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Warlando: Story of West Orlando

west orlando ghetto crosstown orlando

Warlando: What led to Warfare in West Orlando

In the heart of Central Florida is the overshadowed community of the West Orlando ghetto, a section of Orlando in the shadows of Disney World and other Central Florida attractions that has a large part in the development of the city.

West of Interstate 4 is the urban neighborhoods within the Orlando ghetto, the streets within the Orlando ghetto of the city’s West Side have been rough for generations especially during the 1980s and 1990s, helping the city to be known to some as “Warlando”.

From neighborhood conflicts between Carver Shores and Tangelo Park, Winter Garden and Pine Hills, or Eatonville and Rosemont to homegrown cliques like the Motown Boys of Murchison Terrace or Baby Country Boys of South Apopka, Warlando, at times, fits the reputation.

west orlando ghetto

Murchison Terrace, aka MoTown

Whether it is Ivey Lane, home to Edgemoor Street’s housing projects and the 4400 block in the neighborhood’s Malibu area, or Richmond Heights, the largest West Orlando neighborhood, Warlando, at times, fits the reputation.

A neighborhood like Mercy Drive, an area of low-income and subsidized apartment complexes that sits just north of West Colonial Drive, was mostly constructed during the 1970s and by the late 1980s this area was one of the city’s most active communities as around the clock police patrol was eventually placed in parts of the community.

Historically, the Mercy Drive community has always been neglected by both the county and the city as the area became annexed into Orlando’s city limits during the 2000s, while also having poor management in some of the neighborhoods many apartment buildings.

west orlando ghetto

Mercy Drive of the West Orlando ghetto

An area known as Crosstown, officially home to areas like Parramore, the old Carver Courts and neighboring communities, has at times been labeled by society and the media as one of Florida’s most crime infested communities.

A community of single-family homes, small apartment buildings, and the housing complex of Griffin Park is just a walking distance from some of Orlando’s key downtown attractions, which can explain the unwanted police interaction in the community.

These are just a couple examples of the streets and urban neighborhoods of Orlando, while there have been some efforts by the city to improve many of these neighborhoods, the question has always been has it been enough.

With poverty and the lack of resources and opportunities, the city of Orlando saw some of its worse times in its urban communities during the 1980s and 1990s as the streets had major role in some resident’s everyday life.

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Brief History of West Orlando

To begin, African-Americans came to Central Florida as former slaves and helped build communities throughout Orlando and Orange County.

The first black communities of Orange County were Jonestown, Parramore, and Eatonville, in which Eatonville was the first all-black incorporated city in the country that was constructed for blacks who farmed in nearby towns of Orange County.

west orlando ghetto

The historic black community of Eatonville

The community of Jonestown did not last long as flooding in the area constantly destroyed the community, leading the city to claim the area as not livable, in which some believe was solely for the purpose of slum clearance.

By demolishing most of the Jonestown community and not allowing any black families to rebuild, the community was mostly non-existing by the 1940s. Today, Reeves Terrace apartments is the current location of the old Jonestown community on Orlando’s East Side.

Many of the people that were relocated from Jonestown moved into one of the Orlando’s first housing projects, Griffin Park in the Parramore area, while around the time of the 1950s the Parramore community was beginning to be overcrowded.

west orlando ghetto

Griffin Park housing complex of the West Orlando ghetto

Parramore and nearby Callahan were two of the first communities within the city limits of Orlando that African-Americans were able to call home, even though these areas had different names in their early beginning of the city.

With integration and the ending to segregation, along with the overcrowding in the Parramore community, African-Americans and their families began to move further into West Orlando, even though places like Washington Shores already had black presence since the very beginning of the 1950s.

Before the massive black flight out of Parramore, what Harlem was to New York City is the same as Parramore’s relation to the city of Orlando’s black community and the city’s black culture as the neighborhood was a thriving area until the movement out of the community.

African-Americans were rapidly leaving Orlando’s older communities and steadying the pace of relocation into West Orlando as many moved as far as Richmond Heights, Carver Shores, and Ivey Lane by the 1960s as some neighborhoods were constructed for their movement into the West Side.

The newly arrival of Jamaicans and West Indians, during the 1980s, increased Orange County’s black population as the vast majority placed themselves in the Pine Hills neighborhood, just outside of Orlando’s city limits.

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Today’s West Orlando

In modern day Orlando, the community is roughly changing with the closing and demolishing of apartment complexes leading to population decline in numerous of Orlando’s urban neighborhoods, or the emergence of gentrification in areas that are labeled as having valuable real estate due to their location.

While Puerto Ricans of East Orlando also have a large presence and representation in the urban communities of Orlando as the city’s Latino community began to arrive during the 1970s, due to the recruitment of real estate companies, the black community has the most influence.

With their influence many of the urban neighborhoods are being affected, whether it is a larger police presence, the failure of an upkeep, or the relocation of longtime residents as the neighborhoods statistics of income and race seemed to have a change in the foreseeable future.

Originally, the movement of African-Americans out of the Parramore neighborhood allegedly led to the decline in the community as the claim of a loss in population and businesses helped decreased the community’s tax base.

Fast forwarding, many of West Orlando’s home and property values have declined, while in places like Orange Center, Tampa Avenue and Parramore the city has been purchasing properties for several reasons like the recent construction of the Orlando’s new soccer stadium on West Church Street.  

Also, some may claim in an attempt to change the city’s data, certain neighborhoods and apartment complexes that are within Orlando’s city limits are becoming vacant, redeveloped, or have a heavy police presence to keep the city’s statistics lowered, especially in the Orlando ghetto.

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Click to see more on the streets of Orlando and other areas in Florida.

*Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.

Orlando Black History Resources:

Clark, James. “Orlando, Florida: A Brief History”. History Press. 2013
Thompson, Geraldine. “Black America Series: Orlando, Florida”. Arcadia Publishing. 2003

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