Thursday, September 8, 2011

Delineating Boundaries Between Communities

I believe one of the most prominent factors which indicate the exact position of boundaries between communities is that of actual, physical landmarks. The most indicative example of this in Winter Park itself would be that of the railroad tracks. As I’ve explained in previous blog posts, the railroad tracks are symbolic of many different things within Winter Park: from a historical standpoint, they represent a divide which is not only economic (in terms of industrial growth and spending power), but also a cultural one (in terms of racial segregation).

Physical factors have delineated the boundaries between locations and communities for centuries. In the ancient times, for example, abstract “man-made” concepts as to what constitutes a boundary between two locations did not exist. Rather, there was a reliance on the physical world. Though this reliance is considerably of less importance in regards to the natural environment, men have managed to create their own physical delineations. A typical example of this, though to a greater extent than the railway tracks of Winter Park, would be The Berlin Wall which literally cut off West Berlin from East Berlin prior to its removal.

In regards to Winter Park itself, however, the railway tracks serve a purpose in separating communities, especially when observed from a historical perspective. Winter Park was divided into the “white community” and the “black community” on the basis of the railway tracks back in the 1890s. With the white community was industry, and powerful economic connections to the rest of America. With the black community was the majority of the workforce actually carrying out the labor of the industry – and also strong cultural bonds. The whites remained on the eastern side of the railroad, while the blacks remained on the western side – and there were strict laws implemented to enforce this.

Though this segregation is not prominent in today’s Winter Park, the physical boundaries set up by these railway tracks have historically reshaped it. The tracks offered a physical representation of a very significant divide in Winter Park, and this influence has affected each of these communities in the present day. It set the stage for other landmarks which differentiate the communities themselves: the presence of more shops and commercial areas to the Eastern side of the tracks, versus the quainter, more “personalized” vibe one feels when on the Western side. Of course, the influence of industry has spread into the Western side of the tracks, and amidst the more domestic homes once can see some more big-named franchises and branches, but the difference can still be observed by any outsider.

Though the railway tracks do not symbolize what they did in the 1890s anymore, they still show us, in 2011, the precise point of which these two very different communities of Winter Park are divided from.

1 comment:

  1. The physical landmarks of Winter Park tell a very particular story. As we move forward, perhaps your research paper can explore some the physical markers in the city.