Songs from an Orlando Institution

Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, I’m honoring my hometown roots and paying homage to a former Orlando institution — known to locals and tourists alike — Rosie O’Grady’s Good Time Emporium at Church Street Station.

Opening 45 years ago this month, Rosie O’Grady’s was the brainchild of entrepreneur Bob Snow, who’d had success with a similar entertainment complex in Pensacola, Florida. Setting his sights to Downtown Orlando, he fell for the historic Church Street, next to a railroad station that dates back to the 1880s — one of the city’s oldest buildings. Inspired by the block’s vintage architecture, Snow slowly and methodically built an entire world of nostalgia that, at one point, was the fourth most popular attraction in the state (behind the area’s theme parks).

He started in 1974 with Rosie O’Grady’s Good Time Emporium, an 1890s saloon with a Dixieland Jazz Band and floor show that featured music from the turn of the century up through the 1920s. Over the next ten years, Snow expanded, opening a block of themed establishments, including Apple Annie’s, Lili Marlene’s, Phineas Phogg’s, and in 1982, the Cheyenne Saloon, which was the venue of a syndicated country music show, Church Street Station.

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Orlando residents flocked to Church Street and enjoyed its atmospheric shops and night spots, but competition from Disney brought the good times to a halt. When Rosie O’Grady’s closed in 2001, it was the end of an era…

But now I’m taking you back to Orlando of the 1980s via a rare collectible — a 1982 album called The Sights & Sounds Of Church Street Station, which includes music from both Rosie O’Grady’s and Apple Annie’s (a folk venue) and features several numbers by the Red Hot Mama, Ruth Crews. (Crews played the role for over 20 years; the original headliner was Terry Lamond.) For subscribers who comment below to alert me of their scholarly, nostalgic, and NONCOMMERCIAL interest, I’ll send you a download of this rare album, a sample of which can be heard below. Here’s the Rosie O’Grady Waiters with the Welcome Song…

I hope this brings you back to the Orlando of ol’ Bob Snow and Rosie O’Grady’s!



Come back next week for another Wildcard post! And stay tuned Tuesday for more King Of Queens!