HIS 240 - Researching American History (Fall 2018)

Rollins College and the Gentrification of Winter Park

Map of Winter Park 1884

Gentrification — the process by which a wealthy population begins to take over and redevelop an area traditionally inhabited by minorities and/or a lower-income population — has become an increasingly pressing issue in Winter Park since the 1990s. Though this problem is a more recent one, its roots originate a century prior with the practice of geographically segregating populations by race. From the town’s foundation in the 1880s, the rich white community and the poor black community of Winter Park were intentionally separated by the railroad that ran through the center of town, acting as a symbolic, social, and geographic divide. (1) While this division is still plainly evident today, in more recent years black residents have been pushed out of their historic and family homes due to the rising cost of living, increased property values, and the pressures of opportunist builders. (2, 3)

In recent decades, Rollins College has found itself at the heart of the gentrification issue in Winter Park. While Rollins has never actively pushed for the gentrification of west Winter Park, by simply existing as an elite private institution and attracting a demographic with interest in real estate investment and redevelopment, the college has been implicitly connected to the steady exit of black businesses and residents in Hannibal Square. However, Rollins has also become a platform for anti-gentrification movements in Winter Park, providing funding and space for artists, academics, and activists like Peter Schreyer and Julian Chambliss to confront the slow destruction of African American community spaces and history. (4, 5) Ongoing and active partnerships with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the Hannibal Square Community Land Trust, and the Hannibal Square Community Heritage Center show Rollins’ continued efforts to highlight the important history of west Winter Park and support the African American residents there.

  1. Folkes, Toure “Across the Tracks: An Independent Study” independent study student paper, Rollins College, 1999.
  2. Sylvia Whitman, “The West Side Story,” The Region, July 1992, page 39. “Hannibal Square Heritage Center” (1 folder). Rollins College Archives and Special Collections.
  3. Christopher Sherman, “A developer intent on sealing the deal,” The Orlando Sentinel, Aug. 21, 2005. “Hannibal Square Heritage Center” (1 folder). Rollins College Archives and Special Collections.
  4. “Winter Park’s Westside: A Living History of Places and People,” (black binder), photographic survey conducted by Peter Schreyer, the 1994 Rhea Marsh and Dorothy Lockhart Smith Grant recipient. Smith Research Grant on Winter Park History, Library Collections and Services, Rollins College Archives and Special Collections.
  5. Julian Chambliss, “The Advocate Recovered,” a student-run post-colonial digital humanities project, available at http://social.rollins.edu/wpsites/advocaterecovered/about/.

— Jack Schwab

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *