Winter Park historic tour provides look into African American roots

WINTER PARK, Fla. – On this walk through history, each step augments preservation, legacy and awareness of Winter Park’s historic African American West Side.

The Hannibal Square Mural is the first stop of the tour, and the mural is handcrafted with tiling by the Crealde School of Art. Each illustration highlights what was important to the community.

Manager Barbara Chandler of the Hannibal Square Heritage Center said that in 1863, three city commissioners were the first Black people to sit on the commission, though ever since, no Black person has been voted in.

Meanwhile, community historian Linda Walker was born and raised in this historic town.

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Walker was a student at Hannibal Square Elementary, where a landmark plaque now remains.

The community looks significantly different, but pillars of history stand tall — an ode to the Black families who were self-sustaining, many of them owning land and property.

“It says thrifty colored residents lived in a settlement and had their own schools, churches, businesses,” Walker said.

Walker emphasized the importance of ownership and its direct correlation to generational wealth.

“Even today, I tell people, ‘Don’t sell your houses, you have children, you have grandkids,” Walker said.

In their homes were belongings like a pressing comb, which are now molded into the square’s memory wall as artifacts.

The number of Black-owned properties in Winter Park have dwindled over time, though.

Many Black families who once called Winter Park home are gone, and history continues to be overshadowed by new developments, but inside the Heritage Center, photos continue to give insight into the history of the area.

Donated pictures depict families who lived in the neighborhood, coupled with a short narrative of what life was like in the past.

To learn more and sign up for the Hannibal Square walking tour, click here.

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About the Authors:

Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined in April 2022.

Treasure joined News 6 at the start of 2021, coming to the Sunshine State from Michigan.