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Ocala historic district
Building in the ocala historic district
Ditmar Wissel Family Dentistry
Building in the Ocala Historic District

Ocala Historic District

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Statement of Significance

The Ocala Historic District developed as a residential neighborhood in Ocala between circa 1880 and 1930. The eastward growth from the town center records a progression of styles, throughout which the character and quality of the 172.5 acre residential district remains intact. The earliest development, which began along Fort King Street, is dominated by Queen Anne Revival residences built prior to 1910. The influence of the Florida boom during the next two decades is exemplified by the revival style residences on large sites along Fifth Street. Bungalows and vernacular residences were integrated compatibly throughout the district, with a concentration in the southwest. Of particular significance is the extensive coverage of Live Oak trees, which canopy many streets and sites. Small neighborhood green spaces, natural local flora around low areas, and landscaping contribute to the quality of life exhibited by this district. Adaptive use and rehabilitations have been compatible and intrusive elements are minimal. Since its origin, the Ocala Historic District has retained its character, ambiance, and significance to the history of the area.

Historic Development of the District

The Ocala Historic District developed as the most prominent residential area of Ocala from circa 1880-1930, marking the beginning of the railroad era through the 1920's boom period in Florida. The predominant eastward growth pattern of Ocala, which is evident in the development of the district, was generated by the significance of the Fort King Road, the area's major transportation route until the arrival of the railroad.

The Fort King Road connected Ocala, the supply port at Silver Springs, and Fort King, one of the most important of a chain of forts built from Tallahassee to Tampa "and connected by a well constructed military road, over which supplies were transported. " Begun in 1827, torched by Indians in 1836, Fort King was rebuilt and, in 1839, served as headquarters for the commanding general Zachary Taylor.  In 1843 troops were withdrawn and Fort King became the temporary seat of newly formed Marion County until engineer David Bruton completed the survey of Ocala in 1846.

Up to 1850, Ocala remained a small village with a court house, one church, a jail, ten to twelve houses and a couple of stores. The arrival of planters from South Carolina prompted a boom and, by 1858, the population had leapt to an excess of 1200, only to be decimated by the Civil War to two hundred inhabitants in 1868. The next decade was marked by economic recovery and growth.

In 1870 an illustrated account of a trip to Silver Springs was published in a scientific journal and launched a steady flow of tourists to the Ocala area. The water route from the east coast to Silver Springs became increasingly popular with travelers who, by 1874, could select such steamers as the MARION "possessing all the convenience and superior passenger accommodations of a first" class packet."'

The 1880' s witnessed events of major significance to the Ocala Historic District. The arrival of the railroad, the success of the citrus groves, the discovery of phosphate, and the increasing impact of tourism prompted a marked growth in the economy. Following the fire of 1883, the town center was rebuilt; the Ocala House, a sophisticated hotel of the Plant chain, was an example of new construction in "The Brick City." This growing affluence was reflected in the residential development which began with Caldwell's survey of 1880.

In 1880 Joseph Caldwell platted a parcel of land along the Fort King Road at the eastern edge of the city plat of 1846. This development was a part of the Alvarez Grant, conferred by Spanish Territorial Governor Jose Coppinger upon Don Antonio Alvarez in 1817. In the middle of the nineteenth century, the west half of the Spanish grant had been acquired by Joseph Caldwell, who further secured title by purchasing the remaining Alvarez land in 1849. In 1882 Caldwell's Addition expanded the eastern boundary of the 1880 survey.

By 1884 the Sanborn Insurance Map illustrated large residences which were beginning to develop along Fort King Street. The stature of the residents of the district and the dominance of the Queen Anne Revival influence are epitomized. by the Dunn Residence at 416 Fort King Street, built for John Dunn, banker, phosphate magnate, and mayor of Ocala. The Dunn House, one of the roost significant residences of the district, is noteworthy for its decorative wood shingles, brackets, and balustraded veranda.

Dunn, a lawyer, was a partner in the short-lived Silver Springs, Ocala and Gulf Railroad organized in 1879; he started Ocala' s first bank in 1882; and he organized and financed the lucrative Dunnellon Phosphate Company in 1889.  An avid promoter, Dunn was instrumental in bringing the national convention of the populist Farmer's Alliance and Industrial Union to Ocala in 1890.

As Ocala prospered in the 1880's, the residential suburb grew accordingly. In 1885, the Highland Park Addition expanded the southern boundary of the district. Building materials and services were advertised to accommodate the increasing development. McIver and Chamberlin advertised themselves as architects, contractors, and builders with "plans, estimates, and specifications furnished for buildings of all kinds... unexceptionable references and testimonials. Stanton Lumber Company listed "Rough and planed lumber, flooring, ceiling, novelty siding, lath and shingles." The Ocala Lime Company advertised the "finest quality rock," and Georgia brick was available for $9.90 per 1000.

By the last decade of the nineteenth century, remarkable commercial, agricultural, and industrial expansion had taken place in Ocala. In 1891 Ocala had in successful operation two national banks, one banking loan and trust company, one iron foundry and machine shop, two carriage manufactories, two saw and planing mills, two cigar factories, two lime industries, a ten ton ice factory, six hotels, and between fifty and sixty mercantile houses, one of the largest in the state. In the same year it was noted that within the area were grown over one third of the oranges shipped from Florida to northern markets. Between the Dunnellon Company (owned by John Dunn) and the Bradley Fertilizer Company were held over 90,000 acres of choice phosphate land.

One of Dunn' s contemporaries was Z. C. Chambliss, who made his home at 743 Fort King. Chambliss, along with T.T. Munroe, founded the Munroe and Chambliss Bank in 1897, the only local bank of the period to survive to the present. The founding of this institution resurrected Ocala' s banking, which had failed following the collapse of the citrus industry after the Big Freeze of 1895. Chamoliss was one of the early promoters of blooded livestock and, in 1902, held the first auction of blooded cattle in the state. Built by 1891, the Chambliss House is an excellent example of the continuation of the Queen Anne Revival influence in its asymmetrical massing, decorative wood and glass work.

Among the community leaders residing in the district was W.S. Bullock, whose home at 808 Fort King was built by 1891. Son of Civil War General Robert Bullock, W.S. Bullock was judge of the criminal court, Mayor of Ocala, and judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit.

Prominent attorney Robert Burford was responsible for persuading Colonel Theodore Roosevelt to speak to Ocala citizens from the platform of his railroad car in 1898, and prophetically introduced the Rough Rider as "future President of the United States." The Burford House at 943 Fort King, built after circa 1893 with offset turret and sunburst bracketed veranda, is one of the most significant examples of Queen Anne Revival in the district.

Residents of the district were responsible for much of the progress of the growing town. Drugstore owner James Carlisle, 822 SE Third Street, was granted the franchise for the Ocala Telephone Company in 1894. Dr. A.L. Izlar, who lived at 317 SE Wenona Avenue was a partner in establishing the first medical clinic in Ocala in 1898.

In an era marked by concern for a healthful climate, the tourist and resident population of Ocala grew responsively, and civic amenities were well publicized. Among these were a large electric light plant, an abundance of pure water, an underground river system which carried off sewage "by two 'sinks' or natural sewer wells. . ., one of the most remarkable results being the TOTAL ABSENCE OF SEWER GAS."

The abundance of trees and other native flora contributed to the ambiance of the expanding residential area of Ocala; orange trees were planted with enthusiasm. "The city streets and suburban avenues are broad, well-graded and paved with lime rock, of which there are large deposits in the vicinity. "

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the district was well established and the prevailing trends continued through the first decade. Edward Holder, phosphate investor, built his home with ballroom and porte-cochere (the horseless carriage a new arrival in Ocala) at 733 Fort King in 1906. The same year Holder purchased the Marion Block building and opera house and converted the interior to modern offices with the city's first electric elevator.

Also in 1906 William Marshall, who owned and operated a plastering company, built a Classic Revival residence at 906 Fort King, extensively detailed with frieze, bracket modillions, and Ionic veranda columns. The Edwards House at 810 SE Fifth Street, one of the most significant buildings in the district, is a unique example of Romanesque and Queen Anne Revival influences in local stone and wood shingle. It was built by John L. Edwards, founder of Florida National Bank and outstanding promoter of blooded livestock development in the area. The Mayo Addition of 1908 expanded the district to the southeast.

The second decade of the twentieth century witnessed a trend toward increasingly massive structures and more generous sites, a development which corresponded to the growing success of phosphate mining, the citrus industry, livestock breeding, and tourism. Southeast Fifth Street documents this trend with an eastward development of major examples of prevailing architectural styles, built by influential residents of Ocala during the Florida Boom.

At 943 SE Fifth Street, Clarence Camp, early concrete and phosphate entrepreneur, had built a Georgian Revival residence, distinctively detailed with quoin corners and decorative stone work in circa 1912. An avid golfer, Camp purchased and developed the Ocala Heights Golf Club at the edge of the district. Another of the larger residences built along Fifth Street is the Walter C. Ray House at 954, reflecting the circa 1926 Colonial Revival influence in its two story columns, fan light, and keystones. In 1924 Ray, along with W.M. Davidson leased the property surrounding the main basin of Silver Springs; they then sold this interest to a New York developer, retaining a tract of downstream property on the Silver River. By this time the Florida Boom was well under way, reflected by eastward expansion of the district in the late 1920's.

Alfred MacKay, owner of a large mercantile business, built the Mediterranean Revival residence at 1027 SE Fifth Street in circa 1930. In the 1890's, George MacKay, his brother, Scotch engineer and architect, designed and built plants which specialized in making and repairing phosphate equipment. Also by 1930, the Tudor Revival influence was reflected in the development along Fifth Street in a group of residences in the 1200 block. The Judge Fredrick Hocker House at 1238 exemplifies this style with steeply pitched roof and ornamental half timbering. Justice W.A. Hocker, his father, sat on the Florida Supreme Court from 1902-1915.

The growing residential district reflected the strength of the middle class, as well as the wealthy and influential. The Davidson Subdivision of 1912 in the southwest section of the Caldwell Survey encompassed the homes of a number of staunch citizens of Ocala. At 519 Tuscawilla, plumber J.W. Akin built his home in 1905. The hip roofed residence at 605 was built by grocer F. W. Cook by 1912; the same year, florist H. Kreuger made his home at 623. In 1918 Thomas Dickinson of Marion Hardware and Mrs. Dickinson, schoolteacher, built their home at 506 Sanchez. A noteworthy example of a Bungalow in local limerock with red mortar is the residence at 607 Wenona Avenue, built in circa 1928 by postman L.O. Bangert. The two story residence with pent eave and hip roofed porch at 509 Tuscawilla was a good example of rental units for working people in the district in the 1920's.

Throughout the early twentieth century, bungalows and vernacular residences were integrated compatibly with the higher styled residences of the district. McIver and MacKay advertised that they "Build complete and ready to occupy cottages and residences and furnish them from cellar to garret with everything needed, be it an humble cottage or palatial home.

As the district grew, schools and churches were built in the western part of the residential suburb, adjacent to the town center. The Grace Episcopal Church, consecrated in 1907, is a significant example of Carpenter Gothic. The Ocala High School and Gymnasium are good examples of educational architecture of the 1920's.

Up to the present, the district has remained the most popular residential area of Ocala. As the district has continued to grow to the east and south, the scale and character of the building has remained compatible and the area stands preserved.

The Ocala Historic District derives its significance both from its association with important and influential citizens of Ocala and from the visual quality of the residential suburb where they lived. The influence of these enterprising individuals was widespread, as the significance of phosphate, citrus, tourism, and livestock breeding grew. The scale, character, flora, and quality of life in the district remain preserved, a document of the prevailing architectural trends from circa 1880 through 1930. The Ocala Historic District merits inclusion in the National Register for its architectural significance and for its association with individuals important to the history of Ocala 'and the State of Florida.