Ocala is a city in Marion
County, Florida, United States.
As of 2007, the population recorded by the
U.S. Census Bureau
was 53,491. It is the county seat of Marion County , and the principal city of the Ocala, Florida
Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had an estimated 2007
population of 324,857.
established in 1846 by Matthew Edward Hall near the site of
King, a military outpost of the Seminole Wars.
Ocala is a derivation of the Timucua
word "Ocali" which is believed to mean the
"Big Hammock". Hernando de Soto passed through
a Timucua village or province named Ocali or
Ocale near the present site of Ocala during his famous
expedition through what is today the southeastern United States in 1539.
Greater Ocala is known as the
"Kingdom of the Sun".
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
rather than lumber
. By 1888, Ocala was known state-wide as "The
In December 1890, the Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union, a
forerunner of the Populist Party
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
, and direct election of United States senators. Most of the
"Ocala Demands" were to become part of the Populist Party
Ocala was an important center of citrus production until the
In the twentieth century, Ocala increased in prominence as a center
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 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 Hwy 200 at $10.00 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 Community
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
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 Chambr 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 dollars of annual revenue.
In other words Horses are to Ocala/Marion county what Disney is to
Orlando, FL. 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. Weekly and at times daily shows and trail rides can be
found due to the permtting Florida weather. There are over 100
different breads aside from thoroughbreds including the Tennessee
Walker, Paso Fino, Morgans, SaddleBreds, Drafts, and of course the
beloved 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 etc. Other farms such as "Walker
Run Farm" provide training for search and rescue needs and mounted
patrol horses for police work.
Ocala/Marion County is known as the Horse Capital of the
began undergoing rapid growth in the 1970s with the development of
the Interstate 75 and the founding of
World, located some 70 miles 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
historic homes are preserved in Ocala's large residential Historic
District, established in 1984.
Fort King Street in c.
A focus of this
district is East Fort King Street, featuring many excellent
examples of Victorian
. 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.
King site itself was designated a National Historic Landmark in
Ocala is located at .
According to the United
States Census Bureau
, the city has a total area of , all land.
The surrounding farms are famous for their thoroughbred horses
, in terrain similar
to Kentucky bluegrass
also known for nearby Silver Springs, Florida, site of one of the largest artesian spring formations in the world and
Springs Nature Theme Park, one of the earliest tourist attractions in
mile long Ocklawaha River flows
north from Central
Florida until it joins the St.
Johns River near Palatka, Florida.
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.
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.
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 oceans, 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 oceans 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.
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
). There were 20,501
housing units at an average density of 530.7/mi2
). The racial makeup of the city was 72.86%
, 22.14% African American
, 0.02% Pacific Islander
, 1.81% from
, and 1.59%
from two or more races. Hispanic
of any race were 5.74% of the
There were 18,646 households out of which under the age of 18
living with them, 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.
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
worldwide designer and manufacturer of fire rescue vehicles.
Ocala, Florida is home to the Belleview Bulldogs
in the FCSL
All America City
In 1995, Ocala was named an All-America City Award
Several major highways pass through Ocala, including Interstate 75
, U.S. Highway
, U.S. Route 301
, and U.S. Highway
. Ocala was on the western leg of the historic Dixie Highway
. Ocala International Airport provides general aviation services to the
community. Ocala Suntran
provides bus service throughout select parts of the city.
The Marion Theater