DeLeon Springs Community Association    
Home Home Business Directory Join About News


The unincorporated community of DeLeon Springs has a long and interesting history. Native Americans used the local spring as long as 6,000 years ago. In the early 1800s, settlers built sugar and cotton plantations near what is now DeLeon Springs State Park.

The community of DeLeon Springs was predated by a community called Spring Garden. Spring Garden was founded in 1804 by William Williams on a Spanish land grant of just over 2,000 acres. The community of Spring Garden was where the Fish and Lee General store thrived and early settlers like the Hunters, and the Cliftons, who drove cattle down from Georgia, settled to raise livestock, cultivate the land and raise families.

William Williams left his Spring Garden property to his nephew and namesake William Williams. The younger Williams was 16 years old when he inherited the Spring Garden property from his uncle and managed the farm until he joined the Patriot War in 1812. The younger William Williams sold the Spring Garden property in 1823 to Joseph Woodruff, who operated it until he died in 1828. It was sold to Orlando Rees in 1830. Rees had the first sugar mill installed in 1831, and, in 1832, naturalist John H. Audubon visited.

During the 1880s, the local spring was named Ponce DeLeon Spring, for Juan Ponce de León, the early Spanish explorer to Florida, and the spring area became a winter resort that attracted wealthy northerners and tourists alike, particularly after the railroad arrived.

In 1925 the Ponce DeLeon Hotel, known as “The Casino,” was built, overlooking the springhead. The word “casino” is of Italian origin and during that time the term referred to a place for public meetings and social gatherings, not necessarily gambling. “The Casino” included a superb restaurant that served fancy fare, such as locally raised beef steak and freshly caught lobster, to a most fashionable clientele.

In 1880, Robert C. Strawn came from Illinois to develop citrus. He is credited with some of the first organic citrus farming by using lake muck as commercial fertilizer. Their son Theodore came in 1904 to participate in the burgeoning citrus industry and soon erected the Theodore Strawn Packing House. When the original structure burned in 1921, he used the latest technology of the time to build a structure of concrete and metal, remnants of which still stand today. The packing house used innovative conveyor belt systems to move oranges into crates marked for different branded oranges he had developed, such as the “Volusia”, the “Intrinsic” and the “Bob White”. Crates were then loaded onto refrigerated rail cars for shipment to the north. The freezes of the mid 1980s forced the closing of the Strawn Packing House but some structures remain on the National Register of Historic Places today.

In 1885, Vo-LaSalle Farms, a family-owned and operated citrus grower and gift fruit shipper was founded. The Crump family still ships their fruit within 24 hours of harvest. Individuals and groups enjoy tours of the historic property, where you-pick vegetables are grown as well as citrus and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in season. The on-site gift store offers newly-picked salads, farm fresh eggs of many varieties, and just-squeezed, refreshing orange juice like none other.

The famous DeSoto House Hotel, built in 1885 by U.M. Bennett as a fishing resort, stood at the site of what was lastly a Wells Fargo Bank, and served not only sports fishermen but visiting presidents and wealthy travelers from the north and the pioneers who eventually settled in DeLeon Springs. A blacksmith shop and livery stable located across from the DeSoto House served the hotel clients and locals.

In 1912, Frederick N. Burt came from New York to try his hand in shaping the landscape for agriculture, housing and leisure enterprises. Burt purchased 1,000 acres and planned out areas for livestock breeding, agriculture and residential homes. A portion of the acreage was set aside as a ranch on which to build barns, a water tower and other structures, where he maintained his own livestock and horses, founding the Spring Garden Ranch, which eventually became a winter horse training facility in 1949. Today, Spring Garden Ranch, “Where Winners Winter”, is the largest standard-bred horse training facility in North America and many of the original historic structures remain.

Burt developed a then-unique community for the semi-retired to winter in, along Retta Street, a street he named for his wife. The development, called Burwyn Park, included upscale amenities such as paved sidewalks, a water system and even a community center for social occasions, all of which were innovative at the time.

When F.N. Burt couldn't persuade the owners of the DeLeon Spring attraction to sell it to him, he bought the adjacent property, drilled an artesian well and created “Burt's Park”, overlooking Spring Garden Lake. The owners of the DeLeon Spring attraction charged ten cents admission; Burt undercut them at five cents admission and became the attraction for the middle class, who often swam over and crashed the ‘upper classes’. The DeLeon Spring attraction over time began to compete with Burt’s Park by adding animal exhibits, nature walks, tropical gardens, canoe trails, and water ski shows, including the unique “Queenie the Water Skiing Elephant”.

In the 1940s, before the construction of U.S. Highway 17, the main south-north route through DeLeon Springs was north from Glenwood along Grand Avenue, down Retta Street, north on Commerce, west on Spring Street over to Ponce DeLeon Blvd., across the railroad tracks and north on what is now County Road 3 to Barberville. The main street of DeLeon Springs was Commerce Street and the downtown of its time was bounded by Central Street, Reynolds Road and Spring Street. Contained within the two block downtown were bustling businesses such as Bedford Jones' General Store, a tearoom, the post office, and a meat market with a lodge above. A short order restaurant ran from the home of Jess and Suzy Yelvington where delicious home-cooking was enjoyed by travelers and depended on by locals. Jones' Garage and Reynolds' Barber Shop, a schoolhouse and community center also thrived. Herbold's Tourist Colony located on what is now U.S. Highway 17, offered vacation cabins, a bathhouse, travel trailer parking and a restaurant, renowned for its home cooking too. Mr. Porter was a local real estate entrepreneur and his family lived adjacent to Herbold's, in the little yellow two-story frame house still located on U.S. Highway 17.

1962 brought the 4-laning of U.S. Highway 17 through the center of the community. This Federal, State and County decision realigned the meandering roads from a quaint, slow-paced drive, lined with locally- owned businesses, to a high speed four-lane highway. While this action reflected the ideas of the age and was designed to move goods and services quickly through the area via long-haul trucking, it destroyed the business community located on adjacent roads and lessened the small town charm of the community.

In 1964, Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge was established to provide habitat for migrating birds. DeLeon Spring flows into Spring Garden Lake, and then to Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge where canoeists and kayakers can explore approximately 20,000 acres of lakes, creeks and marshes. LWNWR includes biking and hiking trails, excellent fishing, and hunting in season. A nature observation tower offers outstanding opportunities to observe wildlife. LWNWR is home to the second largest pre-migration roost of swallow-tailed kites in the United States, making this one of the top birding locations in the world.

In 1982, the private DeLeon Spring attraction became DeLeon Springs State Park, encompassing both of the previous park areas. The spring produces up to 19 million gallons of water daily with a constant 72 degree water temperature for swimmers to enjoy. Visitors can walk along a half-mile nature trail or enjoy the four-mile Wild Persimmon Hiking Trail. Biking, picnicking and fishing for a variety of freshwater fish, including largemouth bass, are favorite activities. Canoe and kayak rentals are available for paddling the spring run, and there is a convenient kayak launcher there. Guided boat tours are offered daily with Fountain of Youth Eco/History Tours. DeLeon Springs State Park continues to be home to the famous Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant, initially established in 1961 as a German bakery by the Schwarze family, where guests enjoy a full menu, as well as the famous pancakes, self-prepared on unique griddles embedded in the dining tables.

DeLeon Springs is home to E. O. Painter Printing Company, Florida's oldest continuously operating printing company. The company began with a publication called The Agriculturalist, organized in 1873 under Charles Walton in Jacksonville. In 1877 Edward Painter began working for The Agriculturalist, then located in DeLand. In 1886 Painter purchased The Agriculturalist and hired Sydney Johnston as an editor, whose business and management skills steered the company. In 1904 the business formally incorporated under the name E. O. Painter Printing Company and eventually relocated to DeLeon Springs. Since 1904, Sydney Johnston and his descendants have owned and managed E. O. Painter Printing Company, "Printers of Fine Books for Over a Century" with great grandsons Jeffrey and Mark at the helm today.

Chuck Lennon Park is a 136-acre Volusia County park, named for DeLeon Springs resident Chuck Lennon, beloved and remembered for his "unselfish commitment to the betterment of the DeLeon Springs community and its youth". The Park, adjacent to DeLeon Springs State Park, includes covered pavilions, grills, restrooms, playgrounds, soccer, football, baseball and softball fields, and tennis, basketball and racquet ball courts.

Chuck Lennon Park is home to the outstanding, top-ranked Chuck Lennon Mountain Biking Trail. This trail system is maintained by a dedicated group of DeLeon Springs residents and volunteers from the Florida Association of Single-Track Riders (FASTER) Biking Club. These high-ranked “destination trails” offer over 10 miles of mountain biking fun, from gentle ride trails to exhilarating paths guaranteed to challenge the most experienced off-road mountain cyclists. There is also a one-mile nature walking/hiking trail soon to be created with views of a unique seep pool and of Spring Garden Lake, sponsored by the DeLeon Springs Community Association, Inc.

For centuries, DeLeon Springs has been a beautiful place to explore and put down roots, and it continues to be an exciting place to discover and call home. Join the DeLeon Springs Community Association, Inc., as we strive to continue “Making DeLeon Springs a Better Place to Live, Work and Play"! 





Home - History - Member Directory - Join Us - About - Info - Events

DeLeon Springs Community Association

Tammy Schuler, Treasurer
PO Box 271
DeLeon Springs, FL 32130

Amy Munizzi

Visit Us on Facebook


©2012- DeLeon Springs Community Association
Web Design & Hosting by Tinker Graphics