A Short History of Orange Park Florida
Orange Park is located in the Northeast portion of Florida. The town was founded by the organization called Florida Improvement and Winter Home Company in 1877. The owners and shareholders of this company were primarily from Boston. The old “McIntosh” plantation fell on difficult times after the Civil War and changed ownership multiple times. The Florida Improvement and Winter Home Company purchased several thousand acres and created a unique town called Orange Park. The acreage was then subdivided into small farms and building lots. In fact, the street system still used to this day was developed by the Florida Improvement and Winter Home Company. To further enhance the sales of these building lots and small farms, the company planted orange trees, which were extremely profitable. In 1879, a special legislation of the Floridian legislature incorporated the town. After this, a 1200 ft wood pier was built to accommodate steamboats and a grand hotel was constructed on Kingsley Avenue to attract tourists from up north.
According to Orange Park history, the town dates back to 1780s and 1790s during the 2nd Spanish era in Florida’s history. At the time, the town was called Laurel Grove. William and Sarah Pengree were given a grant of land from the governor and named the town Laurel Grove. When William died, the plantation and farm of Laurel Grove slipped into disarray. Zephaniah Kingsley was a planter who purchased Laurel Grove. Kingsley founded his estate in 1803 and developed a farming enterprise that prospered for ten years.
As the United States continued to expand, it used its power along the Georgia boundary and the Spanish border. The U.S. Congress and President Monroe passed a secret act that authorized the invasion of Spanish Florida. During the summer season of 1813, Officer Matthews, the Georgia army and volunteers invaded Spanish-controlled east Florida and began the Patriots Resistance. Kingsley, along with other wealthy farmers near the Saint Johns River fought against the invading army. A few weeks later, General Matthews and the army left east Florida. Anna Kingsley, who was the wife to Zephaniah, burnt down Laurel Grove to prevent it from falling into patriot’s hands. Then, Anna led the Spanish army to the home she had in Mandarin where it was also destroyed.
Orange Park continued to grow exponentially and has become the northeastern entry to Clay County. Orange Park’s commerce has continued to grow throughout the years and the town has become a bustling suburb of Jacksonville. The town’s government continues to make improvements to ensure that the needs of its residents are met.
Orange Park encompasses 5.3 square miles. The River Road Historical District is located along the St. Johns River and features century-old trees. The town has three elementary schools, two junior high schools, and three high schools. Additionally, the town has several private schools and a two-year college named Fortis college.
Many of the residents in the area are affiliated with the military or are in the medical field. As of 2010, the population of Orange park was 8,412 people. The racial makeup of the town includes Caucasians, African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders and Asians.