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Cal Palmer Building - Official Website of the Town of Windermere, Florida

Cal Palmer Building

The Cal Palmer Building:

Small Site, Big Significance

………zWritten By:
Diane Edwards
Windermere Executive Assistant
John Calvin “Cal” Palmer was a developer, builder, and master carpenter most famous for the development of Windermere, Florida.

Born on September 11, 1869 in Wauseon, Ohio, Cal learned the trade of carpentry from his father; a skill he would bring with him to Windermere in later years.


Cal Palmer first visited Florida as a child in 1890. He returned to Central Florida for a 6-month location-scouting trip in 1910 with his friend, Dr. J. Howard Johnson. It was on this trip, enamored with the Butler Chain and its sporting opportunities, that the two men began the foundations for what we see today.


John Calvin “Cal” Palmer

Seal of the Windermere Improvement Company

Windermere Improvement Company’s first brochure, c. 1911
…..At the time of Palmer and Johnson’s 1910 visit, there was only one family living in the area: S.S. Griffin and his wife and children. Between 1907 and 1910, they had amassed approximately 2,000 acres via a tax certificate program. In 1911, Palmer and Johnson bought all 2,000 acres for $10,000 (more than $300,000 today). Shortly after the purchase, Palmer and Johnson formed the Windermere Improvement Company and began to develop the land. Palmer stayed in Windermere while Johnson returned to Ohio.

Cal Palmer in front of the Cal Palmer Building, c. 1912

Cal Palmer Building as “Finders Keepers” c. 2000

Cal Palmer Building, 2022
Palmer moved his sawmill from Ohio to Florida in 1911 and began building. Using local materials and his carpentry expertise, he built a sales office for the Windermere Improvement Company, now known as the Cal Palmer Building, which sits on the corner of W 5th Avenue and Main Street.


As Palmer had been appointed Post Master, the building first served as Windermere’s first Post Office (from 1911-1926), the sales office for the Windermere Improvement Company until its liquidation in 1937, and a small store, reportedly the first store in Windermere. This location was also the ad hoc seat of government from Windermere’s incorporation in 1925 until Town Council moved into the current Town Hall building in 1945. There is also speculation that this building may have functioned as a train station, the only station, in Windermere for a time. From 1940-1970, the Shuffleboard Club met here, and in 1971 a small second-hand store, “Finders Keepers” utilized the space until the 2000s. The Cal Palmer Building was placed on the Local Historic Register in 1992, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Currently, the space serves as storage for Town events.


Bill Grier (L) & Cal Palmer (R) inspect the local timber

Cal Palmer with wife, Kate, and grandson, John Luff, in 1923, Windermere

Cal Palmer with his dog
…..In addition to “founding” Windermere, Cal Palmer served on Town Council for 17 years (Council President for 11 years) beginning in 1925, and Mayor for 2 years from 1928 – 1930. Additionally, in 1920, Palmer founded the Windermere Citrus Growers Association. From 1929 – 1943, he was a member of the Florida Citrus Exchange. He died in Windermere on September 6, 1966 at the age of 96. Over the course of his life, he saw Windermere’s population grow from 2 in 1910 to approximately 500 by the end of his life. Today, Windermere’s population sits at just over 3,000.
The Cal Palmer Building is a single-story, simple wood-framed structure that sits on concrete piers. It is 20’ wide x 26’ deep. Originally, the first 16’ were a covered porch. In 1941, the front exterior wall was brought up 16’ to the front of the building to close the porch. Other than this, no permanent structural alterations have taken place over the years.


The building’s architecture is classified as “Frame Vernacular” with Craftsman details, such as stepped outrigger beams, large tapered porch columns, and a continuous beam supporting a broad overhanging roof.


It’s easy to overlook this unassuming structure tucked away at the northeast corner of Town Square Park. But now that you know its significance, we hope you take a second look the next time you walk by!


Cal Palmer Building, 2022