The year 1837 was when the first European settlers arrived in the area now known as Orlando. Prior to this, it was a Native Americans tribe known as Seminoles that occupied this area. It is believed that the Seminoles inhabited the area for between 6,000 and 12,000 years.
The Second Seminole War (1835-1842) started when disagreements surfaced between the native Seminoles and the settlers on issues such as slaves, cattle, and land. The natives moved away in the years that followed leaving the pioneers that established a town around Fort Gatlin.
It is believed that Orlando was named after an American soldier known as Orlando Reeves who as on sentinel duty for a scouting party. While Reeves’ companion was sleeping, a native who was disguised as a rolling log approached.
Once Reeves realized what was happening, he fired his gun and awoke the rest of the soldiers ultimately saving them from peril. However, Reeves himself was not so lucky. He succumbed to an arrow that the native shot at him.
The town receive the name Orlando in 1857 and before then it was known as Jernigan after a settler from Georgia known as Aaron Jernigan. The first post office in Orlando was established in the year 1850.
Cotton growing and cattle breeding were the two largest industries in central Florida before the 1880s. In the 1880s some pioneers started to grow citrus trees. The need for better transportation for the citrus produce was what fueled the growth in the prosperity and size of Orlando.
1881 was when the city received its first rail lines and the 1880s and 1890s witnessed an influx of new fruit growers. Rollins College was established in 1885 in Winter Park. By 1886 Orlando’s streets were lined with schools, hotels, churches, and buildings and tourists started to spend their summers there.
In 1894, disaster struck when a 3-day freeze destroyed almost all the citrus trees in the County. The freeze caused major devastation on the community with damages estimated at around $100 million. The city took about 15 years to recover from this.
Orlando’s population doubled between 1910 and 1920 and the city transformed from just a rural citrus-centric town to a big city. The continuing prosperity of Orlando was aided by a great building boom in the 1920s.
The Great Depression of the 1930s saw the construction of a new football stadium, park development, and the upgrading of the Municipal Airport aided by the Works Progress Administration programs run by the federal government. Many new jobs had been created by 1944.
The period after World War II had another building boom characterized by the building of new shopping centers, roadways, and suburbs. The forerunner of the Lockheed Marietta Company started its operations in 1956 and became the biggest employer in Central Florida.
Florida Technological University currently known as the University of Central Florida was established in 1968 and in the same year the Orlando Naval Training Center was established. In 1971 Walt Disney World was developed.
The development of Walt Disney World triggered a construction boom that included commercial shopping area, banks, motels and hotels, apartment buildings, as well as tourism-related businesses. In 1972, Orlando’s Municipal Justice Building was erected followed by the Sea World of Florida in 1973.
The tourism boom continued because of tourists’ sites such as Epcot Center constructed in 1982 and the MGM Studios theme park opened in 1989. What had once been a sleepy rural town was fast becoming a world class mecca for tourists to the dismay of many locals.
1990s to Today
Orlando’s economy in the 1990s and 2000s was marked by diversification. The technologies and tools that were previously geared towards military applications were now transferred to the business sector and the area transformed into a high technology corridor.
The increased growth in the technology sector resulted in a boom in industries such as biotechnology, digital media, simulation, and software, which further fueled growth and development in the region.
Today, tourism is still the primary industry in Orlando but the region has developed a reputation for high tech industries and businesses that are both unrelated and related to the entertainment industry.