Thursday, September 1, 2011

Winter Park: "The Other Side of the Tracks"

Winter Park has gone through many changes within the last fifty years. As time goes on the existence of the “other side of the tracks” disappears. The “other side of the tracks” or the West side has a negative connotation and this association is hard to get rid of, but as time goes on and the West side is becoming more a more gentrified. Winter Park although is becoming more gentrified now, was not always like that. Winter Park in the past was initially a vacation spot for upper class white Northerners, who would go south for vacation during the wintertime. Only the people who could afford to build vacation homes in Winter Park were the people that were associated with Winter Park’s identity. However, with the rich lifestyle that the visitors of Winter Park were accustomed to, a working class population was required. The working class population of Winter Park came from the “other side of the tracks” and was commonly black Americans. Although, one of the most interesting parts regarding the black Americans’ situation was that it was common that they would have to go to East side of Winter Park to work.

The idea that people from the West side of the tracks had to commute to the East side of Winter Park for jobs led to the East side to flourish with business, while the West side stood at a stand still economically. Over time the East side continually grew prosperous, while the West side built a reputation as being a not so good neighborhood. This reputation has really hindered the West side economically, even today. The West side continues to become more economically prosperous and develop more today, but still does not rival the economic prosperity that can be found on the East side. Direct evidence of the economic disparity found between the West and East side can be seen in housing prices. Housing prices on the East side are extremely higher than that of prices of the West side. The economic differences between the West and East side are clearly evident; all one has to do to see them is take a walk around both the West and the East sides and look at the shops that line each side. Although the West side continues to develop, the West side is clearly more developed with high-end shops.

The economic disparity between the West and East side causes visitors to have an interesting perception of Winter Park. I personally did not know of the West side of Winter Park until our RCC went on a field trip to Hannibal Square. In fact the first time I visited Rollins College, the school did not even mention Hannibal Square. My family and I were informed of Park Avenue and how nice it was and that their were great restaurants to eat at and great places to shop, but their was no mention of Hannibal Square. Hannibal Square is somewhere that flies under the radar. I believe that the West side is unknown to many people because it is always going to be compared to the East side. I believe that the development of the West side and the gentrification of it will make the West and East side more equal to each other. However, the development of the West side also changes the culture of the West side. The cultural change of the West side puts the people of Hannibal Square into quite a predicament because as the West side becomes more developed it becomes more expensive to live there, which makes it harder for the current community to afford to live there. At the same time the development of the West side also changes the perception of the West side, it makes people start to get rid of the negative connotation that it is the “other side of the tracks.” The question that is brought to light by this situation is if it is okay to leave one culture behind in order to allow prosperity in new ways and bring about a new culture?

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