Orlando Lake Eola 1924 Bandstand
Image courtesy of Joy Dickenson
Building Name: Orlando Lake Eola 1924 Bandstand
Address: 195 N Rosalind Ave, Orlando, FL 32801
Link to location on Google Maps: Click here
Year Built: 1924, demolished 1950's
Architect of Record: Ryan and Roberts Architects
Design Architect: Isabel Roberts
General Contractor: Unknown
Noteworthy Architectural Features: The pavilion sat on the water with integral planter band around the base at the waterline. Four octagonal columns supported a double stacked roof with a small metal dome at the peak. A bridge connected it to the shore, and two concrete lanterns bracketed the gate at the top of the stairs from the sidewalk along the shore.
How to Visit: The bandstand has been replaced by the Walt Disney Amphitheater, which is in the downtown Lake Eola Park, and open to the public. The site of the former bandstand was only a few hundred feet to the north along the shoreline from the current bandshell.
Architectural Style: Prairie style
Related Links: ISABEL ROBERTS & IDA ANNAH RYAN (orlandoarchitecture.org)
One of Orlando’s early icons to draw tourists was the 1924 Lake Eola bandstand. Images of this bandstand surface now and then, but most residents know little of the structure, its history and the two courageous women who created this picturesque masterpiece on the surface of Lake Eola. This unusual facility provided outdoor concerts for over 30 years in the “City Beautiful.” This bandstand displayed a very progressive style for the time and contributed to a public impression of Orlando as a sophisticated metropolis.
In 1922 and 1923 Orlando constructed a wooden stage for band performances for tourist during the winter. There were 6 weeks of concerts with 2 performances a day, at 10 cents per person. It was such a success that the city decided to construct a permanent bandstand for the future.
The city held a competition for the design of the new permanent bandstand and from the entries Ryan and Roberts were selected as the favorite. Ryan and Roberts invited the public to stop by their office downtown to view a model of the proposed bandstand, according to an Orlando sentinel article.
Ryan and Roberts, an all-female firm, were one of only a half dozen around the United States in this era. Isabel Roberts was the creative force behind it, Ida Annah Ryan was the business partner, she previously had an all female office in Waltham, MA before relocating to Florida. The Phone book at that time listed less than a dozen architects, all the rest were men. We do not know how they presented their idea for the bandstand, but they obtained the commission to design Orlando’s signature bandstand.
Unlike most Town bandstands located on the town square, this one was located –IN-- the lake with the audience on rows of park benches extending back from the shore. The structure included prairie school style features like those of Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects of the so called “Chicago School”. This bandstand included many such features: a broad overhanging roof which anchored it to the earth, strong horizontal lines including the bridge connecting it to the shore, built in planters around the base echoing the broad sweeping roof above, a continuous railing around the platform. There were Japanese influences as well: including the double stacked roofs, and oriental stylized lanterns on each side of the gate at the end of the bridge.
Reflected in the water, it must have been enchanting at night as well as during the day. The bandstand was truly integrated with the natural setting creating a sense of a pagoda in a garden on a floating raft. Some post card images suggest vines with purple blossoms like wisteria were trained up the walls.
Isabel had worked at Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio in Oak Park, Illinois, when FLW returned from his first trip to Japan in 1905. He brought back Japanese prints, figurines, and pottery. There would have been a lot of discussion in his office when he returned about Japanese design, architecture, ornament, and pattern. FLW never made it to Europe to study architecture like most of his contemporaries and he saw Japanese design as the antithesis of Classical Architecture which he detested. He would have been ecstatic to talk of his travels and the theory of design he was developing. That experience obviously contributed to the design of this bandstand.
The plan of this bandstand was unusual compared to the typical octagonal Victorian gingerbread encrusted gazebos in most American town squares. This had a geometric rigor, of triangles and blocks intersecting, like many prairie style designs. While the bandstand at first looks square, the columns are not at the corners of the square. The roof beams cantilever out to the front and back from the columns, which are only as far apart as the width of the bridge connecting at the side. Below the square roof, the band stand floor is a squished hexagon, points like the prow of a boat extending to the front and back, the points terminate just below the edge of the cantilevered roofline. This placed the columns out of the way, so the band performers, forward of the columns, were clearly visible to the audience.
In the off-season, it appears that people were allowed to walk out into the pavilion and enjoy the view of the lake from there.
Over the years as technology advanced, large speakers, lighting, awnings and more were added to clutter the roofline. The structure fell into disrepair and was overgrown by vines from the planters at its base.
Orlando needed a facility that could accommodate theater shows, performances, and integrated modern technology. The old bandstand was torn down and replaced by a larger stage on the shore with modern sound and lighting. A few years after that, the current bandshell was added to cover the stage. And as time passed the 1924 bandstand and the two women who conceived it faded from memory.
Here is a computer animation, by Richard Domeshi Vanhorne, of the original structure to show how it may have looked in Lake Eola: