History of Hillcrest Heights, FL
In 1923, Irving A. Yarnell and H.E. Fairchild owned all the land that is now Hillcrest Heights. The development of the area is credited to H.E. Fairchild, starting in 1917. The town’s boundary includes: middle of Seminole Rd. down Palmetto Ave. north to Crooked Lake; Alt 27 to the east; Palmetto St to the west.
On Feb 28, 1923, Attorney Crawford of Lake Wales placed a resolution before the State Legislature to incorporate the Village of Hillcrest Heights. The State granted a charter in November of 1923. The City Council held its first meeting on Nov 20, 1923 and the following officers were sworn in: H.E. Fairchild, president; Geo. Chute, mayor; C P Selden, Clerk.
In April 1924 the town’s dirt roads were paved for the first time. In June 1941, lights were installed at the entrance gates of Oak St and Fairchild Ave. In 1975, the Town made an agreement with Polk County that Hillcrest Heights would be considered Unincorporated as far as fire protection by the county.
H.E. Fairchild was a native of Minnesota. He was a successful banker there and married Adella Wilson before moving to Hillcrest Heights. He died in Feb of 1941 in Babson Park, FL.
In 1912, H.E. Fairchild met the late Dr. Inman, the father of Winter Haven, FL, and Dr. Inman insisted that Fairchild see this area of Florida he called the Ridge. Fairchild meet with Glenn Skipper in Bartow and told him that he was interested in a “few hundred acres of high, rolling, high-class citrus land, lying southeast of a large lake.” Skipper told him that he knew of some land owned by Ed Flood of Lakeland, for $100 per acre. The next morning Fairchild and Flood traveled by horse to Frostproof, arriving at noon and then traveled north to the edge of Crooked Lake. Fairchild was spellbound when the lake came into view and a day later he closed a deal for several hundred acres of wild land.
So in 1917 Fairchild and his brother-in-law, Irwin Yarnell, started the Citrus Grove Development Company and the Town of Hillcrest Heights. In 1918, a disagreement between them lead to the break up and Fairchild continued with the Crooked Lake development and Yarnell began to develop what is now Highland Park Colony.
In 1917, the Southern Land Company, H.E. Fairchild and I. Yarnell built the Lakeside Club on the south shore of Crooked Lake in the area known now as Hillcrest Heights. The Club burned to the ground on Nov 11, 1918.
The Club was rebuilt in 1919 and changed to Hillcrest Lodge, owned by H.E. Fairchild and W.R. Padden of New Jersey. In 1927, Charles Forbes, who came to Babson Park from Cleveland, OH, purchased the lodge.
Fire struck again in August of 1929 and the three story Lodge completely burned to the ground for the second time. Mr. Forbes rebuilt the Lodge right away.
The Lodge was well known as the best appointed hotels along the Ridge. The following celebrities are known to have stayed at the hotel: Bobby Jones, Babe Ruth, William Jennings Bryan, Roger W. Babson and many automobile executives from Chicago.
Dinner dances with silk hats and tails were a regular happening along with musicals, parties, weddings, breakfasts, bridge luncheons and more dances. The Lodge was the center of the social life of Babson Park.
In 1933 Mrs. Marian Forbes (following the death of her husband) leased Hillcrest Lodge to Frank Lewis who brought his staff with him from High Hampton Inn and Country Club, Cashiers, NC. Mr. Lewis leased the Lodge until 1946.
Martha Forbes, daughter of Charles & Marian Forbes, married Robert Wetzel and in 1946 they became the manager and subsequent owner of the Lodge.
Up until recent times, the Hillcrest Lodge was only open from Thanksgiving until Easter each year and most guest returned year after year.