As you walk down the streets of downtown Kissimmee, listen closely. Can you hear the echoes of the past? The splashing of the steamboat paddle on the lake? The bellowing of cattle passing through town? The shrill whistle of a train? While the sights and sounds of downtown Kissimmee have evolved over the years, one thing in particular remains the same: Makinson Hardware.
The story of the county’s oldest family-run business began around the same time the City of Kissimmee was founded. In fact, the Makinson family were an important component to the development of the area in the late 1800s.
It all began in 1883 when William Burroughs Makinson came to Kissimmee from Maryland, first by steamboat and then by train. At that time, Kissimmee was the end of the line for the railroad. One year later, in 1884, W.B. partnered with his friend, J.M. Katz, to establish Makinson & Katz. The original structure was located at what is now known as Darlington Avenue and Pleasant Street.
The partnership dissolved in 1900, and Katz opened up a clothing store on Broadway. Later that year, the original two-story Makinson & Katz building burned to the ground. W.B. relocated Makinson Hardware to its present location at 308 Broadway Avenue.
On top of running a successful hardware store, W.B. was known to trade with early pioneers and the Seminole Indians. Early trappers and Seminoles would arrive on Lake Tohopekaliga looking to trade alligator, bobcat, raccoon, panther, otter and other animal hides. W.B. also traveled the Kissimmee River, bartering his goods for fish. He would then ship these hides and fish up north to be sold.
W.B. was also made sure the local cattlemen’s needs were met. After hearing about a breed of cattle from India that would fare well in the area’s climate, he loaned money to cattlemen who were willing to take the risk of introducing the breed, the Brahman, to Kissimmee.
In 1899, W. B. Makinson married Maude Murphy. Maude was the only child of Judge T. M. Murphy, one of the first judges of Osceola County. W.B. and Maude’s wedding ceremony was the first to take place at the First Presbyterian Church, which was actually still under construction at the time. Their descendants have certainly left their mark on Kissimmee as well. From City Commissioners and a mayor, to educators and attorneys, W.B. would be truly proud of his legacy.
In recent years, downtown Kissimmee has received a shot of revitalization with new additions such as City Center and the Lakefront Park. However, after 131 years, Kissimmee still boasts the oldest operational retail hardware store in the state of Florida. So the next time you’re in need something for your DIY project, run on down to Makinson Hardware and see this Kissimmee icon for yourself.