Okeechobee County, 

Florida 

A Pictorial History--Page 6A

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Growing up in Okeechobee as I did, I have had many opportunities to hear this story from Ellis Meserve, who told of the fight between the fishermen and cowboys being “A Saturday Nights Entertainment Highlight”.  

TopHardware.jpg (73295 bytes) Ellis said that he and Faith had a ringside seat from their balcony above Okeechobee Hardware, located directly across from the park.

Located next door to the barbershop was Albert Berka’s bakery.  He had arrived at the beginning of 1915 from Titusville.  He was a native of Vienna, Austria and supplied the city with baked goods.  He also had a boat that became a floating grocery store and supplied all of the fishing camps around this end of the lake and Moore Haven. 

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The wood-frame schoolhouse that had been constructed on Parrott Avenue in 1909 had become filled to overflowing by the year 1915, due to the  amount of families that were moving to Okeechobee during the building boom of 1914 and 1915.  In the fall of 1915, a tent was erected to house the overflow of students.  

ElementarySchool.JPG (206646 bytes) Construction began on March 18, 1916 on a new two-story brick schoolhouse.  The cornerstone was laid May 17.  The new school was opened during the 1916-1917 school year.

 

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Darrow's Park Drugs.JPG (68845 bytes)The Darrow's erected a two-story building on South Park in early 1915, adjoining Raulerson’s Department Store. Part of the ground floor housed Dr. Roy Darrow’s Park Pharmacy. The other half of the ground floor was rented to the Scharfschwerdt Brothers, Edward and Otto, who had recently come to Okeechobee from New Orleans. A third brother, Louis arrived in 1916. The Scharfschwerdt's operated a hardware store in their part of the Darrow Building and also constructed a garage on the south side of the block, which sold automobiles, parts, gasoline, oil, and tires. In another building located behind their garage, the Scharfschwerdt's established the town’s first movie theatre, which opened for business in July, 1915.  200 people attended the first showing. An electric wire was run from the garage to the theatre to provide power for the movie. The motor used to generate the power often broke down, and the audience would have to wait until it was repaired to see the balance of the picture. The garage remained open until World War I, when Edward and Otto Scharfschwerdt went to serve in the armed forces. The theatre remained opened during the war, but it closed soon after.  Otto and Edward moved to Fort Pierce, but Louis continued to operate the hardware store until his death in 1949.

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looking_north_on_osceola_okeechobee.jpg (46716 bytes)J. G. and Minnie McNeff (Mac Neff) came  from the north and constructed a two-story building directly south of Raulerson’s. The ground floor housed the Okeechobee Drug Company, owned by Dr. Francis E. Thomason and Rufus P. Fletcher. Fletcher was a pharmacist and  general manager of the drug store. The upstairs portion of the building was occupied by McNeff’s Northern Hotel, which featured piped running water and sanitary plumbing fixtures. Across the street was Arthur Nasser’s Southern Hotel. In the southwestern portion of the business district was DeLoach’s Hotel. On West North Park Street was the E. W. Bond Lumber Company which owned a 30,000 square foot main yard, a private spur to the FEC railroad, and a 1250 square foot office building, store room and shed building.  This lumber company was later run by Rod Chandler and Calvin Draughty.

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looking_east II1964.jpg (80606 bytes)The year 1915 was a time of rapid and impressive growth for the town of Okeechobee. In January 1914, a plat had been drawn up by the Okeechobee Company dividing the town site into blocks with a long park extending from the Florida East Coast railroad tracks eastward to Taylor Creek. North and South Park Streets bounded the park on the north and south. Streets running east and west were numbered progressively, starting with First Street at the bottom (southern) end of the plat. Streets running north and south were given descriptive names, mainly of Indian origin. Starting at the railroad tracks the streets running north and south were named: Okeechobee, Seminole, Osceola, Hicpochee, Miami, Kissimmee, Parrott Avenue, Tallahassee, Cherokee, Hiwassee, Micanopee, Meredith, and Oklosknee. [ During the early 1970’s these Street names were dropped in favor of numbered Streets and Avenues. The main dividers in the plat were Parrott Avenue, which ran north and south, and Flagler Park, which ran east and west.

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