New England industrialists founded Winter Park in the 1880s. Industrialization was first triggered in the area when a railroad track was laid down – it connected Orlando and Sanford to each other. When Northerners – who were used to cold climates – noticed the area, they decided they would industrialize it and make it a settlement of sorts, to escape the biting coldness of winter. Winter Park offered a warmer alternative and quickly became a very popular vacation spot among the wealthy Northerners. In the summer, they would usually head back to the North to avoid the heat of the area.
The entire industrialization process of Winter Park required workers, and many of them. White industrialists turned to African-Americans for this: they put them to work in constructing establishments and shops. Some worked as cleaners or the like, as well. During this time, the African-American workers and their families resided on the other side of this railway – the western side – whilst the wealthy whites lived on the eastern side. Laws prohibiting African-Americans entering the eastern side at certain times – such as after sunset or during voting periods -- were implemented and enforced.
Naturally, these historic patterns have affected the perception of Winter Park greatly. Though now laws separating blacks and whites have been abolished, cultural roots are now entrenched in both sides of the city – particularly the western side. I have visited the Hannibal Square Heritage Center, and this visit has shown me the depth of these roots. The bustling community from the late 1800s has kept its historic value – with some buildings being as old as the “older community” itself, such as the ancient house of a woman who is one hundred years old. While properties have been bought and sold to other owners, the fundamental culture of Hannibal Square has remained the same, and to many of the residents there, they treat their heritage with pride.
As an outsider coming into this area, I can see the pride which settlers of “the western side of the tracks” have in their community. Sticking to their predecessors’ beliefs, they seek to stay true to their culture and are even rebuilding and revamping Community centers, churches and schools. As the tour guide took our group around the area, she reflected fondly on the mural which children designed together years before, commenting on racial equality. The spirit of the past lingers on in the western side, and, as a result, people coming in from the outside world can’t help but perceive it as a place rich in cultural history.
Similarly, I can see the effects of industrialization on the eastern side. It’s lined with more expensive shops and bigger named brands, and is of a slightly better condition than the western side (though this, in the future, may be debatable, taking the construction currently going on in the west to account). For example, we noticed that some of the roads on the eastern side were of a better quality than in the west. The East has then given me the impression of taking a more modern approach, whilst the West is more cultural. Both of these perceptions have solid basis in history, and we can see the historical significance of each of the areas impacting on viewers’ perceptions.