ABOUT DELEON SPRINGS, FLORIDA
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, where the Fish and Lee General store thrived and families settled to cultivate the land.
In 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 after the railroad arrived. In 1925 the Ponce DeLeon Hotel, known as The Casino was built, overlooking the spring. It included a restaurant that served steak and lobster to a 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. He developed the "Bob White" brand of orange and erected the Theodore Strawn Packing House. When the original structure burned in 1921 he used the latest technology to build a structure of concrete and metal which still stands today. The packing house used innovative conveyor belt systems to move oranges into crates marked for different branded oranges 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 saw the closing of the Strawn Packing House but the structure remains 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. Groups enjoy tours of the historic property where you-pick strawberries are grown as well as citrus and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in season.
The famous DeSoto House Hotel, built in 1885 by U.M. Bennett as a fishing resort, stood at the site of the current Wells Fargo Bank, and served not only sports fishermen but wealthy travelers from the north and 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 areas for livestock breeding, agriculture and housing. 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 is the largest standard bred horse training facility in North America and is home to the Spring Garden Ranch Restaurant. Many of the historic structures still remain.
Burt developed a unique community for the semi-retired to winter in, along Retta Street, named for his wife. The development, called Burwyn Park, included paved sidewalks, a water system and even a community center for social occasions.
When F.N. Burt couldn't persuade the owners of the DeLeon Spring attraction to sell, he bought the adjacent property, drilled an artesian well and created Burt's Park, overlooking Spring Garden Lake.
In the 1940s, before the relocation of Highway 17 through the middle of DeLeon Springs, 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 CR 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 blocks was a tea room, post office, Bedford Jones' General Store, and a meat market with a lodge above. A short order restaurant ran from the home of Jess and Suzy Yelvington.
Jones' Garage and Reynolds' Barber Shop, a schoolhouse and community center also thrived. Herbold's Tourist Colony located on what is now Highway 17, offered vacation cabins, a bathhouse, travel trailer parking and a restaurant renowned for its home cooking. Mr. Porter was a local real estate entrepreneur and his family lived adjacent to Herbold's in the house that's now home to the DeLeon Springs Community Association, Inc.
1962 brought the 4-laning of Highway 17 through the center of the community. In 1964, Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge was established to provide habitat for migrating birds and the Refuge's lakes and streams are home to a variety of aquatic life, waterfowl, wading birds and raptors. The Refuge also boasts a nature store, and offers bird hikes and fishing tournaments throughout the year.
In 1982 the private DeLeon Spring attraction became DeLeon Springs State Park. The spring produces up to19 million gallons of water daily with a constant 72 degree Fahrenheit water temperature for swimmers to enjoy. Visitors can walk along a half-mile nature trail or enjoy the four mile Wild Persimmon Hiking Trail. Picnicking and fishing for a variety of freshwater fish, including largemouth bass, are favorite activities. Canoe, kayak and paddleboat rentals are available for paddling the spring run. De Leon Springs flows into Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge where canoeists and kayakers can explore approximately 20,000 acres of lakes, creeks and marshes. DeLeon Springs State Park continues to be home to the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant (est. 1961) where guests enjoy a full menu, as well as the famous pancakes, self-prepared on unique grills embedded in the dining tables.
DeLeon Springs boasts Volusia County's only dairy farm, Fieser Dairy, one of the last large dairy farms in Central Florida. Fieser Dairy is not only home to over 600 dairy cows but many species of birds including whooping cranes, sandhill cranes, bald eagles and hawks. The Audubon Society conducts an annual bird count there every year.
DeLeon Springs is also home to E. O. Painter, 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 was able to purchase The Agriculturalist and he hired Sydney Johnston as an editor, whose business and management skills became ever more valuable to the company. In 1904 the business formally incorporated under the name E.O. Painter Printing Company and eventually located in DeLeon Springs. Since 1904 Sydney Johnston and his descendants have both 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 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 fields, baseball fields, softball fields, tennis courts, basketball and racquet ball courts. It's also home to the outstanding Chuck Lennon Mountain Biking Trail. Maintained by a dedicated group of DeLeon Springs residents and volunteers from the Flagler Area Biking Club, these high-ranked trails offer over 5 miles of exhilarating paths guaranteed to challenge the most experienced off-road bike trail riders.
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 us as we strive to continue to make "DeLeon Springs a Better Place to Live, Work and Play"!