Not so long ago, before crowded highways and abundant souvenir shops dotted the landscape, southwest Orlando was a sleepy community nestled among lakes and orange groves. The land was originally settled by Dr. Philip Phillips, who purchased a grove on the south side of Dr. P. Phillips in 1905 and built a thriving citrus industry. Once considered the largest citrus producer in the world, the Dr. Phillips companies share a rich history spanning several generations.* Dr. Phillips and the charities that carry his name (The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation and Dr. Phillips Inc.) have a rich history in Central Florida and continue to have a great impact on the lives of area residents.
Dr. Philip Phillips*
Philip Phillips, who would later be known simply as "Doc", was born on January 27, 1874 in Memphis, Tennessee. Born to French supply merchant Henri Phillippe and his wife Isabelle, Phillips spent much of his childhood in Lebanon, Tennessee, later attending a prestigious medical school on the east coast. After studying at New York's Columbia University, earning the title that would become a moniker for central Florida citrus, Dr. Phillips gave in to his entrepreneurial spirit and made the decision to forgo the practice of medicine and move south, toward a land of new opportunity. Endowed with $5,000 from his father, the young doctor made his way to Florida where he purchased his first orange grove in Satsuma in 1894, laying the foundation for what would become his rather ambitious dream of being central Florida's citrus king.
An unfortunate victim of chance, Dr. Phillips lost everything when, in early 1895, Florida suffered one of the most devastating freezes in state history. Two days of below-freezing temperatures and acres of worthless trees forced the doctor to move back to his home state of Tennessee.
In the years that followed, Doc made a life for himself in Tennessee, though it is hard to say with certainty how his time there was spent. Some say that he opened a small medical practice and even became an investor in a local hardware store, all the while continuing to explore the possibilities of the fledgling citrus industry. In fact, Phillips spent much of the late 1890s buying up small groves during brief visits to central Florida; a prudent move that would, eventually, bear fruit.
The sand still in his shoes - and success on his mind - in 1902, Dr. Phillips packed his bags and once again made his way south; this time with his sights set on Cuba and the promise of great economic potential. Political unrest made him rethink his final destination though, and the "Doc" found himself once again in Florida, this time settling in Kissimmee where he established a small cattle business he intended to grow alongside the orange groves.
Not long after his arrival, however, Phillips found himself pulled from the herds, drawn back to citrus and the maintenance of his many small groves. In 1905, Doc moved his family from Kissimmee to Orlando purchasing a grove on Dr. P. Phillips after being assured that the area was "frost free."
Dr. Phillips was known for the many innovations that the company incorporated in the packaging and processing of orange juice. As the family citrus business grew, housing was established for workers in the Dr. Phillips community and a post office was built to provide services. From delivering turkeys to the families of the field hands on Christmas morning, to establishing a hospital for the sole purpose of caring for local black families, to planning an entire community around the needs of his employees, Doc Phillips was a pioneer in far more than just Central Florida citrus. He was a visionary in the realm of human need, and a man worthy of the epitaph: "Under his hand, the wilderness bore fruit.
Orlando Regional Healthcare
Miles away from the lush Dr. Phillips groves, a small hospital was born on what was to become Orange Avenue near downtown Orlando. In 1918, the 50-bed Orange General Hospital was the vision of a small group of physicians. Over the years as Orlando grew, the hospital changed names to reflect the changing community. In 1946 it became known as Orange Memorial Hospital in honor of World War II veterans. In the 1970's the hospital merged with nearby Holiday Hospital to form Orlando Regional Medical Center Inc. Further expansion during the 1980's, as well as the addition of community hospitals, led the system to its current name, Orlando Regional Healthcare. As one of Florida's largest private, not-for-profit hospital systems, the doctors, nurses and staff have always served central Florida with the highest level of care and cutting-edge technology.
In 1981, a generation after Dr. Phillips acquired his first orange grove on the shores of Sand Lake, Orlando Regional Healthcare entered into an agreement to acquire the land from Dr. Phillips Inc. John Hillenmeyer, current president and CEO of Orlando Regional Healthcare, led the design and building of Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, which opened in 1985. Twenty-one years later, the Dr. Phillips Charities and Orlando Regional Healthcare are again teaming up to bring Dr. P. Phillips Hospital to the verge of an exciting new expansion. "In the late 1940s, Dr. Phillips, a true visionary, hired a land planner to fulfill a dream of establishing a self-supporting community where people would live, work and play," said Jim Hinson, chairman of the board of both The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation and Dr. Phillips Inc. "Several years ago, the land that represented the first successful citrus grove that Dr. Phillips owned was provided to ORHS for the establishment of a community hospital. Now through the consideration of the ORHS Foundation, we have the opportunity to place another jewel in the crown of the Dr. Phillips community with the changing of the name of the hospital to The Dr. P. Phillips Hospital."
Born over twenty years ago, Dr. P. Phillips Hospital is now proudly bearing a new name: The Dr. P. Phillips Hospital. With a full range of services - including a 24-hour emergency department, critical care unit, cardiac catheterization/angiography lab and stroke center - expansion plans include a 5-story tower, new lobby and parking deck. Additional operating rooms and critical care beds are being added, along with enhanced support services. Construction has already begun, and bed tower is expected to be completed by Summer, 2008.
"The long-standing relationship between Dr. Phillips Inc., The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation and ORHS has lead to the development and expansion of a medical facility that not only serves the residents of the Dr. Phillips community, but also surrounding areas and visitors to central Florida," said Ed F. Furey, III, president of Dr. Phillips Inc. and executive vice president and treasurer of The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation. "We are proud to continue the legacy of the Phillips family and look forward to a bright future for the Dr. Phillips community and central Florida."
* Excerpt from "Legacies", Dr. Phillips Charities newsletter, Volume I, Fall 2006.History of Orlando Health