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Highway 50 Revisited

Exploring one of the busiest, yet most overlooked, roadways in our region

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State Route 50 runs throughout Central Florida, from Weeki Wachee on the west coast, to Titusville on the east. The highway is called by different names in different regions, such as Cortez Boulevard in Hernando County and Colonial Drive in much of Orange County. Parts of the highway east of 436 (Semoran Boulevard) follow the old Cheney Highway, the original road that ran from Orlando to Titusville.

When driving along Route 50 from Orlando to the east coast, you may see a large, decorated Christmas tree on your left-hand side. That tree marks the location of the town of Christmas’ Old Post Office Museum. The museum is home to a collection of ornaments from the White House trees of five presidents, a year-round nativity display, historic post office memorabilia and a collection of 150 bride dolls in native dress.

“Originally, the roads going into Orlando were just trails, and they did not follow the path of Highway 50, or what we call Colonial Drive today. What they ended up doing, in the probably late nineteen-teens and 20s, was make a road called Cheney Dixon Highway that went from Florida City, now known as Titusville, where it dead ends at the Indian River, all the way to Tampa, just like 50 does. The path is very much the same. It’s a bit off in different areas – it was very much more windy then than it is now, but it follows a very similar direction.” – Vickie Prewitt, recreation specialist, Fort Christmas Historical Park

Excerpt from From the Florida sand to the City Beautiful: A Historical Record of Orlando, Florida, by E.H. Gore, published in 1951: “Mr. Charles D. Sweet, a surveyor from Louisiana, located in Orlando in 1873. He had traveled up and down the Mississippi Valley and got a desire to see what Florida looked like. When he arrived in Orlando, he liked it so well he decided to locate. He surveyed part of the city when it was incorporated in 1875 and laid out some of the streets. He wanted to make Gertrude Street a main thoroughfare through Orlando but when the South Florida Railroad was built in 1880, it followed through a large portion of that street. That street was named for his sister Gertrude. He was elected to the board of Aldermen in 1880 and served as mayor in 1881. He wanted to name the streets running east and west after different mayors so started out with Marks and Sweet streets, but some time later the name of Sweet Street was changed to Colonial Drive. He was one of the pioneers who helped change Orlando from a village to a city.”

1926: F.B. Mills opens a new residential subdivision on 60 acres of land along Colonial Drive, between Hampton and Bumby, and names it Colonial Gardens after the successful gladiola-bulb business and plant nursery he ran on the property before developing it.

1927: City creates a police informational booth at the corner of West Colonial Drive and Orange Street to offer information to tourists traveling through the area.

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