Central Florida heritage and history begins with the early native Americans who dwelled in the area 12,000 years ago.     

Wigwam Village Was A Motel Chain

Central Florida History

Central Florida felt the impact of three separate wars between the United States and the Seminole Indians.  These wars were:

First Seminole War:        1816-1819

Second Seminole War:   1835-1842

Third Seminole War:      1855-1858

The forts built during the Seminole wars gave their names to many of the settlements in Central Florida.  Fort King is now Ocala, Fort Gatlin is now Orlando, Fort Pierce is still Fort Pierce.  Fort Drum, Fort Christmas, Fort Ogden, Fort Meade and other old forts are now either small villages or just place names in Florida history.  They are still a large part of Central Florida heritage.

Many of the early settlers in Central Florida were pioneers who came down from Georgia and the Carolinas after the Civil War. The next big wave of people came after World War Two.  The first settlers began arriving in Central Florida in the years just after the final Seminole War in 1858 through the end of the Civil War and Reconstruction in 1877.

These early Florida residents were the ancestors of the Florida Cracker.

Central Florida Heritage Christ ChurchChrist Episcopal Church Fort Meade

Many of the pioneers began to homestead and start ranches in the prairie lands around Kissimmee, St. Cloud, Orlando and Ocala.  In later years, they and other settlers planted citrus.  Central Florida was the citrus and cattle capital of the world during the "Golden Era" of 1875 to 1895. The area led the world in citrus production until several freezes and epidemics of citrus canker devastated the groves and pushed the operations further south.  

At one time Kissimmee was connected to the Gulf of Mexico near Fort Myers by a navigable waterway. 

Ships traveled along the Kissimmee River to Lake Okeechobee and west through the Caloosahatchee River.  Kissimmee was a large port with many passenger and freight ships stopping by on a regular basis. Cattle and citrus were shipped out to ports around the world.

The Central Florida heritage of the cowboy is still very evident today in St. Cloud and Kissimmee.  The annual Silver Spurs rodeo event is still a huge happening in these Central Florida Cracker towns.

The rural nature of Central Florida began to change when Martin Marietta built a huge defense plant in Orlando in the 1950's. The next big change was the development of Canaveral Air Station and Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County.  These two projects had major impacts on Orlando's population.  These huge endeavors are now part of Central Florida heritage.

The biggest changes of all came when Walt Disney World opened in October 1971.

The population boomed and so did the traffic problems. The success of Disney encouraged other competitors to join in the fun and profit.  Central Florida is now the location of the largest theme parks in Florida. Florida travel for most tourists includes visits to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Florida and SeaWorld.

Central Florida heritage and history takes place in 9 counties that sprawl along the high sand ridge that is Florida's spine.  This ridge was the beach in ancient times, and its surface is made of old rolling sand dunes.  This large region starts between Ocala and Gainesville in the north, and extends south to the citrus country around Lake Placid and Sebring.

Ocala's rolling hills and pastures are known for producing some of the finest thoroughbred horses in the world. A wonderful Central Florida travel experience is to drive among the horse farms that surround Ocala.

Horse Statue in Downtown Ocala

The center part of this region, around Orlando and Clermont, was the citrus capital of the state until a big freeze changed things forever. Devastating freezes in Central Florida in the early 1980's destroyed many thousands of acres of groves. These old grove lands have been replaced in many cases by modern subdivisions.

Florida history has abundant examples of towns that thrived until their underlying resources were gone.  Citrus and cypress boom towns are two examples.  Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld and the other attractions transformed the area around Orlando into the sun and fun capital of the world.

Although Central Florida thrives on tourism, it is also the agricultural center of Florida.  Oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, watermelon, peppers, tomatoes, celery and watercress are all grown in this area along the ridge and in the adjacent flatlands and valleys. Not so far south of Orlando you can still see cowboys at work in the vast pastures that range all the way down to Holopaw, Yeehaw Junction and beyond.  These cowboys are a living reminder of Central Florida heritage.

Even with the population explosion around Orlando, the rural regions south of Kissimmee and St. Cloud still enjoy some of the quietest places in Florida. Orlando straddles I-4 and is the central anchor to the fast growing I-4 corridor. It is the major city in Central Florida.  Since it is near the center of the State, many Floridians think it should be the state capital instead of Tallahassee.

US-27 is a major north-south four lane highway that meanders along the ridge part of the region. This is where some of the major citrus groves are located. The major tourist attractions in Orlando put a tremendous traffic load on I-4 and US-27.  There are plenty of back roads in Orange County and surrounding counties that will help you avoid the traffic.  Don't be afraid to explore and learn more about Central Florida heritage.

Central Florida Heritage Sites

Here is a list of 182 Central Florida heritage sites listed by county. The County Seat is also listed.  You can use the Google search feature to find out more about each of these sites.  The way the search feature works is you highlight the item on the list, then right click your mouse and it gives you a link to Google for the item.  Try it, you'll like it.

HARDEE: Wauchula

  1. Main Street Wauchula
  2. Paynes Creek Historic State Park


  1. Archbold Biological Station
  2. Avon Park Depot Museum
  3. Avon Park Historic District
  4. Highlands County Courthouse
  5. Highlands Hammock State Park
  6. Kenilworth Lodge
  7. Old Lake Placid ACL Railroad Depot
  8. Old Sebring Seaboard Airline Depot
  9. Sebring Downtown Historic District
  10. Sebring Fire Station
  11. South Florida Community College Museum of Florida Art & Culture

LAKE: Tavares

  1. Antique Boat Museum
  2. Bowers Bluff Middens Archaeological District
  3. Clermont Main Street, Inc.
  4. Clermont Women's Club
  5. Clifford House
  6. Eustis Historic Museum
  7. Eustis Main Street, Inc.
  8. Ferran Park and the Alice B. McClelland Bandshell
  9. First United Methodist Church
  10. General James A. Van Fleet Trail State Park
  11. Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
  12. Kimball Island Midden Arcaheological Site
  13. Lake County Courthouse
  14. Lake Griffin State Park
  15. Lake Louisa State Park
  16. Lakeside Inn
  17. Lee Educational Center
  18. Leesburg Downtown Partnership
  19. Mote-Morris House
  20. Mount Dora Chamber of Commerce
  21. Mount Dora Lodge # 238, F&AM
  22. Royellou Museum
  23. Women's Club of Eustis


  1. Belleview City Hall
  2. Citra United Methodist Church
  3. Coca Cola Bottling Plant
  4. Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing and Museum of Classic Automobiles
  5. Dunnellon Boomtown Historic District
  6. Dunnellon Main Street
  7. Kerr City Historic District
  8. Lake Lillian Neighborhood Historic District
  9. Marion County Museum of History
  10. Marion Hotel
  11. McIntosh Historic District
  12. McPherson Government Complex
  13. Mount Zion AME Church
  14. Ocala Amtrack Station
  15. Ocala Historic Commercial District
  16. Ocala Historic District
  17. Old Fessenden Academy Historic District
  18. Orange Springs Methodist Episcopal Church and Cemetery
  19. Rainbow Springs State Park
  20. Ritz Historic Inn
  21. Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center
  22. Silver River State Park
  23. Tuscawilla Park Historic District
  24. West Ocala Historic District

ORANGE: Orlando

  1. Albin Polasek House and Studio
  2. All Saints Episcopal Church
  3. Annie Russell Theatre
  4. Apopka Historical Society
  5. Cal Palmer Memorial Building
  6. Carroll Building
  7. Central Florida Railroad Museum
  8. Cornell Fine Arts Museum
  9. Eatonville Historic District
  10. Fort Christmas Historical Park
  11. Griffin Park Historic District
  12. Harry P. Leu Gardens
  13. Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida
  14. Knowles Memorial Chapel
  15. Lake Eola Heights Historic District
  16. Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park
  17. Maitland Art Center
  18. Maitland Historical Society and Museums
  19. Moseley House
  20. Nehrling Gardens and Museum
  21. Ocoee Christian Church
  22. Old Orlando Railroad Depot
  23. Orange County Regional History Center
  24. Rock Springs Run State Reserve
  25. Rogers Building
  26. Ryan Brothers, Inc.
  27. St. George Greek Orthodox Church
  28. Tinker Building
  29. Tosohatchee State Reserve
  30. Wekiwa Springs State Park
  31. Well'sBuilt Museum of African American History and Culture
  32. Windermere Town Hall
  33. Winter Garden Downtown Historic District
  34. Winter Garden Historic Residential District
  35. Winter Park Historical Association and Museum
  36. Withers-Maguire House Museum
  37. Woman's Club of Winter Park
  38. Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts

OSCEOLA: Kissimmee

  1. Desert Inn
  2. First United Methodist Church
  3. Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall
  4. Kissimmee Historic District
  5. Old Holy Redeemer Catholic Church
  6. Osceola County Courthouse
  7. Osceola County Historical Museum and Pioneer Enrichment Center
  8. St. Cloud Main Street, Inc.

POLK: Bartow

  1. Auburndale Chamber - Mainstreet
  2. Babson Park Woman's Club
  3. Bartow Downtown Commercial District
  4. Baynard House Museum
  5. Beacon Hill-Alta Vista Residential District
  6. Christ Church
  7. City of Lake Wales
  8. Clay Cut Centre
  9. Cleveland Court Elementary School
  10. Community Service Center of N.E. Polk County
  11. Davenport Historic District
  12. Dixieland Historic District
  13. Downtown Bartow
  14. Downtown Haines City Commercial District
  15. Downtown Winter Haven Historic District
  16. Dundee Depot Museum
  17. East Lake Morton Residential District
  18. First Baptist Church
  19. Florida Air Museum
  20. Florida Citrus Showcase
  21. Florida Southern College Architectural District
  22. Fort Meade Historic District
  23. Frostproof City Hall
  24. Frostproof Historical Society and Museum
  25. Grand Hotel
  26. Haines City Main Street
  27. Henley Field Ball Park
  28. Historic Bok Sanctuary
  29. Homeland Heritage Park
  30. Interlaken Historic Residential District
  31. Lake Kissimmee State Park
  32. Lake Mirror Promenade
  33. Lake of the Hills Community Club
  34. Lake Wales Art Center
  35. Lake Wales Commercial Historic District
  36. Lake Wales Historic Residential District
  37. Landmark Baptist College
  38. Lawton Chiles Middle Academy
  39. Main Street Winter Haven, Inc.
  40. Mobile Museum of Polk County
  41. Mountain Lake Estates Residential District
  42. Mulberry Phosphate Museum
  43. Munn Park Historic District
  44. North Avenue Historic District
  45. Northeast Bartow Residential District
  46. Oates Building
  47. Old Lake Wales City Hall
  48. Pinewood Estate
  49. Polk County Historical Museum
  50. Polk Theatre and Office Building
  51. Pope Avenue Historic District
  52. Roosevelt Academy
  53. South Bartow Residential District
  54. South Lake Morton Historic District
  55. St. Mark's Episcopal Church
  56. The Depot: Lake Wales Museum and Cultural Center
  57. Water Ski Hall of Fame
  58. West Area Adult School
  59. Winston Elementary
  60. Winter Haven Heights Historic Residential District
  61. Woman's Club of Winter Haven


  1. Bradlee-McIntyre House
  2. Florida Hotel
  3. Geneva Museum and Historical Society
  4. Geneva School House and Rural Heritage Center
  5. Helen Stairs Theatre for the Performing Arts
  6. Longwood Historic District
  7. Museum of Seminole County History
  8. Nelson and Company Historic District
  9. Sanford Commercial District
  10. Sanford Main Street, Inc.
  11. Sanford Museum
  12. Sanford Residential Historic District
  13. Seminole County Student Museum, Center for the Social Studies
  14. St. James AME Church

SUMTER: Bushnell

  1. Dade Battlefield Historic Memorial
  2. Dade Battlefield Historic State Park

A great historical novel that celebrates Central Florida heritage and history is Patrick Smith's classic work, A Land Remembered.

Most of the information in our website has been published in a series of Amazon Kindle books for each of Florida's eight geographical regions.

Florida Backroads Travel, a separate Kindle book, covers all of the regions of the state in one volume.

All books can be read on a computer, tablet, Kindle and most smart phones.

Click on the book cover for free previews of these books at Amazon.com.

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