Orlando travel notes: Kissimmee

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From the Wikipedia entry on Kissimmee, Florida:

The Houston Astros conduct spring training in Kissimmee, at Osceola County Stadium. The Astros' farm system formerly included a Kissimmee entry in the Florida State League. In order to prevent jokes, the team's nickname was the Cobras rather than the Astros.

One evening after all the meetings were over, I decided to visit two towns, one old, one new, south of Orlando's main tourist district.

First stop was Kissimmee. Most people who have been there know the town for US 192, Irlo Bronson Way, a busy strip of tourist businesses that lead to the Maingate area of Walt Disney World. But south of 192 there's an actual town, the county seat of Osceola County, with a main street (Broadway), a courthouse square, an Amtrak station, and a lakefront.

When I was searching for Wi-Fi locations before my trip, I learned that the Kissimmee Utility Authority had established a free Wi-Fi zone in their downtown, so I was curious to see how it was working.

Although Kissimmee's Broadway has some handsome old buildings, plus some new mixed residential and retail buildings being constructed in a classic urban fashion, they all seem to house businesses that are open only in the daytime: banks, real estate offices, a photographer, a guitar store, a Christian book store, antique shops, a bakery, a couple of cafes. Only one restaurant was open, just off of Broadway. I don't imagine a free Wi-Fi zone helps boost downtown business much if the only place to use it is sitting on the curb or behind the wheel of your car. Just to test it out, I did try to connect from inside the minivan, found several of KUA's access points, but none of them strong enough to hold a signal.

The most interesting sight in old Kissimmee is the Monument of States. It has a homemade quality to it that reminds me of Ed Galloway's work near Foyil. It is a 50 foot high pyramid-like structure with rocks from every state embedded in painted concrete, and it dates back to World War II, a project of the Kissimmee All-States Tourist Club. The rock from Oklahoma was a polished slab (quartz, probably) with Gov. Leon Phillips' name engraved in it. It's at the base on the north side, in the lower left of this photo, to the left of the words "MONUMENT OF STATES."

Other inscriptions on the monument appear to have been etched out of the concrete by hand. Here's a vintage postcard of the monument. Here's a fairly recent Flickr photoset. Like our beloved Blue Whale, it was refurbished a few years ago with the help of the good folks at Hampton Inn.

I left Kissimmee and headed to Celebration; more about that in a later entry.

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5 Comments

srmann Author Profile Page said:

Does your interest in visiting Kissimmee and Celebration have anything to do with the book by Alex Marshal, A Tale of Two Cities...? I was attending NSU as a commuter student in the late 90's and had a few hours to kill between classes. I found the book on a rack of new books in the library and couldn't put it down. I hadn't thought about the book for many years, but when I read your blog tonight I looked it up online and found some other books by the author that look like good reads. I'm looking forward to hearing your take on the two cities and how it compares to Alex Marshal's.

srmann Author Profile Page said:

Now that I think about it it wasn't the late 90's. It was more like 01 or 02.

I had not heard of that book -- I shall have to look it up. I knew of Celebration from keeping up with developments in New Urbanism, and we've driven through the town a couple of times when passing nearby on I-4 during family vacations, but had never spent much time there. From looking at Kissimmee on a map, I could tell there must be more there than all the tourist traps on US 192. In the midst of all the new, I like to look for old, or in Celebration's case, built to look old.

s said:

State income tax in Florida = n/a

Sales tax is far below what we pay

Rich developers will be developing whether the tax vote is passed or not. The tax vote will just make developers richer, and be passing on the cost. They have plenty of tax breaks, and the Kaiser Foundation will be writing off all those millions this year and more and more millions next year ..... Kaiser is a billionaire.
He can afford to donate the new bridge that is needed across the river at Yale.

srmann Author Profile Page said:

Alex Marshal's book is titled How Cities Work. The first chapter is about Celebration versus Kissimmee and New Urbanism. This is a link to his website: http://www.alexmarshall.org/index.php?pageId=50

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 24, 2007 9:30 PM.

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