AL~ ~A;TK A
archi tectu ral
s. gonzalez jr.
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THIS REPORT WAS PREPARED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF A.E. 678, REGIONAL
ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY, DEPARTMENT OF PRESERVATION, COLLEGE OF ARCHITECTURE,
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, GAINESVILLE.
SERGIO GONZALEZ JR.
F. BLAIR REEVES F.A.I.A., PROFESSOR
ACKNOr vvlEDGEIr~IVIENTU S
We would like to express our deep appreciation to the following individuals
and their staff for their assistance in the preparation of this report.
They have sacrificed time from their daily schedules to aid in our research.
Mr. Brian E. Michaels, Putnam County Codes Administrator
Mrs. Lora S. Britt, Managing Editor Palatka Daily News
Mr. Robert H. Fisk, Palatka City Manager
We Would also like to thank the following for their assistance:
Palatka Public Library
P.K.Yonge library, University of Florida
Palatka Chamber of Commerce
Dr. Helen Armstrong, Map Room, University of Florida
CONTENTS ................................................... 5
PROBLEM STATEMENT .............................................. 7
INTRODUCTION ................................................. 9
REGIONAL CHARACTER .............................................. 12
THE STATE .................................................. 20
THE REGION .................................................. 21
CLIMATE ................................................... 22
PALATKA ................................................... 23
LAND USE ................................................... 24
DEVELOPMENT FACTORS ............................................. 25
CENTRAL AREA ................................................. 26
SEQUENCE OF EVENTS .............................................. 28
HISTORICAL PERIODS .............................................. 34
EARLY REGIONAL SETTLEMENT 2000BC-1848 ................................ 39
EARLY TOWN DEVELOPMENT 1849-1859 ..................................... 51
THE CIVIL WAR 1861-1865 ........................................... 60
RECONSTRUCTION ERA AND TOURISM 1865-1884 ............................ 63
THE GREAT FIRE 1884 ............................................. 74
REBUILDING AND GROWTH 1885-1894 ..................................... 79
THE GREAT FREEZE 1894-1895 ......................................... 87
RECOVERY AND CHANGE 1895-1929 ....................................... 91
SPORADIC DEVELOPMENT 1930-1945 ...................................... 108
POST WAR TO PRESENT 1947-1977 ....................................... 111
FOOTNOTES .................................................. 117
I PROBL~IElVI~ STTEIV n I Il
TO STUDY THE DETERMINANTS, DEVELOPMENTS AND PRESERVATION
OF PALATKA'S ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY......................
II~F ~r INTRODUCING
The overall objective of this report is to investigate and document the
regional architectural history of Palatka with particular emphasis on
Palatka was chosen for our study due to its importance in Florida's
history and because little research had been done on the architecture
of the area.
Time was a major factor in the amount of material we could cover and the
detail we could hope to achieve. Our study was limited to ten weeks. Two
of these weeks were needed to compile and assemble the report. Therefore,
the completeness and detail of this report reflect eight weeks of research
and investigation. We attempted to cover only the major factors and in-
fluences in the architectural history of Palatka because of these time
To accomplish this objective we proceeded to collect data from all possible
sources available. Through this, we were able to gather sufficient infor-
mation to trace the historical events that formed the architecture and
planning of Palatka.
It is our goal, through this study to provide Palatka and its citizens
a new and fresh sense of awareness of their architectural heritage.
Sergio Gonzalez Jr.
EIF lC) lA~L CHA L~RAC~TEc R
THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT:
Putnam County is located in the northeast portion of florida. It is situa-
ted at the head of the Tower St.Johns river valley. The county is bisected
into east and west portions by the St.Johns river and its tributaries. The
county contains about 800 square miles of land area and 76 square miles
of water area. 80% of the land area is in the St.Johns river valley with
the remaining 20% in the central highland. Elevation ranges from 10 to
200 feet above sea level. The area east of the river is basically flatland
with the area west being rolling sandy hills. In the southern portion of
the county the St.Johns river widens and forms numerous small lakes and
" Originally Putnam County was covered by a dense stand of forest. The
hilly area, the well drained terraces and that portion of the flats which
was not waterlogged supported valuable pine trees, especially longleaf
and slash pines. The ravines and humid bottom lands were covered with
The soils of the county range from barren, dry sands to rich muck and
peat. The latter are usually too wet for cultivation. Outside of these
the best soils are only of fair fertility. The hammock and the forests
are reported to abound in game. Some of the lakes and the rivers are rich
The climate is temperate. There is an abundance of sunshine and monthly
mean temperatures range from 58.5 degrees in January to 82.4 degrees in
July. Summer temperatures of over 100 degrees are rare and winters are
mild with only a few chances for below freezing temperatures.
The climate is kept mild by the presence of the numerous bodies of water
in the area of which the St.Johns river is most important. Slight varia-
tions in temperature do occur between the river valley area and the high-
land area. This is because of the absence of bodies of water in the north-
western portions of the county.
Average rainfall is about 55 inches per year with the greatest amounts
occurring during the summer rainy season which produces almost daily
Since the county is inland from the ocean it is not subject to the
damaging salt air. Tropical storms are not considered a major hazard
since the overland movement of the storms reduces severity.
The St.Johns river is the most important natural resource in the region.
The numerous lakes that connect into the river system are also very impor-
tant to the region. From the earliest times the water systems provided
the inhabitants of the area with food, transportation and abundant water
Fishing on the waters of the St.Johns and its connecting lakes has been
plentiful since the time indians first inhabited the region. During the
late 1800's and early 1900's the fishing industry was doing well. Catfish,
Shad, Bream and Herring were the chief commercial fish. Today sport fish-
ing is very popular throughout the region but commercial fishing has
declined due to water pollution and economic factors.
The St.Johns river and the connecting lake system was the major means of
transportation to the early development of the region. Early settlers
explored the region by the river route. Military outposts were established
at points along the river so that they would be easily accessible. The
first real industrial interests, lumber and naval stores, were located on
the river since logs could easily be floated to the mills. Supplies such
as ice, finished furniture and special items always came into the region
from the northern states by way of the river. Tourists also arrived from
northern cities on ships. Today the river and lake system is mainly used
for recreational purposes and as a transportation medium is of secondary
The abundant amount of fresh water in the region has been a major factor
in the development of cities and towns. Cheap and plentiful water has
been important to the establishment and growth of industry and agricul-
ture. Water supply has made both successful.
Ever since records have been maintained Putnam County's economic develop-
ment has been closely linked with its forest resources. Citrus truck crops
and tourists stole the show during the eighties and nineties but only the
forests could cushion the shock of the "Big Freeze". Earlier, wood was the
fuel used by the steamboats.
Unfortunately the forests were considered as mines and they were ruthless-
ly exploited. Without thought of reforestation the fine stands of pines
were clear-cut. As a result, mostly in the western part of the country
there are almost 87,000 acres of dominantly blackjack and turkey oak woods
What pine forests are left consist usually of young secondary growths.
The story of cypress is even more depressing.
Still ,forest and potential forest land dominate the county. The dr~y land
area of the county is 476,575 acres of which 407,502 are classified as
The county is well endowed with earth minerals. In the western half of the
region within.a roughly triangular area with its apex near Kingsley Lake
(Clay County) and its base extending from Hawthorne (Alachua County) to
southeast of Interlachen there are large deposits at Florahome. Common
clay of some commercial value occurs around Rice Creek, and it has been
used for brick production in the past.
The soils and climate of the region have always proved beneficial for
agricultural activities. Since the earliest recorded times agriculture
has been successful practiced in the region. Early crops were corn, To-
bacco and small vegetables. The Spanish introduced citrus. By 1860 the
first commercial orange groves were in operation and by 1890 citrus was
a major industry. As citrus faded after the freeze of 1894-95 vegetable
crops such as potatoes and cabbage became dominant. Today the county is
part of the famous Hastings farm area. Cabbage and potatoes are the lar-
gest crops with commercial nurseries and citrus interests also producing.
Palatka is located in the central section of Putnam County on the St.Johns
river. The original settlement of Palatka was one of the first in Florida.
When Palatka was young it served as the major shipping and distribution
center in the region. As a direct result of this, the city was oriented
to the riverfront which was lined with docks. Commercial, industrial and
storage type buildings were grouped near the waterfront. The residential
areas expanded outward fron the central core in a radial pattern.
Before the civil war, Palatka's economy was based upon the cypress log
milling. The small town had less than 1000 residents. During the civil
war Palatka was almost totally deserted since federal troops controlled
the town for part of the war. The port was busy and tourism became a major
economic factor. Between 1870 and 1890 the population more than tripled.
1.884 saw a great fire destroy the commercial area but the town quickly
rebuilt. The citrus industry was at its peak during the early 1890's which
produced increased activity at the port and on the St.Johns river. The
great freeze of 1894-95 crippled the citrus and tourist industries. Recovery
depended upon the cypress mills and other related industries. As the rail-
roads came the prosperity was fading out.
Palatka picked up again in the late 1940's with several new industries
coming to the area. New shopping areas, educational and medical facilities
and uncontrolled sprawl, followed.
Today Palatka has approximately 9,500 residents with the Palatka area
having 21,000 residents. The county contains a total of 45,000 residents.
SQUARES (*) SHOW LOCATION OF COUNTY SEATS
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AT PALATKA, FLORIDA
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SEQUENCE OF EVENTS:
2000BC Paleo Indians inhabit the Palatka region.
100BC Indians actually inhabit Palatka area.
1000AD Timucuan Indians have small villages near Palatka.
1513 Ponce de Leon discovers Florida
1562 French Huguenots establish settlement at mouth of St.Johns.
1580 The Spanish have control of Florida. They establish missions
along the northern east coast.
1763 The English gain control of Florida.
1767 Rollestown established.
1774 Bartram reports seeing indian village.
1783 The Spanish again control Florida.
1800 Spanish give land grant in St.Johns river valley to Bernardo
Segui. The Palatka area is part of this.
1819 Bernardo Segui gives land to George Fleming.
1820 First white settler in the area is James Marver. He and his
partners obtain land from Fleming and set up a trading post.
1821 The land is transferred to Belton A. Copp.
1823 Construction begins on the Bellamy Road.
1826 Copp sells 1200 acre tract to Nehemiah Brush for $800.
Palatka growing due to military activity during Seminole War.
Town burned by Seminole indians.
Fort Shannon established at Palatka.
A Post Office was opened in "Pilatka".
Fort Shannon is deactivated.
Florida became the 27th, state on March 3rd.
William D. Moseley was elected first governor in May.
The first newspaper, "The Whig Banner", began publication.
First steamboat tenn~inal was built in Palatka.
Putnam County was created on January 13th.
Palatka composed of old army buildings from the Seminole War.
First census conducted, 687 residents.
First known map done of Palatka.
Judge Bronson buys 10 acres of land at sunny point.
Palatka was officially chartered as a city.
Construction begins of St.Marks Episcopal Church.
Construction begins of St.James Methodist Church.
Bronson Residence built.
Construction begins on County Courthouse.
A stage line was established between Tampa and Palatka.
H.A. Gray starts barge freight system on Ocklawaha river.
Benjamin Putnam organizes State Historical Society.
St.Marks Church dedicated.
1858 St.Monica's Catholic Church dedicated on December 8th.
1861 Start of the Civil War.
St. James Methodist Church completed.
The city drug store was founded.
Hart line steamers operated from Palatka to Silver Springs.
St. Marks Church used by Federal Troops as a post.
1862 Ravine Gardens used as a Confederate Army camp.
Palatka almost destroyed by Federal Troops.
1865 Civil War ends.
Colonel Hart constructs the Putnam House hotel.
1869 Cypress mills were operating along the banks of the St.Johns.
Population at 500 following the war.
1870 First Baptist Church organized and a church building started.
The First Baptist Church was completed in October.
1875 A second structure was added to the Putnam House.
Palatka Academy established. First educational institution.
The Carleton House hotel opened.
1878 A hurricane sweeps into Palatka on September 8th.
1879 St. Josephs Academy opened.
The Graham Hotel was erected.
Construction started on the Presbyterian Church.
1880 Population 1,616.
Gainesville, Ocala and Charlotte Harbor Railway completed.
The Saratoga Hotel was completed.
1881 Construction begins on Florida Southern Railway to Gainesville.
1882 St.Marks Academy established.
Issac L. E11wood residence built, believed to be inventor of
Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railway from Jacksonville to
Palatka pushed 1 mile west of river.
A fire destroys most of Palatka on November 7th.
A new church started for St. James Church.
Parsonage built for Presbyterian Church.
First Ice Factory built on Laurel Street.
James R. Mellon built a residence at Ermmett and Kirkland Streets.
Second Putnam House Built.
St. James Church completed.
Emanuel United Methodist Church completed.
A form of building code adopted.
Phoenix Hotel opened.
Ground breaking for the Kean building.
43 buildings were under construction in Palatka Heights in May.
The following buildings appeared by 1885 on the Sanborn Maps.
Dates of construction are not given.
Florida Southern Railway yards at 2nd. and Main Streets.
Opera House at corner of 2nd. and Lemon Streets.
Boarding House at Orange and 3rd. Streets.
Gem City Hotel at corner of Lemon and 3rd. Streets.
Boyds mill at foot of Laurel Street.
Academy of the Sacred Heart on Lemon Street.
Butler Fruit Box Company on the riverfront.
J.T. & K.W. Railway wharves at foot of Laurel Street.
Palatka Heights was incorporated.
St. Augustine and Palatka Railway was constructed.
Presbyterian Church rebuilt.
A freeze damages the fruit crop.
Streets and lots laid out in Palatka Heights.
The Macon and Palatka Railway was being built.
1887 The Kennedly Hardware Company established.
The following buildings appeared by 1887 on the Sanborn Maps.
A freight building for Florida Southern Railway at foot of Main St.
The Westmoreland Hotel becomes the Saratoga Hotel.
Pheonix Hotel on Water Street near Lemon Street.
A Catholic Church at 2nd. and Oak Streets.
The Water works at Palatka Heights.
1888 First bridge built across the St. Johns river. It was built for the
railroad by Flagler.
Street car system using rails introduced in March.
1889 Population 3,039.
Wilson family buys interest in Tilghman mill.
1891 Tilghman-Wilson mill becomes the Wilson mill.
Fountain installed over artesian well.
3,599,000 boxes of oranges raised in area.
1892 The following buildings appeared by 1892 on the Sanborn Maps.
Dates of construction are not given.
The Peonix Hotel becomes the Winthrop Hotel.
The Kansas Hotel on Lemon Street near 4th. Street.
The Florida Hotel on Lemon Street next to the J.T.& R.W. depot.
1894 Telephones are installed in Palatka for the first time.
Street cars installed by William Craig.
El Product Cigar Factory opens.
There are 900 orange groves in the county.
5,000,000 boxes of oranges are raised.
A very cold winter in Palatka.
I 1lS O IA E ID
For purposes of studying the architectural history of Palatka the total
sequence of historical events can be devided into ten periods.
These periods reflect certain trends and developments in the architectural
character of Palatka.
The sequence of historical events is devided as follows:
1- EARLY REGIONAL SETTLEMENT: 2000BC-1848
This period involves the indians who were the first inhabitants of the
area, the first explorations of the area by white men and the establish-
ment of the original settlement of "Pilatka". Of Particular interest are
the first trading post, Fort Shannon and the governmental buildings.
2- EARLY TOWN DEVELOPMENT: 1849-1860
Between 1849 and 1859 Palatka grew into a small town. The military occupa-
tion of the town was of prime importance. Other important events during
this period include: The establishment of Putnam County, an official map
of Palatka, the first church built in the area, the incorporation of
Palatka as a city and the building of a courthouse.
3- THE CIVIL WAR: 1861-1865
During this breif but hostile period Palatka was almost entirely deserted.
Federal and Cofederate Troops alternately occupied the town. Federal Troops
almost destroyed the town in 1862 but instead established a post.
4- RECONSTRUCTION ERA AND TOURISM: 1865-1884
After the civil war Palatka grew slowly and depended upon the cypress
industry. About 1870 Palatka saw a great influx of tourists and this re-
sulted in rapid growth. Hotels, steamships and citrus trees along the Main
Streets were dominant features. By this period the railroads had arrived.
5- THE GREAT FIRE : 1884
A great fire starting in a waterfront building spreads and destroys the
central business district of Palatka. The news is heard all over the eastern
6- REBUILDING AND GROWTH: 1885-1894
This era saw the downtown area rebuilt quickly and mostly of fireproof
construction. Transportation expanded rapidly with the expansion of the
railroads and opening of the city street car system.
7- THE GREAT FREEZE: 1894-1895
A hard freeze hit Florida and the citrus crops were destroyed. Economic
repercussions followed and many people and businesses were forced to move
out of the area. Electricity, gas and the telephone all came into the area.
8- RECOVERY AND CHANGE: 1895-1929
During the time immediately after the freeze Palatka attempted to recover
from the economic disaster. Some new buildings were constructed and city
improvements made. The New Bridge" opened in 1927. The period from 1900
to 1929 saw very little growth in the area and almost no increase in popu-
lation. The city became dependent upon the cypress industry for economic
9- SPORADIC DEVELOPMENT: 1930-1945
After the stockmarket crash and until the end of World War 11 several
government projects were started, such as: A hospital and the Ravine Gar-
dens, produced jobs and better community facilities.
10- POST-WAR TO PRESENT: 1947-1977
After World War 11 ended, the economic activity picked up again. Several
new industries started in the area, such as: The Hudson Paper Mill. The
St. Johns river College was also founded during this time. With the
new economic lift, shopping centers, new housing areas developed in the
E AR LY
SETT ~LEIVnc IEN 200 BCrCC~f -1848~
EARLY REGIONAL SETTLEMENT: 2000 BC- 1848
The first people in the Palatka region were the Paleo Indians. They were
in the region around 2000 BC. These indians were basically nomadic hunters
who moved southward through the area. They hunted, fished and gathered
food in the St. Johns river valley. Being nomadic in nature, they only
established temporary settlements and structures. When the food supply
dwindled they moved on.
Indians actually inhabited the area which is now Putnam County as long
ago as 1500 BC. They probably settled in the river valley because of the
temperate climate, the abundance of food and the transportation the river
itself provided. Evidence of these early indians is provided by numerous
indians mounds in the Palatka area. One mound was found in what is now
Palatka. It dated from the orange period, approximately 1500-100 BC. These
indians cultivated the land and produced such crops as tobacco and vegetables.
The Timucuan indians, who were defendants of the earlier indians, inhabi-
ted the Palatka area during the times of the earliest European explora-
tions. Two tribes, the Saturiba and the Utina were predominant in the
Palatka area. The Timucuan indians lived in small villages composed of
grass and mud huts around a central meeting house. The village was usually
surrounded by a palisade wall that had only one gate. Located away from
the village was the temple complex. It contained a temple, a ceremonial
plaza and burlel mounds. No remains of a village or temple have been
excavated in Palatka.
Sebastian Cabot was the first European to see the Peninsula that is now
Juan Ponce de Lean..di~scovered. Flori-da in 1513. He was the first explorer
to trek inland but his adventures were limited to the area between St.
Augustine and the mouth of the St. Johns river between the Atlantic Ocean
and the river.
The French were the first Europeans to establish a settlement in the region.
Under the direction of Jean Ribault, a French Huguenot Co~lony was establish-
ed in 1502. It was named Fort Caroline. Two years later, an expedition that
was exploring the St. Johns river came in contact with the Saturiba indians
near Palatka. By 1580 the Spanish had control of Florida and were esta-
blishing missions along the east coast. The missions were concentrated
along the northern east coast because the Timucuan indians there were more
civilized and less hostile than their southern neighbors the Ai and the
The English gained ownership of Florida in 1763 as part of the Treaty of
Paris which ended the French and Indian war. By 1765 the St. Johns river
valley was being settled by the English. Denys Rolle began an experimen-
tal settlement about 1 mile above Palatka on the St. Johns river in 1767.
The plantation failed very badly at first but with .determination~by Rolle
improved and grew into a large village by 1782. The plantation produced
cotton, citrus, animal products and naval stores. Each section of the plan-
tation which surrounded the village contained 10 acres and had its own
office and slave quarters. Although the location of the village was exce-
11ent and the river gave it life, it was destined to fail from the begin-
ning because of bad planning. In 1785, after Britain relinquished Florida,
Rolle abandoned the village.
The Palatka area was inhabited by indians by 1774. This was verified by
John Bartram who traveled up the St. Johns river during that year. The
village was substantial with many houses, an orange grove and many culti-
vated fields. In the center of the village was a square. It was covered
with a roof of thatched and woven palmetto and had a raised platform at
the center. The subsistence of the village depended upon fishing and
In 1783 the Spanish again took control of the eastern portion of Florida.
Land grants were given out to aid in the development of the region. The
St. Johns river valley was given as a grant around 1800. Most of the grants
were written and only little actual development took place. Sometime around
1800 Bernardo Segui received a grant from the Spanish government giving
him the land around Palatka.
Bernardo Segui gives land grant to George Fleming in 1819.
The earliest white settlers in what now is Palatka were James Marver and
his two companions Hines and Woodruff. They established a trading post
in Palatka about 1820. They purchased the land from George Fleming and
soon began trading on the riverfront. Their business was large since the
local indians came in great numbers to trade their goods for supplies.
The trading post consisted of several log cabins and a large store house.
A New York company was somehow involved in the operation of the trading
In 1821 the land was transferred to Belton A. Copp on August 23rd. He was
a young army officer who probably acquired the property as an investment.
Florida officially became territory of the United States in 1821. Andrew
Jackson was appointed governor.
In 1823 construction began on the Bellamy Road. It was the first American
built public road in the territory of Florida that was paid for by govern-
ment funds. It was called the Bellamy Road after John Bellamy. In December,
1824, he started west from the St. Johns river with a crew of one Indian
and one slave and averaged one quarter mile a day in cutting and backing
a path through the virgin forest. The road was completed in 1826.
Belton A. Copp sold 1/2 of a 1200-acre parcel of land to Nehemiah Brush
in February of 1826. Brush and his two nephews, Thomas and William Brush,
carried on the trading business very successfully. The small outpost grew
quickly since it was on a major road between Pensacola and St. Augustine,
then the two major cities in Florida. A Post office was located in Palatka
in December of 1826. By August of 1827 Brush purchased the 600 remaining
acres of the grant. Although the post was successful, the growing diffi-
culties with the Seminole indians eventually forced it to close. Brush
also operated a ferry across the St. Johns river.
During the first Seminole war Palatka was totally abandoned. Having been
destroyed and burned as the war began. With the end of the war in 1832
Palatka became an important military area.
By 1835 Palatka was growing again. This was due to military activity and
trading. Businesses and homes had been rebuilt since the war and new growth
was spured by speculation of a railway coming through Palatka.
Hostilities were again mounting between the settlers and the Seminole
indians. Additional troops were requested to help protect Palatka but the
town was burned in January 1836. Other area towns and plantations were
The importance of Palatka during the second Seminole war was more signi-
ficant after 1838, when Fort Shannon was established. The actual date of
construction is not known. This served to stimulate activity/ in the area
and provided the first large scale development of what eventually culmi-
nated in the town's beginnings.
Fort Shannon, originally known as Fort Pilatka, was one of the major quart-
erm'aster depots in Florida during the second Seminole war. It operated
under General William J. Worth until he assumed command of the armies in
Florida. Military facilities included a hospital, barracks, blockhouses
and stables for more than 400 horses. During the fort's existence, Palatka
was military in appearance and under military control.
" Military operations in the area stimulated a great influx of men to
Palatka even if only for a short period of time. The supply facility sta-
bilized and continued existence of Fort Shannon especially due to the
practice of hiring of civilians to fulfill many aspects of the quartermas-
ter function. This caused growth; an aura of permanence existed, due to
the construction of facilities such as warehouses and piers. It meant the
construction of roads, which for the first time provided a more efficient
means of transportation into the interior. The clearing of obstructions
in the rivers also enhanced the potential of this frontier area ".
Fort Shannon deactivated sometime around 1843 and this caused the town
to develop its own support facilities which it had depended upon the fort
By 1841 Palatka was again well established. This is evidenced by the reopen-
ing of a post office for Palatka in August 1841. Because of its vital
position and its rapid growth Palatka gained recognition from the terri-
The legislative council passed the following resolution, Wilhereas the
settlement of Palatka is rapidly increasing in population and commerce a
road should be opened, leading from St.Johns opposite Palatka to St. Augustine"
Florida becomes a State on March 3. It became the 27th, state of the union.
William D. Moseley was elected first Governor of the State of Florida.
After Moseley retired he resided in Palatka until his death. He is buried
in Westview cemetery in Palatka.
First newspaper, "The Whig Banner", began publication. In the first issue
it was noted that there were two hotels in Palatka; The Palatka Hotel and
the Wightman House.
The first steamboat terminal was built in Palatka.
Putnam county was established and named after Benjamin Alexander Putnam.
speaker of the Florida House. Palatka was designated the county seat.
A bill was introduced in the Florida Legislature in 1849 to create Putnam
County. The bill was passed into law and Putnam County, named in honor of
Benjamin Putnam, was created. The county was created from portions of
existing counties. The first courthouse was in rented 2nd. floor rooms.
A courthouse was later constructed. Palatka was designated the county seat.
The courthouse was located at the foot of Lemon Street.
In 1850 Palatka was composed basically of old army buildings that were
left from the period of the second Seminole war. Many commercial and re-
sidential structures also existed but the town retained the character of
a military town.
The first official census was conducted in 1850. The population of Palatka
was 687 of which 473 were white.
The first means of overland travel for passengers and freight was by stage-
coach. In 1850 a line existed between Palatka and Tampa.
The earliest map of Palatka still in existence was done in 1851. It showed
the small town of Palatka with its streets and 30 or so structures. The
plan illustrated the north to south grid pattern of streets. The major
streets ran east to west perpendicular to the river. A county courthouse,
commercial buildings and dock areas were oriented to the river. The date
of the original map is April, 1851. A total of 29 lots had been sold at
Judge Isaac H. Bronson moves to Palatka and purchases 10 acres on the north
side of the town, known as Sunny Point. The area today is still known as
The Peniel Baptist Church was organized in 1852 under the direction of
Reverand S.T. Stanaland. It was the first church organized in the Palatka
area. The first meetings were held in private homes and then in a small
log cabin acquired to hold services.
The St. James Methodist Church was organized around 1852.Meetings were
held in the old courthouse at the riverfront. Later meetings were held
in the old U.S. barracks that were located on Front Street where the
Saratoga was later constructed. The barracks offered scant furnishings
such as wiskey barrel for a pulpit and candles stuck in potatoes for
Palatka was officially chartered as a city by the legislature on January
8,1853. The first mayor was Judge W.W.Tumblin of Starke. The area which
was designated the City of Palatka was in the early stages of development
with new construction and river traffic increasing. Also many societies
and organizations were being founded.
On December 12,1853 the St. Marks Episcopal Church was organized. The
first services for the newly formed church were held in the old court-
house and construction of a church began at the corner of Main and Front
Streets. It is reputed that this church was designed by the famous Architect
The rafters of this church were hand hewn by G.M. Davis and Son. The altar
rail was a memorial to Judge James Burt by his family. A bell for the tower
was donated by a Mr. Wanza from New York. The first service in the church..
was by Reverand Henry Whipple. It was the first religious service to be
held in a strictly religious building in Palatka, a milestone in city
history. The church was dedicated on April 26, 1857.
By 1854 St. James Methodist Church congregation had outgrown the old bar-
racks and a new church building was needed. A church was erected on the
corner of Oak and Fourth Streets between 1854 and 1860. It was a small
wood frame building with a tiny porch surrounded by a railing. The small
congregation took extreme pride in their new simple structure.
In mid 1854 the Reid residence at South Second Street was constructed
from timbers from an old government building dating from the time of the
The Bronson Residence at Sunny Point was also built in 1854. Judge Bronson
had acquired the land several years earlier. The wood frame house with its
two-level porches on the south and east was constructed of lumber from
the Palatka Saw Mill of which Bronson was part owner. The house complex
included several out-buildings and a small dock on the river.
Judge Bronson died on August 13, 1855 and was buried on the family plot
at Sunny Point. Sometime later (before the civil war) his grave was moved
to Oak Hill Cemetery west of town. Soon after, his wife moved back to New
York and the home was left unoccupied.
Before he had died, Judge Bronson donated a parcel of land to the county
for use as a site for a new courthouse. The courthouse was constructed
in 1855 on Fourth Street between Reid and Lemon Streets. It was a two-story
frame building with a courtroom on the second floor. It had a lookout plat-
form on the roof.
In 1855 the Presbyterian Church of Palatka had its beginning. A Sabbath
school was organized by Judge William A. Forward and he gave sermons to
the young children in a building that was being used as a courthouse at
Reid and First Streets. Later the same year a small group of people organ-
ized the church properly. Their first meetings were held in a small log
cabin formerly used as a powder magazine during the indian wars.
By mid 1850's there were several saw mills and lumber companies on the
riverfront. These mills became a backbone of the Palatka economy. They
stimulated river traffic, produced jobs and put money back into the commu-
nity. The steamships and the railroads came to Palatka to serve the mills
and other local industries. Also in the 50's Palatka had a hotel and new
roads to outlying areas were being considered. The temperate climate of the
Palatka region was attracting tourists, especially those who were sick
and could not take the cold up north.
Hubbard Hart opened a stage line which ran between Palatka and Tampa. The
journey between the two towns took 3 days. He also became one of the lar-
gest steamboat owners in the area.
Steamboats appeared in great numbers on the river during the early fifties.
Most of their cargoes consisted of bringing in the necessities of life
and taking out lumber, especially cedar and cypress. The river continued
to be the most efficient and economical means of transportation available
to the valley residents. The movement of goods along the river enabled
the communities along the river and lake system to be more closely linked
H.A. Gray started the first barge freight system on the Ocklawaha river
in 1855. The barges were propelled by slaves with poles. The route between
Palatka and Silver Springs took 3 weeks to travel. Other towns along the
route were also served.
Benjamin Putnam and others organized the State Historical Society in 1856.
Later that year he was elected president of the society.
The development of the Catholic Church in Palatka can be traced back to
the early Spanish missionaries of St. Augustine who frequented the Palatka
area from 1783 until 1819. By 1850 there was a strong following of the
Catholic Faith around Palatka. In 1858 Reverand Father William J. Hamilton
a priest of the Catholic Church in jacksonville began work towards the
establishment of a church. A small wood frame church was built on the cor-
ner of Fourth and Oak Streets. The land was donated by Robert Raymond Reid
and his wife Mary and the work accomplished by Catholics from Palatka.
Robert Raymond was also responsible for raising funds to build the church.
On December 8, 1858 the new church was dedicated and blessed under the
patronage of St. Monica. The church conducted regular services during 1858
and 1859. These services were not held in the present building.
By the end of the 1850's Palatka was growing steadily, with a good indus-
trial and commercial base. The city was growing along the waterfront area
since it depended heavily upon the river for transportation. Tourism was
beginning and steamship lines began bringing people to the area during
the winter months. All of the military buildings from the Seminole war
had disappeared by the late 1850's and the town began to take on the new
look of a bustling port town.
In early 1860 the Boyd Shingle Mill is sold to Tilghman & Sons. This was
located at the foot of Laurel Street.
T I-IE CIVIL 1APIFAR181-1
THE CIVIL WAR: 1861-1865
The civil war years caused a great deal of uncertainty in Palatka with the
town becoming nearly deserted. Even though the war caused a general depre-
ssion in the local economy the harvesting of the forest products actually
increased in Putnam County. This also increased the flow of traffic on the
St. Johns river along with army traffic.
The only two buildings of note in this period were constructed in 1860.
One being The City Drug Store, founded by Doctor N.H. Moragne and the
other being the Methodist Church, which was the third church in town. The
church was disolved due to a great loss of members in the war. There were
no organized services since the town was almost deserted.
Confederate Troops moved into the Ravine Gardens in 1862. Today this is
the site of a beautiful state park covered with vegetation and blooming
flowers. However, while the southern forces occupied Palatka, Camp Call
was located in the gardens. The camp served as the cantonment for the
Fifth Florida Volunteers.
Later in 1862, Federal Troops, realizing the importance of Palatka's
location in respect to the river, almost stormed the town. Palatka came
under fire of gun boats several times during the civil war. At one point
the city was occupied by 5,000 Federal Troops. The cities location on the
river was important to the Federal Troops because blockade runners frequen-
tly tried to come up the river.
During the civil war Union Troops used St. Mark's Episcopal Church as a
base of operations. The bell fell into disrepair and became unsafe. The
bell had to be removed and was placed in the main aisle of the church.
Again the city of Palatka was a military post as it had been during the
Seminole war but permanent structures were built by the military during
the civil war. During their stay they used existing structures.
E~~ ~RA I AN TOURISIVId~ 1 98~5-18843~
RECONSTRUCTION ERA AND TOURISM: 1865-1884
This period of time represents Palatka's growth into a major health resort
of the south. With the end of the war many tourists and business people
were eager to travel to the south. Palatka was ready for the influx with
an expanding railroad system and an established waterway further south.
In fact the town became literally a terminal point for people and freight.
For the freight, warehouses were built and for the people, hotels were built.
The idea for a grand hotel at this time came from a young man named Hubbard
L. Hart. Colonel Hart was a man full of ambition and energy when he came
to Palatka from New England in 1855. Shortly after the war it is believed
that Hart constructed the Putnam House. This structure featured New England
style architecture, having three stories and a sloped roof. The front porch
was two stories high and was set back from the face of the building to
provide relief from the sun. The structure was decorated with two white
columns and two functional chimneys at either end of the house. Also, at
each end of the building there were five windows on the first and second
floors with two on the third.
St. Mark's Episcopal Church was reopened to the congregation in 1866 with
a concert held to raise funds for the purchase of iron braces to keep the
roof from spreading.
Early in 1869, Palatka had regained a population of about five hundred.
The town grew where the industry was concentrated along the waterfront
for approximately one quarter mile. It was recorded that Palatka contained
eight stores, two large hotels (one was the Putnam House), and two some-
what neglected churches. There were also two steam-powered sawmills opera-
ting in town.
Major Benjamin Alexander Putnam died in 1869. Putnam County was named after
the prominent attorney and distinguished Seminole war officer. He was laid
to rest in Westview Cemetery.
The first Baptist Church of Palatka was organized in the summer of 1870
at the home of Reverand Charles Jones. The first church for the congre-
gation was erected the same summer. It was a simple wood frame building
with an entrance at the left side of the facade and a bell tower at the
right. This church was located at 312 River Street two Tots south of
Laurel Street. The foundation of the church still remains on the site
today. The church was designed by D.A. Boyd and built by Wlilliam Severs
and D.A. Boyd. It was finished in October of 1870 and dedicated in January
There was no regular pastor at St. Monica's until February 23, 1873. This
is when Reverand Charles P. Gaboury was appointed the first resident pastor.
In 1875 a second structure was added to the Putnam House. This building
featured a much plainer design than its counterpart. Having a boxlike
appearance and a simple flat roof, was located a short distance from the
original building and a garden was planted between the two. Later, a white
picket fence was added to surround both buildings.
In October of 1875 The Carleton House opened, featuring twenty-five guest
rooms. To compete, The Putnam House was completely renovated.
As Palatka continued to grow the citizens began to consider the need for
some of the better things in life. One of these better things was an ins-
titution of learning. By the end of 1875 the Palatka Academy was establis-
ed to serve the youth of the town.
Business also grew as the population expanded. The first hardware store
was established in 1877 under the name of Kennedly and Devereux. The store
occupied a building on Lemon Street that was later destroyed by a fire.
In this year ColoneT Hart sold the Putnam House, Facing stiff competition,
to W.H. Orvis, the most popular hotel man in Florida. Most of the compe-
tition came from the newly constructed Larkin House which most people con-
sidered the best hotel in Palatka. The hotel was very modern and capable
of housing two hundred and fifty people.
Other hotel establishments included the St. Johns Hotel, operating since
1850, The Eggleston House and the Underwood House. Each of these hotels
reflected their northern owners, through their New England Architectural
On September 8, 1878 a hurricane sweeps inland and does some damage to
Palatka. Most affected were trees and citrus crops.
A group of sisters from St. Augustine opened a convent which they called
St. Joseph's, an academy for girls and parochial school for the congregation.
The old cabin the Presbyterian church owned was used as the place of
worship until 1879. At this time the congregation had outgrown the small
building. A new church was funded by Robert Lenox Kennedy in memory of
his wife. The church was begun on the site of the log cabin. It had been
sold to the fire department and moved across the street closer to the
river. The church was dedicated on February 27, 1881. The total cost of
the brick and timber structure was 10,000 dollars and $2,000 was given
as a maintenance fund.
By the 1880's the river was handling much of the freight but a need arose
for shipping heavy freight to points other than a boat or horse and wagon
could feasibly transport. So a small local railway, The Gainesville, Ocala
and Charlotte Harbor Railway Inc. was organized to haul goods to Palatka
where they would be transferred to ships. Interest continued to grow in
rail systems with the Florida Southern Railroad constructing new rail to
Palatka. Their first depot was located to the north of Reid Street. The
Florida Southern brought new prosperity to Palatka by bringing overland
freight to its wharves but not until 1889.
The new prosperity was reflected in the city, too. New construction per-
meated the city's central area. The Saratoga Hotel, built around 1880,
could sleep 100 guests and was located on Front Street. Also, built around
this time was the First Presbyterian Church.
G.W. Pratt or "Alligator Pratt" as he was known, was editor of the local
newspaper and wrote that in the city Colonel Hart's coaches were doing a
fine business and that the longest alligators were to be found in Rice
Creek. He also mentioned that the most intelligent tourists in Florida
chose Palatka as their favorite resort. Indeed Palatka must have had
something going for it, since the population literally doubled from 1870
to 1880. The tourist trade was only part of the success. The main areas
of commercial expansion were; the lumber industry (with massive cypress
timbering occurring), varied agriculture and the young citrus industry.
St. Marks Academy on Second Street was established in 1882 by the Rever-
end C.S. Williams. It was the city's leading institution of learning for
quite some time. These buildings are now utilized as the guild hall and
The cypress industry was established in Pal~atka by Noah J. Tilghman and
Son. The significance of this event was that for the first time the mill-
ing of cypress lumber, locally harvested, was begun.
By this year Palatka had pushed west from the river for a distance of one
mile. Judge James Burt laid out the lots and streets of Palatka Heights,
Palatka's first suburb. This area was later incorporated into the town of
In 1884 the Reverend J.B. Ley, son of the St. James Church founder, J.C.
Ley was the new pastor and began a new building program. A new and larger
church was erected on the original site. It was completed in 1885. Later
a new building for classrooms and social gatherings was erected next to
the church. Sponsored by the Palatka class it was named Tilghman Hall in
the honor of Reverend N.J. Tilghman a lay leader of the church.
Two more railroads to begin in the area were; the Jacksonville, Tampa and
Key West and the Palatka and Indian River Railway Company. Although Pala-
tka would come to a standstill later in 1884 the railroads would not; they
actually pushed deeper south. Initially the expansion did not hurt the
freight business, but it seriously curtailed the tourist trade who wished
to go to new resort places farther south.
This period was marked by growth in population, industry, tourism and
transportation. Trains started the growth by funneling people and goods
through Palatka to its docks. This caused support industries to develop
bringing a larger population and an expanding tourist trade.
The first Ice Factory was located on Laurel Street and was built by L.C.
Canova and L.J. Canova, who came from Cuba. Before the Ice Factory came
ice was imported from Maine and stored in a large ice house just south
of the Memorial Bridge. Additional ice came from Charlestone.
TI-I GREA FIR lE 1994L
On November 7, 1884 disaster came to Palatka in the form of a great fire.
According to reports the following is what happened:
Flames were seen to be bursting through the roof of a warehouse, formerly
the office of the defunct Putnam County Journal, then used by Devereaux,
Rogero and Son as a storeroom for "oils and spirits". The firemen turned
out immediately and attempted to confine the blaze under the direction of
Fire Chief Mann and George Zehnbaur, the engine operator. The fire engine
was started, but for some unexplained reason it refused to pump water
through the hoses.
When the firemen broke open the warehouse they were confronted by a holo-
caust. Then the engine began to act, but too late. Bravely the nozzlemen
poured a full stream at short distance, but a fierce wind drove the high
flames across the intervening space, and the main building occupied by
Devereaux, Rogero and Son caught fire. Then the blaze leaped across Lemon
Street and attacked Graham's Hotel while explosion after explosion erupted
from the stores.
Captain Ben Deal and a man named McLarty were blown over bales of goods
by exploding barrels of kerosene while attempting to remove some goods
from a warehouse.
It was readily determined that this situation could only become more
serious, and a call for a assistance was issued. Captain Fitzgerald brou-
ght his steamer "Chattahoochee" close to the blaze _and .began..pumpi ng
water from the river. Other steamers fighting the fire were the "Marion"
and the "Wisteria" among others.
Preparations to remove valuable property commenced. All the stock on the
pier was moved back to safety and the mail was taken from the post office.
Temporary quarters were later established in the Warren Printing Office
on Reid Street.
The flames then jumped Water Street and attacked Griffin's block and the
Kennedly building. The crew of the "Chattahoochee" was successful in pre-
venting the latter from being consumed, but the former building was lost.
Suddenly both sides of Lemon Street were ablaze, and Moragne's store ignited.
The fire intensified and jumped across Front Street to the Putnam House
which was completely destroyed, including the recent addition to the bulling.
Both sides of Front Street were blazing and everything all the way to Reid
Street was in flames. Reid Street served as a barrier because there was not
enough fuel to attract the flames. Colonel Hart's property was directly
across the street. The corner of Reid and Front Streets was vacant because
of the recent demolition of the old Smith Building.
To the south, on the corner of Lemon and Front Streets, a building owned
by Fry offered another point of resistance. Great efforts in saving Murray's
store prevented the flames from progressing any further to the west and
protected the block south of Lemon and west of Front Streets.
In the area bounded by the river on the east, Reid Street on the north,
Front Street on the west and the Presbyterian Church on the south, every-
thing was destroyed except the furniture store of B.L. Lilienthal. A person
could stand at Fry's corner the next day and count twenty-five safes
lying in the ashes.
After the fire, which was widely publicized in the eastern United States,
a rumor began to circulate that the fire was the work of an arsonist.
The fire destroyed the Presbyterian Church on Second Street. The fire
completely gutted the wood interior of the brick structure. Mr. Kennedy
put up the money to rebuild the church.
The Fr~y Opera House, located at Lemon and Fourth Streets was not destroyed
by the fire. The Opera House offered the finest of road shows played here.
It was in one sense a theatre and later the best of the silent screen
appeared there nightly to the strains of melodramatic or comical piano
music. The Opera House was also the scene of plays, pageants and popular
ANDRC3 G~FrOWTH~ 1985-l1994
The following decade after the great fire served as one of the two great
periods of development in Palatka's history.
In 1885 the town adopted a semblance of a building code, including a more
sophisticated street system and an allowance for a greater sense of per-
manence in the architecture during the reconstruction of Palatka. While
this may be considered a positive effect one larger detrimental effect of
the fire included the loss of the tourist industry to a certain extent.
When the tourists did come to Palatka that winter they came to a town
that was slowly rebuilding. Reconstruction was slow due to the use of
brick in most all structures.
Among the buildings being rebuilt were the Second Putnam House and the
Tilghman Cypress Company.
The Emanuel United Methodist Church was constructed in 1885 on the corner
of Main and Seventh Streets. It was a small wood frame building with a side
bell tower. The parsonage to the back of the church was built soon after.
In May 1885 there were 43 buildings under construction in Palatka Heights.
All were of-wood frame construction.
By 1886 the entire city had finished reconstruction and business began to
boom once again.
In this year the Palatka Heights incorporated. The Heights bounded Palatka
on the west and the south, including all the area south to the river where
it curved around Devil's Elbow.
The Presbyterian Church was rebuilt almost exactly as it had been origin-
ally. At this time the church was fully furnished for the first time with
a reed organ, pews, a communion table and a pulpit. A clock bell was added
to the steeple.
The Palatka Gas Light and Fuel Company built their plant in Palatka.
As the civil war years faded, more people began to be attracted to the
Putnam County area. Palatka was not the only real center of population for
the county. The state, during reconstruction, was divided into military
districts which centered on a fairly substantial concentration of people.
Putnam County was composed of at least parts of three such districts;
One centered in Palatka, one in Orange Springs and the third was composed
of the area around Welaka.
Henry Flagler entered Palatka with the idea to build a bridge across the
St. Johns river. This was approved and construction began. Flagler later
personally visited Palatka to consider locating a hotel there. However,
Palatka in the past asked Mr. Flagler to consider building here a hotel
but had denied the request. Now Palatka denied him by refusing to sell
prime land along the waterfront. He left town and some projects unfinished,
including the bridge. He also located the train depot on the other side
of the river, in East Palatka.
As the freight business grew around Palatka's wharves so did the railroads.
Touring 1885 and 1887 two railroads were organized, the St. Augustine and
Palatka Railway Company and Georgia Southern and Florida Railroad.
Industries in 1887: Palatka Milling Company, Butler's Shingle Mill and
Gem City Planning Mill.
In 1887 Hubbard Hart, builder-owner of the Putnam House and owner of
several steamboat enterprises felt that the railroad posed threat to his
steamboat operation. To avoid this he organized the Palatka and North-
western Railroad Company to work in conjunction with his boats having
charters to operate in 14 counties. Hart's plan never materialized.
1888 was a year of great progress for Palatka as the first public trans-
portation system utilizing the rail was introduced. This system was a
passenger trolley car on a rail pulled by a horse. Also the first bridge
across the St. Johns river was built.
In 1889 the population of Palatka had grown to 3,000 persons.
By 1890 there were seven well known hotels in Palatka. They were; The
Arlington, The Canova, The Kean, The rebuilt Putnam House, The Saratoga,
The West End and The Winthrop. The rates varied from 50 cents to 4 dollars
per day. These figures point out the competition for the tourist dollar.
The most popular hotel in town was the Putnam House. This elegant 500 room
structure covered an entire city block. It was located one block from the
St. Johns river on Reid Street. Like the previous hotel which burned in
1884, it was three stories high and designed in a horseshoe shape. In the
center of the design an exterior courtyard planted with flowers and tro-
pical plants was created. The hotel was equipped with all the latest con-
veniences such as an elaborate elevator.
Also in 1890 crowds turned out to greet the arrival of the Southern Rail-
ways first passenger train into Palatka. The station was on north Third
Street some four blocks north of Reid Street.
The old Ramsaur family livery stable was located on 421 St. Johns ave. on
the present location of Ginn and Associates. This represented an example
of a typical downtown family store.
in 1891 the Artesian Well was installed. It supplied water to a granite
fountain when it stood at the intersection of Lemon and Second Street.
Presently it is located on the grounds of the west side of the courthouse.
The citrus industry in Putnam County was at a new peak. Over 3,500,000
boxes of oranges were shipped in that year.
Street cars were installed in this year by William P. Craig. The horse
drawn car ran from Water Street to the J.T. and K.W. depot on Lemon Street
and later extended service to Palatka Heights.
In 1894 an ordinance was established chartering the Palatka telephone
Company to install the first telephone in Palatka.
Palatka covered the area from the wharves to the Union Depot. The trolley
line extended to the Palatka Heights from the riverfront; it departed
at fifteen minute intervals.
The El Perfecto Cigar Company building was constructed about 1893 at the
corner of Reid and Water Streets. In 1895 it employed 100 people and
produced 75,000 cigars per week.
The first Coca-Cola plant was built at about the turn of the century.
It was a wood frame building located on the west side of Seventh Street
between Oak and Lemon Streets.
1.... T~ I- t~ IERETPEEZ 1 8 9 4- 1 89
THE ORANGE PACKAGING HOUSE OF PALATKA:
Development of the modern package for citrus fruit occurred in Palatka in
the early 1880's, according to a quotation in Harold H. Humes "Cultivation
of the Citrus Fruits". Mr. E. Bean of Jacksonville, was the originator of
the citrus package. He opened the first packaging house in Palatka. He in-
troduced a 12x12x27 box, the standard package for the state of Florida.
The packaging has been used since. They were cut from cypress. Later on,
many dealers and growers became packagers, using substantially the same
During the 1880's oranges ranked as one of Florida's most important products.
The St. Johns river helped neutralize freezing weather making its banks a
most favorable location for orange groves among the massive live oaks that
provided further protection from the cold as well as a natural fertilizer
from their falling leaves. Also the river provided, a handy source of trans-
portation for great volumes of fruit and most of the larger groves had their
own packaging houses and wharves along the river where steamboats stopped
to load the fruit for shipments north.
THE GREAT FREEZE 1894-1895
In December 1894 Palatka experienced a very severe freeze. This almost
brought to an end Putnam County's citrus industry and was the forerunner
of five more years of equally hard freezes.
Many town people whose lives depended upon the citrus industry were forced
to move away in order to seek new jobs. This reduced the population of
Tourism decreased slightly in the region after the freeze but by 1897
it was back to normal.
Colonel Hubbart Hart lost nearly all his citrus interests during the
freeze. This also hurt his steamboat enterprises. The only financial
solution open to Hart was to eliminate all his competition on the river.
Plans were made but never carried out due to Harts death in December 1895.
With the great freeze and the decrease in the citrus production, Palatka
grew heavily dependent upon the cypress mills for employment and economic
stability. Tourism also was a substantial economic stimulant with the
town attracting many tourists every winter. It was at this point in time
that Palatka began to industrialize. New industries began moving in and
railroads laid tracks into town to serve the new plants. This trend of
industialization would greatly change the architectural character of the
This period of history brought Palatka into the stature of a city for the
first time. Industry came to the city from the far north and city ameni-
ties such as paved streets and street lamps were becoming commonplace.
So were the automobiles, along with cultural facilities such as an Opera
By 1895 the following industries were in Palatka; C.M. Davis and Son and
the Wilson Cypress Company.
The Hutson Pulp and Paper Corporation was organized in 1896 by Abraham
Mazer. By the 1920's the company had progressed to the point that two
northern mills were acquired; one in Vermont and the other in Pensylvania.
Abraham Mazer lived until 1954 and since then his sons have built Hutson
into the nation's largest producer of paper napkins and kraft gummed tape.
By 1896 the original St. Monica's Church was in a state of disrepair and
had become unsafe. Father O'Brian, who was the director at the time,
raised the funds to build a new brick church to replace the original.
The corner stone was laid October 31, 1897 by Bishop Moore. The dedication
took place on May 4, 1899 and was also conducted by Bishop Moore.
By 1900 the St. John's river was booming with steamboat traffic. The
traffic consisted of freight and tourists. The freight carried on board
was made up of citrus, cattle, dry goods and especially lumber. The tour-
ists came to the river for a sightseeing trip down the beautiful and
wild Oklawaha river. A description of the river activity is as follows:
The picturesque river was the main attraction and steamboats like, the
Crescent piled the St. Johns river. In Palatka one could board a steamboat
for an adventuresque cruise up the river to the wilds of the Oklawaha
river. Many celebrities, including General Robert E. Lee and poet Sidney
Lanier, took the exciting voyage into the wilderness.
Steamboat lines like, the Hart and Clyde lines operated on the St. Johns
river out of Palatka, carrying passengers and cargo. There were even two
large ships that provided transportation from New York City to Palatka.'
One of these ships was called, The City of Palatka.
During this time the riverfront was known as a port and it had its own
inspector of the revenue of the port of Palatka. There were inumerable
river craft in those days: The Passtime, The Sappho, The Magnolia and
The Water Lilly made daily trips between Jacksonville and Palatka. Other
steamboats operating at this time were; The Chesapeake, The Old Mississippi,
The Welaka, The Everglades and The Frederick De Bar~y.
The Osceola, a triple-decked floating palace was the pride of the Clyde
On the Oklawaha river, The Teasdale Line was operating with The Lollibox.
The Hart Line also worked in the area using The Griffin, The Panasofkee
and The Hiawatha.
The Beach and Miller Line ran; The Anthy, The Escort, The Comet, The Stra,
The Crescent City, The Georgia, The Governor Stafford and The Crescent.
Boats making the Silver Springs trip were The Baulknight Line. They were;
The S.P. Baulknight and The Tuskawilla.
Other boats operating on the St. Johns river were; The David Clark, The
Fannie, The Dugan, The Anita, The Mary Draper, The Rosa, The Florida, The
Flora, The Kennedy, The Swan, The Twilight Gazelle, The Spitfire, The
George M. Bird, The Armsmear and The Louise.
In August of 1903 the city council approved the purchase of the old Larkin
Hotel property by the Georgia Southern and Florida Railway. The company
intended to construct a combination depot and dock facility. This would
make the best advantage of the rail and water nodes of transportation
eliminating the need for the horse and wagons altogether.
The city authorized a committee to study plans for a fire station and
city hall. It was planned that this would become a permanent location
for these functions and that the site would be near the center of town.
In 1903 Father Patrick Barry was placed in charge of St. Monica's Church.
Under his direction many improvements were undertaken. A new main altar
was installed. A cemetery was acquired and a large rectory was built. All
this was accomplished before 1913 when Father Barry was transferred to
South Jacksonville. Between 1913 and 1950 the church rector changed several
times and included Father Monahan (1919-1924) and Father William C. Becker
(1926-1950). Father Becker was responsible for acquiring the pipe organ
which was dedicated September 9, 1930.
The Georgia Southern and Florida Railway finally began construction of
its new terminal in December 1904. H.J. Klutho of Jacksonville was the
architect for the new structure. The site was located on Reid and Front
Putnam County was also contemplating new permanent office space to be
located in Palatka, the county seat. In 1906 the W. Chamberlin Company,
an architectural firm in Birmingham was awarded a contract by the county
commissioners. The agreement was to design a new courthouse. However,
later in July this firm was passed over in favor of the firm of Robinson
and Reidy of Georgia.
In 1907 culture came to Palatka in the form of an Opera House; The Howell
Theatre. It was placed in part of the old Graham Hotel after renovation
Another civil improvement was suggested during the year with the brick
paying of downtown streets. The board trade, who were instrumental in
the drive for paying, felt that the urban area was terribly run down and
this would aid in cleaning up the overall appearance. No action was taken
at this time but twelve miles of residential streets were paved with
Interlachen gravel. Later brick paying was suggested to continue out to
all the railroad stations. Finally in 1909 paying began in the downtown
area. In July, Lemon and Water Streets were the first to be paved with
In April the Palatka Gas Light and Fuel Company was destroyed by a huge
fire. Parts of the original gas works which escaped the fire remain today.
Destruction also came to the old Calhoun building. However, it came~by the
wrecking ball of Benjamin P. Calhoun. It had housed the Haughton Grocery,
C.F. Sulzer's Music Store, A.F. Vogelback's Drugs, Lowrey and Halt Drugs,
Henis Peterman and the McCarty Brothers Dry Goods Store.
No information about the First Baptist Church between 1884 and 1908 is
available because a fire on Easter Sunday destroyed the church and its
contents. By the Fall of 1908 a new church was begun at the corner of
south Fifth and Oak Streets. It was constructed of masonry block, finish-
ed to resemble stone work. The new church had a capacity of 300 persons.
The first service was held January 1, 1909 just after construction was
On the positive side, A.T. Squire opened his mill and lumber company in
1909. Another first opening featured Palatka's automobile supply company.
This was planned to cash in on the new Rambler Agency that had opened at
216 Lemon Street.
Finally in December. a design was accepted and the first cornerstone was
laid for the new courthouse.
River Street owned by the Atlantic Coast
180 feet long and 40 feet deep and was
Early in 1910, the warehouse on
Line Railroad collapsed. It was
constructed of galvanized iron.
A new theatre opened in Palatka this year. It was constructed with a sli-
ding roof for open air concerts and could seat 1,000 persons. With the
opening of this building the old Graham Hotel, which housed the Howell
Theatre, was torn down.