Remembering Church Street Station, one of Florida’s biggest tourist attractions
Believe it or not, there was a time in the not-too-distant past when downtown Orlando was indeed a tourist destination right up there with the Mouse and SeaWorld. That was when Church Street Station, the now-defunct nightclub/entertainment complex was still in operation. Developed in 1972 by Pensacola entrepreneur Bob Snow, the space housed a number of businesses in a Dixieland Jazz Era-themed complex. The place contained five showrooms that offered live jazz, blues, country and Top 40 music, as well as retail stores, a midway and restaurants. In 1985, it attracted more than 1.7 million visitors, making it the fourth-largest tourist attraction in Florida, after Walt Disney World, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.
But by the 1990s, Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando perfected their own downtown entertainment districts, which drew business away from Church Street, and by 2001, most of the businesses that were part of Church Street Station were failing or closed. After changing hands several times, the property was foreclosed in 2009. These days, Church Street Station's most notable rooms, the Cheyenne Saloon and the Orchid Garden Ballroom, are available for private functions, including Orlando Weekly's Whiskey Business.
Check out these vintage photos from the State Library & Archives of Florida and reminisce on the Church Street Station that once was.