The Citrus Tower in Clermont, Florida at one time was a premier central-Florida attraction, complete with a restaurant, gift shop, motel, and wax museum next door. Freshly picked citrus could be purchased (often from the very groves the tower provided views of), and the views from the top could only be described as breathtaking.
Unfortunately, this is the conclusion one can only come to after looking at the old black & white photos of what the Citrus Tower used to be. Though still a relative bargain at only $4.00 for adults and $2.00 for children 2 - 15 (<2 are free), the tower is but a shadow of its former glory. Nowadays, it provides views mostly of unchecked urban sprawl, a legacy of the city of Clermont's lax urban planning.
First, some facts: Erected in 1956 on one of the highest hills in Florida's ridge region, this splendid landmark contains 5 million pounds of concrete and 149,000 pounds of reinforcing steel. The original plans specified a height of 75 feet, but when completed, the tower rose to the lofty height of 226 feet (equivalent to 22 stories), the tip of its highest antenna piercing the sky at a point around 500 feet above sea level. It was constructed to withstand winds of more than 190 miles per hour.
Now, sprawl, office buildings, strip malls and pavement blight the once magnificent views afforded by the Citrus Tower. I guess one could now call it the "Tower of Sprawl." What were once beautiful fields of citrus groves, now have all been paved over. It is this disgusting, auto-oriented, cookie-cutter travesty of development that has motivated me to study Urban Planning in college! Only a small, overgrown stand of citrus trees can still be seen, but development is quickly encroaching and soon, I am sure this final testament to Florida's once proud citrus industry will be paved over.
If anything, the views from the tower open one's eyes to the devastating effects of urban sprawl on what was once a pristine landscape of thriving citrus groves. Black and White photos at the top show what used to be. For the eye-opening experience alone, it's worth the price, because though the citrus groves are long gone, the lessons that can be learned make the trip worth while for future generations.
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