Sinkhole creates new Florida lake: History of Lake Rose in Winter Park

Winter Park, Florida is known for its beautiful homes, restaurants, and shops, but the city has a lot of natural gems as well.  One example is Lake Rose, near the intersection of Fairbanks Ave. and S. Denning Dr.

The lake can trace its beginnings to a massive sinkhole that opened up near the intersection 41 years ago. One local family has devoted a lot of time studying this natural disaster which has led to some breakthroughs in understanding sinkholes. In May 1981, the front page of the Sentinel Star (now the Orlando Sentinel) featured the huge sinkhole that swallowed up a swimming pool, a luxury car dealership, buildings, and homes.  

One of the homes destroyed that of Mae Rose Williams, hence the name Lake Rose.

"She heard a big 'swoosh' late Friday night, early into the morning, and went out to see what it was, saw her home settling in, and that's when everything over a 48-hour period collapsed," explained Leila Jammal. 

Jammal's father, Jim Jammal, was an engineer with the City of Winter Park and was asked to study the sinkhole. In his research, he made great strides in understanding sinkholes.

"There had been a thought that dryness causes sinkholes, and they realized that, in fact, it was the rainfall after a dry period that became more of a catalyst and a trigger," she said.

Florida is no stranger to sinkholes, but they normally occur in rural areas or where there is a lot of irrigation they can happen in cities too –  just not usually into the scale.

"Usually they're very small and localized, and you can come in and fill them, stabilize it, and you move on," Jammal said. "In this case, it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and you really have no way of knowing until it's finished."

She said it's not likely to see something like this again in Winter Park and many probably don't even know that this lake was once a sinkhole, as it is now surrounded by busy shops and restaurants. 

"They just say, 'Hey we've got like for property!' They might not realize, 40 years ago, what this looked like," she said. 

Jammal attended the University of Central Florida and became an engineer herself, starting her very own engineering firm. She was inspired by her father's work. 

"I got to see my father in those moments of reassuring people when he didn't really know for sure, but also trying to educate people," she said. "It's a people is a people business. Ultimately, you're solving a problem that is going to help people."