My name is Richard Weinsier and I’m from Belle Isle in Orlando, Florida… dad brought me down here to be part of his new life that he created. Because he was from New York, he was sickly as a child. He met up with his friend that was a naturopathic physician. And he decided that it would be good for people that are not doing well healthwise that they would be much better off if they came down to Florida where the weather was nice… so we were only open during the months that it was cool enough to do it. During the summer we spent most of the time just working on the place. LISTEN (17:07) to Richard Weinsier’s oral history interview at the 90th Anniversary Celebration of Belle Isle, Florida.
Richard Weinsier on the grounds of The Florida Spa, circa 1940’s VIEW
He called it the Florida Health Conservatory for many years and this is in 1936, before I was born that he was here.
Health Conservatory Landmark, circa 1930’s VIEW
He started organizing, buying the property, making things ready for the Health Conservatory that would start two to three years later.
Florida Health Conservatory, circa 1930’s VIEW
The Main Building, circa 1936 VIEW
A Guest House, circa 1936 VIEW
The Main Dining Room, circa 1936 VIEW
It was already here when I was born in 1940.
Richard Weinsier, circa 1940’s VIEW
Florida Health Conservatory Sunbathing House, circa 1940 VIEW
Florida Health Conservatory Garden, circa 1940 VIEW
So it was all there.
Dr. Stanley Weinsier and his wife, Ruth Weinsier, welcome visitors to The Florida Spa, circa 1940’s. VIEW
He started the Florida Spa.
The Florida Spa: More Than a Vacation… a Rejuvenation, 1950’s brochure. VIEW inside brochure.
Well, he started the Florida Health Conservatory.
The Florida Health Conservatory Brochure, Circa 1936 VIEW
And then over the years at some point we changed it to Florida Spa. And that was part of the life that he lived for most of his life.
Dr. Stanley Weinsier surveys the landscape at The Florida Spa, circa 1940’s.
Dr. S. C. Weinsier, helping a patient at the Florida Spa, circa 1950’s. VIEW.
Dr. Stanley C. Weinsier, Naturopathic Physician
He was at that point a naturopathic physician which means everything he did was as natural as possible.
Dr. Stanley C. Weinsier, founder of the Florida Spa pictured cutting a large papaya grown at the Florida Spa, Florida Magazine article, August 13, 1961. Read more.
And so I never had any pills of any sort. I was never vaccinated. And everything was vegetarian.
Dr. Stanley Weinsier enjoys an evening salad at The Florida Spa, circa 1960’s. VIEW.
So it was a different life. Sometimes at school, kids would always see me bring my lunch to school and they always teased me. And then they realized, well some of those cashew nuts I brought were better than some of the stuff they had. We would sort of trade. I would get their little brownies and they would get my cashew nuts. It was a life that was not the same…
Dr. Stanley Weinsier and his wife, Ruth Weinsier, canoe with their son, Richard, on Lake Conway, circa 1950’s.
I went right there in Pine Castle where we’re sitting now. It was Pine Castle Elementary School which is still there and I went to school there.
Richard Weinsier engaging in some outdoor fun at the Florida Spa, circa 1950’s. VIEW.
I went over to the Howard Junior High School and after I graduated then I went to Boone, so very native. So when I came back after graduating college I came back and started teaching at Howard Junior High School, and actually my 7th grade teacher was still there along with the vice principal that I had known many years before that. So it was kind of like a reunion and I loved it there. But there was no air conditioning. Actually, the spa never had air conditioning either that’s why we were only open in the winter months…
The inviting main porch at The Florida Spa, circa 1960’s. VIEW.
Air conditioning came in around, I was teaching in 1963, so in ‘69 they opened up a brand new school called Conway Middle School and that’s when I decided that’s only about five minutes from home, nice and close, air conditioning – Fantastic! Brand new school. I moved there and taught math there for 30 years. I helped start it, then turned it into a middle school about halfway through. I got my 30 years in and then I decided that’s enough of math for a while. I moved out to Valencia Community College and I’ve been there for the last 20 years. 50 years of education I’ve been in and playing around with it. My dad continued to operate the spa until the middle 80’s and then he closed it up.
Our Last Season, 1982 VIEW
And that’s when we used to do lots of things and played around. I used to teach waterskiing, swimming to kids in the area, or I’d go off to camp and work around all those things. And I just really enjoyed the area the way it was.
The tranquility of the Florida Spa, circa 1950’s. VIEW.
M. J. Daetwyler, Orlando’s First Nurseryman
In fact, even when we talked about the Daetwylers who lived across the street, we used to have horses, too.
Richard and Roland Weinsier ride horseback together at the Florida Spa, circa 1940’s. VIEW.
Uncle Daet we used to call him. We’d ride our horses up and down through the back woods there and help him with all the stuff there and play around. It was great. He lived on the lake. We didn’t. But he said, “Anytime you want to, come over.” We’d come over, swim on the lake.
Roland, Richard, Lynn, and the family dog Skipper enjoy playing on Lake Conway, circa 1940s. VIEW.
We had a little boat out there in the weeds. We’d clean it up, play with it. So it worked out well.
Roland Weinsier practices his dive while boating with his mother, Ruth Weinsier, and sister, Lynn Weinsier, on Lake Conway, circa 1940’s. VIEW.
We had a great time over there. I guess Uncle Daet, Uncle Daet he was the only really neighbor except down the street a half mile was one or two other people so we were really out in the woods.
The back cover of the first brochure of the Florida Health Conservatory: In the Beauty and Sun of Orlando, Florida, featuring Daetwyler Gardens. See front cover and inside view. Circa: 1936.
And across the street was McCoy, well it used to be the Pine Castle Air Force Base. As the Air Force moved on, the McCoy was named after Colonel McCoy who died in the plane crash that was just actually behind the spa, about a mile behind it where it crashed. I remember that day quite well. So it was named after him, Everything went great. Then finally dad moved up to Ohio with my other brother who was teaching school there. It seems like we all teach school in this family.
The Weinsier siblings pictured from left to right are Richard, Roland, Philip, and Lynn Weinsier, circa 1970’s.
My son Jeremy he taught school for a while. He moved on to be a lawyer though. But we all have these different things that we enjoyed. Jeremy’s now working to try to get the Historical Society up and running, moving the Crawford House.
Jeremy Weinsier, Chairman of the Pine Castle History Committee is pictured in the center foreground next to Shirley Cannon, left, Chair of the Women’s Club History Committee, and Texann Ivy Buck, right, Pine Castle Women’s Club Board member. VIEW.
Even though he says he’s a lawyer, I think a lot of times he enjoys doing lots of other things that help the community… I always would get involved with the community as I could even back then. It was a great time for all…
Richard Weinsier and his pet, Trillion, at the 90th Anniversary Community Celebration of Belle Isle, November 8, 2014.
Florida Health Conservatory
It was the health rejuvenation area and as I said all our patients would stay overnight.
Poolside Rejuvenation at The Florida Spa, circa 1950’s. VIEW.
We had about six buildings that were rooms.
A guest room at The Florida Spa, circa 1960’s. VIEW.
A new cottage at The Florida Spa, circa 1960’s. VIEW.
Then we had one large room that was the dining room and kitchen and they’d come and have talks.
The daily dining room at The Florida Spa, circa 1960’s. VIEW.
He’d have people come in. I remember how the Seminole Indians would come in. They would talk to us. We had a question and answer period and other people would come in. We’d have movies every Tuesday night and then once a week he would do a lecture on some health topic.
An evening of fun and recreation for guests at The Florida Spa, circa 1960’s. VIEW.
So the health part of it was the people that were a patient of Dr. Max Warmbrand who lived in Connecticut.
The Florida Spa brochure: Lose Weight Gain Health! “A Beautiful You”, circa 1950’s. VIEW.
And he also had an office in New York City so I remember it. And when he felt a patient could be better off or could improve their health by coming to the health conservatory, he would mention it, make note of it, and then send all the information down to my father who would then talk to them, request them, and send them all the brochures and everything….
Dr. Weinsier is pictured in this view of The Florida Spa health brochure, circa 1960’s. View brochure cover.
They would come there, we had a place that you could get massages. There was a sun room.
The Florida Spa: More Than a Vacation… a Rejuvenation, 1950s brochure from The Florida Spa. VIEW brochure cover.
I think today like tanning sessions which is a dangerous thing, but it was not that strong at that point. And then we had a little gym there. But it was mostly food. Because my father was a vegetarian and he would try to do as much of that as possible. The people would come, they would stay anywhere from a week to the five to six months that we were open.
Exercising with Birdie at The Florida Spa, circa 1950’s.
The living room at The Florida Spa, circa 1950’s. VIEW.
So people I think just lived there. I knew them so well they were part of the family they were there so often. But primarily it was just the food process.
The dining room at The Florida Spa, circa 1950’s. VIEW.
You said pioneer. Being vegetarian it was always embarrassing when I’d go out to dinner everybody else is ordering all these meats and hamburgers and hot dogs which I’ve never really had. I’ve tasted them I’m sure, but I can’t understand how anyone could eat that whole thing. So he was using his food primarily as his thing.
The Southside News, October 12, 1978, part two. VIEW part one. VIEW.
But as the years went by, nowadays and even as the spa was starting to close, it was becoming more of an everyday thing. I mean you can’t go anyplace today and not have the menu be vegetarian and which one has less calories in it and which one has better cholesterol. I think that’s what he was working with primarily. They would come in and get all their blood tests just like we do today and he would do all that for them. Then he would give them a menu that would make them better off when they left.
The relaxing beauty of the Florida Spa, circa 1950’s. VIEW.
One thing that’s funny, people in the neighborhood that didn’t really know us, kids at the school when I went to Pine Castle, more so when I went to Howard and Boone. They’d say, “Does your dad really have a nudist colony?” The nudist colony thing got around because what we had was a solarium.
The Sunbathing House, circa 1940 VIEW
And a solarium was nothing more than a big fence around and inside there was white sand and little cots.
Sunbathing at The Florida Spa VIEW
But there was nude sunbathing. So there was one side for ladies and one side for men. I mean I used to go in there every once and a while.
The Florida Spa Sun Building, circa 1950’s VIEW
I thought it was interesting. We were living as I said next to the Pine Castle Air Force Base and the guys from the Air Force Base would fly right over us.
Aerial view of The Florida Spa located at the corner of McCoy Road and Daetwyler Drive, circa 1960. VIEW.
So when you look from upstairs you don’t see the fence. All you see is naked people lying around sunbathing it looks like. And since we had everything sort of covered around the area you couldn’t get in and so it really looked like, “Oh, that’s one of those places.” But it never was a nudist colony. There were nude people in there, but not a nudist colony. So yeah, I think he was a pioneer in many different ways in that sense.
You mentioned that some of the Seminole Indians would come…
Photo of The Seminole Indians, special guest visitors to The Florida Spa.
We weren’t helping them they were helping us understand what they were doing and how some of the fighting started. And how they went to their reservations and what they were doing.
The Seminole Indians visiting the The Florida Spa photographed with Dr. Stanley Weinsier’s two sons, Roland Weinsier and Richard Weinsier, seated to the right.
show off their different costumes and things they would make. Maybe they would set up a little table. They would sell things. But it was mostly informative because people from New York had never really seen a real Indian to start with. So it was more how much can we teach people, learn about the area, and understand what’s going on.
The Seminole Indians visiting The Florida Spa pictured with spa owner, Ruth Weinsier.
So it’s just another opportunity to get to feel the area and feel Florida….
My nearest neighbor that I rarely visited was the girl across the lake.
Guests at The Florida Spa enjoy leisure and recreation on Lake Conway, circa 1960. VIEW.
There were a few people in between. Belle Isle was there…. Nela Isle was there… It was very relaxed. You wanted to go visit the neighbors you just got up and walked over. Did you leave your keys in the car? Yes. Did you lock your doors? I don’t think our doors had locks on them that I remember. So it was a different life then. I live on Belle Isle now. You just don’t leave your doors open. You don’t leave things outside. No, it’s not the same. I still love it here. But it’s not the same. It’s a much more hectic life, but it’s still the same enjoyment that I’ve had in the past. It’s just on a different level that’s all….
Richard Weinsier, enjoys playing in Lake Conway as his mother, Ruth Weinsier, seated on the dock to the right takes a rest from managing The Florida Spa, circa 1940’s. His Aunt Helene visiting from Texas is pictured on the dock seated to the left of Ruth Weinsier. VIEW.
Interview: Richard Weinsier
Interviewer: Jane Tracy
Date: November 8, 2014
Place: Belle Isle’s 90th Anniversary Celebration in Belle Isle, Florida.