Marion County is all about Silver Springs, Wild Waters, Ocala National Forest, Rainbow Springs State Park, Appleton Museum, Ocala, downtown square and historic district, multitude of rivers, lakes, campgrounds, hiking trails and golf courses. Marion County consists of Ocala, Belleview, Dunnellon, McIntosh, and Reddick.
In 1995, Ocala was named an All-America City Award winner. Downtown Ocala is home to many historic homes that 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.
HORSE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD 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 600 thoroughbred farms. Ocala is well known as the horse capital of Florida.
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
Ocala was established in 1846 near the site of Fort King, a military outpost of the Seminole Wars. 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”.
Ocala began undergoing rapid growth in the 1970s with the development of the Interstate 75 and the founding of Disney World.
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.
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 formation in the world and Silver Springs Nature Theme Park, one of the earliest tourist attractions in Florida.
The 110 mile 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.
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.
Ocala was developed as a result of the Indian Wars in which Fort King played a strategic role.
In 1846 Ocala became the county seat of newly formed Marion County (honoring General Francis Marion). By 1847 settlers constructed a court house on the square, the post office moved to Ocala, and a weekly newspaper was established.
By 1858 Ocala was one of the leading social and business centers in Florida.
The civil war all but destroyed business in Ocala, and the population dwindled to about 200 people.
In 1880 Joseph Caldwell platted a 50 block area southeast of the original city plat on land that had been part of the 1817 Alvarez grant. The road from Ocala to Fort King ran across this land.
The center of town was virtually destroyed by fire on Thanksgiving Day in 1883.
In rebuilding, brick and other fire resistant materials were used instead of lumber. Thus, Ocala became known as the “Brick City”, a name still used today.
According to the 1885 Charter of Ocala, the Town of Ocala was locally incorporated in 1868; stated approval was granted on February 4, 1869. At the time of incorporation, the city limits were set 1000 yards in all directions from the downtown square.
By 1890, Ocala had expanded to four square miles and its population had increased to 1,895; it was the fifth largest town in Florida.
Early homes in Ocala were constructed within a few blocks of the Court House Square, and are now part of the Ocala and Tuscawilla Park Historic Districts.