Gary’s Duck Inn, Orlando, Florida.
Gary Starling opened Gary’s Duck Inn on the Orange Blossom Trail just south of Orlando, Florida, in 1945.
The original form, a one-floor Modern International-style dining room with corner windows attached to a little roadside cottage, can still be detected in this 1950s postcard showing the restaurant after a rakish midcentury Modern remake. Gary sold the popular seafood restaurant in 1963 to a group of investors that included Bill Darden and Charley Woodsby who went on to open the first Red Lobster in nearby Lakeland in 1968. Overwhelmed by fast food chains eventually built along South Orange Blossom Trail, Gary’s Duck Inn closed in 1994. The site is now a 7-11 store and a Dollar General.
Gary Starling built his Duck Inn on the Orange Blossom Trail, marked out as the main tourist highway through central Florida in 1934. Gary’s Duck Inn was just south of the Orlando intersection that joined US 441 traffic from the Midwest with US 17 traffic from the Northeast. Gary’s was also well positioned when Interstate highways replaced this older Federal Routes. Construction began on the Florida Turnpike in 1957 and Interstate 4 a year later. Gary’s sat just north of the turnpike, completed in 1964, and south of I-4, opened in 1965. Gary’s location relative to the highways of central Florida just as plans were being made for nearby Disney World certainly made the well-known seafood restaurant attractive to investors.