Before there was City Walk and Disney Springs, there was Church Street Station, a vibrant entertainment district that tourists bused to in droves. Church Street Station was developed by local icon Bob Snow in the cluster of buildings on Church St. between the railroad tracks and Garland Avenue. However, before there was the Church Street Station entertainment district, there was the original Church Street Station: Downtown’s historic Church Street Train Station, one of Orlando’s most historic buildings.
The former train station at Church Street, the city’s third, was built in 1889 and opened to much fanfare in January of 1890. Built for hotel and railroad magnate Henry B. Plant for $18,000 by Sanford contractor T.B. Cotter, the station symbolized Orlando’s openness to new large-scale development. The station was listed as a local landmark in 1973, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and was designated as a contributing structure of the Downtown Historic District when it was established in 1980.
The architectural style is Richardsonian Romanesque named after renowned New York architect H.H. Richardson. Richardson sought to re-establish a traditional building style that allowed the natural materials to show through. Preservationists described Richardson’s buildings as grounded, heavy, and unadorned. The station is actually three buildings linked by piazzas: the office and baggage building on Church Street, the passenger station in the middle, and a warehouse at the southern end of the platform. Over the years the original character and design of the station was well-preserved, aside from it being painted white and having the original eyebrow roof dormers removed in the 60’s. This Church Street Train Station ceased passenger operation after 36 years in 1926, when a new passenger station opened at 1400 Sligh Avenue. The Sligh Avenue train station in the SoDo District is still Orlando’s current passenger station and is also a historic Orlando landmark.
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