From 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Orlando Sentinel 11/1/1946, 6/29/1986
- USF Digital Collection
- Orlando, A Centennial History, Eve Bacon, 1975