Winter Park's Dependence on Hannibal Square in the Late Nineteenth Century

Winter Park’s Dependence on Hannibal Square in the Late Nineteenth Century

Region capture 2.png

Map Legend

  1. “View of the Seminole Hotel across the lake – Winter Park, Florida” Winter Park, Florida: Marker B (yellow)

  2. “Seminole Hotel – Winter Park, Florida” Winter Park, Florida: Marker B (yellow)

  3. “Figure 1 Map from Chapman and Chase promotional brochure” Winter Park, Florida: Marker B (yellow)

  4. “The White Men’s League and KKK oppressing blacks” New York, New York: Marker A (red)

  5. “View of stores on Park Avenue – Winter Park, Florida” Winter Park, Florida: Marker B (yellow)

  6. “The Color Line is Broken” New York, New York: Marker A (red)

  7. “Photo portrait of Vaudeville star Bert Williams in blackface with cigarette; cropped from original” New York City, New York: Marker A (red)

  8. “A typical Hannibal Square home” Hannibal Square, Winter Park, Florida: Marker B (yellow)

  9. “A typical Winter Park home” Winter Park, Florida: Marker B (yellow)

  10. “Hannibal Square Heritage Center” Hannibal Square, Winter Park, Florida: Marker B (yellow)

 

The 1890s was a period of rising racial division in the South. At the end of the Reconstruction in 1877, African Americans found that their rights were stripped away as southerners regained control of Southern state governments. The clear divide between whites and African Americans became noticeable again as the Republican party focused less on the civil rights and more on economic issues. On a small scale Winter Park, Florida demonstrates this in the late 1880s and early 1890s. The areas of Winter Park and Hannibal Square were two vastly different places. Winter Park was an area created for white, wealthy, northern tourists to visit during their “down time” to enjoy a more temperate climate. Due to tourism in Winter Park the construction of restaurants, hotels, homes, and more became crucial. Each location was in need of people to work within them, which led to the creation of Hannibal Square. It was smaller and much less luxurious than Winter Park, but it was still habitable. Many African Americans were encouraged to pick up jobs in the tourist attractions in Winter Park. Since many African Americans had difficulties finding jobs post-slavery, this was a big and Hannibal Square was filled quickly. The Hannibal Square residents were mandatory for the growth and prosperity of Winter Park, despite the racism that plagued the rest of America and that caused their lifestyle to be less luxurious than the wealthy Winter Park tourist lives.

The following spatial photo essay was inspired by a history engine episode: https://historyengine.richmond.edu/episodes/view/6234

 

sp5

“View of the Seminole Hotel across the lake” from 1896.

 

Many whites and African Americans were drawn to Florida because of its promise of a new start. It considered itself the new accessible frontier in the 1880s. Florida was appealing to wealthy whites because it promised temperate climates and beautiful views. Florida appealed to African Americans for different reasons; a promise of a new start and opportunity to farm citrus. “Governor William Bloxham, for one, believed that the right capitalist could drain it, transform it, and launch a new age of growth and development for Florida. The backwater era had dragged on long enough.”[1] 

 

“View of the Seminole Hotel across the lake” from 1896.

“Seminole Hotel – Winter Park, Florida” from 1896.

The Seminole Hotel was one of the largest hotels you could find in Florida. The increasing amounts of tourism caused the demand for large, extravagant hotels which provided dozens of jobs for Hannibal Square residents. “Winter Park was developed for… a particular class of exiles from the industrialized cities of the North. But… more than a simple matter of consuming, was the way in which it served to construct a particular cultural image that, in turn, was reflected in the town’s built landscape”[2]

 

“Seminole Hotel - Winter Park, Florida” from 1896.

“Figure 1 Map from Chapman and Chase promotional brochure” from 1882.

Advertisements were very important for all blossoming Florida cities in order to attract tourists and African Americans. Hannibal Square was a planned community; containing plots of land that were much smaller and more compact in order for more people to live in the area. The hotels needed their workers to live close in order to be ready for work. “For the case of Winter Park, developing a community of ‘winter homes for Northern people’ required certain accoutrements including hotels, well‐kept public spaces, and ‘negro families of good character, who can be depended upon for work in the family and in the grove’”[3]

 

sp3

“The White Man’s Lead and KKK oppressing blacks” from 1874.

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was formed in 1865 with the ideology that anyone who was not a white Christian should be ostracized from society. With racism present so fervently throughout the south in this time period it left African Americans wary of where they chose to stay. Hannibal Square seemed like an ideal place to go since it was populated mostly by African Americans. African Americans wanted to move to an area populated with people who would not be prejudiced against them and depended on their abilities.

 

“View of stores on Park Avenue - Winter Park, Florida” from 1888.

“View of stores on Park Avenue – Winter Park, Florida” from 1888.

With African Americans earning jobs and a building economy, more and more shops and locations began to pop up in Winter Park. With the different places to shop or amuse themselves, Winter Park became a more enjoyable and habitable community, which only encouraged people to move down there. “To them, Winter Park was a place where they could prosper, worship, and educate their children and future generations in peace.”[4]

 

“Political cartoon from 1877 by Thomas Nast portraying the Democratic Party's control of the South.”

“Political cartoon from 1877 by Thomas Nast portraying the Democratic Party’s control of the South.”

After Reconstruction, Democrats knew that they had regained control in the south. The tensions between the two parties was undeniable. A rise in conflict occurred after 1877 when Reconstruction ended and Republicans began to quiet their voice for African Americans. The party was still heavily supported by African Americans since they weren’t discussing white supremacy the way Democrats were, although their strive for equal rights had diminished. The Democratic power in the south may not have been as racist as other states, but Winter Park still had Democratic supremacy when it came to town government. “Though there were many remarkable and influential black men who lived and worked in Hannibal Square… Walter B. Simpson and Frank R. Israel are of particular significance as they were the first and last blacks elected to office in Winter Park City government.”[5]

 

Bert Williams, the first African-American member of the Ziegfeld Follies. 1921

Bert Williams, the first African-American member of the Ziegfeld Follies. 1921

African Americans became a huge source of entertainment for society in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. The term “Blackface” was very popular when white actors would paint themselves black in order to appear African American. “From their first wave of success in the late 1830s and early 1840s, minstrel acts, troupes and shows figured as a staple item of the popular stage throughout the remaining decades of the century.”[6] Soon, even African Americans began to act in minstrel and vaudeville shows, but had to follow the stereotype created by Blackface which portrayed slaves as ignorant and happy-go-lucky. With this type of racism spreading so quickly throughout the south, African Americans would’ve been relieved to find a neighborhood like Hannibal Square due to the muted racism experienced in the town of Winter Park in the late nineteenth century.

 

A photo of a typical Hannibal Square home

A photo of a typical Hannibal Square home

Hannibal Square is visibly different from the city of Winter Park. This again plays back to the idea that more people can live in Hannibal Square if there are smaller, more compact lots to live in. Although this idea was mostly relevant during Hannibal Square’s formative years in the late 19th century, the theme can still be noticed today with the different housing types of Hannibal Square. The town of Winter Park, although no longer racist in ideals, is also still slightly segregated. The majority of the African American population still resides in Hannibal Square, while prominently white families live more in the Winter Park area.

 

A typical Winter Park Home

A typical Winter Park Home

In comparison to the lots of Hannibal Square, the Winter Park lots are much larger and more spaced out due to the wealthy owners in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Winter Park has remained very similar to the way it was when it was formed over a century ago. In the photo above, there is a small plaque above the porch that reads “Built 1925”. Without African Americans to help fuel the economy during Winter Park’s formative years, the city wouldn’t have been nearly as economically well off as it is currently.

 

Hannibal Square Heritage Center

Hannibal Square Heritage Center

In contemporary times Hannibal Square is aware of the rich and diverse heritage it holds. There are centers dedicated to showing historical and cultural exhibitions that tell the story of Hannibal Square from its start in the 1880s all the way to current events. The display of pride in Hannibal Square culture shows how views on race have changed since the founding of Winter Park. Hannibal Square residents are proud of their heritage, managing to emphasize the positive consequences of living in Winter Park in the late 19th century. “non-agricultural railroad jobs and domestic service positions with Winter Park’s wealthy white families resulted in educational opportunities and comparative prosperity and privilege for Winter Park’s black residents.”[7]

 

African Americans were crucial to the development of Winter Park and Hannibal Square. Despite the horrific racism that resided throughout the United States for centuries, African Americans were able to disprove the stereotypes from minstrel shows that portrayed them as ignorant slaves. They helped develop entire communities and cultures that are still thriving in the current day. Hannibal Square was an opportunity for African Americans during its formation. Before them was the chance to work outside of agriculture and even earn an education. “Employment was not the only opportunity blacks found in old Winter Park. The children of Hannibal Square’s early residents were able to attend the school for blacks that was dedicated in 1890. In fact, many of them went on to higher grade levels than the eight levels offered at the school.”[8] Winter Park used African American skills to its advantage in the developmental time period for the city. Even today, Hannibal Square proudly displays its heritage and strong work ethic.

 

 

Citations

[1] Michael Gruenwald, “The Swamp” (New York, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2006) p. 3

[2] Hugh Bartling, “The persistence of the planned landscape: the case of Winter Park, Florida” (Planning Perspectives, Vol. 22, Iss. 3, 2007)

[3] Hugh Bartling, “The persistence of the planned landscape: the case of Winter Park, Florida” (Planning Perspectives, Vol. 22, Iss. 3, 2007)

[4] Fairolyn Livingston, “Window on Hannibal Square: A View of Life in Early Westside Winter Park and a Portrait of the Lives and Careers of Walter B. Simpson and Frank R. Israel, The Only Black Men to Ever Hold Office in the City of Winter Park, Florida,” (Archives and Special Collections Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, 1997) p. 5

[5] Fairolyn Livingston, “Window on Hannibal Square: A View of Life in Early Westside Winter Park and a Portrait of the Lives and Careers of Walter B. Simpson and Frank R. Israel, The Only Black Men to Ever Hold Office in the City of Winter Park, Florida,” (Archives and Special Collections Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, 1997) p. 15

[6] Michael Pickering “John Bull in Blackface”, Popular Music, Vol. 16, No. 2, Core and Periphery: Routes in British Popular Music History 1850-1980 (May, 1997), pp. 181-201. Published by: Cambridge University Press Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/853521

[7] Hannibal Square Heritage Center website; http://hannibalsquareheritagecenter.org/aboutus.html

[8] Fairolyn Livingston, “Window on Hannibal Square: A View of Life in Early Westside Winter Park and a Portrait of the Lives and Careers of Walter B. Simpson and Frank R. Israel, The Only Black Men to Ever Hold Office in the City of Winter Park, Florida,” (Archives and Special Collections Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, 1997) p. 5

Photo Citations

  1. “View of the Seminole Hotel across the lake – Winter Park, Florida” unnamed photographer, 1896. State Archives of Florida; http://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/152618

  2. “Seminole Hotel – Winter Park, Florida” unnamed photographer, 1896. State Archives of Florida; http://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/152615

  3. “Figure 1 Map from Chapman and Chase promotional brochure” 1882. Courtesy of Winter Park Public Library Special Collections and Archives.

  4. “The White Men’s League and KKK oppressing blacks” 1874, drawn by Thomas Nast. State Archives of Florida; http://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/35631

  5. “View of stores on Park Avenue – Winter Park, Florida” 1888, photographed by Stanley J. Morrow. State Archives of Florida; http://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/28232

  6. “The Color Line is Broken” 1877, drawn by Thomas Nast. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Color_Line_Is_Broken.png

  7. “Photo portrait of Vaudeville star Bert Williams in blackface with cigarette; cropped from original” 1921, photographed by Samuel Lumiere. (Samuel Lumiere Studio, New York City) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bert_Williams_blackface_2.jpg

  8. “A typical Hannibal Square home” taken in Hannibal Square, Winter Park, Florida 12/03/14

  9. “A typical Winter Park home” taken in Winter Park, Florida 12/03/14

  10. “Hannibal Square Heritage Center” taken in Hannibal Square, Winter Park, Florida 12/03/14