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Orange County Regional History Center
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Orange County Regional History Center
  Orlando Travel Tip



WHO: Orange County and the Orange County Historical Society, with support from the City of Orlando, the State of Florida and donations from private individuals working together to develop the area as a History Center for all of Central Florida.

WHAT: Heritage Square and the Orange County Regional History Center

With pop jet fountains and pools of water created in the likeness of Rock Springs and a state-of-the-art stage and sound system, Heritage Square will play host to concerts and festivals as well as picnic lunches and socializing. Visitors will be overwhelmed by the hundreds of shady and abundant bald cypress trees and plants of all kinds blanketing the park. Also featured is a bronze statue of Bunk Baxter, famous for wrestling wild alligators in downtown Orlando in 1884. To experience "old" Florida, three large, bronze alligators, like the ones Baxter made famous, challenge visitors to a wrestling match. The 15-foot high "postcard" sculpture pictures scenes from Orlando's tourism days B.D. (before Disney). Heritage Square also leads guests to the front steps of the Orange County Regional History Center.

Located in the former 1927 Orange County Courthouse, the History Center features state-of-the-art exhibits and interactive displays. From the First Peoples, or the prehistoric natives, the Seminole Tribe, settlers, cattlemen and citrus-grove owners to transportation, tourism and aviation, the History Center features the rich and unanticipated history of Central Florida, and the impact of its people and industries.


First Floor:

As visitors enter the History Center they will notice the eye-popping, three-dimensional "Orange Dome" overhead, accented with memorabilia of Central Florida's heritage, and a gigantic map of the world created in several different colored terrazzo tiles. The entrance hall features the ticket counter, gift shop and space to accommodate up to 250 people for special events.

Dome - The dynamic 3-D orange metal arch features more than 200 images and characters representing Central Florida's past and present communities. The dome includes a model Space Shuttle, manatees, Native Americans, cattle, a moving riverboat paddle wheel and a moving train.

Visitors are then led to the fourth floor where their adventure back in time begins with an audio/visual presentation of the sights and sounds of Florida.

Fourth Floor:

Orientation Theatre - Visitors will be amazed by the 14-minute spectacle of sight and sound, taking them through an assorted display of Central Florida's creatures, businesses and people. A typical Central Florida screened back porch, with rocking chairs, is the setting for the presentation. After the multi-media presentation, visitors enter the first exhibition, the Natural Environment.

Natural Environment - Transported back in time nearly 12,000 years, visitors walk through the replica of a cave into Florida's setting before man. They then view the changes which have occurred in Florida's environment. Demonstrated through a rotating, life-sized tree, visitors get a first hand look of what Florida looks like today and what is being done to protect the environment for future generations. Also displayed here are a sinkhole and the many creatures and bugs that make up Central Florida surroundings.

The First Peoples - Interacting with the prehistoric natives, visitors watch as lifecast figures gather food from a shell mitten. Visitors learn the way of life for these first "Floridians," who were here 10,000 years ago. The model of an 1,000 year-old canoe is on display and visitors are invited to be an archeologist for the day.

European Contact - As told from the first peoples point-of-view, visitors see the life-changing impact on the original inhabitants of Florida, as it occurred 500 years ago with the arrival of Europeans.

Seminole Tribe, Native Americans - Visitors view a life-size chickee, or palmetto-covered hut, filled with artifacts that illustrate the way of life for these Native Americans who were forced from their northern homes when American Colonists settled in Georgia and the Carolinas. Also described here are Florida's historic Seminole Indian wars and how the Seminoles have learned to adapt in the past 200 years.

Settler Life - Visitors can churn butter, press oranges, walk through a replica cabin and touch utensils. This exhibit is hands-on, with a touchable moss-filled bed and enough room in the exhibit to accommodate a visiting school group. Also featured here are two interactive lifecast figures that tell the story of settler life.

Cattle Industry - A lifecast figure of a Cracker cowboy shares tales of life on the flat Central Florida range through the telling of vivid campfire stories.

Citrus Industry - A citrus tree, with lifecast figures picking fruit, is the first view of this industry for visitors. Orange juice commercial jingles play in the background and Anita Bryant sings "Come to the Florida Sunshine Tree." Visitors meet the famous citrus grower and entrepreneur Dr. Phillips, the 1930's "Citrus King," and also view the first patented rubber tire tractor in the U.S.

Third Floor:

Courtroom B and Grand Jury Room - The stately, oak-paneled courtroom makes for an exciting, interactive classroom for notable courtroom trial reenactments such as the courtroom scene from the book "To Kill a Mockingbird." The richly paneled American Walnut Grand Jury Room is used to recreate trials and appeals, and is also available as a formal meeting place.

Transportation - Visitors walk through an open 19th century railroad car where they discover the impact of steam boating and Port Sanford The impact of the development of major railroads, highways and roads throughout Central Florida is also highlighted by enlightening artifacts, photos, maps and documents from this flourishing period.

Tourism - Here, the dramatic lighting sets the scene for different times of day. Visitors meet "Betty the Tourist" in her Model T. She gives a presentation about her trip from Ohio and an interactive stage allows guests to repack her camper after her six-month visit to the land of sunshine.

Land Boom - Included here is a look at how Pine Hills and Maitland neighborhoods were developed by Martin Marietta's employees, who began new lives in Central Florida in the late 1960's. Visitors experience the land boom by watching a real-estate agent talking on the phone trying to sell Central Florida's land.

Aviation - A life-size WWII bomber wing is overhead as visitors discover the impact of McCoy AirForce Base, Martin Marietta, and the space industry. A Patriot Missile, which was developed in Central Florida, along with other aviation firsts are on exhibit.

The Day We Changed - Visitors learn about the arrival and growth of Walt Disney World. Featured are the pros and cons of its development and the attraction's impact on Central Florida, the nation and the world. A crane installing the top of Cinderella's Castle is on display, and is depicted in the exhibit. In their own words, residents share their opinions about the changing Central Florida.

Second Floor:

The Place We Live - Visitors discover the people of Florida, including their organizations, religions, communities and businesses. They see eclectic exhibits celebrating Central Florida's famous and amazing residents, including a Noble Prize winner and astronauts. Visitors can also learn more about Central Florida through a computer kiosk, where they can investigate information presented in the Center and leave information about their own lives.

Dome - Originally seen from the entrance, visitors get a closer look at the artifacts and themes representing Central Florida. It also makes a great discussion topic for an interactive classroom or tour.

National Traveling Exhibits - Visitors will continue to be surprised by the other half of the second floor with new, different and exciting exhibits from all over the nation. One upcoming exhibit will feature pirate treasures and sunken gold from the Mel Fisher Museum in Key West.

Fifth Floor:

The fifth floor is home to the Historical Society's extensive library and archives the research center contains priceless historical documents and a photo archive containing over 18,000 images of the local past showcasing the changing streets of Orlando. Provided as a service to the public, there are tables, computers and library staff available for researchers and students alike to gather any needed information. Also, a conference room which seats up to thirty people, can be rented for a nominal fee.

PROGRAMS: The Orange County Regional History Center evokes mystery and intrigue as visitors interact through the vast number of educational programs, services and resources for school groups, families, residents and researchers alike. The History Center's educational programs are designed for adults and children. Its research center and library contain more than 2,000 books and maps, a plat book, over 18,000 photographs, some 17,500 postcards, 40,000 artifacts and other public records dating from the 1840's, and is a free service to the public. Other programs include special events, fundraisers, festivals, concerts, the speaker's bureau and facility rentals.

PARTNERS: This project has been financed as a public-private partnership with Orange County Government and the Orange County Historical Society, the City of Orlando and the Downtown Orlando Development Board. Grant assistance is provided in part by the State of Florida through the Florida State Department, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, and the Division of Historical Resources with additional support from the Historical Preservation Advisory Board.

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