How things have changed! In the first half of the twentieth century, the Sand Lake area, now known as Dr. Phillips, was home to Doc Phillips' citrus empire. His holdings included thousands of acres of orange, tangerine and grapefruit groves, making him at one time the world's largest individual citrus grower. Doc also boasted the most modern packing house of the day. To service his grove operations, Doc built a fertilizer plant adjacent to the Sand Lake packing house, producing fertilizers for his citrus groves. He also built housing for his citrus workers and constructed a post office next to the train station serving the area.
Doc's long range plan was to create a community centered around the grove operations. In the late 1940s, he hired a Jacksonville planner by the name of Mr. Simmons to produce a blueprint for the development of a community where people would work, live and play. Doc originally had a vision for a village with a population of 5,000 that included residential, commercial and industrial development, primarily agricultural enterprises such as growing, processing and marketing citrus as well as creating new products to use all elements of the fruit.
With unionization making inroads in the citrus industry after World War II, Doc decided to change course and exit the business. In 1954, he sold his citrus holdings to a partnership which included Minute Maid. In the sale, the Phillips family retained the undeveloped land in southwest Orange County that previously had not been used to grow citrus. Some of this retained land subsequently was sold to developers who built residential neighborhoods in the community with amenities residents enjoy today --- golf, tennis, swimming and boating.
After Walt Disney announced his plans in the late 1960s for Walt Disney World to be built in the area, it became apparent the community would be much larger than originally planned. Howard Phillips, Doc's son, recognized his father's previous community plan needed to be updated. Since Orange County was not equipped at the time to plan the Dr. Phillips area, Howard worked closely with a world renown land planning firm (Hart, Krivatsy and Stube of San Francisco) to develop a master plan for an 18-square mile area, which included land north of the south end of Big Sand Lake, south of Conroy-Windermere Road, east of the Butler Chain of Lakes, and west of Turkey Lake Road. When this plan was presented to the Orange County Commission in 1969, the Dr. Phillips community had the distinction of being the first master-planned community in Central Florida.
The plan has now become reality. The community's downtown, or commercial area, is located where planned along Sand Lake Road at the intersection with Dr. Phillips Boulevard and includes shops, professional offices and higher density housing. Single-family residences radiate from that central core.
The original plan made provision for schools --- elementary, middle and high schools. The community now has seven schools: Dr. Phillips, Palm Lake, Bay Meadows, and Sand Lake elementary schools; Southwest and Chain of Lakes middle schools; and Dr. Phillips High School. The plan also identified the need for other public facilities, medical facilities and parks and recreation facilities. Before the plan was completed, Dr. Phillips Charities built the fire station, established a water and sewer system, and built and operated a water plant. Dr. Phillips Charities also built a library facility for the benefit of the community which is leased to the Orange County Library System. In addition, Dr. Phillips Charities made land available for parks and a family recreational complex (YMCA and Little League). Various religious denominations were provided support and encouraged to establish a presence in the area. Land also was made available to Orlando Regional Healthcare System (now known as Orlando Health) to establish a hospital, which recently was renamed The Dr. P. Phillips Hospital.