled the bootleggers to evade the police from both counties.

Whisky was brought in weekly by a flown plane. Not just for the speakeasy on Lake Georgia but several in the area. A cunning way to avoid the authorities. Guards would be on watch at three points of the lake and two at the gatehouse at the entrance of the Warren Subdivision. Once the barrels were retrieved, they were taken to the speakeasy – Echo Lodge. 

Legend says that there are whisky barrels at the bottom of the lake that were discareded to avoid the Po-po. I’ve pondered this a lot. Surely, if this were true someone would have combed the bottom of the lake with scuba gear to find them by now. And, how long would a whisky barrel survive underwater? Realistically, not for long because they were made out of wood and definitely not treated to be water-resistant. The idea that there might be remnants of old whiskey barrels faciniates me. Devon – now you’re a certified rescue pro, you should take on this challenge!

Echo Lodge – The Speakeasy

Echo Lodge is notorious and was on lot 3.  While the residents of Echo Lodge had long since changed, the property was met with an unexpected fire in 1980, which burned to the ground.  Despite its sudden end, the original oak tree survives today.  More impressive, it’s owned by the same family that acquired it in 1971. I’m not going to share the address here, but if you are savvy, it will not take a lot to find out which house on the lake is the base of the original Echo Lodge.

During the 1930s, Echo Lodge turned into a popular speakeasy, courtesy of the people devastated by the Great Depression, hoping to drink their sorrows away. Every week, Settlers would be greeted with the sound of an airplane circling Lake Georgia before eventually landing.  They all knew what that meant.  Alcohol was being smuggled to the Echo Lodge from the Islands.

The Bootlegging Operation

The crew working for Echo Lodge would wait anxiously in the north of Lake Georgia on those days while guards manned different intersections to make sure no outsiders got into Echo Lodge.  The plane would hang over Lake Georgia in Florida at first, confirming that everything was always right before they would attempt to land.  They would use the high narrow dock to land the plane, and then everyone would work towards unloading the cargo.

Everyone was well acquainted with their role.  Every little detail had been prepared in advance.  Station wagons were already waiting to be filled with the cargo near the dock.  Once it had been loaded, it would be kept inside the garage close to the water tower.  It would be again relocated when everything had been loaded, and delivery could be made.

One of the shipments would go to a speakeasy on Park Avenue.  Another would go to Colonial Drive, to the very south.  Lastly, delivery of approximately fifty gallons of whisky would be taken to the Echo Lodge.

Inside Echo Lodges Speakeasy

From the old state road 426, the patrons headed east to the hidden speakeasy. The road was as narrow as it could get, made distinctive with tiny rocks that were so much as the size of a human thumb – what we locals know as a typical dirt road. All were met by a guard or two bearing guns at the entrance. The guards were always ready to deny anyone who had not been approved access to the Echo Lodge. At the opening of Echo Lodge, guards would be prepared, waiting to scrutinize each guest that passed through.  They would ask questions to ensure the person was here for the party only and not to bust the party.  After one got the guard’s approval, one would knock on the door of the Echo Lodge.

Among the speakeasies, Echo Lodge had quite the reputation.  Saturday night was the designated party day.  The feeling of being observed was intense.  As the people inside again confirm the new person’s identity, they would finally be let in. After a night of fun and booze, the partygoers would leave in the early morning.  

With alcohol legal again in 1933, Echo Lodge pivoted in 1934 to become the family home of Eugine and Ethel Duckworth and their son Bill. Mr. Duckworth a prior Major of Orlando (January 1920 – 1924) and the Justice Of Peace until he passed in 1959.

The Fish Camp

The fish camp was on the eastern side of Lake Georgia.  The property was initially purchased by W. D. Randall, Sr., 60 acres in 1925 for $125.  Vice president of a paper company, Randall Sr., bought the land through his agent Mr. Joel Philips.  This very agent is after whom Lake Philips is named. The Fish Camp, which was located opposite the island, was occupied by W.D. “Bo” Randall, the son of W. D. Randall.   His son, Bo Randall, inherited the fish camp.  Bo himself was famous worldwide as a knife craftsman.

Lake Georgia’s Island

A fascinating feature of the lake is that it has an island in its middle that’s only accessible via watercraft. The Burns Family privately owns it. It is 14.2 acres. However, as with many of the lots of the lake, most of the acreage is the lake. The island’s actual acreage is 1.48.  The Burns family acquired the island in 1997 for $185,000 from Donald B Ardell and Christopher C Blair. At the time, as non-homesteaded. Now, the combined original island lot 21 is a part of their entire property.

The island has a lovely cabin, a butterfly garden, and a campfire. Pre-covid the Burns would allow residents on the island. It’s been shut for a while. We were lucky enough to be granted access for a quick wedding photoshoot.

Aerial View Of The Lake and Island

Aerial View Lake Georgia

How Did We End Up On Lake Georgia?

It’s a very long, painful story, so I’ll keep it brief. I’ve lived most of my adult life in this area. I used to live right across the street. I decided to move from the pool home that I loved to a bigger house, all in the quest of gaining an extra room for my crafting hobby. The brief version is that we ended up in a gated community with archaic laws that were not disclosed before purchase. Add insult to injury. The community was still being developed and run by the building company.

No sooner did we move in than the residents gained control of the HOA and all hell broke loose. I could write a book here, but the last straw was when my friend’s cars were towed at 12:01 am from outside my house. I immediately began my search with new requirements. My old zip code, the one I loved, at least two acres, and no HOA. Being on a lake was never even on the list.

It took a devastating three years to find the right location, and we bought what we thought was a rehab that turned into a knock-down rebuild very quickly. Then two years living in Brian’s grandmother’s 800-square-foot 70’s house while this one was constructed. It was anything but easy, but here we are. Would I do it again – of course! Freedom is not free. Whether you pay in kind, dollars, or your life – freedom is not free. I’ll gladly pay before someone ever tells me that I can only have guests till midnight, and they need a parking permit for that privilege. So here we are!

What’s It Like  To Like On Lake Georgia?

A tricky question to answer because everyone has their perspective. The lake is stunning, immaculate, oozing wildlife, and captivating. The neighborhood is safe and clean, and the zip code is priceless. Many affluent people live on the lake. There are vets, doctors, and developers, to name a few professionals. Some might say it’s a little privileged. Let’s just be honest it’s not cheap to live on a lake in Orlando, but those here earned their money fair and square. However, it is homely despite the cost of living. 

Chilling On The Lake

Like all communities, there are families, clicks, generational “gatekeepers,” and narcs – my personal favorites. For the most part, everyone I have encountered has been lovely, and I’ve connected with lots of people on the lake.  Most keep to themselves less an invite to a shindig or a wave as they pass by on the water.

The lake’s evolved, and new younger families are moving in. An aging community on the lake is tolerant, but there’s spoken division between the generations. I can see both sides. If generation after generation of your family has lived here, you are bound to feel a sense of ownership. The flip side is that the newbies feel the same way. The main issues that arise from time to time are around the development of the lake. 

Fortunately, I consider this a drama-free neighborhood, and everyone gets along. Except for when my neighbor sets my backyard on fire or uninvited guests land on my shoreline, this is an excellent place for me. There’s something about arriving home here and seeing the view, it never tires, and it’s worth the cost.

Don’t hit the water without a floating water mat or inflatable water pad! Find out which is best here

floating water mats

Wildlife On Lake Georgia

One of the most enjoyable things about lake life is the wildlife. Never a day goes by without seeing wildlife. We have two families of sandhill cranes that live on the lake. They think they own our place because they are frequent visitors to the bar. I enjoy the cranes; this is my third year seeing them have babies and grow up.

Sandhill Cranes

We have ducks galore who love our place. There are all kinds of turtles, some cute, some monstrous! The turtles like to come up to our patio and torment Earl and Dotty. One turtle likes to relieve his bowels on our patio, which ticks me off! You are a guest here, and you crap on our patio – lovely – not. 

Earls Nemesis

Turtle On Lake

There are snakes, my least favorite resident, that are plentiful. Some otters seem to come and go rather than live here. Cardinal reds that visit daily, and we have hawks. I respect the hawks, but I wish they would get lost. They eat their prey alive—many a time, I’ve had to come in when they have caught a baby bunny or duck. I can’t bear to hear it screaming at its eaten alive.

We don’t have any gators on the lake. Now, everyone will say this is nonsense because we all know that if there is a body of water in Florida, it has gators. Here’s what I’ve been told. Years ago, a settler introduced two to the lake. One died of natural causes; the other was shot dead. Since then, by all accounts, there have been none. We are adjacent to two other lakes, so there are plenty of opportunities for a gator to make its way to Lake Georgia and attempt to settle. Instinctively I know that should one arrive, it will be relocated.

Fishing On Lake Georgia

Everyone, young and old, tries their hand at fishing on the Lake. Daily you see kids in their Jon Boats fishing the banks. Our friends love fishing here; the main catch is largemouth bass! I don’t like freshwater fishing, so I’ve never even attempted it, but those that do love it.

The Next Generation Of Lake Georgia

Every family that moves in brings their traditions with them and creates new ones on the lake – as they should. We’ve had countless parties here and celebrated many occasions. We’ve hosted a wedding and a memorial, both honors! 

The lake hosts several neighborhood events. There’s an annual flotilla moon event, a Christmas boat parade, a summer picnic, and lots of random get-togethers. Families ride their boats and jet skis, teenagers zip across the lake, and there are always people tubing or water skiing. 

Closing Thoughts

Lake Georgia, Florida, is an exciting place with years of history of its settlers enriching it. Most people are unaware that this historical lake is tucked away in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of Orlando. It’s hidden from view, known by only a few, and serenity for all who live here. The residents have changed and will continue to, but all still enjoy the campfires,  fishing, and lazy days on the water. 

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  1. Dear BritOnTheMove:

    I was researching Echo Lodge for something I’m writingand happened on your web site,
    which was very informative.
    I lived on Lake Georgia for the last 25 years on the old Echo Lodge plot. We have since moved but still own the property. Sorry I never knew you. My loss.

    As a writer myself, I find it hard to edit my own work. I find that one reads their own writing
    with their brain, not their eyes. One unconsciously inserts what was intended, not what was
    actually written.

    Since you invited such commentary, I’ve included some typos and some homophones.
    I don’t’ intend to be critical, just helpful. They can be found easily found w/find command in Word.

    Raff Ellis

    936 – Mr. and Mrs. Cheney fell on hard times, and hard [had] to mortgage the land for $3,000.

    I could not determine how the Dusckworts [sp.] acquired lot 5.

    Whisky was brought in weekly by a flown [sea]plane.

    I looked this up. Whiskey barrels seem to last a long time in the water.
    “Sunken scotch has captured the imagination—and pursestrings—
    of whisky enthusiasts for generations. It’s the term used to refer to liquid
    that’s unintentionally aged at the bottom of the sea after a shipwreck.”

    More impressive, it’s owned by the same family that acquired it in 1971. [It’s not as you point out below in an old picture of Echo Lodge w/me as the owner.]

    I’m not going to share the address here, but if you are savvy, it will not take a lot to find out which house on the lake is the base of the original Echo Lodge. [See above]

    Mr. Duckworth a prior Major [I have no idea what that is} of Orlando (January 1920 – 1924)

    However, it is homely [I think you mean homey] despite the cost of living.

    Like all communities, there are families, clicks,{cliques?] generational “gatekeepers,” and narcs – my personal favorites.

    Most keep to themselves less an [unless to] invite to a shindig or a wave as they pass by on the water

    1. Hey there,
      Lovely to meet you and thank you so much for reaching out. I am always open to anything constructive so thank you for taking the time to find my errors. That’s so kind of you. I will update it in the next day or two (I’m in Scotland right now).
      Again – thank you it’s much appreciated. Nikki

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