OrlandoRetro is on a summer hiatus.
New posts coming in August.
#5 – Parliament House – Yelp (1960’s motor lodge and one of the oldest gay resorts and entertainment complexes in the U.S.)
If you’ve ever driven down Orange Blossom Trail, you know the iconic neon sign. But you may not realize the Parliament House was once part of a chain of motor inns with locations in other cities including Cocoa Beach, FL and Birmingham, AL.
When the Orlando site opened in the 1960’s, the area was a destination for tourists seeking a warm escape from winter weather and visiting Florida east or west coast beaches.
A 1962 New York Times article about Orlando’s growing appeal as a resort town noted the opening of the new 120 room Parliament House. The Times reported that Central Florida visitors were enjoying rockets and “other paraphernalia of the Space Age” at the Martin Marietta plant tour and the city’s “new showplace,” Colonial Plaza, the largest shopping destination in the Southeast.
Since 1975, Parliament House has operated as a gay resort and entertainment complex. And has stood the test of time. The gay community it serves changed drastically since the seventies and the surrounding area no longer attracts tourists.
Seemingly unstoppable, P’House continues to endure offering disco dancing, drag shows, theater events, and stiff drinks as it has for nearly 40 years.
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The State Bank of Orlando & Trust Company received its charter and opened in 1893. This was just 10 years after the first bank opened in Orlando and two years before a devastating freeze.
Difficult times came to the area because of the citrus freeze in 1895. Two banks consolidated and then closed, leaving much of the community to trade only in cash. The State Bank of Orlando proved dependable and reliable during these challenges. It became the first “million dollar” bank in Orlando and went on to serve the community for nearly three decades.
In the early 1920′s, S.B.O.&T. hired New York architect William Lee Stoddart to build their new bank at 1 North Orange Avenue. Mr. Stoddart was known for hotels throughout the South. Some of those hotels — such as Asheville’s Battery Bark Hotel and Hotel Charlotte — also designed in the early 1920′s shared similar features as the State Bank of Orlando building. Previously Mr. Stoddart was the architect for a 9 story structure added to San Juan Hotel across Orange Avenue.
State Bank of Orlando did business in this nine story brick building for only six years, as it did not survive through the Great Depression years. By 1930, Florida National Bank was operating on the site, where it would stay until 1960. Various tenants from Orange County to the FAMU College of Law kept the building occupied in the latter years. It has spent most of its recent years with signs advertising its availability.
orlando retro blog is updated a few times a month.
As the Citrus Bowl is undergoing a much-needed major renovation, the new facilities could be a threat to historic Tinker Field. (Story) What would Orlando be losing by demolishing an old rundown stadium? This is a look at the history of one of the oldest Major League Baseball Spring Training stadiums left in United States and its link to Orlando’s baseball past.
The story of Tinker Feld starts with its namesake, Joe Tinker.
Two Orlando entries on the National Register of Historic Places bear his name: the Tinker Building on West Pine Street and Tinker Field on West Church Street.
Known for his baseball career from 1902 to 1916 with the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds, Joe Tinker was one of the early baseball greats. He earned his way to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Retired from play by 1920, Tinker moved to Orlando. The climate here was better for his ailing wife. He remained working in baseball as the owner and manager of the Orlando Tigers (Florida State Baseball League). He led the team (nicknamed Tinker’s Tigers) to win the league championship in 1921 and take the championship trophy, the Temple Cup, away from rival Tampa Smokers.
The Tigers became the Orlando Bulldogs and Tinker was team general manager. Around this time he remained involved in Major League Baseball as a scout for the Cincinnati Reds. His affiliation with the Reds was key in their decision to bring spring training to Orlando in 1923.
Tinker took a break from baseball and focused on his real estate company. His Central Florida investments included the Longwood Hotel and an Orlando billiard parlor that was a popular spot for visiting baseball greats. After the repeal of prohibition, he opened one of the first places to order a legal drink in Orlando: Tinker’s Tavern on Wall St.
Joe Tinker’s Pine Street office building, built during the 1920’s, stands today with “Tinker” spelled out in decorative tile along the top. It was added the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The Tinker Building has been renovated and well cared for over the years in a manner fitting for a local landmark. Unfortunately, Tinker Field has not enjoyed the same fate.
Orlando has played baseball where Tinker Field stands today since 1914. In 1923, a $50,000 1500-seat wooden stadium was dedicated on April 19th and named after Joe Tinker. Opening day tickets were sold at the cigar counters of the Angebilt Hotel and across the street at the San Juan Hotel. Prices were 85¢ for the grand stand and 55¢ to sit in the bleachers. Businesses closed and 1700 people turned out to see the Orlando Bulldogs defeat the Lakeland Highlanders 3 to 1 in their new state of the art stadium.
Most years between 1919 and 1972 Orlando had a baseball team in the Florida State League. The team names varied over the years, but won eight FSL Championships between 1919 (Orlando Caps were co-champions with the Sanford Celeryfeds) and 1968 (Orlando Twins).
Tinker Field’s real significance is as a spring training park. It is one of the oldest remaining spring training stadiums in the country and dates back to the era of Wrigley Field and Fenway park. An amazing list of baseball legends played here: Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Babe Ruth.
From 1923 until 1990, this was the spring break home a number of major league teams: Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers and for over 50 years the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins.
(Link to a previous Orlando Retro post about the Minnesota Twins Spring Training in Orlando)
Tinker Field brought major league baseball to Orlando. The New York Times archive has many articles about the Dodgers training here in the thirties. For example, a 1935 New York Times article reported 2000 fans at a March spring training game. Fans saw Ken Strong from the New York Giants train with the Dodgers. (He didn’t make it out of spring training.) In 1949, a larger crowd of over 2400 paid tribute to baseball veterans Connie Mack (86 at the time) and Clark Griffith (79) before an exhibition game.
Even in recent years, the Orlando Monarchs called Tinker their home field.
Outside baseball, Tinker Field has been the scene of many community and entertainment events:
Martin Luther King, Jr made his only Orlando appearance at a newly renovated Tinker Field in 1964 and spoke from the pitcher’s mound. In ’63, the wooden stadium was replaced with the larger stadium that stands today. Over 2000 people heard Dr. King speak that March day. It was at the height of the civil rights movement. The Orlando visit was only weeks before his St. Augustine arrest for protesting segregation. President Johnson signed the 1964 civil rights act in July of the same year.
In the last decade, maintenance was not kept up and it has been left to deteriorate. As the city builds and improves sports venues, Tinker Field should not be overlooked. A world-class basketball arena, planned improved Citrus Bowl, and new MLS soccer stadium are important to the city, but also important are our connections to our baseball past and community history. If the stadium is not saved, it would be a shame to lose Tinker Field without some significant tribute to this landmark.
The Lucerne Gardens apartments have been located on the southern end of Lake Lucerne for over 60 years. The apartment exterior looks much as it did in the mid-1950’s. Its great view of the Orlando skyline has experienced quite a bit of change in these decades.
The historic home of Dr. Phillips is obscured by the 408 running over the north shore of Lake Lucerne. Much larger buildings stand in the distance than what a residents of past decades saw when looking across the lake. Still the Lucerne Gardens are a small remaining piece of 1950’s Orlando.
orlando retro blog is updated a few times a month.
Commuter Rail Before SunRail
Many of the remaining historic buildings in Downtown Orlando have been repurposed into bars and restaurants. This is the first half of a list of 10 bars, restaurants, or lounges where you can enjoy a drink and connect to Orlando’s past.
Call ahead for a password before visiting. The theme of this speakeasy is rooted in true-life Orlando history. Andrew Hansen moved to Orlando from Pittsburgh in 1890 and opened Hansen Shoe Repair Shop at 27 East Pine Street. This address is now one of the oldest brick buildings in Orlando and Hansen’s was the first business to have an electric sign.
Today Hanson’s Shoe Repair (note Hanson is spelled with an ‘o’ now) serves up hand-crafted cocktails at the same address Andrew Hansen set up shop 124 years ago.
Ember is located in what was one the Empire Hotel. Built in 1913 by businessman, James MacGruder, it was advertised as, “Orlando’s Most Popular Medium Priced Hotel” and boasted an electric elevator. The amenities in its 100 rooms included baths with hot and cold water in each room.
Around the 1930’s, the ground level space, now occupied by Ember, housed an auto parts store, Pete the Tailors shop, and a sandwich stand called Bob’s Place. Next door the Mandarin Club stood where Ember’s Mediterranean style open air patio is today.
The Stardust Lounge sits underground below Post Parkside Apartments. It has a unique hip 60’s Vegas theme in this low ceiling basement bar. The significance of this spot occurred upstairs about 50 years prior. The apartment complex was once the Cherry Plaza Hotel, and the scene of presidential visits from LBJ and Walt Disney’s only public appearance in Orlando. (Orlando Retro story)
7. Hamburger Mary’s - (Yelp) (Historic location of Bumby Hardware)
Joseph Bumby was one of Orlando’s pioneers having moved here from England in 1873. After arriving he farmed his 160 acres of orange groves east of downtown, carried mail by horseback from Sanford, and built a warehouse on Church Street. The warehouse sold fertilizer and hay and was the first place to buy train tickets before the railroad depot was built.
In 1886, Mr. Bumby completed his two-story brick hardware store across the street from his warehouse. The business was an institution in this town with its slogan, “If you can’t find it — go to Bumby’s”. The Bumby family ran the store at this location until it closed in 1966.
Mr. Bumby’s store today is home of Hamburger Mary’s. Today you can enjoy a cabaret show or play drag queen bingo in the same storefront where 120 years ago one would have purchased supplies to mend a fence.
6. Harry Buffalo - (Yelp) (Historic location of Slemon Dry Goods and later Rosie O’Grady’s Goodtime Emporium)
The burger and sport bar chain, Harry Buffalo, opened their Orlando location in a spot one could argue has had a couple of previous lives. In 1924, businessman William Slemon moved his dry goods store into this new brick building. Here he sold overalls, mens pants, towels, and table linens. A hotel operated on the upper floors. After Slemon’s closed, Goodwill’s first Central Florida location operated here in the 1960’s.
It gained new life in 1974 when Bob Snow opened Rosie O’Grady’s Goodtime Emporium. It was the cornerstone for Church Street Station, an entertainment complex that became one of Florida’s top tourist attraction through the 70’s and 80’s.
Check back for part two of the 10 Historic Places in Orlando to Get a Drink list.
orlando retro blog is updated a few times a month.
For over 80 years, the Carolina Moon Trailer Camp was located on a plot of land between Orange Blossom Trail and Rock Lake. It has seen life as an early Central Florida tourist attraction, a residential trailer park, and a lakeside timeshare resort. It had such a colorful history it was even the subject of a comedy theatrical production.
Orange groves were south of Rock Lake in the late 1800’s. Postcards as early as 1906 featured a scenic palm tree-lined lakeshore. As Orlando developed, Kentucky Avenue soon ran adjacent to the eastern shore, where in 1935 a man named Jonathan Moon purchased 10 acres on Rock Lake. Kentucky Avenue would later be called Orange Blossom Trail, a more descriptive and appealing name to Central Florida travelers.
On his new property Mr. Moon opened Moon’s Tourist Camp making it one of a couple of tourist camps in the area. People visited to enjoy the Central Florida sun along the beaches of the inland freshwater lake. Entertainment during the early days of the Carolina Moon included a dance hall and roller skating.
While the tourist camps may have been popular with visitors, residents of the nearby Spring Lake Terrace neighborhood were not as welcoming. In 1937, over 50 home owners from one of Orlando’s early prominent neighborhoods fought city hall to rid the area of the camps. Likely in response, the city ordered the trailer camps to close or relocate. Mr. Moon was alleged to have opened his camp without proper permits and this lead to a lengthy legal battle. However, the trailer camp survived and remained with Moon as owner until 1945.
For the decades to come, a neon sign along Orange Blossom Trail identified the property as the “Carolina Moon Cottages.” In 1963 when motor lodges were still a draw, the Parliament House chain built a large hotel next door. The Carolina Moon was left to age beside a new modern facility.
However, only a few years later Walt Disney made his famous announcement (Retro Link: Walt’s Announcement) and tourists’ interest quickly shifted away from scenic Rock Lake.
By 1975, Parliament House was in decline and no longer part of a national chain. That year it reinvented itself as gay hotel and entertainment complex. With virtually nothing else like it in the country it brought new traffic and flavor to the area.
By this time, the Carolina Moon Trailer Park was residential. Full Moon Saloon later opened on the northern side of the Carolina Moon. Residents made up a cast of characters that didn’t mind the traffic of late-night bar hoppers making their way across the property.
The 80s and 90s were slightly seedier years for the Carolina Moon, the rooms of the original motel hosted a variety of tenants and merchants. Shops like Twisted Palms sold leather wear and specialty clothing while other stores offered everything from adult video rentals to gay-themed tchotchkes. In 1990 Boca Raton News told the story of a makeshift clinic operating in one of the rooms. During the peak of the AIDS crisis, this rogue clinic provided experimental therapies for the disease.
In the 2000’s, new owners of the Parliament House removed the trailer homes to develop the property into a gay timeshare resort, The Gardens. This unlikely end to the Carolina Moon’s story was the basis for local playwright Michael Wanzie’s, “Carolina Moon: A Campy Trailer Trash Tragedy.” His comedy production told the story of the displaced “eclectic mix of residents at Carolina Moon, ranging from old-time southern crackers and Tupperware ladies to leather daddies and disco twinks.“
Only one of several planned buildings were constructed since The Gardens’ 2005 opening. Much of the land between it and the Parliament House is vacant. Today, a single stretch of rooms along Orange Blossom Trail is the last remnant of the Carolina Moon.
It’s quite unlikely in the 1930’s Mr. Moon had any idea the colorful history that Moon’s Tourist Camp would create.
Slideshow of the Carolina Moon Trailer Camp:
Major League Soccer comes to Orlando in 2015 when Orlando City Soccer joins MLS as an expansion team. The announcement was held at the historic Cheyenne Saloon on Church Street. (RetroPost: Historic significance of Church Street) The Cheyenne Saloon was where the Orlando Magic, our other current major league team, was announced in 1987.
The Orlando City Lions add to a long list of professional sports teams in Orlando covering the minor leagues to major leagues in almost every team sport. Some lasted a few years — WNBA Orlando Miracle — hibernated and returned a decade later — Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL Hockey) — or played a single season XFL’s Orlando Rage.
Some Orlando sports history highlights:
Baseball in Orlando goes back to the 1910’s, and might be most notable for hosting spring training. The Minnesota Twins trained here for decades (RetroPost: The Twins in Orlando). Orlando had a baseball team off and on- from 1919 until 2003 largely in the Florida State League. Known as the Orlando Rays for the majority of 40 years when the team dissolved in 2003, there were previous clubs, incarnations, and affiliations: Orlando Tigers, Orlando Twins, Orlando Dodgers, Orlando Seratomas, and Orlando Cubs.
Orlando football’s most recent success was indoors with the Orlando Predators (since 1991). However, professional football goes back to the 1960’s and the time of the Continental Football League and the Orlando Panthers. The Panthers played from 1966 until the league folded in 1969, and won two league championships during that time.
Other football in Orlando (all of which played in the Citrus Bowl):
Orlando City should see greater success and longevity because of an existing and enthusiastic fan base and the investment of a new soccer stadium west of I-4. Perhaps Orlando’s greatest football glory will not come in American Football but in futball (okay, soccer).