Any Orlando resident will tell you that the city has grown significantly in the past few years. People are flocking here, and the population is growing by about 1,000 people per week. While Orlando hasn’t always been growing at such a rate, its history is filled with stories of people from elsewhere moving here and making an impact.
Take Gertrude Sweet. Born in New Orleans in 1862, she moved to Orlando in the 1870s, joining two brothers and one sister who had already made the move. And that decision would impact the City Beautiful, as Gertrude would become the namesake for Gertrude’s Walk, a pedestrian walkway stretching from West Church Street to West Washington Street.
Photo: A mural indicating Gertrude’s Walk
So how did Gertrude’s Walk come about? Gertrude’s brother, Charles Sweet, became the sixth mayor of Orlando in 1881. During his tenure, he commissioned the construction of Orlando’s widest street, which the mayor named Gertrude’s Avenue, after his sister.
Gertrude herself was known as “the most beautiful woman in Orange County,” and the Orlando Sentinel described the 100-foot wide street named after her as “a beauty.” The avenue was derailed when a railroad company purchased the land to construct a line from Orlando to the Atlantic Coast. As a result, Orange Avenue became the City’s main thoroughfare, and Gertrude’s Avenue transformed from a road to a trail.
Photo: Sign indicating Gertrude’s Walk
In the 1980s, Gertrude’s Walk was improved and bronze plaques were installed along the route by Don Reynolds. In 2010, the pathway was widened and resurfaced and the lighting upgraded, further improving the safety of the trail.
Image: Gertrude’s Walk
Source: City of Orlando
Today, Gertrude’s Walk spans three city blocks and runs adjacent to the railroad tracks. The trail is part of the Downtown Loop and also connects to the Orlando Urban Trail via the pedestrian bridge over Colonial Drive.
Photo: Map of the Downtown Loop
Source: City of Orlando
But before Gertrude’s Walk came about, Gertrude herself established a life in Orlando. She married Harry A. Newell in 1883 and the two settled at 215 East Robinson Street. Newell was a musician who began one of Orlando’s first musical groups, in which Gertrude played the piano. The couple had three children. Gertrude passed away in 1946 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
Are you a history buff with information about Gertrude Sweet or any of her relations in Orlando? Do you love walking down the shady trail on a hot spring afternoon? Share your photos, or a story about Gertrude’s Walk and its impact on your life with the City District Main Street. Send us an email or tag us on Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
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