Posts Tagged With: #orlandohistory

Pineapples, Water Parks, and the History of Lake Ivanhoe

A postcard showing the Ivanhoe Pinery, and a Google map image of the scene today.

A postcard showing the Ivanhoe Pinery, and a Google map image of the scene today.

This is a post written for Bungalower.

The history behind Orlando’s bungalow neighborhoods is a special part of their charm, and each neighborhood has unique stories about its origins. A great example of that is a story about College Park/Ivanhoe Village it was the cozy, residential community as it is today. Over 100 years ago, one man made Lake Ivanhoe the center of the U.S. pineapple industry and later turned the same land into one of Orlando’s first amusement parks.

When Orlando got its start in the 1800’s, Central Florida could have been described as a tropical wilderness. Many of the pioneers who settled here were successful business people that relocated their entrepreneurial drive to Orlando. One such entrepreneur was George I. Russell. Mr. Russell, an early settler near Lake Ivanhoe, was a sharp businessmen and it could be said he had the foresight to build an amusement park here long before Walt Disney ever had the idea.

George Russell moved to Florida in 1885 from Connecticut for the perceived healthy climate. He arrived in Tampa, but fell love and moved to Orlando after visiting here. Shortly after arriving, he and a business partner opened up shop downtown near Pine Street and the railroad tracks selling hay, feed, fertilizer, and grain. It enjoyed a great deal of success and was soon one of the largest businesses of its kind in Florida.

Enjoying the prosperity of his new business, Mr. Russell bought a large parcel of land on the southern side of Lake Ivanhoe. There he built a large home (around where I-4 and the DoubleTree are today).

The tropical fruits that could grow in Florida and not in other parts of the country fascinated many who moved here. The citrus industry was already well established by this time, but seeing pineapples growing around the homes in Orlando sparked an idea for Mr. Russell to grow and harvest them for profit.

He developed his acreage between Lake Concord and Lake Ivanhoe into a pinery (basically a pineapple farm). At first, he planted the pineapple varieties commonly grown in the area, but soon imported varieties from Hawaii and Puerto Rico. In the mid-1890’s, the citrus industry was devastated by freezing temperatures. This created an urgency to protect his pineapples. Wooden sheds were built across the pinery and steam boilers for heat were installed. Mr. Russell found that the plants were not just protected, but thrived in the ideal conditions of the sheds and steam. He added additional pineries until there were over 20 acres of pineapples across the area. In 1900, The Florida Agriculturist proclaimed Orlando as “the Mother of the pineapple business” and noted Florida supplied most of the pineapples to the U.S.

An ad for Russell’s Pineapples in 1897 said the Ivanhoe pineries were “known throughout the United States as producing the finest fruit ever put on the market.” They became so popular that plants, while still planted in local soil, were carefully packed in wooden crates and shipped to Washington D.C. There they were planted in the White House Conservatory to grow and harvest for President McKinley to enjoy fresh Ivanhoe pineapples.

The Florida pineapple industry quickly died out when more trade opened with Cuba. No longer as profitable, Mr. Russell got out of the pineapple business and turned his attention to his third Orlando venture, a water park.

Water slide at Joyland on Lake Ivanhoe in the 1910's.

Water slide at Joyland on Lake Ivanhoe in the 1910’s.

In 1910, he built Russell’s Point (also called Ivanhoe Park). Orlando historian Eve Bacon described it as “an amusement and recreation park on Lake Ivanhoe, that became the favorite gathering place for Orlandoans of all ages.” This made the area the spot for indoor and outdoor fun with a dock, water slides, a dance hall, picnic area, and 50 boats for fishing and enjoying the lake. Movies – silent films at the time – were often featured. Russell’s Point was later called Joyland after a contest was held to rename to the popular entertainment location. The amusement park operated for about nine years.

George Russell grew three successful ventures, the grain and fertilizer business downtown, the pineries, and then Joyland. The Lake Ivanhoe area that was a special part of Mr. Russell’s life would soon become home to many others. He closed Joyland and sold his 30 acres of property in 1919 to be developed into the subdivision from which College Park would emerge.

The Morning Sentinel , June 3, 1915
Orlando, A Centennial History, Eve Bacon, 1975
Florida Farmer & Fruit Grower, June 4, 1897
University of Florida Digtal Collections
The Florida Agriculturist, Sep 5, 1900
A Joyland ad from a 1915 edition of the Morning Sentinel

A Joyland ad from a 1915 edition of the Morning Sentinel

Categories: Post Card Stories | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

The Grand Theatre

Top: Grand Theatre - circa 1915 Bottom: The site today is mostly a parking lot - 2013

Top: Grand Theatre circa 1915
Bottom: Mostly a Parking Lot Today 2013

The Grand Theatre

Orlando residents have enjoyed attending live performances and movies in the comfort of a theater since 1884. The first major theatre was an opera house downtown. It was housed in a large wooden frame building with a stage lit by kerosene lamps (This was roughly where the Solaire high-rise apartment building is today).   The Grand Theatre came along in 1912. By this time, Orlando had other theaters, but the growing popularity of motion pictures seemed like a good opportunity for Orlando businessman, Colonel T.J. Watkins. He began constructing the Grand Theatre and Grand Hotel at the Nashville Block located between Central and Pine.

The Grand Theatre opened as a silent movie house, when motion pictures were a draw even without sound. The film projectors were hand-cranked.  Musicians played music live for the films. Popular musicians were even billed along with the movie. A few years after opening, the theatre was one of the first locally to use a photoplayer, which was a sort of automated orchestra for silent films.   In 1915, the theatre introduced a new policy that included partitioning half of the balcony for use by African-American film goers.

"A Romance at Orlando"

“A Romance at Orlando”

“Romance at Orlando”

Today Orlando is better known for movie studios than movies filmed here. Although Universal Studios and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are mostly theme parks, some movies have been filmed here. The list includes Parenthood (1989), The Waterboy (1998), and admit it or not Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector (2006).  When did we get our start in the movie business?  In 1914 with the silent film Romance in Orlando.

Filming made front page news of The Morning Sentinel on December 11, 1913.  Scenes were filmed around Orlando at businesses and the home of city pioneer Braxton Beacham (You might recognize the name from the Beacham Theatre).   The newspaper described a scene in the moving involving a political rally and being filmed at the bandstand.  It mentioned when the camera panned around who among the locals could be seen in the crowd.  The story noted screen time was given to Fire Chief William Dean, City Alderman W.P. Watson, and in terms that seem crass today, “even the old negro Garey, whom everybody knows.”

Romance at Orlando opened at The Grand Theatre January 13 & 14, 1914 just one month after filming.  The Grand seated about 750 people and every seat must have been filled as 3000 people watched the film on those two days.  The Morning Sentinel describing the film as a, “pleasing picture made popular by the appearance of local characters.”

Astor Theatre

Silent films gave way to movies with sound.  Gone With The Wind was such a hit after its 1939 release that The Grand was sold out for two months straight.  In the decade to follow the building began to age and was in need of updating in order to stay relevant.   In 1954, the theatre was completely redecorated, refurbished, and rebranded as the Astor Theatre.  Newer technology — including a sound system and air conditioning — were added.   Two rows of seats were removed from the back to make room for concessions and the women’s room was outfitted with a powder bar.   Now, the ladies could freshen up during intermission.

Ushers await outside the Grand Theatre - Around 1930

Ushers await outside the Grand Theatre – Around 1930

The new name and remodel were not enough to save the Grand.  The screen went dark in the early sixties and the theatre was torn down about 1965.  In the post card scene above, the brick building seen to the right of the theatre still stands (where Backbooth bar is currently located).  Nothing is really left of the Grand Theatre today, but memories of the silver screens golden age.

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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
Categories: Post Card Stories | Tags: , | 7 Comments

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.

Categories: Post Card Stories | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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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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.

Screen Shot 2013-07-04 at 2.20.16 PM

From The Miami News 10/20/1957

From The Miami News 10/20/1957

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

French Fried Jumbo Shrimp at Gary’s Duck Inn

Gary's Postcard

Top: Gary’s Duck Inn and
the hovering platter of shrimp
Bottom: Gary’s is long

Gary’s Duck Inn Gary's Napkin

The postcard features one of the six remodeled versions of Gary’s Duck Inn. Above it, hovers a platter of fried shrimp. For very close to 50 years, Gary’s Duck Inn was an Orlando restaurant institution and served up their popular fried shrimp on Orange Blossom Trail. It would be an understatement to say that Orange Blossom Trail was a very different stretch of road when Gary’s Duck Inn opened in 1945.
At the time, this was a scenic stretch of road for those traveling north and south through Orlando. For many, a motor inn on Highway 441 was a destination itself. When the restaurant opened, it opened small with seating for 15 people.   The popularity of the restaurant over the decades led to 6 different remodels,grew to a capacity of 400 seats, employed 90 people, and served celebrities such as Dolly Parton and Bob Hope.

Gary Starling started the restaurant and operated it for about 20 years. It catered to a loyal customer base of locals and tourists. The menu of reasonable priced seafood was a hit during the era before chain restaurants were common. In 1963, Mr. Starling sold Gary’s Duck Inn to investors that included Bill Darden and Charlie Woodsby. Five year’s later, Gary’s Duck Inn was the
inspiration Darden and Woodsby used to create Red Lobster restaurants. After inspiring a national chain restaurant, Gary’s Duck Inn continued to operate for another three decades.

As the years went by, fewer and fewer tourist (and locals for that matter) traveled down the Orange Blossom Trail. The area was in decline and became better known for stripper bars than a good plate of fried seafood. David Siegel of timeshare and “Queen of Versailles” fame made an attempt to purchase the restaurant for $375,000 and even attempted to recreate Gary’s by opening a restaurant called Fisherman’s Cove with some of the managers from Gary’s. Neither was successful, Gary’s Duck Inn shut its doors in 1994. Along OBT, there are still several weathered reminders of its past days as a tourist destination.  Sadly, Gary’s Duck Inn is not one of them. Demolished long ago, on the site today sits a 7-11 and a Dollar General.

Gary's Duck Inn as it looked in the 90's

Gary’s Duck Inn as it looked in the 90’s

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Checking Back into The Angebilt

Click to access the PDF of The Angebilt Hotel brochure.

Click to access the PDF of The Angebilt Hotel brochure.

The first post on Orlando Retro Blog was about the Angebilt Hotel.  We are checking back into the Angebilt with a circa 1940’s travel brochure and a restaurant menu from 1957.   (You can download a PDF of the brochure by clicking on brochure image to the left.)

This brochure is from a time when the highlights for Orlando travelers were:

  • Fishing and Swimming
  • Tangerine Bowl
  • The Washington Nationals Winter Home
  • Eastern Airlines
  • Rollins College
  • Ben White Raceway

The air condition dining room provided table de hote service.  (A Google search tells me we call that prix fixe today.)   From this 1957 menu, the restaurant offered a wide variety of seafood appetizers (Blue Point Oysters on the half shell $1, Crab Meat Cocktails Supreme $1.25), salads (a 20 cents up charge for Roquefort cheese dressing), and sides like Lyonaisse Potatoes (25 cents) and French Fried Onion Rings (30 cents).  Highlighted was the Deluxe Plantation Planked Burger: Our Specialty from the Plantation Lounge (Choice Western Beef, ground daily in our own Kitchen, Broiled on an Oak Plank with Ripe Tomato, Julienne Green Beans and Bordure of Whipped Potatoes) ($1.65).  An oak planked burger sounds rather culinary forward for 1957 Orlando.

Atop the Angebilt was a Sky Room or the “Top of the Town” for conventions and banquets.  Also a solarium where bathing beauties in the modest swimwear of the era could enjoy the “benefits of Mother Nature’s greatest helper ‘the sun'” as well as therapies and massages.  On the mezzanine was a lounge decorated in what looks like tropical prints on wicker furniture.


The text of the brochure speaks highly of our City Beautiful, “Nowhere else in this whole wide world has nature smiled so lavishly.”  The staff is described as, “young in years” but “old in service.”  Guests are invited to stay a night, a week, or as a permanent resident.

Below I created a “then and now” of the hotel lobby with the picture from the brochure and a current shot.   The lobby has been restored and is in great shape today, and looks very much like it did in brochure.   No longer a hotel lobby but a business entrance now.  The front desk staff and the elevator operators are long gone, but it is reassuring that some of the charm remains in this once grand hotel.

The Angebilt Lobby in the 1940's and Today

The Angebilt Lobby in the 1940’s and Today

Categories: Advertising | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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