Can’t Stop the Music

By Whitney Barrett, History Center Archivist From the Spring 2022 edition of Reflections From Central Florida Although you might not think of Orlando as a popular music destination, many of the great singers of jazz, blues, and gospel music passed through the city during its history. Big names such as Ray Charles,

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Orlando’s Pioneering Drive-In Movie Theater

By Lesleyanne Drake Across the nation, there is one industry that appears to be flourishing during the pandemic: drive-in movie theaters. Orlando’s first drive-in movie theater opened on February 7, 1940, at 1001 South Orange Blossom Trail. Originally called “The Drive-In Theater” and later renamed the Orlando Drive-In, it was

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Historic Orlando House Threatened

Today, Sam Robinson’s substantial residence, which fronted a vast orange grove in 1885, has become an imposing four-columned mansion on a heavily traveled downtown street.

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Ebsen Dance Revue

Orlando siblings Buddy and Vilma Ebsen make it big as professional dancers and perform in their hometown in May 1940 at Orlando’s City Auditorium.

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Parramore’s Landmark Churches

In Orlando’s Parramore neighborhood, African Americans worshipped outdoors in brush arbors and stables while they saved funds to build proper churches, which served not only as places of worship but also as social centers, gathering places, and schools.

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Ben White Raceway: The Training Capital of Harness Racing

Trotters Park was once Ben White Raceway, at one time the largest training facility for harness racing in the United States and the winter home of championship harness races and racehorses.

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O Christmas Star, O Christmas Star

The holiday season in downtown Orlando is a familiar sight. Perhaps one of Orlando’s most iconic holiday decorations is the yellow Christmas star that illuminates the intersection of Orange Avenue and Central Boulevard each year.

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Cyanide at the San Juan

When Orange County Deputy Sheriff George Fields arrived at Room 208 of Orlando’s San Juan Hotel early on the morning of Feb. 16, 1938, 19-year-old Dolores Myerly had been dead for about 30 minutes. No one in the City Beautiful could have predicted where it would lead.

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Homegrown Haunts: Orlando Ghost Stories

Every state, every city, has ghost stories; Orlando is no exception. Along with its tourist attractions, both modern and from yesteryear, the city boasts a reputation for excellent spooky stories. Some ghostly tales involve historic buildings, such as the 1886 Bumby Building on West Church Street.

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This Was Jonestown

Former slaves founded Orlando’s first African American community about 1880, when Sam Jones and his wife, Penny, settled along the banks of Fern Creek, about a mile east of Orlando’s downtown. Orlando’s promise of growth and prosperity attracted other African Americans hoping to find new lives in Florida.

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