Posts Tagged With: Church Street

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.”



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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


  • 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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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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Orlando City Lions and a Quick History of Sports in Orlando

778646_621274967930795_783447953_oMajor 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.


1967 Divison Playoff Program for the Orlando Panthers (source)


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 Renegades (1985) United States Football League
  • Orlando Thunder (1991-92) World League of American Football
  • Orlando Rage (2001) XFL
  • Florida Tuskers (2009) United Football League

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).

A look back at past Orlando football club logos:


Orlando Thunder


Orlando Renegades


Orlando Rage

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Church Street Station / A.C.L. Depot Orlando, FL

Church Station 1908 and 2031

Church Station 1908 and 2013

The Post Card

In 1908, our postcard writer, Murdy, mailed a post card from Orlando to Clara in Watertown, WI announcing, “This is where we landed.”  The writer went on to express concern the postcard was a duplicate, “I wish I could remember what kind of postals I sent you.  Am afraid you’ll duplicates… Love to all.  Murdy”

Click to read reverse

Click to read reverse

Church Street Station

Few buildings have been in Orlando longer than this train depot.  From the 1800’s when Church Street was a dirt road, through the the 1970’s and 1980’s when it was surrounded by one of Florida’s top tourist attractions, until today where it awaits the future Sunrail riding along its tracks.

In the earliest days of Orlando, the first train depot stood here as a wooden platform servicing the area’s first rail service.  The route was Orlando to Sanford.  Tickets were sold across the street in a warehouse owned by Joseph Bumby.  Bumby, one of Orlando’s early business men and citrus growers, later built Bumby Hardware across the street (in the building where Hamburger Marys is today).

Church Street Station - Forgotten in the mid 70's[Source: Flickr:alcomike43]

Church Street Station – Forgotten by the 70’s
[Source: Flickr:alcomike43]

In the late 1880’s, the depot (as pictured on the postcard above) was built for the South Florida Railroad.  This train route went as far “south” as Tampa.   The Atlantic Coast Line acquired the route in 1902.  The Church Street station was a passenger depot until 1926.  That year a new passenger station, now an Amtrak Station and still in use, was built on Sligh Boulevard.  From 1926 until 1972, this station on Church Street continued on as a ticket outlet and freight station.  By the 7o’s, the buildings to the west were mostly abandoned and the station itself was falling into disrepair.

A young businessman, Bob Snow, had success in Pensacola, FL creating a nighttime entertainment complex from derelict buildings.  He purchased many of the buildings surrounding the train station and brought the success of Rosie O’Grady’s Good Time Emporium to Orlando.    Rather than just restore old buildings — he refurbished and redefined them with a grand attention to detail.  Snow purchased antiques and furnishing from points all over the world — chandeliers reclaimed from a Boston bank, painted glass from a pub in England — to create the Church Street Station entertainment complex.

Church Street Station during its heyday

Church Street Station during its heyday

The project was a great success and brought people back into downtown Orlando.  In the 1980’s, Church Street had over 900 employees, drew almost two million people a year, and was one of the largest attractions in Florida.  A new concept at the time in which a single admission price allowed access to a variety of nightclubs, restaurants, and lounges.  A weekly TV show was even broadcast from here featuring country music headliners.   For many years, this was a nighttime favorite for tourists and locals.

Church Street Station had seen its heyday by the 1990’s.  Bob Snow had sold his interest.  Disney and Universal opened nightclub complexes and fewer tourists came downtown.  In the early 2000’s with a huge decline in attendance, Church Street Station closed its doors.

Since then, Church Street always seems to be on the verge of a comeback.  Great spaces like the Cheyenne Saloon are used for special events, and many of the other venues are now occupied by Hamburger Mary’s, Ceviche, and the Harry Buffalo.  The Amway Center and 55 West high rise apartments bring in foot traffic.  East of the tracks, Mad Cow Theater recently moved in and promising new places like craft beer spot, Eternal Tap, continue to add to the energy and nostalgia of Church Street.

The train station itself sits empty, but remains in good condition.  Just as it has for 125 years, the Church Street depot continues to sit in the midst of a growing and changing downtown Orlando.

Rails Across Dixie, A History of Passenger Trains in the American South; Jim Cox 2010
Remembering Orlando, Tales from Elvis to Disney; Joy Wallace Dickinson 2006
Orlando, A Centennial History; Eve Bacon 1975
Snow and Associates website
Flickr user: alcomike43

Tammy Wynette performing at The Cheyenne Saloon and Opera House:

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Remember when you could buy a Hupmobile on Orange Ave?


An ad for a Hupmobile Dealer from the 1921 Orlando Business Directory.  At 209 S Orange Ave, this would have been around the Church Street intersection.

And what is a Hupmobile?


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