1889 Church Street Station Signaled Orlando’s Ambition – Orlando Sentinel
A recent flashback shed light on Joseph Bumby, the Londoner who arrived in Orlando in 1873 and became the city’s first railway agent. The brick building he created in the 1880s is one of the oldest in the city center, as is its companion across the tracks: the 1889 railroad depot with the impressive tower round that faces Church Street. It was a big step up from the frame building that preceded it – a sign that Orlando was claiming its future as one of Florida’s premier cities.
Empty since the summer of 2020, the 1889 depot recently made headlines due to a proposal to make changes to it, including the addition of balconies and a faux glass water tower that houses an elevator and stairs. At its August 3 meeting, the city’s Historic Preservation Board requested revisions, which it will revisit in early October.
I can’t think of another train station in Florida that’s so old and so architecturally distinguished. It is a product of Orlando’s first boom, inspired by the arrival of the railroad in 1880. City boosters then promoted Orlando as “the phenomenal city, built on the peel of an orange”, and hotel and rail magnate Henry Plant gave him a building to match his aspirations.
The station actually consists of three parts: its best-known face on Church Street, with the tower, which originally housed the station agent’s offices and ticket office; the passenger station behind it, with its distinctive onion-shaped dome; and a third smaller building which was used for luggage.
It is very possible that the design of the building was influenced by architect and builder WT Cotter, who worked for the Plant System on its hotel in Sanford and also on its flagship, the Moorish Revival Hotel in Tampa. Now part of the University of Tampa and home to the Henry B. Plant Museum, it’s one of Florida’s most breathtaking historic buildings.
The style of the Orlando depot is rare in central Florida, experts say. It’s called the Richardsonian novel, named after Henry Hobson Richardson, an important American architect (1838-1886), whose work helped shape the cityscapes of Boston, Pittsburgh, Albany and Chicago, between other cities.
Louisiana-born, Harvard-educated Richardson influenced the work of other notable architects, including Stanford White and Louis Sullivan. Richardson believed that “the Industrial Revolution had hijacked architecture from its true roots,” according to the Florida Master Site File (the official inventory of our state’s historical and cultural resources). He sought to showcase natural building materials and establish a renewed sense of order and proportion, creating buildings that seemed “grounded to the Earth”. Features of its style include windows and semicircular arches.
In early 20th century Orlando, the train station shaped by Richardson’s ideas was bustling with activity, and not just for long-distance travel. In 1914, a Sentinel article highlighted a plan for Sunday summer excursions to New Smyrna Beach, with a transfer to Orange City. If you wanted to get out of town in the days when car or plane travel wasn’t common, the train was definitely worth the walk or bump into a carriage.
With the exception of SunRail, the last train left the 1889 depot in 1926, when the Mediterranean-style station on Sligh Boulevard replaced it. You could still buy tickets at the old station until 1972, around the time city officials began working to add it to the National Register of Historic Places.
Now the National Register has more than 55 Orange County listings, but when the 1889 station gained its designation, in 1976, it was among the first. It is also an official Orlando landmark, of which there are more than 50.
Around the time ticket sales stopped at the old station and it was empty, entrepreneur Bob Snow spotted it and quickly made it the station’s namesake and centerpiece. original Church Street, the entertainment complex that, by the mid-1980s, was Florida’s fifth. -the greatest attraction. Then only Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Kennedy Space Center attracted more visitors.
A dip in the Flashback mailbag brings memories to Bumby Hardware:
“I remember growing up in Winter Park, we had a Bumby Hardware store near the corner of Park Avenue and Morse Boulevard. This was when Morse didn’t cross the train tracks; the depot today stood at the location of the crossing, and the crossing was on Lincoln Avenue in Winter Park.
If the Winter Park Bumby store didn’t have what you needed, they could get it from the Orlando store. My family had a small orange grove, and there was always something being ordered, irrigation or agriculture. Oh, the memories of when Central Florida was fun.
— Stan Kapp, New Smyrna Beach, Winter Park High School Class of 1967
Joy Wallace Dickinson can be reached at [email protected], FindJoyinFlorida.comor by old-fashioned letter to Florida Flashback, c/o Dickinson, PO Box 1942, Orlando, FL 32802.
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