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Orange Park

Clay County

Year Founded: 1879Founded by: Washington G. BenedictPreviously known as: Orange Park

History

The Town was founded in 1877 by the Florida Winter Home Improvement Company and incorporated by act of the Florida Legislature in 1879. The Town’s roots date back to 1776 with the first land grant to William and Rebecca Pengree. Well known plantation owner Zephaniah Kingsley purchased the land in 1803 and called it “Laurel Grove.” He imported 100 slaves and planted cotton and citrus.

After the Patriots Rebellion, Kingsley relocated to Fort George Island north of Jacksonville. John McIntosh purchased Laurel Grove and developed it into a thriving operation including a sugar mill and saw mill. This too came to an end following the Second Seminole War. Construction of the Florida Railroad in the 1850′s brought new development to the area, only to have it hampered by the Civil War.

Famed author Harriet Beecher Stowe became the next owner of Laurel Grove renting it on behalf of her son Frederick for use as a plantation run by freed slaves. She later settled in the Mandarin area of Jacksonville. The steamboat and citrus industry brought growth to the area following the Civil War.

In 1876 Washington Benedict purchased the former Kingsley grant of 9,000 acres for $32,500. He renamed it Orange Park to encourage settlers, tourists, and the planting of citrus. He formed the Orange Park Company to divide up the land and sell it in varying tract sizes. The company was later renamed the Florida Winter Home Improvement Company. The Park View House was constructed near the wharf and attracted visitors including Ulysses Grant, General Philip Sheridan, Buffalo bill Cody, Chief Sitting Bull, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Astor, and B.J. Johnson. B.L.Johnson, founder of the Palmolive soap company, purchased a residence here and became a director of the Florida Winter Home Improvement Company.

The Town had 26 qualified voters in 1879, the year of incorporation. The Town grew and struggled through the late 1800′s and early 1900′s due to citrus crop failures, loss of tourism, and the great wars. Electricity was brought to the Town in 1924. Naval Air Station Jacksonville was opened during World War II and brought many jobs and new residents to the area. The Town has continued to grow and thrive with a current population of 8,400.

Little Known Facts

Historical Sites

Name: Grace Episcopal Chapel
Location: 230 Kingsley Avenue
Historical Significance: Historic structure circa 1880

Name: Magnolia Cemetery
Location: 1040 Kingsley Avenue
Historical Significance: Graves dating back to 1845

Name: Clarke House Park
Location: 1039 Kingsley Avenue
Historical Significance: Historic home circa 1913

Name: Winterbourne
Location: 2143 Astor Street
Historical Significance: Historic home circa 1880

Name: Eulenfield/Lynch House
Location: 211 Kingsley Avenue
Historical Significance: Historic home circa 1895

Name: Boatwright House
Location: 2206 Reed Street
Historical Significance: Historic home circa 1880

Name: Morgan/Sigman House
Location: 1200 Plainfield Avenue
Historical Significance: Historic home circa 1878

Name: Wadesboro Spring
Location: 2426 Sylvan Chase Drive
Historical Significance: Natural sulfur spring

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