Davenport: Developing & Thriving
By Elizabeth Morrisey
What used to be orange groves as far as the eye could see, the city of Davenport has changed its philosophy as it realized it needed to be open to future growth, says Mayor H.B. “Rob” Robinson. In 2002, the city decided to expand its city limits which has been a “real plus,” he says.
“Many wanted to keep it smaller, but the cash flow has helped us do things, such as repairs and new buildings,” Robinson says. The city will be adding a community center with two gyms, community rooms, a banquet hall, arts and crafts room, workout room and media center.
Davenport is still under 6,000 in population, but to its north is what seems to be never-ending growth by Interstate 4 and U.S. 27. And the city knows it can’t be stopped as the central location is now one of the top five fastest-growing cities in Florida. In the next two to three years, Davenport will see 4,000 new homes being developed. Currently, the city has 2,200 acres, but the city is working on annexing an additional 2,700 acres, which will allow for more industrial areas.
“We’ll have a lot of rooftops and we’ll need commercial growth, too,” says City Manager Kelly Callihan. Davenport already has newly-developed Posner Park on U.S. 27 with stores and restaurants like Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Books-A-Million, Davenport’s Ale House, Starbucks and more are on the way.
Fort Davenport was set up by the U.S. military in 1838 and named for Colonel William Davenport during the Second Seminole War. The settlement was originally known as Horse Creek and a post office was opened in 1884, then the name later changed to Davenport.
Incorporated in 1915, it was a “booming” town in the 1920s and 30s with a railroad stop, country club, yacht club, and golf course, says Robinson. City Hall was constructed in 1927 as well as the elementary school. Davenport schools are going through a revitalization of sorts as renovations get underway for Davenport Elementary, a new charter school is in the works for the 2019-2020 school year and there are plans for a new high school in 2020. Davenport School of the Arts is considered one of the best schools in Polk County.
“To have a great community, you need good schools and as businesses come in they want to know about your schools,” says Callihan. “Schools are important and we are looking forward to the new schools coming in.”
True Blue Winery
Polk County’s only winery is located in the heart of historic Davenport. True Blue Winery’s specialty is an award-winning blueberry wine made from their very own orchard.
“This is a nice, quiet area,” says Fatima Gill, owner. “It’s a good location and our business is doing well.”
Not only are they known for their wines – also offering muscadine, peach and citrus – but the property includes a bistro with brick oven pizza, steak, salmon, chicken pot pie, Cuban sandwich and many other homemade dishes. Wash it down with beers, sodas, or wine, of course.
During the spring, the winery hosts a Blueberry Festival with local vendors and music. True Blue’s unique property is also available for private parties, weddings or business conferences with 6,000 square feet of interior space and beautiful outdoor space.
The bistro and winery are open October through June, Wednesday through Saturday. During summer months, the bistro is closed but the winery remains open. Visit TrueBlueWinery.com for more details.
Davenport is home to an award-winning professional theatre company in the former Davenport School of the Arts building on Palmetto Street. The traveling theatre, with past productions such as Disney High School Musical, Little Shop of Horrors, Legally Blonde, Sweeny Todd, settled down in Davenport two years ago. Artistic Producer Scott A. Cook lives in Davenport and decided it was time to take a chance and bring the arts to this area.
“Many people here have never experienced (the theatre),” he explains. “We are the only professional, award-winning company in Polk County. We have a reputation that precedes us across Central Florida. We decided to stay here and get arts out to the community.”
TheatreCares, Theatreworks’ community outreach program, is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. They provide theatrical experiences for those who are physically, emotionally or financially challenged. One free program offering healing to others is Vet Voices. It provides disabled military war veterans the opportunity to deal with the affects of war through the art of live theatre.
Cook says they attend workshops and eventually perform monologues about their experiences. “It’s so different from anything else. There is lots of healing by getting out into the world (what they’ve been through) through theatre,” he explains.
Theatreworks’ most recent production was The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical in December, and Nunsense 2: The Second Coming will be on the stage in March. For more information: visit TheatreworksFL.org.
Central Florida’s Visitor Information Center
If you are looking for brochures and coupons for area attractions, visit Central Florida’s Visitor Information Center on U.S. 27 at 101 Adventure Court. Volunteers are ready to answer questions about the area and help plan your visit.
Inside the doors is the Florida Sports Hall of Fame Preview Center, which showcases the history of Florida sports and notable athletes and figures in local sports. From December through April grab fresh produce and homemade goods at the weekly Farmers Market. The Visitor Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
The City of Davenport doesn’t shy away from hosting events throughout the year. In December, there is a Winter Fest, parade and an event for needy families, a car show is held quarterly, a children’s Easter egg hunt happens in the spring and Grills Gone Wild is a barbecue event in February. And of course, don’t miss the fireworks for the Fourth of July.
“It brings the community together,” says Mayor Robinson. “The events provide enjoyment for the community.”
Outdoor fun is just around the corner at Wilson Park, which features a splash pad. Or head over to Lake Play or Jamestown Park to romp on the playground or have a picnic. “The people here are what makes Davenport special,” Robinson says. “They are good Christians, law-abiding and friendly.”