Waldo Florida

FEATURED LISTING: Florida ::: Waldo

You cannot just drive past Waldo in a rush – you have to slow down. Waldo in Alachua County is home to less than nine hundred multicultural people and its main claim to national attention today is because it is one of only two official speed traps designated by the American Automobile Association. Waldo was once a thriving city of Florida with a rich agricultural economy. It was a popular winter destination well known for its mild winters and easy access by railroad. Even today the historic district of the city boasts of numerous remarkably well preserved homes and structures from the late nineteenth century.

Waldo’s early development was thanks mainly to its railroad station. It was originally a plantation village named Bellamy Station founded in 1820, and one of Alachua County’s oldest towns. The city thrived because of the railroad and got its new name, Waldo for Dr. Benjamin Waldo of Ocala, a physician and friend of the railroad’s founder. The town’s train depot was the focus of life in the area during the late nineteenth century. It served as a stepping stone for civil war troops, settlers from other parts of the country wanting to begin life in a place with good soil and a mild climate, as well as tourists from the north in search of a winter vacation destination.

Waldo boomed until the great freeze of 1899 and the Big Depression that followed not much later. It boasted of several resort hotels, two theaters and an opera house.Tourists from all over the country found it a perfect vacation spot, easily accessible by railroad and full of indoor and outdoor activities. The country side offered excellent hunting, fishing and boating. People fell in love with the place, bought land, built homes and settled here permanently leading to a diverse population.

Waldo’s farmers and growers prospered with their citrus groves and other crops. Waldo developed into a major shipping center for agricultural products with the construction of the Santa Fe Canal. This canal connected Waldo to Melrose through Lake Alto and Lake Santa Fe. The canal was the route to transport oranges and other fruits, vegetables, turpentine and passengers to and from Waldo to Melrose.

The town grew and prospered with numerous thriving businesses.There was an ice factory and cold storage plant, a grist mill, a cotton gin, a saw mill, a wagon factory, and a broom manufacturer. The largest employer in the community for a long time was the El Toney cigar factory. Some of the original buildings remain even today. The homes are of different styles, ranging from fanciful Victorian to simple log cabin structures.The town library is housed in the former rectory next to the beautiful old Episcopal Curch.

The old red caboose on display in the city park was acquired by the city of Waldo from the Seaboard System Railroad in 1986. It is the symbol of the town’s rich history and is the inspiration for the annual Waldo Railroad Days held in April. Two historical markers located nearby give a brief history of the town and information about Waldo during the Civil War.

Florida Cities and Towns