Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Two Sides of the Tracks and Winter Park's Perception

Throughout the history of Winter Park the connotation of being from the “other side of the tracks” has led to an unequal gap in income and lifestyle than can still be viewed today. Much of the present concern has to be looked at from a historical perspective and why the two separate communities developed the way they did. First off the founding came through by means of the New England industrialists who wanted the winter play ground during New England’s harsh winters. Winter Park’s economic success story was paved in due to a large part through the railroads that came through following this area’s rapid expansion.

By the same token this great expansion wouldn’t of been possible without the large labor force that was needed to fill the staffing positions of such grand hotels of the day such as the Hotel Alabama and the Seminole Hotel. Consequently these lower income positions resulted in the African American community locating on the other side of the railroad tracks as the wealth gap priced these folks out of the areas surrounding Park Ave and the Lakefronts. Though this can be looked from a negative lens, the community that would develop throughout the years well into recent history was a community linked with common values from the attending of the same churches that have been in the Hannibal Square neighborhood from the start of Winter Park to the local groceries that until recent decades were filled with folks from the supporting community. All these elements in turn helped develop this area on the “other side of the tracks” into a community distinct from the wealthy side of the tracks.

For now I see a good future for the two communities on both sides of the tracks as in recent years the Hannibal Square community itself has manifested into a shopping and dining venue with some of the historically African American owned businesses still doing business. Though I see the construction of the recent Hannibal Square Historical Society as good imitative to remember the roots of where the town has come from, I believe any underlying racial or economic tension that may still be present can only die if the two sides of the tracks come together and plan for a future together. This in my opinion may only be done with leaving some of the past in that, “the past.” In any case the stories folks not selling their properties solely on principle is a fad that I believe will soon die as younger generatations begin to realize the futile nature of this thinking. For in my opinion the old community needs to die in order for both sides to benefit from one common community and then any negative perception will die as well.

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