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Winter Park Library Archive

Dorothy Lockhart Smith

Wife, Friend, Actress, and Director - She brought the arts to Winter Park.

Dorothy Lockhart grew up in the arts in Baltimore and Philadelphia. She traveled and studied music and theater. As an adult, she worked as an actress, performing in the U.S., England, and Ireland. Later, she became interested in the various aspects of theater production, eventually moving to Cambridge, England where she worked in theater promotion. In 1932, she came to Winter Park to visit her friend, fellow actress Annie Russell, and to assist with the opening of the Annie Russell Theater. She intended to stay only three weeks, as she was anxious to return to New York City to continue her work in the theater with colleagues Mary Pickford, Leslie Howard, and stage designer Norman Bel Geddes. However, after only three days in Winter Park, she met Rollins’ professor Rhea Marsh Smith. This meeting changed the course of her life. The Annie Russell Theater opened on March 29th, 1932 . . . Rhea Marsh Smith and Dorothy Lockhart were married two months later! As Mrs. Smith later described it, they were married after a performance of Romeo & Juliet. “We just got married, that’s all . . . I didn’t want a lot of hoopla.” After the death of Annie Russell in 1936, she began directing productions at the Annie Russell Theater and did so for several years.

The Smiths were part of a group of friends that clustered around Hamilton Holt, the long-time president of Rollins College. They were also good friends with architect James Gamble Rogers II. One evening over dinner, Rogers decided to design a home for the Smiths. Built in 1939, the home overlooked Lake Osceola. This "lovely yellow home" was located on Elizabeth Drive, situated amidst tall oak trees and natural ferns. Their home featured book-lined walls and antique furnishings.

Because of her many years working in Great Britain, Dorothy had become an avowed Anglophile. So, in 1940 she established a local chapter of Bundles for Britain, a project designed to send relief to blitz-torn England during World War II. After Pearl Harbor was attacked, she established a chapter of Bundles for America. Later, when her husband was called to serve in Washington D.C., she found herself emerged in yet another new project: volunteering for the American Red Cross at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Washington D.C. Here, she took part in a new therapy for shell-shocked soldiers that drew on drama techniques.

After the war was over, the Smiths returned to their beloved Winter Park. In keeping with her love of the arts, Dorothy established the Town Hall Series. This was a yearly subscription series that brought well-known artists, writers, and other notables to the stage of the Winter Park High School. Among those celebrities featured over the years were: Salvador Dali, H.G. Wells, Edward R. Murrow, and the Washington Symphony Orchestra. The Town Hall Series ran from 1947-1957.

Dorothy Lockhart Smith once remarked that Winter Park, in the decades of the 1930s - 1960s, was a peaceful place . . . where culture was nurtured. In a 1960 interview for the Winter Park Sun Herald, she stated, “It was a very enriching life to live in Winter Park. I hope it never loses its spirit – its heart. Everyone says ‘hello’ in Winter Park. It has always had that village atmosphere, and if it loses that, we lose Winter Park.”

Dorothy Lockhart Smith died in Winter Park on Tuesday, November 5th, 1985.

The Smiths had been married for 53 years.

This article was written by former archivist, Barbara White, MLIS.