Orange Court Hotel and Orlando’s First Indoor Swimming Pool

Orange CourtFrom 1924 until 1990 this corner of Orange Avenue and Colonial Drive belonged to the Orange Court Hotel. The Camden Apartments and the Residence Inn (under construction) towering over and just inches away from Mama B’s Subs are the newcomers.

Tropical Court Yard with palms and citrus trees

Tropical Court Yard with palms and citrus trees

Times were good in Orlando in the early 1920’s. A new 275 room hotel opened and brought another stylish Florida hotel to Orange Ave. The Angebilt and San Juan hotels were just blocks away. The new Orange Court Hotel was a resort destination with its Mediterranean architecture. G. Lloyd Preacher from Atlanta was the architect. His other works included Atlanta City Hall and the Briarcliff Hotel in Georgia.

Guests of the Orange Court enjoyed Orlando’s first indoor pool. The pool was, of course, steam-heated for those cold Florida days. The buildings surrounded a tropical courtyard landscaped with palms and orange trees. Overhead the rooms had private sun balconies naturally decorated with growing jasmine and the bright red flowers of flame vine. Wrought iron chandeliers welcomed guests into the lobby on their way to the ballroom, lounge, and restaurants.

Orlando's first indoor swimming pool

Orlando’s first indoor swimming pool

Throughout the years, Orlandoans came here for banquets, receptions, and businesses meetings such as an annual citrus industry meeting. In 1944, WDBO temporarily broadcasted from the Orange Court after a hurricane destroyed their studio down the street at the Angebilt. For a time, it was owned by Colonial Hotels, a chain that included the Key West Colonial (La Concha) as one of its properties.

The Orange Court faced business challenges early on. Not long after opening, a real estate bubble popped for the first time in Florida. Ownership would change hands seven times between 1924 and the 1960’s. The hotel closed for about a year in 1963. The following year it reopened owned by A.C. Kavli, who would own it until his death in 1985.

"Excellent beverages at reasonable prices"

“Excellent beverages at reasonable prices”

Mr. Kavli paid $500,000 in cash for the hotel. His goal was not restore it to its early glamor, but to run a budget priced hotel. He filled in the indoor pool and divided up the ballroom to create more rooms to rent. Rooms rented for the night, weekly, and monthly at affordable rates. In its last years in the 80’s, now called the Orange Court Motor Lodge, occupants included more long-term retirees as residents than tourists. A daily bus ran to Walt Disney World for the few bargain tourists staying here.  [Link to hotel brochure during Kavli’s ownership]

Efforts to save and renovate the Orange Court never materialized, and the building was demolished in 1990. Today the Orange Court is not completely forgotten. The apartment complex on the site shares part of the name (Camden Orange Court Apartments) and has a large picture of the old hotel on the side of its parking garage.  The neon sign from the hotel is in storage with the Morse Museum.

The Orange Court was part of Colonial Hotels

The Orange Court was part of Colonial Hotels

The Orange Court was the site of many business conferences

The Orange Court was the site of many business conferences

Sources:

  • Orlando Sentinel 11/1/1946, 6/29/1986
  • USF Digital Collection
  • Orlando, A Centennial History, Eve Bacon, 1975
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Fried Chicken in College Park

Fried Chicken on the Drive

When Orlandoans were in the mood for “Coup de Maitre” Fried Chicken and Prime Shrimp Dinners in the 1940’s, they could stop at the Shell Station on Edgewater.  Based on the street address, this was located where Jersey Mike’s Subs is located today.

Petri Wine was a poplular nationally distributed wine in the 1940’s.

Putting “Coup de Maitre” at the top of the advertisements suggested they were serving better-than-average gas station fried chicken.   The perfect accompaniment would be a California wine from the now defunct wineries, Cresta Blance and Petri.   Nearly 70 years later and the Shell Station long gone, tasty fried chicken is still just across the street at Publix.

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Orlando Retro Advertisement: 1967 — Uncle John’s Pancake House

Pancake

In the sixties, you could find 20 kinds of pancakes at Uncle John’s Pancake House on East Colonial.   You could also find a late night bites with hours until 3:00 a.m.  That’s according to this ad that appeared in a 1967 copy of “The Attractions of Orlando and Winter Park.”

Today, you’ll need to drive a little further down Highway 50 to the IHOP for your pancake craving.  Uncle John’s is long gone and the restaurant has been repurposed for decades.  Simply delicious coffee?  Not here anymore.  It’s now the home of a medical office provide chiropractic and alternative medicine.

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A Grand Cathedral in Downtown Orlando

Magnolia Avenue looking towards Jefferson Avenue.  Cathedral Church of St. Luke's built in the 1920's is partially covered today by the trees lining downtown's streets.

Magnolia Avenue looking towards Jefferson Avenue. Cathedral Church of St. Luke’s built in the 1920’s is partially covered today by the trees lining downtown’s streets.  Top: 1960’s Bottom: 2014

Little has changed on the corner of Jefferson and Magnolia in the last 93 years. A distinguished example of Gothic Revival architecture in downtown, the Cathedral Church of Saint Luke was built here in 1922. The architects of the Washington Cathedral designed the church for Orlando.

The history of Episcopalians in Orlando goes back 30 years earlier. Francis Eppes, the grandson of Thomas Jefferson, moved to Orlando in 1867. He arrived from Tallahassee having been one of the founders of the West Florida Seminary (later to become Florida State). The first Episcopal services in Orlando were held in his home, an estate named Pine Hill, located on Lake Pinelock.

An example of Gothic Revival Architecture

An example of Gothic Revival Architecture

By the 1870’s, services were held downtown in the “free school” building — a shared site for churches and education.

In January 1882, the Episcopal Church bought the property where today’s cathedral stands at the corner of Main Street (now Magnolia) and Jefferson Street. Francis Eppes had died the year before his church moved to a street named after his grandfather.

They built a small church on the property that needed to be enlarged two years later and again in 1892. The first building was moved by 1922 to make room for today’s Cathedral Church. The cornerstone was laid in 1925 and the first services held in the cathedral on Easter 1926. The depression quickly followed, and the economic troubles caused portions of the building to remained unfinished. After 60 years, in 1986 the church was finally completed to the original plans.

Cathedral Church of Saint Luke is one of downtown’s most impressive structures. It’s a rare link to old Orlando as a site where Episcopalians have worshipped for over 90 of their nearly 150-year history.

Sources:

The cathedral was not fully completed until 1987.  [image source]

The cathedral was not fully completed until 1987.  image source

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Since 1876: First Presbyterian Church of Orlando

Top:  First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, circa 1920-40 Bottom: Yowell Hall on Presbyterian church campus, 2014

Then & Now: Corner of Magnolia Ave and Church St
Top: First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, circa 1920-40
Bottom: Yowell Hall on the Presbyterian church campus, 2014

Very few organizations in Orlando date back to the 1800s.  Many of the ones that do are places of worship.  Several local churches’ roots date back to the years between the Civil War and Grover Cleveland’s presidency.  The Orlando churches on the 100+ year list include St. Luke’s Cathedral (1892),  First Baptist (1856), United First Methodist (1859), St. James Cathedral (1885), Mount Zion Missionary Baptist (1880),  and First Presbyterian (1876) pictured above.

Wooden frame sanctuary in the early 1900's

Wooden frame sanctuary in the early 1900’s

In the 1870’s local school was held during the week and several churches met on Sundays in a facility called the “free school” or “free church” building.  This is where 11 Presbyterians began meeting in 1876, before building their first church on Central Avenue around 1884.  About 5 years later, the new church was lost to a fire.  The displaced church group met in the county courthouse and at the opera house for a few years.

With over 100 members, they bought land and built a new sanctuary at the corner of Church and Main (now Magnolia) in 1889.  Now 125 years later, they are on the same property.

From the 1914 Morning Sentinel "Visitors and strangers" were welcomed to all services.

From the 1914 Morning Sentinel “Visitors and strangers” were welcomed to all services.

As Orlando grow, the wooden sanctuary needed to grow.  They remodeled and added stucco to the structure in 1915.   Within 40 years, the congregation again outgrew their space.  A new sanctuary opened facing Church Street in 1955, which stands today.

Today's sanctuary built in 1955

Today’s sanctuary; Built in 1955

The church built Yowell Hall on the spot of the original 1889 building.  The hall is named for Newton Yowell.  Mr. Yowell was an important business figure in early Orlando.  He grew his dry goods store into the 4-story department store at 1 South Orange Ave in the Yowell-Duckworth Building.  Later he served on the boards of Rollins College and Orange Memorial Hospital.  Mr. Yowell taught the young men’s class for over 40 years at the First Presbyterian.

The church website sums up their history nicely, “Our church family has seen it all: trains cut through Florida’s jungle, miles of orange groves, the opening of Disney World, and now the advent of SunRail (back to trains!). Things may change, but the Word of God endures for ever.”

image

Sources:

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#5 Parliament House – 10 Historic Places in Orlando to Get a Drink

 

PH

RetroLink:  10 Historic Places in Orlando to Get a Drink – Places 6 through 10

#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.

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Source: Instagram  wideanglefocus

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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State Bank of Orlando & Trust Co. – From the Freeze to the Great Depression

Left:  After 1930, Florida National Bank operated a 1 North Orange Ave. Right:  Today the original State Bank of Orlando and Trust Company is visible.

Left: After 1930, Florida National Bank operated at 1 North Orange Ave.
Right: Today, the original State Bank of Orlando and Trust Company sign is visible.

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.

The Kissemmee Valley 5-27-1897

1897 ad from Kissimmee Valley offering sound banking

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.

Early photograph of State Bank of Orlando From: Central Florida Memory http://www.cfmemory.org

Early photograph of State Bank of Orlando
From: Central Florida Memory
cfmemory.org

Interior of State Bank of Orlando & Trust, Co.

Interior of State Bank of Orlando & Trust, Co.

An ad for travels checks that ran 100 years ago this week (Morning Sentinel, 4/14/1914)

An ad for travelers checks that ran 100 years ago this week (Morning Sentinel, 4/14/1914)



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Why Tinker Field Is Worth Saving

Tinker Field on West Church Street

Tinker Field on West Church Street

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.

Joe Tinker

Joe Tinker

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 Building on Pine Street

Tinker Building on Pine Street

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.

Tinker Field in the 50's

Tinker Field in the 50’s

Tinker Field

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.

Electric Daisy Carnival at Tinker Field (2013)

Electric Daisy Carnival at Tinker Field (2013)

Outside baseball, Tinker Field has been the scene of many community and entertainment events:

  • 1928: an athletic charity event to benefit an African-American hospital
  • 1935: 10,000 attended a barbecue honoring Florida Governor David Sholtz
  • 1935: The Orlando Festival included 20 Central and South American countries participating in elaborate pageants for “the entertainment of Winter visitors”.  
  • Over the years, concerts from Marilyn Manson to the Beach Boys.
  • 2011-2013: The venue for Electric Daisy Carnival Orlando, an electronic music festival.

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.

Cincinnati Reds training on Tinker Field in the 1920's

Cincinnati Reds training on Tinker Field in the 1920’s

Sources:

  • New York Times:  Mar 18, 1935, Apr 7, 1935, Feb 7, 1937, Apr 4, 1949
  • Remembering Orlando, Tales From Elvis to Disney, Joy Wallace Dickinson, 2006
  • Tinker, Evers, and Change: A Triple Biography, Gil Bogen, 2003
  • Orlando, A Centennial History, Eve Bacon, 1975
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Exquisitely Furnished Lucerne Gardens

Top: 1950's Bottom: 2014 Lucerne Garden Apartments have changed little, while the view changed substantially.

Top: 1950’s
Bottom: 2014
Lucerne Garden Apartments have changed little, while the view changed substantially.

Lucerne 2The 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.

The view across Lake Lucerne today

The view across Lake Lucerne today



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Commuter Rail Before SunRail

Orlando Street Railway Company - Street Railway down Church Street toward Orange Avenue.  Brick building in the back ground was Bumby Hardware (Now Hamburger Mary’s).

Orlando Street Railway Company – Street Railway down Church Street toward Orange Avenue. Brick building in the back ground was Bumby Hardware (Now Hamburger Mary’s).

Commuter Rail Before SunRail

SunRail will arrive in Central Florida before long.  With high-tech and environmentally friendly trains, commuter rail will seem like a new transportation solution for Orlando.   But, it won’t be the first time residents have travelled locally on tracks.  We’ve done this before many years ago and for very different reasons.
Our first attempts at what could be called commuter rail was about 125 years ago at a time when the automobile was just being invented.
Orlando Street Railway Company
Orlando started to grow once the railroad was completed in 1880.  Citrus was developing as an industry and now had a way to ship in quantity outside of the area.  Six years after the railroad, the Orlando Street Railway Company was established for residents to have way to move around town.  Tracks were laid down Church Street from the train depot to and along Orange Avenue.   A trolley pulled by two mules carried Orlandoans up to Lake Ivanhoe.
Service on the railway was haphazard.  The conductor, Ernest Mills, for the single trolley followed a schedule perhaps unknown to his passengers.  Historian Eve Bacon wrote that Ernest gave his friends free rides and would often stop at the end of line on Marks Street for a game of marbles.  These unplanned stops caused service delays.  Sometimes they would catch snakes in the woods, tie the live snakes to the back of the trolly, and drag them back to West Church Street to sell to the local taxidermist.  Orlando life was a bit more rustic in the 1880s.
In 1893, the unreliable service led to the city to revoke the Orlando Street Railway Company’s franchise, and later ordered the tracks removed.
Dinky Station -  Winter Park train station for the Dinky Line located on Lake Virginia in late 1800’s.

Dinky Station – Winter Park train station for the Dinky Line located on Lake Virginia in late 1800’s.

Dinky Line

A few years after the mule powered street railway, another commuter rail began.  This one proved to have longevity.  In 1889, the Orlando and Winter Park Railroad started running from downtown Orlando winding by Lake Highland and Lake Formosa up to Rollins College.  Now part of Rollins’ heritage, it was nicknamed the “Dinky Line” by students that for 15 cents commuted between Orlando and the Winter Park campus.
Traveling at speeds of 6 1/2 miles per hour, the train easily derailed because the tracks were laid on sand.  Much of the route between Orlando and Winter Park was wooded and undeveloped.  If service was not interrupted by derailment, stray cattle blocked the tracks and delayed service until the conductor stopped to shoo the cows away.
In addition to passengers, the Dinky Line carried freight especially later when automobiles became the norm.  The line ran for over 70 years.  By the 1960s, the wooded areas along Lake Highland and Lake Estelle had become prime real estate lined with upscale homes.   Its last route ran in 1967 and the tracks were removed a year later.
Today, we have reminders of the Dinky Line with portions of the route making up the Orlando Urban Trail.  In Winter Park, the train station once stood on Lake Virginia at Dinky Dock Park.
This post originally appeared in Bungalower.

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