Rogers-Kiene Building | 39 S Magnolia Ave

April 2023

Much of Orlando’s history has been shaped by immigrants and out-of-towners. Joseph Bumby, who started Orlando’s first hardware store, came from England. Gertrude Sweet was born in New Orleans, and a New Yorker was responsible for the city’s first public library. Joining the mix is Gordon Rogers, an Englishman who came to Orlando in 1886. Rogers was responsible for one of the most distinctive and iconic buildings in downtown Orlando–the Rogers-Kiene building.

CityArts

Photo courtesy of the City of Orlando.

The Rogers-Kiene building sits at the corner of Magnolia Ave. and Pine St. The original structure was completed in 1887. The two-story, rectangular structure was made of pressed metal over wood frame, also known as metal cladding, and is one of Florida’s few well-preserved examples of sheet-metal construction. Built in the Queen Anne style, the Victorian edifice was used as a social gathering place for what was known as Orlando’s English Colony, a group of English immigrants who migrated to the Orlando area in the 1880s to become citrus growers and ranchers. 

The Rogers Building circa 1892

The Rogers Building circa 1892.

Photo courtesy of the City of Orlando.

Rogers’s building became known for the English Club, located on the second floor, where English gentlemen came to socialize. They could also enjoy a drink on the first floor’s Cosmopolitan Club. The English club, unfortunately, didn’t last long. During the Great Freeze of 1894, many of the English Colony lost their crops and left the area.

The Rogers Building circa 1897.

The Rogers Building circa 1897.

Photo courtesy of the City of Orlando.

After the decline of the English Colony, the building passed through several different hands. In the 1900s, it served as the location of the South Florida Sentinel (the Orlando Sentinel’s precursor) before being sold several times and then becoming a meeting location for various groups in the 1930s and 1940s. Fast forward to the 1990s. Business magnate and arts benefactor, Ford Kiene, purchased the building and restored it. In 2018, Kiene donated the building to the City of Orlando with the stipulation that it be used for arts and culture for the next 20 years. 

The Rogers Building during renovation.

The Rogers Building during renovation.

Photo courtesy of the City of Orlando.

Today, the building – now a local historic landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Place – is the home of CityArts Orlando, part of the Downtown Arts District, a nonprofit organization that works to lead and develop arts and cultural development in Downtown Orlando. Visit the iconic green building with the turret every third Thursday of the month to participate in 3rd Thursday Orlando, a monthly event that includes free entry to CityArts and the Orange County History Center. With a $10 donation that benefits City District and CityArts, you can enjoy drink and food specials around the City District.

CityArts

Photo courtesy of the City of Orlando. 

Are you a history buff with information about Gordon Rogers, the English Colony, or the Rogers-Kiene building? Share your photos, or a story about the building 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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