Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gorrie, Disney Wrought Magic on Florida

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gorrie, Disney Wrought Magic on Florida

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton, Times-Union staff writer

Modern Florida is basically the invention of two men: John Gorrie and Walt Disney.

Gorrie, an Apalachicola physician, patented a refrigeration system in 1851 that would become the basis of air conditioning. He died without seeing that his invention would turn the malarial swamp that was Florida into a vacation paradise.

Disney bought 28,000 acres in Central Florida in the mid-1960s and announced plans to build a theme park. He died without seeing the remarkable results of his invention, which turned a swamp into the "happiest place on Earth."

Monday marked the 30th anniversary of an epochal moment in Florida history, the day the gates opened on Walt Disney World, revolutionizing Florida tourism and turning the sleepy crossroads town of Orlando into the world's primary tourist destination.

Before 1971, Orlando was a city of 453,000 people. It had about 5,000 hotel rooms. The major industries were cattle ranching and citrus farming.

Today Orlando has more than 105,000 hotel rooms; it attracted 43.2 million tourists last year; those tourists spent an estimated $20.9 billion. The metro population has grown to 1.62 million people, of whom about 54,000 are employed at Disney World.

By Disney standards, Monday's 30th anniversary celebration was muted. Instead, the Disney Co. is putting all its focus on Dec. 5, which will mark the 100th birthday of Walt Disney.

Disney's life story is being told in a new exhibit, Walt Disney: One Man's Dream, which opened Monday in the Disney-MGM Studios and will remain open through 2002.

It's a life that deserves celebration. A prototypically American character, Disney was torn between competing visions. Part of him idealized the past with a misty-eyed nostalgia for a world that never was. …

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