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Ocala is a city in Marion Countymarker, Floridamarker, United Statesmarker. As of 2007, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau was 53,491. It is the county seat of Marion Countymarker , and the principal city of the Ocala, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had an estimated 2007 population of 324,857.

History

Ocala was established in 1846 by Matthew Edward Hall near the site of Fort Kingmarker, a military outpost of the Seminole Warsmarker. 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 Statesmarker in 1539. 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 Parkmarker, Wild Waters water park, and the now-defunct Western-themed Six Gun Territory, all in nearby Silver Springs, Floridamarker. 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 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 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 World.

Ocala began undergoing rapid growth in the 1970s with the development of the Interstate 75 and the founding of Disney Worldmarker, 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 Villagesmarker, respectively.
Fort King Street in c.
1920


Many historic homes are preserved in Ocala's large residential Historic Districtmarker, 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 Buildingmarker, the E.marker C.marker Smith Housemarker, East Hallmarker, the Marion Hotelmarker, Mount Zion A.M.E.marker Churchmarker, the Ritz Historic Innmarker, and Union Train Stationmarker.

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

Geography

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. Ocala is also known for nearby Silver Springs, Floridamarker, site of one of the largest artesian spring formations in the world and Silver Springs Nature Theme Parkmarker, one of the earliest tourist attractions in Florida.

The 110 mile long Ocklawaha River flows north from Central Floridamarker until it joins the St. Johns River near Palatka, Floridamarker.

Marion County is also home to the Ocala National Forestmarker 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 Springsmarker.

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 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.

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/mi2 (459.2/km2). There were 20,501 housing units at an average density of 530.7/mi2 (204.9/km2). 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 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.

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.

Sports

Ocala, Florida is home to the Belleview Bulldogs in the FCSL.

All America City

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

Transportation

Several major highways pass through Ocala, including Interstate 75, U.S. Highway 27, U.S. Route 301, and U.S. Highway 441. Ocala was on the western leg of the historic Dixie Highway. Ocala International Airportmarker provides general aviation services to the community. Ocala Suntran provides bus service throughout select parts of the city.

The Marion Theater


See also



References

  1. [1]


External links




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