Washington Shores Drive-In

Columbia Street and Bruton Boulevard,
Orlando, FL 32805

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Black audiences in Orlando were treated to second run double features at the Carver Theatre, Lincoln Theatre and the 200-car capacity, Washington Shores Drive-In. Owned by B.H. Evans, a local black businessman who later built a Sunoco service station right across the road on Columbia Street. The Washington Shores Drive-In opened June 14, 1950 with Barbara Stanwyck in “East Side, West Side”. It was still open in 1957.

A bunch of us teenagers would pile in the trunk on $1 a carload night and emerge once the car was parked. The drive-in was surrounded by woods so it was also easy to sneak in by foot, then sit on a bench right in front of the huge outdoor screen where youngsters fought over seats and losers wound up on the ground.

The concession stand sold an amazing variety of greasy food and smoke rings to chase away mosquitoes that ate you alive in the summer. You froze in the winter when engines often idled with the heaters blasting. During the rainy season the parking lot was transformed into a swamp and cars often got stuck. Horns blew when there were problems with the projectors.

Before Johnson Village was built in the mid-1950’s, there was nothing but pine trees separating our house (next to the Smith Center) from the drive-in which allowed me – and my overnight friends – to see (if not hear) the screen from my back bedroom window. Vineland Road was still a two lane black top with two cars an hour which made it easy to count cars while waiting for my mother to come home.

Contributed by Samuel Augustus Jennings

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

Samuel Augustus Jennings
Samuel Augustus Jennings on May 21, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Columbia Street and Bruton Boulevard were once named Vineland Road which was a two-lane blacktop that meandered through west Orange County in all directions causing so much confusion that individual names were eventually adopted for specific segments.

rivest266 on November 6, 2011 at 6:41 pm

I have uploaded an aerial of the drive-in. It was on the outskirts of town back in 1952.

Samuel Augustus Jennings
Samuel Augustus Jennings on November 7, 2011 at 1:45 am

Thank you for the wonderful aerial view of the Washington Shores Drive-In Theater. Are you from Orlando? We moved on Vineland Road in 1950 and I never heard anyone refer to our community as Roosevelt Park. Washington Park was the common name of this rural colored section outside the city limits of the segregated “City Beautiful”. It was actually quite “Third World” by today’s standards.

jwmovies on December 31, 2012 at 7:59 am

Approx. address for this drive-in is now 3980 Columbia Street.

Samuel Augustus Jennings
Samuel Augustus Jennings on July 1, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Does anyone remember the Cameo Theater on Mills in Colonialtown that closed in 1949? It is being restored and the young architect is looking for pictures of the original building.

rivest266 on October 22, 2017 at 9:55 pm

This opened on June 14th, 1950. I uploaded the grand opening ad in the photo section for this theatre.

Samuel Augustus Jennings
Samuel Augustus Jennings on October 22, 2017 at 11:48 pm

Rivest266: Thank you for uploading grand opening ad!

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