Changed but not forgotten

The brick-lined streets of downtown Orlando are starting to show their age. Their rich, maroon color is fading after 100 years under the hot Florida sun, and their edges are crumbling from the wear and tear of daily use. The Fountain at Lake Eola Park, in downtown Orlando, is one of downtown's most iconic figures. It was installed in the 1950s.But the antiquated look of the streets is a mere backdrop to the modern city that rises above them. Sure Orlando is a metropolitan city that came of age in the modern era, but it’s also a city facing an identity crisis: is it a world-class city or just the gateway to fantasyland for millions of visitors?

Once one of the military’s southern-most stations in the fight against the Seminole Indians, Orlando grew into an orange grove community on the verge of America’s southern frontier. Nineteenth century Orlando was more like the Wild West than with the antebellum South, but that rustic image changed when the railroad came to town and with Downtown Orlando has become a hot spot for construction. The construction site of the new 55 West condominium towers over older buildings along Orange the Snowbirds who came to Orlando each year to seek refuge from the harsh, northern winters.

Orlando was a relatively-small city through the middle of the 20th century. That would quickly change when construction began on Interstate 4, which intersected with the Florida Turnpike a few miles southwest of downtown Orlando. That intersection would change Central Florida forever. Once completed, it became Walt Disney’s primary reason for picking the area for his East Coast theme park.

When Mickey Mouse moved in in 1971 Orlando was a changed city. Not that the city wasn’t used to change, but the Mouse brought in millions of tourists almost overnight, transforming this once serene outpost into a modern, and fast-growing, metropolis.

Nowadays, tourists pour into the city year round. Their reasons for visiting may vary, but Orlando’s reputation as an escape from the hardships of day-to-day life has made it a world-class destination. However, few tourists ever think of Orlando as a place where people actually live, which is exactly how the locals like it – for residents, the real Orlando is a gem hidden behind the façade of smiling faces of cartoon characters at the area’s countless attractions.