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Ocala postcard post card - Lover's Lane, Ocala, FL

OCALA 

Ocala is located near the site of Ocale or Ocali, a major Timucua village and chiefdom during the 16th century. The modern city takes its name from the historical village, the name of which is believed to mean "Big Hammock" in the Timucua language. Hernando de Soto passed through Ocale during his famous expedition through what is today the southeastern United States in 1539. Ocale is not mentioned in any later accounts; it appears to have been abandoned in the wake of de Soto's attack.

In 1827 the U.S. military outpost of Fort King was established near the present site of Ocala as a buffer between Seminoles and white settlers. The fort saw service during the Second Seminole War and later acted as the first courthouse for Marion County in 1844. Fort King was the genesis of the modern city of Ocala, which was established in 1846 by Matthew Edward Hall. Greater Ocala is known as the "Kingdom of the Sun". Rail service reached Ocala in June 1881, encouraging economic development. Two years later, much of the Ocala downtown area was destroyed by fire on Thanksgiving Day, 1883. Buildings were rebuilt with brick, granite and steel rather than lumber. By 1888, Ocala was known state-wide as "The Brick City".

In December 1890, the Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union, a forerunner of the Populist Party held its national convention in Ocala. At the convention, the Alliance adopted a platform that would become known as the "Ocala Demands". This platform included abolition of national banks, low interest government loans, free and unlimited coinage of silver, reclamation of excess railroad lands by the government, a graduated income tax, and direct election of United States senators. Most of the "Ocala Demands" were to become part of the Populist Party platform.

Ocala was an important center of citrus production until the Great Freeze of 1894-1895.

In the twentieth century, Ocala increased in prominence as a center for tourism in Florida. Important attractions included the Silver Springs Nature Theme Park, Wild Waters water park, and the now-defunct Western-themed Six Gun Territory, all in nearby Silver Springs, Florida. Silver Springs is a 350-acre nature theme park that surrounds the headwaters of the Silver River, the largest artesian spring formation in the world.

The first thoroughbred horse farm in Florida was created by Carl G. Rose in 1943. Earlier, in 1916, Rose had come to Florida from Indiana to oversee the first asphalt road ever constructed in the state. When he ran into problems with the asphalt, he improvised and experimented with one of Florida's abundant resources: limestone. He also realized that the Limestone would be a good source of nutrition for raising strong horses, so he took a gamble in 1943 and bought acreage along State Highway 200 at $10 per acre, which became Rosemere Farm. The next year one of his horses, Gornil, won at Miami's Tropical Park, making him the first Florida-raised thoroughbred to win a Florida race. Close on Rose's heels, the entrepreneur Bonnie Heath soon set up his own thoroughbred horse farm and produced the state's first Kentucky Derby winner. Both of these men have prominent Highways named after them in Ocala. Bonnie Heath Farm is now owned and operated by his son Bonnie Heath, III, and his wife Kim. Rosemere Farm was sold long ago, and Ocala's Paddock Mall and Central Florida College were built on the site.

In 1956, the Ocala area Thoroughbred industry received a boost when Needles became the first Florida-bred to win the Kentucky Derby. In 1978, Marion County-bred and -raised Affirmed won the Triple Crown. Today, Marion County is one of the major thoroughbred centers of the world, with over 1,200 horse farms in total and about 900 thoroughbred farms totaling some 77,000 acres. Ocala is well known as the horse capital of the world, one of only five cities (four in the USA and one in France) permitted under Chamber of Commerce guidelines to use this title based on annual revenue produced by the horse industry. There are some 44,000 jobs created by the breeding, training and related support brought about by the equine industry that generates over $2.2 billion in annual revenue. Ocala and "Postime Farms" also play host to one of the largest horse shows in the country. H.I.T.S or "Horses in the Sun" is a Dressage/Jumper event lasting about two months and brings with it some 6 to 7 million dollars to the local Marion county economy each year. There are over 100 different breeds aside from thoroughbreds including the Tennessee Walker, Paso Fino, Morgans, SaddleBreds, Drafts, and the American Quarter Horse. Other equine events in the area include cowboy mounted shooting by the Florida Outlaws, as well as endurance rides, barrel races, "extreme" cowboy events, jumper shows, trick shows, parades, draft pulls, and more.

Ocala began undergoing rapid growth in the 1970s with the development of the Interstate 75 and the founding of Disney World, located some 70 miles (110 km) southeast.

In the last decades of the twentieth century, the greater Ocala area experienced one of the highest growth rates in the country for a city its size. The population of Marion County in 2000 was over 250,000, up from under 100,000 in 1975. Much of the county's growth is attributable to the area's growing popularity as a retirement destination, primarily in two areas southwest and south of the city: the SR 200 corridor and The Villages, respectively.

 
Fort King Street in c. 1920

Many historic homes are preserved in Ocala's large residential Historic District, established in 1984. A focus of this district is East Fort King Street, featuring many excellent examples of Victorian architecture. Ocala structures on the National Register of Historic Places include the Coca Cola Building, the E. C. Smith House, East Hall, the Marion Hotel, Mount Zion A.M.E. Church, the Ritz Historic Inn, and Union Train Station.

The original Fort King site itself was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2004.

Government and politics

Ocala is governed by a five member board of councillors and a mayor, all of which are elected on a nonpartisan basis. Its charter was written in the council-manager form, leaving the mayor with few powers other than vetoing legislation passed by the council and tending to some duties involving the police department. The city manager handles most administrative and financial matters.[10] Although a small majority of the city's registered voters are Democrats,[11] Ocala's politics match those of the rest of Marion County in that all of its elected legislators - with one exception - are registered Republicans, in keeping with contemporary politics in the Deep South. In the 2008 presidential election, John McCain carried both the city and the county, the latter by a landslide, despite losing Florida as a whole to Barack Obama by a narrow margin.[12]

Geography

Ocala is located at 29°11′16″N 82°07′50″W / 29.187704°N 82.130613°W / 29.187704; -82.130613.[13]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 38.63 square miles (100.1 km2), all land. The surrounding farms are famous for their thoroughbred horses, in terrain similar to Kentucky bluegrass. Ocala is also known for nearby Silver Springs, Florida, site of one of the largest artesian spring formations in the world and Silver Springs Nature Theme Park, one of the earliest tourist attractions in Florida.

The 110-mile (180 km) long Ocklawaha River flows north from Central Florida until it joins the St. Johns River near Palatka, Florida.

Marion County is also home to the Ocala National Forest which was established in 1908 and is now the second largest national forest in the state. The Florida Trail, also known as the Florida National Scenic Trail, cuts through Ocala National Forest.[14]

Silver River State Park was established in the early 1990s to preserve the areas around the Silver River to the east of Ocala near Silver Springs.

Climate

Ocala has two distinct seasons: the dry season (October–May) and the wet season (June–September). During the dry season, there is almost uninterrupted sunshine with very little rainfall. In January, the morning low temperatures are often in the 30's and 40's, but the cloudless sunny weather typically warms the dry air up to near 70 by the afternoon. During the wet season, afternoon thunderstorms are a daily occurrence. These storms are often severe (unofficially, Ocala is known to have more cloud-to-ground lightning per square mile than any other city in the world). The typical morning low temperatures during the wet season are in the 70's and typical daytime high temperatures are in the 90's. Due to the city being relatively far away from the moderating influence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico , Ocala's summertime temperatures are often the highest in the state while winter temperatures are often the lowest compared to other cities on the peninsula. Also, Ocala's distance from the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico means the city has more days of sunshine than Florida's coastal cities. This is, in part, why the Ocala/Marion County area is called "the kingdom of the sun." The last snowfall of any significance fell on December 24, 1989, when the city was struck by an ice and snow storm. However, the morning of January 9, 2010, there was a dusting of snow on the ground in city center. A plume of record cold air mixed with moisture caused wintry precipitation to erupt across northern and central Florida.

Climate data for Ocala, Florida
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Record high °F (°C) 88
(31)
90
(32)
95
(35)
97
(36)
102
(39)
105
(41)
100
(38)
100
(38)
98
(37)
98
(37)
90
(32)
88
(31)
105
Average high °F (°C) 70
(21)
73
(23)
78
(26)
83
(28)
88
(31)
91
(33)
92
(33)
92
(33)
90
(32)
84
(29)
77
(25)
72
(22)
82.5
(28)
Average low °F (°C) 46
(8)
47
(8)
52
(11)
56
(13)
63
(17)
69
(21)
71
(22)
71
(22)
69
(21)
61
(16)
53
(12)
47
(8)
58.8
(14.9)
Record low °F (°C) 11
(-12)
20
(-7)
23
(-5)
32
(0)
45
(7)
48
(9)
58
(14)
60
(16)
45
(7)
32
(0)
23
(-5)
15
(-9)
10
Precipitation inches (cm) 3.55
(9.02)
3.11
(7.90)
4.02
(10.21)
2.78
(7.06)
3.55
(9.02)
7.20
(18.29)
6.20
(15.75)
5.84
(14.83)
5.60
(14.22)
2.71
(6.88)
2.47
(6.27)
2.65
(6.73)
49.68
(126.18)
Source: The Weather Channel[15]

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 45,943 people, 18,646 households, and 11,280 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,189.2/mi. There were 20,501 housing units at an average density of 530.7/mi. The racial makeup of the city was 72.86% White, 22.14% African American, 0.36% Native American, 1.22% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.81% from other races, and 1.59% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.74% of the population.

There were 18,646 households. 40.9% were married couples living together, 15.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.5% were non-families. 33.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.91.

In the city the population was spread out with 23.2% under the age of 18, 9.3% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 20.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 89.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.5 males.

Economy

The median income for a household in the city was $30,888, and the median income for a family was $38,190. Males had a median income of $29,739 versus $24,367 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,021. About 13.2% of families and 18.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.6% of those under age 18 and 9.8% of those age 65 or over.

Ocala is the headquarters of Emergency One, a worldwide designer and manufacturer of fire rescue vehicles.

Education

Ocala is home to the College of Central Florida. It also has one of 21 campuses of Rasmussen College, an Higher Learning Commission regionally accredited post-secondary institution.

Sports

Ocala, Florida was home Belleview Bulldogs in the FCSL before it folded in 2008. It is also home to one of the largest youth football leagues in the state in the MCYFL. Ocala is hosting the regional events for the Junior League in the Little League World Series in August 2010.

All America City

In 1995, Ocala was named an All-America City Award winner.