Posts Tagged With: 1960s

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


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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Categories: Advertising | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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



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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Categories: Retro Lists | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

The Intriguing History of the Cherry Plaza Hotel, Part 2

Twins Cover

Cherry Plaza Hotel, Part 1

Cherry Plaza Hotel, Part 2: 

Old postcard images can give an idealized view of the past.  Looking back at the 63 year history of the former Cherry Plaza Hotel, events like Walt Disney’s press conference and LBJ’s visit are most often remembered.  Many Orlandoans still have fond memories of pool parties,  dancing in the night club, or dinners at Lee’s Lakeside.    But the Cherry Plaza’s story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the role it played in one of final chapters of discrimination in professional baseball.

Segregation and Spring Training in Orlando

There may be little evidence of it today, but Orlando has a long history with baseball.   Tinker Field was built in 1914, and was the spring training site for the Washington Senators as far back as 1936.  In 1960, the Senators became the Minnesota Twins when owner Calvin Griffith moved them to Minnesota.   After the transition, the Twins remained in Orlando for Spring Training.   Yet Orlando was not the multicultural city it is today, and the lack of racial equality here brought major challenges for the new Twins.

Tinker Field was the site of spring training for the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins from the 30's until 1990.

Tinker Field was the site of spring training for the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins from the 30’s until 1990.

Jackie Robinson broke the race barrier for baseball in 1947, and by 1959 all teams were integrated.  But spring training was another story, because into the early 1960’s many teams did not house  black and white players together during spring training.  Most spring training was in Florida or Arizona.  Teams training in Arizona largely accommodated players in the same facilities, while most teams training in Florida had to house black players separately in different hotels or private homes.   This was the situation in Orlando: the Twin’s spring training headquarters were at the Cherry Plaza Hotel, but the  African-American players were provided rooms at the Sadler Hotel on West Church Street.

The team had been promised integrated, first class hotel facilities would be available, but such accommodations were not available by 1961.  The first year of spring training as the Twins, there was little controversy over the segregated facilities.  Most baseball teams training in Florida were separating their players that year, although this would quickly change.   By 1962, as other teams were integrating their spring training accommodations, the public and state officials back in Minnesota began to push the team into fixing the inequality.  The Cherry Plaza would not allow black players to stay there.

Concerned with his state’s reputation, Minnesota Governor Elmer Anderson became personally involved in encouraging change.  It was important to him to separate Minnesota from the racial discrimination occurring in the South.  He not only put pressure on team owner Calvin Griffith to find appropriate accommodations,  he also exchanged a series of letters with the manager of the Cherry Plaza Hotel in Orlando.  Frank Flynn, hotel manager, wrote the Governor in return.  His letters were mostly evasive about the hotel’s segregation policies, but were firm in stating the hotel’s contract was with the team and not the State of Minnesota.  After a few letters, Flynn attempted to write the disagreement off as difference of opinion.  To which Governor Anderson replied, “This is not a matter of opinion… Questions of discrimination are not of limited private concern.”    The  governor’s letters made no progress.

Sadler Hotel - Henry Sadler built and operated this hotel to serve the African-American community.  Ray Charles and James Brown were once guests here.  Sadler had a long history with the hotel business in Orlando.   He worked for as a bellman at the hotel San Juan from 1929-1972, operated the Sadler Hotel until 1983, and then worked guest relations at the Court of Flags until the late 1990s.

Sadler Hotel – Henry Sadler built and operated this hotel to serve the African-American community. Ray Charles and James Brown were once guests here. Sadler had a long history with the hotel business in Orlando. He worked as a bellman at the San Juan Hotel from 1929-1972, operated the Sadler Hotel until 1983, and then worked guest relations at the Court of Flags until the late 1990s.

In Minnesota, publicity and negative public opinion was growing, but the Twins organization reported Orlando had no hotels other than the Cherry Plaza to accommodate the team.   Discrimination complaints were filed within the Minnesota state government, yet none of the efforts were resulting in change.    Fewer and fewer teams were segregating their players.  In fact by spring of 1963, the Twins were one of only five teams left not integrated.

The Sadler Hotel, where the black players stayed, was operated by Henry Sadler.  Sadler had financial backing from Twins Owner Griffith in building a hotel to serve Orlando’s African-American community.  Earl Battey was one of the African-American players on the team during this time.   He spoke out to some degree about the need for integrated housing, but was aware an unintended consequence of integration was that African-American businesses could be hurt.  Battey made a point to speak highly of local African-American businesses.  He was quoted as saying that the need for integration was, “no reflection on Henry Sadler’s business.  The Sadler has a good coffee shop and there are three or four good restaurants for Negroes in Orlando.”

The public outrage in Minnesota peaked as 1964 Spring Training approached.  The Twins by this time were the only team not providing their players with integrated accommodations.  Future U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale was Minnesota Attorney General then and spoke out publicly at the team’s lack of progress.   The NAACP began organizing a protest to be held at the team’s season opener.   This was enough for the Twins to finally take action.

The four-year controversy came to an end — not with cooperation from the Cherry Plaza — but by relocating the spring training headquarters.  In 1964 the Twins put out a statement.  “Effective March 4, the spring training headquarters of the Minnesota Twins will be the Downtowner Motel in Orlando, Fla.”  And with that the team moved to the newly built Downtowner where all players were welcomed.

Downtowner Motel welcomed all players in 1964

Downtowner Motel welcomed all players in 1964

Stories about inequality and discrimination are usually complex.  A final anecdote to this story involves Frank Flynn, the Cherry Plaza Hotel manager who could not be persuaded to allow African-Americans into his hotel.  In 1963, one the most tragic events of the civil rights movement was the church bombing in Birmingham that killed four young girls.   It was Flynn who, with two other businessmen, set up an interfaith response to assist the victims of the bombing.    A fund was collected from area churches for the Birmingham families.  As Flynn upheld policies of discrimination at his hotel, he took action and led the community in displaying compassion to those hurt by the racial unrest of the times.


  • “Bigotry is Bad for Business: The Desegregation of Spring Training Camps in the Minnesota Twins Organization, 1960-1964” by Charles Betthauser, Fall 2007, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
  • Orlando Sentinel, 2/11/1992; 2/21/2010; 9/28/2000
  • Cool of the Evening: The 1965 Minnesota Twins, By Jim Thielman
  • Twins Journal: Year by Year & Day by Day with the Minnesota Twins Since 1961, By John Snyder
  • Swinging for the Fences: Black Baseball in Minnesota, by Steven R. Hoffbeck
  • New York Times, 1/19/1961
  • Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal, 3/4/1964
  • Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/17/1963
Categories: In Depth Story | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Intriguing History of the Cherry Plaza Hotel, Part 1


The Eola Plaza in the early 50’s and the shores of Lake Eola 60 years later.

From Eola Plaza to the Cherry Plaza Hotel

This is story of apartment building (Eola Plaza) turned hotel (Cherry Plaza Hotel) and then turned back to apartments (Post Parkside).   In 1950, a new, modern high-rise dominated the shores of Lake Eola.   That year, Eola Plaza opened as one of the tallest buildings in the area and one of the first built with poured concrete.    The surrounding area was largely two-story homes at the time.  That soon changed as many of which became shops and inns when tourism and traffic increased.

Eola Plaza offered more than just apartments, but brought commerce to the area.  Storefronts were on the street level of Eola Plaza.   In a 2000 piece in the Orlando Sentinel, Joy Wallace Dickinson listed those early 1950’s businesses as being Eola Pharmacy, Plaza Petites, the Eola Plaza Flower Shop, Jeanne Elkins Dress Shop, Markham’s Restaurant, the Mary Bradshaw Beauty Salon, and The Eola Plaza Bamboo Room, a night club.

In the mid 50’s, William Cherry, chairman of Cherry Broadcasting company, owned radio stations WDBO-FM and WDBO-AM and WDBO-TV (currently Channel 6).  He added this building to his portfolio, and the Eola Plaza became the Cherry Plaza Hotel.   A 1200 seat convention facility, which included the Egyptian Room, was added making the hotel an attractive location for out of town groups and local community events.

Its time as the Cherry Plaza was the hotel’s most interesting.  In the 60’s the hotel was in its prime and important guests visited and the many notable events were held in the Egyptian Room.  One of these events could be considered Day One of Orlando becoming the world’s family vacation capital.

  • Long before Walt Disney World was planned, the New York Times wrote about growing tourism in Orlando.  Noting that over a quarter of a million people flew into Orlando in 1959, a 26% increase from the year prior.  The number of hotel rooms in town had doubled in two years to over 1800.   The Times wrote that more hotel rooms were added to Orlando when, during the conversion to Cherry Plaza, some Eola Plaza apartments were divided into multiple hotel rooms.
  • President Johnson was the first U.S. President to spend the night in Orlando while in office, and he stayed at the Cherry Plaza in 1964.  The Jones High School Band were part of the welcoming festivities.   Greeted with a large crowd in front of the hotel, LBJ climbed onto the hood of a police cruiser to announce how happy he was to be in Orlando.
  • That visit wasn’t LBJ’s first visit here.  As a senator and a Vice Presidential candidate running with John F. Kennedy, he hosted Democratic campaign workers at a luncheon at the Cherry Plaza about five years earlier.

    Walt Disney walking into the Cherry Plaza to make an announcement that would forever change Orlando.

    In 1966, actor Danny Thomas hosted a reception in the Egyptian Room at the Cherry Plaza.   Thomas was one of the original owners of the Miami Dolphins and had the players in Orlando for an event.  He was in town building excitement about the new Dolphins, Florida’s first professional football team.

  • The event with the greatest impact on Orlando was a November 1965 press conference also held in the Egyptian Room at the Cherry Plaza that included  Walt Disney, his brother Roy, and the Governor of Florida, Haydon Burns.   This was Walt’s only public appearance in Orlando.  After secretly purchasing land in Central Florida, he announced plans for Disney World.  He promised attendees that it would be grander than Disneyland and would employ 4000 people.  Disney died a little over a year later without seeing the growth his announcement brought to this community.
  • For a few years in the 1970’s, there was a Columbia Restaurant, part of the oldest restaurant in Florida, located in the Cherry Plaza.    The family that owned the now 105 year old restaurant said a church objected to liquor sales and forced is closure.   Later, Lee’s Lakeside opened in the same restaurant space overlooking Lake Eola.  Restaurateur Lee Rose ran this local favorite for over 20 years.  Lee’s Lakeside closed in 2005 not long after her death.

The Cherry Plaza Hotel’s story was too much for one blog post.  The next post to Orlando Retro will be about the Cherry Plaza Hotel’s role in a part of Orlando history that is remembered with less delight than Uncle Walt’s visit.


  • Orlando Sentinel, 2/11/1992; 2/21/2010; 2/2/2000; 10/13/1985
  • New York Times, 1/3/1960
  • Daytona Beach Morning Journal, 2/27/1966
  • Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlando, By Richard E. Foglesong
Categories: Post Card Stories | Tags: , , , , | 19 Comments

Minute Maid Headquarters in Orlando

Minute Maid Headquarters 1957 and the building today 2013

Minute Maid Headquarters 1957 and the building today 2013

Minute Maid Headquarters

From the back of the postcard:  “National Headquarters of Minute Maid Corporation in Orlando, FLa.  Located near the heart of Florida’s rolling citrus grove country, at the intersection of 441 and Rte. 50, this beautiful building is the center of all operations of Minute Maid, world’s largest grower and processor of citrus products — Minute Maid and Snow Crop frozen concentrates, and Hi-C canned fruit drinks.”

This history of Minute Maid goes back to World War II, when research created a new method to concentrate orange juice.  The US Army awarded a contract to a new company, Florida Foods, to provide an orange powder that could be reconstituted into juice.  The war ended before the product made it to the troops, so Florida Foods turned to the consumer market.   Florida Foods became Vacuum Foods and later renamed Minute Maid Corporation.

Minute Maid’s headquarters were built at the corner of OBT and Colonial in the mid-50’s.   Coca-Cola purchased Minute Maid in 1960 for its first venture outside sodas.   In 1967, Coca-Cola moved the headquarters to Houston, TX.

Having been used by Orange County Public Schools in recent years, today the building sits empty.  Plans are currently underway to locate a Wawa convenience store on this site.

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From The Miami News 10/20/1957

From The Miami News 10/20/1957

Categories: Advertising, Post Card Stories | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

The Round Building, Orange Ave and South St

Looking North on Orange Avenue at South Street Intersection 1960's and 2013

Looking North on Orange Avenue at South Street Intersection
1960’s and 2013

The Postcard

The view looking north up Orange Avenue is framed by city hall on the left and the mid-century modern American Federal Savings and Loan building (AKA The Round Building). Tall palm trees center the postcard, behind them are the Downtown Motor Inn, Sun Bank and the American Fire & Casualty Insurance buildings.

The view today looks similar to the 1960’s postcard even though all but one of the buildings in the postcard have been demolished. City hall was replaced with our current city hall. SunBank – now SunTrust – rebuilt near the same spot. The Downtowner and the American Fire & Casualty buildings are long gone. Now the Grand Bohemian sits on the corner. And at least for today, the former American Federal Savings is the only remaining building.

The Round Building (American Federal Savings and Loan Association)

Today: Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center under construction behind the Round Building.

Today: Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center under construction behind the Round Building.

In 1961, American Federal Savings and Loan Association purchased 60,000 square feet of property across from City Hall for $400,000. At the time, there were still some homes along this stretch of Orange Ave. A few houses and a four-unit apartment building were on the site when the bank bought the land. The close proximity to Lake Lucerne probably made this a very livable area, which would not be true today with the 408 Express overhead.

Robert Murphy, a local Harvard educated architect who later founded HuntonBrady Architects, designed the building. HuntonBrady continues to design buildings today. Their credits include Team Disney, The Mennello Museum of American Art, and the Orange County Convention Center expansion. Mr. Murphy designed the bank as a round building encircled in decorative concrete panels (the bris de soleil). It was originally built at only two stories. With equally important east and west entrances, the round design helped keep an even traffic flow. A head teller from the bank had the idea for a semi circular teller counter being the most efficient way to serve customers. A skylight in the center added natural light to the bank lobby. When it first opened, the bank created further attraction by putting $1 million in bills on display in the lobby.

American Federal Savings and Loan

American Federal Savings and Loan in the early 1960’s before the additional floors were added.

In the early 70’s, additional glass enclosed stories were added to the building. This changed the appearance to a sort of office tower rising from the decorative concrete. Visual Ephemera recently quoted Mr. Murphy’s wife as stating he was not fond of the added floors.

Left: Bris de Soleil panels being installed in 1960's. Right: First panel being removed in 2013

Left: Bris de Soleil panels being installed in 1960’s.
Right: First panel being removed in 2013

The days are numbered for The Round Building. Today, three old palms tower over the dry fountain at the west entrance. It will be demolished to make room for the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center currently under construction. There are efforts underway to remove and repurpose the exterior panels. One section of the bris de soleil panels has already been removed. If the efforts are successful, the familiar design will live elsewhere in Orlando as a reminder of this unique landmark.


Central Florida Modern
Visual Ephemera
Orlando Sentinel, Florida Magazine 1961
Orlando, A Centennial History; Eve Bacon 1975
Categories: Post Card Stories | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Orange County Court House and Annex, Orlando, FL 1960’s

Orange County Courthouse Annex

Orange County Courthouse Annex in 1960’s, and the same view today looking at Heritage Square

The Postcard

The postcard depicts the Court House Annex.  The two colors of exterior tile made it look modern for the era.  Across the street is a 5 cents parking lot, which is the property where the library stands today.   If you’ve been downtown recently, 5 cents won’t get you 5 minutes on the meter.

Orange County Court House and Annex

The property on which the Orange County Courthouse Annex stood has been significant since Orlando’s earliest days.  A log cabin on this site in 1857 served as the first courthouse.  Orlando’s original city limits were set to be one mile to the north, south, east, and west of this spot.

Several courthouse came and went as the community grew.  In 1892, a large red brick Victorian Style courthouse with a clock tower stood here.  That Victorian style courthouse was replaced by this structure in 1959.  The modern-for-its-time annex was built next to the 1927 courthouse.  While the aqua exterior may have been more Miami Beach than Orlando, the building brought a contemporary edge to downtown.

On the fifth floor was a jail featuring a progressive kitchen where meals were prepared by prisoners for the 165 inmates in the facility.  This is also the building where Ted Bundy’s trial was held in the 80’s.

During construction in 1959, a time capsule was buried in the courthouse.  It contained artifacts from the decade such as a rubber stamp from Christmas, FL and 50 pennies.  (Today that time capsule awaits its 2059 opening at the History Center).

Although the annex was constructed to last for a century, it barely lasted 40 years.  Asbestos made the building unsafe.  In 1989, the county moved 300 employees and 200 inmates out of the annex.  Some courtrooms were temporarily moved to the Angebilt Hotel.  The cost of removing the asbestos was high.  It was an estimated $30 million to make it safe enough to use again.  In the end, only the first three floors were cleaned up and used again while the current courthouse was under construction.

The annex was demolished and the site was converted into Orlando Heritage Park by the early 2000’s.

Heritage Square today on the site of the 1959 Courthouse Annex

Heritage Square today on the site of the 1959 Courthouse Annex


Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida
Orlando Sentinel, 11/26/1998, 10/25/1990
Categories: Post Card Stories | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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