Many Orlandoans will recognize the name Bumby, but not many know about the man who gave the street its moniker. And fewer still may know that Joseph Bumby once owned the first hardware store in Orlando–Bumby’s Hardware.
There are not many stories about people choosing Orlando over Denver, but this is one of them. Bumby left his birthplace in England, expecting to move with his wife and three children to the mile-high city. Perhaps to their surprise, the family ended up in a town with an elevation of 82 feet. At the time, Orlando was a cattle and farm town with a population of approximately 200 people as well as two stores, a hotel, a courthouse, and a combination church and schoolhouse.
Bumby’s Hardware as it looked in 1900. (Photos courtesy of the City of Orlando.)
After arriving in Orlando with his family in 1873, Bumby began selling hay, grain, and fertilizer out of a warehouse on Church Street. In 1886, he moved his store into the structure at 102-110 W. Church St.
“The building took up a whole block, just about. When I was a child–I’ll say as early as 7, 8 years old–that was my grandparents’ main shopping place,” Orlando native Dorothy Reynolds, aged 93, said of Bumby’s Hardware. “It was a neat place and they always kept it up. They were always very friendly; they always made you feel welcome.”
Bumby’s Hardware, pictured in 1967
The structure, designed in the late Victorian commercial style, at 102 W Church St., was made of red brick and was one of the first non-wooden buildings in Orlando. The store was used as the first railroad depot in Orlando until the historic Church Street train station was built in 1889.
During its 80 years in business, Bumby’s Hardware sold products largely related to Orlando’s cattle and farming industries. “They carried all the different grains for cattle, for chickens, and they always had baby chickens. They had all other kinds of household supplies–mixers, or sacks of flour. And of course they carried tools, you know shovels and pitchforks and things you would use on a farm,” said Reynolds, pictured.
The store closed in the 1960s. At the time, it had been the longest family-held business in Orlando. The building was eventually sold to Bob Snow, who developed the Church Street Station entertainment complex. It was designated an Orlando Historic Landmark in 1978.
Church Street facing east, circa 1984. Courtesy of the City of Orlando. Structure that housed Bumby’s Hardware visible on right.
Born in England in 1843, Bumby moved to Orlando in 1873, where he lived with his wife, three daughters and six sons. In the 1870s, Orlando depended on Bumby for supplies via the Bumby Express, which went from Orlando to Sanford and back via horse and buggy. When the train came to town in the 1890s, Bumby was the first freight and passenger agent of the railroad. Bumby passed away in 1911, and his grave can still be visited at Orlando’s historic Greenwood Cemetery.
Although his hardware store no longer exists, Bumby’s memory in Orlando lives on. “It was always fun to go to Bumby’s. That was a highlight of my week,” said Reynolds fondly.
“Bumby Block,” a legacy of Bumby’s Hardware, is visible above Hamburger Mary’s, which is in the store’s former building.
Join our newsletter list to stay up to date on the exciting things happening within the district, in downtown Orlando.