Thursday, September 1, 2011

Winter Park- just as we know (do not) it

We, students of Rollins College, located in the city of Winter Park Florida, have a pretty lucid picture of how Winter Park (our home for the next four years) appears to be. We have already gotten used to the beautiful buildings of Park Avenue, or the amazing shops and business along Fairbanks or Orange Avenue. We wake up every morning to a fresh cup of coffee from Starbucks, the one located just around the corner at which our fellow student may be working. We stroll around Park Avenue as we please, and pass by many wonderful restaurants at which we might just have our dinner. This is our wonderful reality- the beauty of Winter Park is mesmerizing, and we are not familiar with any other kind of Winter Park. However, Winter Park and its population have not always seemed and looked as they do today.

Winter Park was founded in the late 19th century by wealthy industrials from New England. These New England natives, evidently originating from the north, were in search for a place in which they could escape the horrific cold weather of the northern states. Finally, they came across Winter Park. Winter Park was a fantastic choice of location due to the railroad that was built there in 1880. The new northerners could industrialize the city and build much business due to the advantage the railroad provided. They built business, shops, restaurants and much more. But of course who would work these businesses? The built and industrialized Winter Park was located in the east side of the city. On the west side of the city lived a vast population of African Americans, living in areas far less beautiful, safe, and pleasant than those of the wealthy white people. The west side was known as an unsafe community, crime in abundance, unpleasant and under kept. The New England industrials hired the African Americans to work for them and serve them, whether working the new shops that were built, or completing the town itself. This was in the time of segregation, therefore, African Americans had different rights and privileges than those of the white people. Although, in Winter Park there were no formally written rules of segregation, there was a clear understanding of the relationship between the two races at the time.

Winter Park today is a city of diversity. “The other side of the tracks” they used to call it, and some still might call it that way. However, the west side had become much more populated with different populations and ethnicities, and has been much better kept as part of the city today. Although I would love to be able to say that segregation is no longer amongst us, that is not entirely true. However, Winter Park is a great example of advancement in that department, since the time of segregation. Other than that, Winter Park is a city with history, a city in which something important happened some time ago. History gives a location its personality and life. Winter Park is no longer just my morning coffee at Starbucks, or my enjoyment of the beautiful scenery, Winter Park is a beautiful meaningful place and I see its beauty through its history. My perspective on the city changed completely due to the magnificent Hannibal Square Heritage Center that has managed to keep the history of the city and distribute it in a magnificent and profound manner.

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