When you think about Orlando, a.k.a. The City Beautiful, and how it came to be, you probably think of Walt Disney World. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but chances are, if your family planned an Orlando vacation with Disney on the agenda, you likely stayed in the city of Kissimmee. And it probably wasn’t the agricultural corridor, but a touristy strip of lights, themed restaurants, condo-tells and souvenir shops.
But beyond the gator wrestling and house of mouse, there is a rich history based in citrus, military and aerospace development, and business. Prior to 1965, when Walt Disney announced his plans to build Walt Disney World, Orlando split it’s industry between citrus, military bases and space exploration.
In the 1880’s, pioneers began planting citrus, in lieu of cotton, which led to railroad expansion to transport the citrus to other areas. The central location of Orlando along railway lines, made it prime as a business hub for other agricultural pursuits as well as a vacation destination to those who were needing to escape the cold winters of the northern states.
World War II brought Pine Castle AAF, now known as McCoy Air Force Base. Patrick Air Force Base was close by on the East Coast and the Orlando Naval Training Center (now Baldwin Park) all encouraged an influx of military families between the 1940’s to the 1960’s. With the development of Martin Marietta and Kennedy Space Center, Orlando became a draw to tech companies and major employment hub for the state. The next logical addition to put Orlando on the map, in 1968 Florida Technological University opens its doors and is now the University of Central Florida, the second largest public university in the country.
When visiting Orlando, by all means, spend a years salary out at the theme parks. But if you really want the Orlando experience, take a few hours to tour the Downtown Orlando business and residential areas, visit the amazing family owned restaurants in the Mills/50 district, catch a Magic game at the Amway Center, take a tour of the UCF campus, or embrace our active arts culture.
For more great details on Orlando history, check out this great resource provided by City-Data http://www.city-data.com/us-cities/The-South/Orlando-History.html
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