Did You Know-town: H.H. Dickson is Orlando’s version of Johnny Appleseed, but with azaleas

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H.H. Dickson was a co-founder of the Dickson-Ives Grocery, in Downtown Orlando. The mercantile, co-owned with Sidney Ives Sr., opened in the 1880s on Church Street and moved to a larger space at the corner of Central and Orange years later.

Side Note: Wilson Reed, who owned the business post-1949, was the one who started the tradition of hanging the Kazanzas Star over Orange Avenue. More on that HERE.

Dickson served in the Georgia militia during the Civil War at the age of 15 and moved to Atlanta when he was 17, after the war, where he started his own printing business. He left Atlanta to move to Orlando, to sell feed and fertilizer.

Dickson, who is credited as being the “Father of Good Roads” in Orange County for being instrumental in bringing the first hard-surfaced roads to the state, was something of a civic do-gooder. He served on City Council and spearheaded a citizen-led audit of city hall spending practices, to ensure that the City was being operated efficiently; spoiler alert, it was! He also served on the Orange County School Board and was vice-chairman of the Orlando Utilities Commission.

But what we’re most excited about is his petal-pushing habit of planting azaleas. Dickson went door-to-door to sell cheap azalea plants in an effort to beautify the City, one lawn at a time. He was honored for his efforts by having a city park named after him; Dickson’s Azalea Park. Rumor has it, he was actually on his deathbed, listening to the inauguration of the park on the radio when it happened.

Dickson Azalea Park, as it’s referred to now, is a wooded ravine that cuts through Thornton Park, following the slow trickle of Fern Creek into Lawsona. It was originally a watering hole for cattle herders but was donated to the City by State Senator Walter Rose to be used as a public park. During the Great Depression, the park was kept in order by the efforts of the Orlando Garden Club and the Works Progress Administration.

The park was designated an Orlando Historic Landmark in 1991.

His wife, Annie Mae Dickson, died at the age of 95, in 1954. She came from a prominent Confederate family in Georgia and had been confined to her room for three years after falling down the steps of the First Methodist Church.

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