People who think Central Florida history began with Walt will have their eyes opened in this underrated museum in a handsome 1927 Greek Revival former courthouse. Head first to the fourth floor, where the timeline starts 12,000 years in the past and work your way down. In 1981, a high school student rooting through lake muck found a Timacuan dugout canoe from around c.e. 1000, and now it is proudly displayed, as are mastodon teeth, pots from b.c.e. 500, and a 12-foot-tall oyster midden. As you advance through time, artifacts keep coming: saddles used by the forgotten Florida cowmen (the swampy ground made meat chewy, which Cuban customers liked), recipes for Florida Cracker delicacies (Squirrel Soup, Baked Possum), artifacts from the steamship tourist trade (in the 1870s, the St. John’s River system was America’s busiest one south of the Hudson), and a wall of gorgeous vintage labels from the many citrus companies that once dominated the area. The exhibitions are noticeably conflicted about the growth explosion wrought by the theme parks—the “Building a Kingdom” exhibition was created without Disney funding so it would have the freedom to be frank. An interesting sidelight is the retired Courtroom B, a handsome, wooden chamber out of “Inherit the Wind” silenced by cork floors and emblazoned with the slogan “Equal and Exact Justice to All Men.” That was painted over the bench at a time when people were still being lynched here (there’s a KKK robe in a nearby gallery), and until as late as 1951 in Orlando, black mothers had to give birth in the boiler room of the hospital. Some justice was served here: In 1987, Courtroom B tried the first case in America in which DNA evidence obtained a conviction.
Orange County Regional History Center
65 E. Central Blvd., Orlando
Our Rating Hours Mon–Sat 10am–5pm, Sun noon–5pm Phone 407/836-8500 Prices $12 adults, $9 kids 5–12, $10 seniors over 59 Web site Orange County Regional History Center
Map65 E. Central Blvd., Orlando Orlando
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.