Ocala, Florida

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Image:Ocala seal.gif Ocala is a city located in Marion County, Florida. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 45,943. As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 48,901.[1] It is the county seat of Marion CountyGR6.



Image:FLMap-doton-Ocala.PNG Ocala is located at 29° 11′16″N, 82° 7′50″W (29.187704, -82.130613).GR1

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 100.1 km² (38.6 mi²). 100.1 km² (38.6 mi²) of it is land and none of it is covered by water. 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 one of the earliest tourist attractions in Florida.

Several major highways pass through Ocala, including Interstate 75, U.S. Highway 27, U.S. Highway 301, and U.S. Highway 441. Ocala was on the Western leg of the historic Dixie Highway.


As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there are 45,943 people, 18,646 households, and 11,280 families residing in the city. The population density is 459.2/km² (1,189.2/mi²). There are 20,501 housing units at an average density of 204.9/km² (530.7/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 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. 5.74% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 18,646 households out of which under the age of 18 living with them, 40.9% are married couples living together, 15.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 39.5% are non-families. 33.0% of all households are made up of individuals and 15.0% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.29 and the average family size is 2.91.

In the city the population is 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 are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 39 years. For every 100 females there are 89.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 85.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $30,888, and the median income for a family is $38,190. Males have a median income of $29,739 versus $24,367 for females. The per capita income for the city is $18,021. 18.1% of the population and 13.2% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 28.6% of those under the age of 18 and 9.8% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Major private sector employers in Ocala include: Emergency One (fire rescue vehicle manufacturer); Closet Maid (vinyl coated shelving manufacturer); Cingular Wireless (call center); KMart (distribution center); Mark IV (automotive hoses); Lockheed Martin (circuit boards); Signature Brands (cake decoration manufacturer/Hero); and Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. (corporate office).



Early Years

Ocala was established in 1846 near the site of Fort King, a military outpost of the Seminole Wars. Ocala is a Timucua word of unknown meaning. Hernando de Soto (explorer) passed through a Timucua village or province named Ocali near the present site of Ocala during his famous expedition through what is today the southeastern United States in 1539. Greater Ocala and Marion County are known as the "Kingdom of the Sun."

In 1853, the State of Florida chose Ocala as the site of the East Florida Seminary, the first state educational institution in Florida and the earliest predecessor institution of the University of Florida. The University of Florida traces its origin to the establishment of the East Florida Seminary. The Seminary closed during the American Civil War and reopened after the war in Gainesville, Florida. State compensation for the loss of the Seminary was used to build the first public schools in Ocala.

The Brick City

Rail service reached Ocala in June 1881, encouraging economic development. Several 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 (United States) 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, reclaimation 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 "Big Freeze" of 1894-1895.

Silver Springs

In the 20th century, Ocala increased its role as a center for tourism in Florida. Important attractions included the Silver Springs Attraction, Wild Waters water park, and the now-defunct Western-themed Six Gun Territory, all in nearby Silver Springs, Florida.

Horse Country

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 1,000 horse farms.


Ocala public schools were integrated under court order in the late 1960s. Because of incidents elsewhere, violence was expected when school opened in September 1968. Ocala had a full complement of correspondents and photographers from Life Magazine and other publications. The opening of school occurred without incident and the reporters left town without much of a story. Much of the credit for the quiet integration of the schools went to a planning committee of three, including Al Lisk.

Rapid Growth

In the last decades of the 20th century, the greater Ocala area experienced one of the highest growth rates in the country. The population of Marion County in 2000 was over 250,000, up from under 100,000 in 1975. Much of this growth is attributable to the Ocala area's growing popularity as a retirement destination.

Historical Preservation

Many historic homes are preserved in Ocala's large residential Historic District, established in 1984. A focus of this district is East Ft. King Avenue, featuring many excellent examples of Victorian Revival architecture. Ocala structures on the National Register of Historic Places include the Coca Cola Building, the E.C. Smith House, East Hall, the Marion Hotel, the Marion Theater, Mt. Zion AME Church, the Ritz Historic Inn, and Union Train Station.

Noteworthy Ocalans

Famous Ocalans have included: C. Farris Bryant, 34th governor of Florida; Kenneth H. "Buddy" MacKay, Jr., 42nd governor of Florida; actor Patrick O'Neal; Tony Award-winning actress Elizabeth Ashley; and pro football quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Noteworthy residents have included: George Steinbrenner, Arthur Jones, John Travolta, and Kelly Preston.


External links

io:Ocala, Florida

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