The development of the area began in the early 1900's. The history of Hillcrest Heights begins around 1912, and is primarily credited to Herbert E. Fairchild along with his Brother-In-Law Irwin A. Yarnell.
Fairchild and Yarnell were both Bankers before coming to Florida. They were previously Officers at the Minneapolis State Institution for Savings, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Fairchild was married to the former Adella Wilson. He remained in Hillcrest Heights until his death at the age of 79 on February 25th of 1941. Adella died a few months later in July of 1941 at the age of 75. They are interred together at the Oaklawn Cemetary in Winter Haven, Florida. Irwin A. Yarnell came to Florida with his wife Josephine. They would later establish the area now known as Highland Park. Irwin died in July 1936. Josephine died in May of 1967.
In 1912, H.E. Fairchild met the late Dr. Frederick W. Inman, the father of Winter Haven. Dr. Inman insisted that Fairchild see an area he called the "Ridge." Fairchild met with Glenn Skipper, from 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 for $100 per acre owned by a man named Ed Flood of Lakeland. The next morning Fairchild met with Flood and traveled by horse to Frostproof Florida, arriving at noon, and from there traveled north to the edge of Crooked Lake. Fairchild was spellbound when the lake came into view. A day later he closed a deal to purchase several hundred acres of wild land on the southeastern shore of Crooked Lake.
In 1917, Fairchild and Yarnell, started the Southern Land Company of Crooked Lake and the Citrus Grove Development Company. *
In 1918, a disagreement between them led to a break up. Yarnell began to develop an area to the north of Crooked Lake. It was called the Highland Park Colony (now named the Village of Highland Park. It is located at the north end of Lake Easy, a couple miles due north of Crooked Lake). Yarnell built his home there, in honor of his wife. He called this mansion the Casa De Josefina. The home is now listed as a historical landmark on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Fairchild continued on with his Citrus Grove Development Company in the area that later became known as Hillcrest Heights. The town’s boundary included: portions of Seminole Rd. to the south, Palmetto Ave. to the west, Scenic Highway (SR 17) and Lake Ave to the east. The north boundary continued right on up to the shore of Crooked Lake.
On Feb 28th of 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 Town Council held its first meeting on Nov 20th, 1923. The town officers sworn in were: 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, insofar as providing for fire protection services administered by the county.
Beginning in 2008, the Town of Hillcrest Heights, in coordination with the Defenders of Crooked Lake, began the process to annex the land area occupied by Crooked Lake in order to further protect and preserve the natural beauty of the lake. Crooked Lake is a State registered Outstanding Florida Waterway. As of December 8th of 2008, the lake bottom area of Crooked Lake was formally annexed, and now belongs to the town.
* For additional information on the history of Citrus Development in this area, click on the following underlined link for the Cody Family Association.
between Lake Wales & Babson Park
In 1917, the Southern Land Company, built the Lakeside Club on the south shore of Crooked Lake in the area now known as Hillcrest Heights.
The original Lakeside Club burned to the ground on Nov 11th of 1918. It was rebuilt in 1919 and changed it's name to Hillcrest Lodge. The owners being 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 hotel 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 and surrounding areas.
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 of 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 many guests returned year after year.
The Lodge is currently owned by Buffett Investments LLC, having purchased it in 2018. It presently operates year round. Those who are interested can call 863-638-1712 for information regarding availability and reservations.
Google Maps Image of Hillcrest Lodge