Nellie's Café is located in historic Old Town district of Longwood.
Not far from this here stands a giant Cypress Tree. Aptly named, The Senator, as it and the land it stands on were donated to Seminole County by Senator M. O. Overstreet in 1951. This tree has stood for more than 3,000 years, as a towering beacon. It first guided the Indians so that they could find their way to the trading grounds. Then early settlers used it as a landmark to find their way through the unclaimed wilderness. Though the height of The Senator has been shortened by age and weather, the sheer enormity of this bald cypress personifies the endurance and fortitude of this area’s people.
One of the notable forefathers of Longwood was a Confederate Soldier from Tennessee by the name of John Neill Searcy. He arrived in Sanford (then known as Mellonville) on the steamer Starlight in 1873. Searcy helped construct the Christ Episcopal Church in 1882 and later held the position of Longwood’s Postmaster. The Christ Episcopal Church is identified as the oldest existing church in Seminole County and was originally built on land donated by E.W. Henck, but is now located in our Historic District on West Church Street.
Other buildings located in our Historic District include the Clouser House. Originally built by Josiah B. Clouser, a master cabinetmaker, around 1885, this large two-story home on West Warren Avenue has operated as a gift shop, a birthing center and most recently an office building. Though severely damaged by lightening a few years ago, plans are in the works to restore this area treasure back into a functioning part of the community.
Josiah Clouser, one of Longwood’s first aldermen, also supervised the construction of the Longwood Hotel. The 38-room hotel was completed in 1886 and opened under the name of The Waltham. This Hotel survived many hard times and still stands today, housing law firms and other offices. If you take a look out our front window, you can view this beauty directly across from us on the other side of Ronald Reagan Boulevard.
The Inside-Outside House is a unique and beautiful example of late 1800’s architecture. Constructed in Boston for a Ship’s Captain, the house was disassembled and shipped to Florida in sections via steamer. The name refers to its strange construction where the support studs are located on the outside of the house instead of the inside which was commonplace. It remains a mystery as to whether this odd assembly was done in error or by design. The building now operates as a gift shop.
Edward Warren (E.W.) Henck, a Bostonian entrepreneur, is recognized as the founder of Longwood. Henck was instrumental in linking Sanford and Orlando via the Railroad. In 1879 Henck and two other men incorporated The South Florida Railroad. This created availability for winter visitors to patronize local hotels and cottage rentals as well as other businesses. Local residents found employment opportunities in the lumber and turpentine industries which grew steadily with the railroad access. Though this was a great achievement to the area, here at Nellie’s we feel his greatest contribution was when in 1925 Henck and National League Baseball Hall of Famer, Joe Tinker partnered on the construction of a building on the corner of Church Avenue and County Road 427. The building was originally constructed for the Longwood State Bank. Other occupants included a drug store, a barber shop and a grocery. During the depression, the Bank, like so many others, closed. The site has housed many other businesses over the years but it is hard to imagine that Henck or Tinker could have foreseen that one day this unassuming brick building would become the home of the best little neighborhood café in the area. Okay, so we might be just a bit bias on that claim, but we are very proud to be a part of this warm and welcoming community.
All these interesting facts and many, many more can be found in a great book put together by the Central Florida Society for Historical Preservation as part of the Images of America Series entitled Longwood. Feel free to peruse our copy of this book, but you will probably want your own!