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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 early settlers like the Hunters, and the Cliftons who drove cattle down from Georgia, settled to raise livestock, cultivate the land and raise families.

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, particularly after the railroad arrived.

In 1925 the Ponce DeLeon Hotel, known as “The Casino,” was built, overlooking the spring. 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. 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 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 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 the 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 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, “Where Winners Winter”, is the largest standard bred horse training facility in North America and many of the original 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, all of which were innovative amenities at the time.

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. The owners of the DeLeon Spring attraction charged ten cents admission; Burt undercut them at five cents 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 located on U.S. Highway 17, previously home to the DeLeon Springs Community Association, Inc.

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, a nature observation tower and some of the top fishing and birding locations in Florida, along with fishing tournaments and hunting opportunities in season. The Refuge also boasts a nature store with hands-on exhibits, photography and nature books by local authors.

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 regularly-scheduled 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 grills 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 became ever more valuable to 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. Maintained by a dedicated group of DeLeon Springs residents and volunteers from the Flagler Area Biking Club, these high-ranked “destination trails” offer over 10 miles of gentle ride, family-friendly trails, and exhilarating paths guaranteed to challenge the most experienced off-road bike trail riders. There is also a new one-mile nature walk/hiking trail down to a unique seep pool, with a view 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"!

 

 

 
 

 


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DeLeon Springs Community Association

MAILING ADDRESS for Dues:
Tammy Schuler, Treasurer
PO Box 271
DeLeon Springs, FL 32130

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Amy Munizzi

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