Ocala, Florida

Ocala is located in Marion County in the state of Florida. The population of Ocala as of the last census recording was 53,500. The city of Ocala is also the county seat for Marion County. Ocala is similar to many cities that are much larger because of the diversity and vitality that mark the city. The historic district of the city preserves its past and the new developments and buildings mark the future.

The area is also marked by a large rural area that is able to mix both city life with the peace and tranquility of rural life. Because of the closeness to major highway arteries, the city is easily accessible making it a convenient location for those wanting to live there and travel to work or those wanting to conduct business in the convenience of a city without all the traffic and congestion of a large metropolitan area.

Ocala has become one of Florida's most popular places for retirees from all over the country to come spend their winters. Many have purchased property and live either half the year in the area or year round. This has helped the economy in the area because of the additional money that has come to the area increasing the number of jobs, construction of homes and businesses.

Welcome to the city of Ocala, where you will be able to make just about anything happen. There are intriquing options in entertainment, education, affordable living and many other benefits the city offers its residents. Many businesses in the city also thrive.

Ocala History

Ocala received its name because of being near the site of Ocali or Ocale, once a major village of the Timucua and its chiefdom in the 16th century. The name is thought to represent Big Hammock in Timucua.

The U. S. military in 1827 established an outpost known as Fort King near what is now Ocala. This acted as a buffer between the white settlers and the Seminoles. The fort was in service during the Second Seminole uprising and was once Marion County's first courthouse in 1844.

Rail service first reached Ocala in June of 1881 and helped the economic development of the area from that time forward. On Thanksgiving Day 1883, nearly all of downtown Ocala was lost in a fire. Following the fire, the buildings were rebuilt using steel, granite and brick instead of lumber. Following the reconstruction the city was known throughout the state as the Brick City.

Until the 1894-1895 Great Freeze, Ocala was one of the State of Florida's leading centers of citrus production. At the onset of the 20th century, Ocala's importance as a tourism destination started to grow. Silver Springs, located on a 350-acre lot, is a nature theme park surrounding the Silver River headwaters, which forms the world's largest artesian spring formation.

The state's first farm for racing thoroughbreds was created in Ocala in 1943. Rosemere Farm was built on land purchased by Carl Rose for only $10 an acre. He started the horse farm and just one year later one of the horses from his farm won at Tropical Park in Miami.

Bonnie Heath then followed Rose and set his own farm up to produce the first winner of the Kentucky Derby from a farm in Florida. In 1956, the thoroughbred farm industry was helped when Needles won the Kentucky Derby. Then in 1978, Affirmed the Marion County horse, won the Triple Crown. Today Ocala and much of Marion County is considered one of the world's centers for thoroughbred horses. There are more than 1,200 farms with over 900 of them for thoroughbreds.

Ocala saw rapid growth during the 1970s with Interstate 75 and the wonderful theme park Disney World being built and only 70 miles away. The late 1990s saw unprecedented growth for Ocala. The growth is due to the increased popularity for retirees.

About Ocala, Florida

Ocala is surrounded by beautiful countryside and has many tree-lined city streets that make this a wonderful place to call home. The historical district downtown has a number of beautiful Tudor and Victorian homes. Country living is very popular and the trend towards gated communities is becoming more and more popular.

Ocala is known for its affordability with housing remaining lower than the average for the state and for cities that have the same size population. Ocala has a large number of schools making it easy for the population to live where they want and always be near a school for their kids.

There many churches, shopping centers, recreational and cultural activities and of course all the beauty, that nature gave the area. Ocala has beautiful forests and crystalline waters that are protected making them a treasured commodity of the local population.

Ocala boasts the talented Ocala Symphony Orchestra. The non-profit Ocala Symphony Orchestra started in 1975 when a group of citizens and musicians met to start a symphonic orchestra for the city. In 1976, a fall four-concert subscription started the Orchestra that has been continued to this day.

The Ocala Civic Theatre has live professional quality productions with very reasonable prices. They have over 12 full productions each year as well as hosting visiting companies. They have a year round program for education that reaches more than 1,000 students annually. Classes in performance and skills are available to students between the ages of 4 and 18.

The historic district of Ocala preserves a large number of historical homes and was established in 1984. The focus for the historic district is the area of East Fort Street that has a number of homes with Victorian architecture. There are also a number of structures that appear on the National Register of Historic Places in Ocala. The E.C. Smith House, the Coca Cola Building, the Marion Hotel, the Ritz Historic Inn, Mount Zion A.M.E. and the Union Train Station.

Ocala also is known for Silver Springs, site of one of the world's largest artesian springs and the Silver Springs Nature Theme Park. The park was one of Florida's first tourist attractions.

The city has a number of places to find lodging. There are high-end hotels, mid-range hotels and budget hotels that are located in and around the city limits. There are also a large number of restaurants that offer everything from beans and hot dogs to smoked salmon and caviar. With these hotels and restaurants and the myriad of things to do in the area, there is no wonder that Ocala is gaining in popularity across the country.

About Marion County, Florida

Marion County is in the state of Florida and Ocala is its county seat. The county has an estimated population of just over 320,000. The county was inaugurated in 1844 from parts of Orange, Hillsborough and Alachua counties. The county takes its name from General Francis Marion from South Carolina. He was a hero of the American Revolution. Many of the original settlers that were in Marion County were from South Carolina. The county is well known for having championship thoroughbred horse farms that have bred champions such as Needles and Affirmed.

The first known sheriff for Marion County was appointed shortly after the county was formed. The first jail was constructed in 1847 near what is now a square in downtown Ocala. The first courthouse in the county was planned and built in 1851 near the town square of Ocala.

The county consists of 1,663 square miles of which 1,578 is land and 85 is water. Marion County has a rolling terrain of hills. The trees are mainly oak, palm and pine. The county is only 75 minutes from Orlando and 90 minutes from Daytona and 75 minutes from Tampa. Jacksonville is a two plus hour drive and Miami is easily a five-hour plus ride with Fort Lauderdale being slightly less at about four hours.

Marion County has three lakes. Orange Lake, located in the northern region of the county close to Alachua County, is the smallest of the three. Lake Kerr lies at the northeastern tip of the county near Salt Springs, close to Putnam County and Lake Weir is the biggest of all three and is far to the south near Lake County.

The county is located inland and is equally located between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Due to its location inland, the county area is not as affected be hurricanes as much as other areas. Nevertheless, tornados are a threat in the Marion County area. The Florida National Scenic Trail goes through the Ocala National Forest.