Photo courtesy of Orange County Regional History Center
eOrange County Courthouse 1892 #31
Photo courtesy of Orange County Regional History Center

Bungalower has been spending a lot of time in the Orange County Regional History Center (Website) this year, since we launched our Did You Know-town feature.

Recently we came across this archived photo of a lonely tree growing out of the roof of the old courthouse clock tower. According to our all-knowing OCRHC friend Whitney Broadaway, the Collections Manager of the History Center, the tree was one of her most favorite mysteries.

The tree had apparently grown in the roof, untouched, for a number of years and had grown to be something of an ongoing joke for Orlando residents. This was during the same time that Betty Smith’s novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, had hit the literary scene in the early ’40s.

According to a brief note on the back of the photo, the tree was lovingly removed from the dilapidated tower and replanted near Lake Eola. The lack of maintenance of the tower was what led to its ultimate demise in 1957, when it was torn down. The clock is currently on display at the History Center. But what about the tree?

We love when our readers ask us questions, but now it’s our turn! If you have a lead, please feel free to reach out and let us know! We’ll be poking our heads around the park in the coming weeks as we try to find an ignored plaque or some sort of marker that could point the way.

Photo courtesy of Orange County Regional History Center
Photo courtesy of Orange County Regional History Center

Brendan O'Connor

Editor in Chief of

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  1. BrendanOConnor Oh and when I say I’ve not seen a plaque that was tree-related, I meant for a specific tree. There is the plaque that celebrates the planting of the Oaks on the Central side of Lake Eola.

  2. BrendanOConnor RonJaffe  Sorry don’t know anything about the tree. I’ve seen every plaque in the park, no mention of anything tree related.  There was still a lot of greenspace around the lake so if it was replanted, it could have been taken anywhere.  I’ll pass the photo around to some folks and see if anyone remembers a tree.

  3. The 1892 courthouse was razed in 1957. Common belief is that it started to fall apart and bricks started to fall onto the street, but I’ve spoken with a number of people who remember its condition in the 1950s and they said, “that’s hogwash.” One of the people whose family was a multi-generational developer in the area said that the building was sound, but that developers wanted to do what they always want to do in Florida… tear down and develop new. They had the new courthouse next door that was only 30 years old so the old courthouse just wasn’t as needed. Brick construction was very solid. The San Juan hotel at the time was a decade older and made of brick and it lasted until fire led to its being torn down in 1981.  On a side note, the 1924 bandshell (the third at Lake Eola) was also torn down in 1957, but it was truly dilapidated and full of so many bird nests that locals just called it “the Rookery.”
    The one clockface was saved, the other three destroyed. The mechanism was presumably scrapped.

  4. I’m not sure I’d call myself all-knowing- if I was I’d know where that tree is!

  5. Yep the clock is on display on our 3rd floor along with part of the brick

  6. We talk about it briefly in the piece Kent! They had to tear it down in the late ’50s. The clock itself is on display at Orange County Regional History Center