Why is Orlando Called ‘The City Beautiful’?

Downtown Orlando
Lake Eola next to downtown Orlando is just one of the attractions that lends itself to “The City Beautiful.” Unsplash

If you’re ever traveling into or out of Orlando International Airport, you’ve likely heard Mayor Buddy Dyer welcome you “Orlando … The City Beautiful” while on the airport trains. The label is also plastered on street signs and even the city seal. But how did that unusual nickname come about?

It turns out the history of that label dates back more than 100 years. Between the 1890s and 1920s, an urban design trend called “The City Beautiful Movement” was sweeping through the United States. Cities such as Chicago, Cleveland and Kansas City were embracing the idea that making parks and other landscaped features the focus of city centers would help improve the morale of residents.

According to author Even Bacon and the book “Orlando: A Centennial History,” Orange County sent a group of agricultural exhibitors to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. It was there that the City Beautiful bug was caught by locals. Shortly after their return, according to city records, planners began incorporating more oak trees into designs. Palm trees, azaleas, flowery shrubs and water oak trees followed.

Eventually, the city decided to sponsor a contest to replace Orlando’s nickname – then “Phenomenal City” – with something more contemporary. From all the suggestions, “The City Beautiful” was chosen and adopted.

In the decades that followed, government initiatives led to further preservation milestones, including the creation of Lake Eola Park and Leu Gardens.

In more recent times, some leaders have pitched newer ideas for a city label – including “Action Center of Central Florida” and “Oh, Orlando” – but thankfully the “City Beautiful” name endures.

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