Hidden Florida: Ginger Ale Spring
Bubbling up just off a busy Altamonte Springs road is one of Central Florida's most unique but least known natural treasures. Named for the soft drink made from its waters a century ago, Ginger Ale Spring presents a serene scene that couldn't be more different from the suburban sprawl surrounding it.
The pool at Palm Spring, ca. 1920s. Image courtesy of Florida Memory.
What’s now known as Ginger Ale Spring is one of several that feed the Little Wekiva River in the community of Altamonte Springs. A small, mostly agricultural community sprouted up in the area in the 1870s, and investors soon attempted to capitalize on the natural beauty of the spring system by building hotels. The area saw its greatest growth in the 1910s when Orlando business scion Lester Beeman started developing it for tourism.
Originally from Ohio, Beeman had moved to Orlando as a child with his family in 1887. His grandfather Edward E. Beeman had created the popular Beeman’s brand of pepsin chewing gum, and his father Harry Beeman was a successful banker and businessman in his own right, owning Orlando’s San Juan Hotel. Lester Beeman followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps with several business projects.
The San Juan Hotel in Downtown Orlando, ca. 1923. Image courtesy of Florida Memory.
The high dive at Palm Spring, ca. 1920s. Image courtesy of Florida Memory.
After visiting the Altamonte area and hearing of the purported healing properties of the local springwater, Lester Beeman purchased a tract on the east bank of the Little Wekiva River that included what became known as Ginger Ale Spring as well as the much larger Palm Spring, about 500 feet upriver. Starting around 1916, Beeman developed Palm Spring into a popular recreational area. He built a dam and large rectangular pool around the spring for swimming. Featuring a bath house and high dive, it became a popular destination for people in the Orlando area.
Beeman’s Ginger Ale: A Florida Product
Advertisement for Beeman’s Mild Dry Ginger Ale from the Orlando Sentinel, July 20, 1924.
According to Central Florida historian Jason Byrne, in February 1924, Beeman announced that his Beeman Investment Company would take advantage of his springs’ reputation for healthiness by going into the beverage business. His property included a smaller, nameless spring that would be the source of the company’s two products: Beeman’s Palm Spring Water and Beeman’s Palm Spring Ginger Ale. Ever since, the spring has been known as Ginger Ale Spring.
Beeman started his beverage company with E.H. Sutherland. It was headquartered in Downtown Orlando, with a bottling plant erected at Ginger Ale Spring. A concrete basin was built around the main springhead to capture water for production. Beeman advertised the products aggressively in Orlando papers, describing his soft drink as a “mild dry ginger ale” and proudly proclaiming it “A Florida Product.” He planned to take his brand national, ambitiously claiming to the Orlando Sentinel that it would compete with Coca-Cola and that “it will shortly be as famous as Beeman’s Pepsin Gum.”
The cement basin around Ginger Ale Spring is all that’s left of the Beeman’s Ginger Ale plant.
Beeman’s products were sold across the Orlando and Tampa areas, but failed to rise to Beeman and Sutherland’s national aspirations. Within a year of launch, the company was defunct. Beeman sold off the entire property the following year. In 1926, competition arrived for the Palm Spring attraction in the form of a Frank Haithcox’s new recreational park at Hoosier Spring, then renamed Sanlando Spring. Beeman bought back the Palm Spring property in 1929, only to sell it off again in 1935.
Next page: Ginger Ale Spring today