Thursday, September 1, 2011

Divisions in Winter Park

The history of Winter Park is a very interesting one. During the 19th century, many settlers were traveling all over America trying to create stable and prosperous cities for others to live in. In 1882, David Mizell Jr. and Oliver E. Chapman created a town called Winter Park. With the help of the railroad system and telephones, communication about Winter Park spread and it soon became a very successful city: Mizell and Chapman opened streets, built government buildings, and installed a beautiful scenery. All types of people came to Winter Park for its “picture perfect” attractions and beautiful weather. However, since all types of people flocked to Winter Park, a new problem became apparent: the division between the whites and blacks.

Although the Civil War ended, many white southerners continued to practice their slave owner lifestyle and many blacks stayed in the South. Trying to accumulate wealth in Winter Park, many wealthy white men created and started businesses in the area. With so many new businesses in the area, each business needed workers and since many blacks stayed in Winter Park, the majority of workers were black.

The African Americans in Winter Park tended to live on the western side of the railroad tracks whilst the whites lived on the eastern side. This is where the term “the other side of the tracks” comes from. The western side of the railroad tracks was very under developed and had a high rate of crime, poverty, and illiteracy. On the eastern side, however, many businesses and restaurants were growing and prospering, the city was very developed, and there was a high percentage of wealthy and educated people there. Thus, tourist could tell that there was a division between whites and African Americans and, naturally, many tourists tended to visit and explore the eastern side of the railroad tracks and stayed away from “the other side.”

Through time, however, the division between African Americans and whites has become more obscure. As I talked to African American resident of Winter Park during the 19th century, she told me that the western side of the railroad tracks became more developed. Hannibal Square, a once under developed area in west Winter Park, became very popular and started booming with businesses. The buildings in Hannibal Square were built with beautiful architecture and “the other side of the tracks” had a huge improvement in their economy.

To this day, many people can sense that there is a division between the African American and white community. The eastern side of the railroad still has a reputation for having more expensive real estate, restaurants, and stores; while, the western side has cheaper real estate, stores, and restaurants. However, many people in Winter Park do not hide the fact that this area had a very clear division between whites and African Americans. The locals love to educate others about the past and how they grew from it. They hold a lot of pride in how Winter Park has changed for the better and they hope that Winter Park continues to grow.

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