Enjoying Mardi Gras in the Saint James Cathedral Community Life Center in downtown Orlando.
Father David Page, St. James Cathedral Pastor from 1972-1986, envisioned a community center at a time when much of the population had left downtown for the suburbs, storefronts were empty and the nation was darkened by a recession.
According to Orlando Sentinel columnist Ed Hayes, “The costly Cathedral Center… went under construction in 1979 when downtown Orlando desperately needed a boost, struggling as it was to survive a decade or more of decay and swiftly diminshing business. The center was widely viewed as an act of faith and hope in the area’s future. ”
“Construction for the Community Life Center began on September 2, 1979. The cost of the building project, $1.5 million, was the most expensive parish project to date for the diocese.
Completed within a year, the Cathedral Center as it was later renamed, won the Annual Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects and a Beautification Award from the City of Orlando.
Photo courtesy of the Mario Mesa Photo Archives
President Lyndon B. Johnson, the first president ever to sleep in Orlando, stayed at the Cherry Plaza just around the corner from the Buning's family home on Lake Eola during his 1964 campaign visit. Alice Buning remembers competing with her brother, Rick Buning, to see who could shake President Johnson's hand the most. Alice confirms for the record that she knows she shook President Johnson's hand four times before the President made his way to Colonial Drive for his 9:30 am campaign address. Alice's mother, Joan Buning, also shares her fond memories of the Cherry Plaza Hotel and significant downtown landmarks in this excerpt from an oral history interview with the Bunings on April 21st, 2011.