The Waterman Village history in Mount Dora, Florida
Frank Dan Waterman, who made the Waterman fountain pen a household word and a worldwide favorite at the turn of the century, loved his adopted city of Eustis. To provide a hotel for the hundreds of tourists he hoped to attract, he built the block-long Fountain Inn Hotel, which later became a hospital.
Waterman was born in Altorf, Ill., on July 20, 1869 and had to quit school and go to work at 14 after his father died.
His uncle, L.E. Waterman, took him to New York in 1893 to help with his new business of manufacturing fountain pens in a one-room factory with four employees. L.E. died soon afterward and Frank, whom L.E. had named administrator of his estate, greatly expanded production and launched an aggressive advertising campaign that made the Ideal Fountain Pen – as it was called then – the standard of the world.
Frank Waterman had made so much money by 1901, when he was 32, that he established a winter home on Blue Lake at Eustis and planted a grove. In 1922, at the urging of local residents, he agreed to spend $500,000 constructing the 164-bedroom Fountain Inn with 11 stores facing Magnolia Avenue on the ground floor.
Waterman said he had been dreaming of building a hotel, had studied hotels in Europe and America, and intended to incorporate in the Fountain Inn all the best that he had seen.
A year later, with Waterman commuting between New York and Eustis to keep an eye on construction, the hotel, of Spanish style architecture, was opened Feb. 3 with a gala charter night dinner for the new Eustis Rotary Club.
The building was four stories tall with a basement and roof garden. It was a fitting replacement for Eustis’ first hotel, the Oklawaha, which opened in 1877 and burned in 1922.
In the frantic boom of the early 1920s, the Fountain Inn did a capacity business. It was open only from Christmas to Easter as most Triple A tourist hotels were at the time. It was a jewel among Florida hostelries and Waterman’s pride.
He enjoyed picking fruit from his own grove on Blue Lake and serving it to his guests. He arranged with an artists’ management group to have well-known musicians come to Eustis for concerts, and he made it a point to invite local friends to attend.
Eustis residents of the time felt that the Fountain Inn did more than any other one thing to make Eustis a popular winter resort. But the end of the Florida land boom in 1926, and the accompanying sluggish tourist business, made continuing the hotel operation unprofitable.
Three prominent Eustis physicians who knew Waterman very well – Drs. C.M. Tyre, Rabun Williams and Louis Bowen – persuaded him to give the Fountain Inn building to the Lake County Medical Society to operate as a hospital.
Frank Waterman died at 67 in his Park Avenue apartment in New York on May 6, 1938, of pneumonia, which he contracted following a stroke two weeks earlier.
The hotel was formally opened as a hospital with 50 beds six months after Waterman died.
In 1989, Waterman Village opened as an extension of the Waterman Hospital. In 1992, Waterman Village no longer was an extension of the hospital, and became it’s own distinct 501(c)(3) not for profit organization with a volunteer Board of Directors. Since then, Waterman Village Retirement Community in Mount Dora, Florida, has grown to become one of the southeast’s TOTAL retirement living community destinations that offers independent living homes, assisted living apartments, a skilled nursing rehabilitation and memory care center, an outpatient physical-occupational-speech therapy clinic that’s open to the public, a full service home care agency that services Lake County, the CVS pharmacy at Waterman Village, a brain wellness academy, and the ‘Chapel Fellowship’ church.