THE HISTORY OF FLORAL CITY
"Floral City...Where our Past is a Path to our Future"
Courtesy of the Floral City Heritage Council
Floral City News Update!!!
Floral City Heritage Council presents Floral City Heritage Days on Dec. 2 and Dec. 3.
Activities begin Friday night with Candles & Carols which features an 'all-you can-eat' Fish Fry with night rides in a horse drawn wagon down the mile-long Orange Avenue lined with luminaries. Attendees enjoy singing carols from the open front porches of historic homes under the venerable century-old oak trees.
The fish fry begins at 5 p.m. Floral City Heritage Hall Museum and Country Store will be open at 5 p.m.
By 5:30 p.m. Orange Avenue from Old Floral City Road to Annie Terrace is closed to all vehicular traffic and luminaries are placed along either side of the roadway under the century old oak trees.
The horse and wagon ride requires a $5 ticket for all, except infants under 2 years of age, who are held during the ride.
Parking for this event is suggested on Marvin Street, one block north, or behind the Floral City Library. It is recommended for safety to use a flashlight to and from parking areas.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 3, visitors can stroll through Florida Folk Life Day with early Florida daily living exhibits, demonstrations, and the Blue Banner Tour of Historic Homes. The day of festivities and education will include the Friends of Library Heritage Book Sale, folk music and country food.
Floral City is located at the intersection of U.S. Hwy 41 and County Road 48 in east Citrus County. For information, visit http://floralcityhc.org/find-us.html.
On a drive through Floral City, there are hints of its long, colorful and bustling past remaining today. The centenarian oak-lined thoroughfare is the most vivid reminder of days gone by. They were planted by the community a year after the village was laid out and surveyed in 1883 by then Senator Austin S. Mann and Surveyor W. H. Havron. The latter named one of the streets for his wife Annie and the former was the Senator responsible for getting the state legislature to establish Citrus County on June 2, 1887.
A street sign at the east end of town points the way to Duval Island, another reminder of the town's beginnings. Most of the island and the original portion of the town on the lake was purchased in the mid 1800s by one of the earliest known landowners. This ex-confederate soldier, John Paul Formy-Duval, was the son of a French physician, Jean Prosper, who had been forced to flee Napoleon's rule in France. Here, in about 1860, John Paul built a two-story home which still stands where it was built on the southeast corner of Orange Avenue and Old Floral City Road. He built another home on the island where he planted citrus groves, sugar cane and assorted produce. His descendants have resided in the area to this day, lending their spouse's names: Hampton, Love, Jenrette, to local lakes, buildings and sites.
The popular boat ramp at Duval Island with its large landscaped parking lot will eventually reveal a little known fact from its past. It is designated to become the site for one of the historic markers on the new National Hernando De Soto Trail which is planned to trace the explorer's travels throughout the southeastern United States. In 1539 De Soto followed the earlier route of Spanish explorer Panfilo de Narvaez. They both visited the Timucuan village known as Tocaste that had existed in this area on the shore of Lake Tsala Apopka for over 800 years.
Not only did the Native Americans find the rich soil, plentiful waterways and abundant timbers of this region ideal for sustaining a settlement, but the early frontiersmen did also. As early settlers discovered the area, citrus groves and other produce were planted and when harvested they were shipped to northern markets via steamboat on the Orange State Canal, dug in 1884. Today, the remains of the canal can be seen from the bridge to Duval Island.
Steamboats that navigated this area, including the Kitty Bell, Reindeer, Gray Eagle, and the Sam Pyle, have long since disappeared. They served as the prime source of transportation for the local citrus growers until the Big Freeze of 1894-95 put a halt to this industry for the next decade or two. Coincidentally, just before the Big Freeze, part of the Plant System Railroad was extended through the village in 1893 and hard rock phosphate deposits were discovered in areas surrounding Floral City.
Phosphate Boom Era
By the late 1890s, the local economy was prospering from a full-blown phosphate boom. Soon phosphate was excavated with steam shovels which replaced the hand-pick and shovel. Nearly a dozen mines were opened in the area with names like Hines, Bradley, Mutual, Ten Cent, Hamburg and Butten.
Mine workers were sought from as far away as Georgia and South Carolina. Within a brief time, the local population soared to 10,000 residents, more than the population of Miami, Florida. African-Americans during this period comprised 96% of the residents and many made important contributions to the town by establishing commercial ventures, social orders and religious structures.
These contributions were recognized when, in 1998, Florida established the first of its Heritage Trails. The Black Heritage Trail, lists two sites in Citrus County and both are in Floral City. One is the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church established during the phosphate era and located on Magnolia and Bedford Road west of the traffic light. The other is the Floral City Community Cemetery (Frazier Cemetery) on Great Oaks Drive a half mile south of Orange Avenue. It is the burial site of Arthur Norton a 108-year-old resident who came seeking work that the mines provided.
During this phosphate-boom period, Floral City grew so fast that the city fathers had it incorporated into a township in 1907; however it was short-lived and was revoked four years later when the population abruptly fell. World War I had quickly terminated the flow of phosphate to European markets. When the mines closed with no alternative industry, the large population plummeted to near today's levels and Floral City remains an un-incorporated town to this day.
Remnants of the phosphate boom period can be seen in the stately old homes built by the phosphate superintendents and in the use of lime rock later during the Great Depression recovery period of the 1930s. The Floral City Community Building, a house here and there, chimneys and foundations are the visible adaptations of the limerock from these long closed mines.