Posts Tagged With: Lake Eola

The Other Lake Eola Fountain

Sperry Fountain 1940's and 2013

Sperry Fountain
1940’s and 2013

The Other Lake Eola Fountain

We all know the fountain in the middle of Lake Eola — the one surrounded by swan boats and serves as a city icon for Orlando.  That fountain is the Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain, better known as the Centennial Fountain.  However this post is not about that fountain, this is about its less popular sister, the Sperry Fountain.    Not much attention is directed toward the Sperry Fountain, which has been part of the scenery at Lake Eola for a century.

An Orlandoan gives Mayor Sperry advice on cars speeding down Orange Ave. Morning Sentinel - Jan 9 1914

An Orlandoan gives Mayor Sperry advice on cars speeding down Orange Ave.
Morning Sentinel – Jan 9 1914

E. F. Sperry was one of Orlando’s pioneers.  Originally from Connecticut, he moved to Orlando in 1885 after vacationing in the area.   Within a year of moving here, he co-founded the South Florida Foundry and Machine Works.  Providing metal works for iron stairs, balconies, trains, and fencing, it grew into one of Orlando’s earliest industries.  Mr. Sperry did well for himself.  He had a home on East Pine Street and owned property that included the southwest portion of Lake Eola.

When he later sold his interest in the machine works, he remained active in the community.  Sperry served on the city commission, the park commission, the Orlando Citrus Exchange (as president), and was a founding member of the First Unitarian Church of Orlando when it started in 1912.  A progressive man, Sperry was the first president of the Men’s Equal Suffrage League, which worked to help woman gain the right to vote.

His civic involvement led to his election as mayor in 1914.  Around this time he donated his Lake Eola land to the city.  His property completed the shoreline for our city’s most famous park.  (Pioneers Jake Summerlin and J. P. Mussellwhite contributed the rest of property to the city.)   Sperry also provided the $2000 for the fountain that bears his name.

Sperry fountain in the 1960s

Sperry fountain in the 1960s

Sperry never finished his first mayoral term and suddenly passed away in 1916.  His legacy continued when his successor, Mayor James L. Giles, continued the fight for women to gain voting rights.  Less than three years after Sperry’s death, the City Council voted to amend the city charter allowing women to vote in Orlando.

Although the original fountain has been replaced, March 2014 marked 100 years of operation for Mayor Sperry’s fountain.


  • Orlando Sentinel, 9/8/1996
  • From Florida Sand to “The City Beautiful”, E.H. Gore 1949
  • Orlando, A Centennial History, Eve Bacon 1975
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One Last Stop at the Cherry Plaza Hotel

Top: Cherry Plaza Hotel in the 1950 Bottom: Post Parkside Aparments in 2013

Top: Cherry Plaza Hotel in the 1950
Bottom: Post Parkside Aparments in 2013

Previous posts on the Cherry Plaza Hotel:

Cherry Plaza Hotel, Part 3

Today the former Lee's Lakeside site is under renovations for a World of Beer

Today the former Lee’s Lakeside site is under renovations for a World of Beer

After originally opening in the fifties as an apartment hotel, Eola Plaza, and converted into a hotel by the end of the decade, the Cherry Plaza Hotel came full circle and converted back to apartments.  It operates today as Post Parkside apartments.

Before the boom of apartment and condo life in Downtown Orlando, this was one of the few somewhat urban style apartment buildings in the area.   Especially in the 1990’s, the proximity to Lake Eola and the reasonable rents made it a sort of funky, eclectic place to live.  In fact in 1992, the Orlando Sentinel referred to it as “Downtown’s Tower of Funkiness”.    Today, it looks like a small player surrounded by new condominium and highrise apartments.  

On the ground level facing the lake, Lee’s Lakeside operated as one of Orlando’s most popular restaurants from the 1980’s until it closed in 2005.  The space has been an unsuccessful restaurant or two since then, and is currently being remoded for World of Beer’s newest location.

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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

Greetings from Orlando, Florida

PostCard July 2013-1 copy2

The Postcard

Before:  This postcard was probably already old when it was mailed in 1985.  It looks more like the sixties.  While it’s difficult to read the date on the postmark, there is a 14 cent stamp on the back.  That was the going rate for postcard stamps in ’85.

The buildings pictured on the front are much older than the mid-eighties.   The brick high-rise in the center:  Orlando Federal Savings & Loan Association (1924); blue tiled building to the right: Orange County Courthouse Annex (earlier post) (1959); and far right: First Church of Christ Scientist (1928).

PostCard July 2013-3

Reverse of the Postcard

“Greetings from cool Florida.”  The card was mailed on a rare Florida day with temperatures in the 20s.  The postcard writer mentioned freezing orange groves and hoped there wasn’t any snow in New York state.

Today:   Our Orlando skyline has grown up around Lake Eola.  If the updated image were an actual postcard from that angle, it would need to be oversized to squeeze in the urban growth.   Because orange groves are not as prevalent as they once were, a picture of a Clermont subdivision might be an appropriate “today” picture in place of the oranges.

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Angebilt Hotel

Click to read the reverse

Click to read the reverse

The Postcard

In 1933 (or maybe it reads ’38), our postcard writers were in Orlando to attend a graduation at Rollins College.  They stayed a few nights at the top floor of the Angebilt Hotel. The afternoon before the graduation they wrote the postcard to Kay in South Euclid, OH about their stay.  It was signed “oceans of love, Daddy and Mary.

Angebilt Hotel


The Angebilt is a great place to start this blog about Orlando’s past. An Orange Avenue landmark for 90 years, and for decades the premier hotel in Orlando. When it opened in 1923, it was a near skyscraper as the tallest building in the city at 11 floors.

A sign in the front advertised the 10th floor dining room as “The Height of Hospitality.” Aside from 250 rooms, guests could enjoy a beauty salon/barber shop, a drug store, and a cocktail lounge.  With no other buildings as tall to block the view, the roof-top sky deck provided great views of Lake Eola and the area. The hotel hosted the University Club and at one time housed two radio stations.

Great Americans walked through the lobby doors during its long history. Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and Thomas Edison, all stayed once at the Angebilt during a trip to Edison’s home in Fort Myers. In the early 60’s, Joan Crawford was on the board of Pepsi and attended a reception held in the ballroom for the soda company.

The hotel faced hardship at times. The early owner filed bankruptcy within months of the hotel opening and it changed hands within its first year. Decades later in the forties, a hurricane destroyed the top floor ballroom. By the ’70s, the elegance was long gone and it attracted a less upscale clientele.

In the 1990’s with the hotel no longer in operation, the building was converted into a temporary courthouse.  This was while the new Orange County Courthouse was under construction.

The Angebilt Hotel in the 1930's and the building today.

The Angebilt Hotel in the 1930’s and the building today.

What’s There Today

The Angebilt still stands on Orange Avenue looking much like it did 90 years ago. The decorative “A” can still be found on the entry way. The lobby has been restored to its original style and is often decorated with fresh flowers. CoLab Orlando, which provides shared office space for creative and technical professionals, is based here. Two business on the ground floor generate business at lunch and in the evenings. Finnhenry’s is on one corner and a Subway on the other.

Although it would be more appealing to see something other than a sandwich chain at the base, The Angebilt is a great example of a landmark building being redefined to keep its place in the community and remain part of its heritage.

Angebilt A


A Guide to Historic Orlando; Steve Rajtar, The History Press, 2006
Orlando Magazine, March 2007

Categories: Post Card Stories | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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