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Who in the World is Dr. Phillips?

August 12th, 2007 · 4 Comments


As most of us, Philip Phillips was not a native of Central Florida. He came here over a hundred years ago in search of a dream. Phillips wanted to move to Florida and become a cattleman. In the mid-1890’s, he first settled in the small farming community of Satsuma, Florida. In the winter of 1894-1895, a freeze wiped out his $5,000.00, investment in a small orange grove. After his loss, he returned home to Tennessee, disheartened but not defeated. Over the next several years, undaunted, he continued to buy small groves around Orlando. By 1903, Phillips had packed up his wife and infant son, Howard, and moved to Kissimmee. Walter, Phillip’s second son, was born shortly thereafter-and became the only Florida native in the family. In 1905, Phillip moved his family to Orlando. With a wife and two young sons to support, “Doc” Phillips’ dream of becoming a Central Florida cattleman faded as he struggled to eek out a living in his orange groves. Over the next several years, droughts, freezes, and banker continually threatened his livelihood. But this medical school grad, and son of a French immigrant farmer, plodded on day by day working from sunrise to sunset. His hard work and determination finally paid off.

drphillipshouse.jpgBy 1910, Doc had struck it rich. His vast holdings of groves were now producing a fortune in profits. Doc shared his good fortune and worked hard to help the less fortunate in the community. By the early 1920’s, Doc had built his showcase property in Southwest Orange County. The property eventually grew to encompass land from Conroy Road on the North to South of the Sand Lake chain in what is now Bay Hill, Sand Lake Hills, Orange Tree, and most of the other developments along Dr. Phillips Boulevard, Apopka-Vineland Road, Conroy-Windermere Road, and Sand Lake Road. A giant grove covered the land which is now South Bay and North Bay. If you look carefully, you can still find remnants of his giant citrus grove along Apopka-Vineland Road. Maybe, there is still one of his trees flourishing in your neighbor’s back yard. As the 20’s roared in, Howard and Walter had grown to be young men. As brothers, they couldn’t have been more different. Howard graduated from Harvard while Walter shunned the classroom but loved working outdoors in his father’s groves. As Doc’s sons matured so did his business. Howard struck out to sell his father’s citrus to customers in the Midwest; while Walter remained busy at home learning the day-to-day operations of the Phillips’ expanding citrus empire. The brother’s diverse interests provide the foundation for a Central Florida dynasty.

During the 30’s and 40’s, the Phillips citrus business grew even stronger when Doc developed a new process for canning orange juice. This industry innovation of flash pasteurizing allowed Doc to can his product without ruining its taste. Another boost to sales was generated when the American Medical Association declared that orange juice was good for one’s health. During World War II, Walter left the family business and became a respected consultant, helping orange growers all over Central Florida. Howard bought Walter’s shares in the family business and Walter moved to a 200 acre plot near Sand Lake and the family’s landing strip. The landing strip was used for another Phillips’ citrus industry first – aerial crop dusting. The airstrip was located on property which today has become the beautiful housing development of Phillips Landing. Walter continued to work the land that he loved, and Howard took up the reins of the family business.

In 1953 Doc, his wife Della, and Howard established the Dr. Phillips Foundation. Six years later Doc died a multi-millionaire. After his father’s death, Howard made the Dr. Phillips Foundation into Central Florida’s most prestigious philanthropic organization: which to this day, donates millions of dollars a year to organizations which make our community a better place to live. Howard established the framework within the family foundation which nurtured and molded the area into the neighborhood it is today. The foundation played a significant role in planning the development so that this area would become a neighborhood that the Phillips family could be proud of. Since 1953, the Dr. P. Phillips Foundation and Dr. Phillips, Inc. have provided tremendous support for the Central Florida community. Born from a mission to secure the future of philanthropy for our community, The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation and Dr. Phillips, Inc. today provide $7.5 million in philanthropic support to the community each year. The creation of the Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families, brings help to young victims of abuse and provides support to children coping with chronic disability or disease. The center would not have been possible without the financial support, guidance and advocacy provide by the Dr. P. Phillips Foundation and Dr. Phillips, Inc. They not only provide $1.5 million to launch this crucial endeavor, but were instrumental in securing additional funding as well. We, as residents, are Doc Phillips heirs. He and his family left us a beautiful neighborhood with wonderful schools, upscale restaurants, serene parks and magnificent churches. Doc and Howard’s legacy was not limited to Southwest Orange County. All of Central Florida benefits every day because of what he and his son achieved. We owe it to ourselves to strive to improve on Doc’s dream. Cherish your family and befriend your neighbors. Dedicate a small portion of your time to making this community a better place to live. Then, and only then, will we all achieve the true success that Philip Phillips worked hard all his life to achieve. Dr. Philip Phillips was a pioneer in the citrus industry, responsible for several key innovations in the processing and packaging of orange juice.

He owned thousands of acres of groves, stretching across nine Central Florida counties. Dr. Phillips eventually sold the bulk of his property to Minute Maid in the 1950s. The property he owned in southwest Orange County was sold to developers who built Bay Hill and other subdivisions. The area has experienced explosive growth in the last 30 years, due largely to the location of two key local industries; defense and tourism. Initially, it was the construction of defense giant Martin Marietta (currently Lockheed Martin) that had the greatest impact on Dr. Phillips, but that was only until the arrival in 1971 of Orlando’s most famous resident, Mickey Mouse. The impact of Walt Disney World on all of Central Florida has been huge, but nowhere is it more recognizable than in southwest Orlando and the Dr. Phillips area. The Dr. Phillips area has been able to maintain its superb quality of life by timely upgrading the infrastructure and controlling growth. Many people move to the Dr. Phillips area due to the reputation of the public schools alone. Located on the eastern shore of the Butler Chain of Lakes, many residents are active in boating and water sports.

Tags: SW Orlando Communities · SW Orlando History

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