Exploring The George Effect on some of The Lakelander’s favorite parks and landmarks

By Tina Sargeant & Alice V. Koehler

Former Florida Governor Lawton Chiles, a beloved Lakeland native, once said of George Jenkins that he was “a true civic leader who had a deep dedication to improving our community.” Of Mr. George’s countless contributions to our city, some of the most cherished can be found in the gathering spaces, the parks, and the landmarks that Mr. George, his family, and his chief officers endowed to our city through his legacy of giving.
Photo: Tina Sargeant
In 1957, when shopping centers — multiple stores sharing a central parking lot — were still a new concept, most grocery chains opted to rent a space in a plaza. However, in true Jenkins fashion, Publix went beyond the norm and, instead, developed their own shopping centers. Southgate was among the earliest of its kind. The $1 million Southgate Shopping Center opened on Nov. 19, 1957, with 16 stores, on what was the edge of town. Its anchor store was, of course, a brand-new Publix and included Jenkins’ latest innovation, “The Danish Bakery.”
The iconic 70-foot parabolic arch has become a symbol of “home” for many Lakelanders. The Southgate arch is part of Lakeland’s identity and is also a big claim to fame. Not every town
can tout a neighborhood shopping center made famous by a cameo appearance in the 1990 Tim Burton film Edward Scissorhands.
Photo: Jason Stephens
Inspiring awe in Lakeland children since 1982, the Publix birthday-cake water tower (across from the old corporate office on George Jenkins Boulevard) is acclaimed as one of the nation’s most unique water towers. We hear the candles even light up at night!
Photos: Tina Sargeant
Barnett Family Park is a powerful example of Lakeland’s ability to blend all aspects of The George Effect. This park exists because of the seamless merging of philanthropy, leadership, community, innovation, and craftsmanship. Made possible by a major gift from Barney and Carol Jenkins Barnett, the park provides an inspirational gathering space for children and families on the beautiful shore of Lake Mirror.
Photos: Tina Sargeant
Through artful placement of both the natural vegetation and man-made structures, Hollis Gardens offers its visitors a reflective and breathtaking respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life. More than an acre of historical trees, flowering plants, herbs, and vegetables combine with thoughtfully constructed water pieces to create a peaceful space on the outskirts of Downtown Lakeland. The gardens were donated to the city by the Hollis family in 2000. Tour: visitcentralflorida.org/destinations/hollis-garden
Photo: Tina Sargeant
An original Frank Lloyd Wright design for the campus of Florida Southern College, the Water Dome was partially built in 1940s but took many years to come to life as it was originally intended. In 2007, when the technology and resources were finally available to complete construction, the Dome powered on and has been a community treasure ever since. Funds to revive the Florida Southern Water Dome were provided by Clayton Hollis, a Florida Southern graduate and current board trustee whose father was president of Publix Super Markets in
the 1980s and 1990s.