The settlement of Runnymede, formerly known as Wharton was located three miles east of St. Cloud and two miles from Narcoossee. Following the formation of Osceola County on May 12, 1887, an election was held on the following February to determine the county seat and courthouse location. Kissimmee received 421 votes & Runnymede 30.
A large hotel was erected about 1885 west of Narcoossee on the shores of East Lake Tohopekaliga and near Lake Runnymede. Although it is not clear who had it built, a 1912 newspaper article claims it was built by the Disston Sugar Company. John L. Hill owned the hotel and property, then sold it to the Runnymede Planting Company in 1892.
Beauchamp Watson, an eccentric Englishman interested in developing Runnymede, had a residence, store and a few other buildings erected. The hotel building was used briefly as an agricultural school and later reopened as a hotel, catering to northern visitors. About the same time, a government sugar experimental station was started with Dan Sutton of Louisiana in charge. Little sugar cane was grown so this effort was abandoned and the hotel was taken over by the Disston Drainage Company and used temporarily as their headquarters
In February 1901, Mr. F.L. Huidekoper, treasurer of Disston Land Company; purchased tracts of land from the estate of the late Hamilton Disston. The hotel property consisted of one hundred sixty-seven acres while the other was for over six thousand acres. Refurbishing work of the hotel began and the rooms were repapered. By July 1901, Mr. Huidekoper had transferred the hotel to the United Land Company. It was part of a deed covering over two million acres in the counties of Osceola, DeSoto, Polk, Dade, Brevard, Orange and Lee; the bulk being in Osceola and DeSoto counties.
The Runnymede continued to welcome winter visitors. When Union Veterans flocked to the new colony of St. Cloud, many stayed at the Runnymede, purchasing lots in town and waiting while their homes were being built. It was sold again in 1912 to Narcoossee Farm and Townsite Company.
In 1920 J. Edward Krause of Indianapolis, Indiana bought the Runnymede Hotel and added it to his chain of hotels. Buildings were remodeled, guest cottages were built and parks were laid out around the property. A small private school for the children of patrons, was built and named “Juvenile University of Runnymede” by the children. A true resort, Runnymede Lodge (as it was then called) boasted of fishing, hunting, boating, golf, along with bathing and swimming on a private beach located five minutes from the hotel. It prospered until the depression came and was abandoned until the property was bought by cattleman John J. Padgett in the 1940s. The hotel was torn down but the residence remained. The lumber from the hotel was used to build fifteen or twenty small houses in Orlando.
The land was sold again in the 1950s then later purchased by Ralph Chisholm.
Sources: “St. Cloud Tribune”, “The River of the Long Water” by Alma Hetherington
Photo Courtesy: Florida Memory; Michael D. Bast Postcard Collection