It isn’t hard to spot history around every corner at the Lakeside Inn, the oldest continuously operated hotel in Florida.
That history is in the indentations on the lobby’s hardwood floors, where generations of earlier guests danced the night away. It’s in the pictures of steamboats along the walls that used to ferry passengers across the lakes and through the Dora Canal to the hotel. And it’s in the room named after a former U.S. President who stayed at the inn for a month nearly a century ago.
“When you step onto Lakeside Inn’s property, you really are transported back in time. It’s a simpler way of life,” said Dylan Gamez, the inn’s marketing and public relations manager. “It’s unlike any other experience in the area, and possibly in all of Florida. It’s a haven for anyone who wants to relax.”
It’s hard to imagine a time when this pristine shoreline situated at the end of Lake Dora wasn’t home to the inn, which opened in 1883. The inn’s property extends all the way down to a beach and a dock on the lake where boats can pull up and anchor for a stay; a beautiful outdoor pool and waterside bar provide some of the best lakeside sunset views in Lake County. Historic Old Florida touches abound throughout the hotel, from the rocking chairs that line the veranda facing the water, to the shady oaks surrounding the inn and the original fireplace in the lobby.
That historic charm attracted President Calvin Coolidge to the Lakeside Inn shortly after leaving office. Coolidge and his wife spent a month at the inn in 1930; guests can stay in the Calvin Coolidge Room where he lodged and even see his original reservation card. Other history hides in plain sight; a rectangular cutout that doesn’t match the rest of the hardwood lobby floor is underneath the rug in front of the check-in counter. Rumor has it that the cutout once held a door that patrons would knock for admittance into the basement speakeasy during Prohibition.
The inn may have its share of haunted history too. While Gamez has never personally encountered paranormal activity, she’s heard stories of the faint smell of cigar smoke and distant voices and laughter from long-ago parties echoing through the halls of the inn, which is the first stop on the Mount Dora Ghost Tours.
“If there is any (paranormal) activity, I can’t blame them,” Gamez said. “It’s a place where I would want to stick around. It’s all good energy when you walk into the building.”
The world is a much different place than when the Lakeside Inn opened nearly 140 years ago. But even as times have changed, the inn’s mission to provide respite and renewal from everyday life has endured.
“You don’t have all the traffic, the cars driving by. It gives that unique experience that really separates you from the day-to-day hustle and bustle,” Gamez said. “You can almost feel as if time stands still here.”
For more information and to book your stay, visit lakeside-inn.com