Keystone Heights, Florida

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Keystone Heights, Florida
Keystone Heights City Hall - New.png
Keystone Beach - New.png
Images top, left to right: City Hall, Motosurf Racing on Lake Geneva, Keystone Beach
Official seal of Keystone Heights, Florida
Progress since 1925
Location in Clay County and the state of Florida
Location in Clay County and the state of Florida
Coordinates: 29°47′14″N 82°1′59″W / 29.78722°N 82.03306°W / 29.78722; -82.03306Coordinates: 29°47′14″N 82°1′59″W / 29.78722°N 82.03306°W / 29.78722; -82.03306
Country United States
State Florida
 • TypeCouncil-Manager
 • MayorKaren Lake
 • Vice MayorStephen Hart
 • City ManagerLynn Rutkowski
 • Total1.09 sq mi (2.82 km2)
 • Land1.07 sq mi (2.78 km2)
 • Water0.01 sq mi (0.04 km2)
141 ft (43 m)
 • Total1,446
 • Density1,345.12/sq mi (519.52/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code352
FIPS code12-36475[2]
GNIS feature ID0285088[3]

Keystone Heights is a city located in southwestern Clay County, Florida, United States. The population of the city was 1,446 at the 2020 census.[4] The city's name is derived from the state of Pennsylvania's nickname, the "Keystone State".


Early Years and Founding[edit]

In 1917, the area that would eventually become known as the city of Keystone Heights was a small community known as Brooklyn located along present day State Road 100, about one mile north of the present location of Keystone Heights on Lake Brooklyn.[5]

In those early days Brooklyn consisted of a large unpainted building called the Brooklyn Hotel; a combination general store and post office; and several small houses scattered about. Property Developer John J. Lawrence, who hailed from Pennsylvania, noticed the area on a visit to Lake Brooklyn, and instantly became attracted to the region.[5]

In 1920, the Lawrence family completed their home, the first house built in Keystone Heights, which overlooked Lake Geneva, and still lies there today at the corner of Jasmine Street & Lawrence Blvd. (State Road 21). After hearing of natural wonders and the many different lakes of the area, other families moved to Keystone, putting a strain on those attempting to build structures within the city. Helping to address the issue, in late 1921, C. Ray Lawrence came to Keystone Heights, and began laying out the streets and lots in the city.[5]

The town would be incorporated as Keystone Heights, named after Lawrence's home state of Pennsylvania's nickname, the "Keystone State", in 1925.[5]

20th and 21st centuries[edit]

Keystone Inn Era[edit]

The opening of the Keystone Inn on New Years' Day in 1923 was one of the most significant events in the early history of the city. The inn hosted many festivals and socials, becoming an important centerpiece of the town.[5]

Tourists visiting the inn would often also frequent the nearby Chautauqua. A large open pit that effectively served as a type of amphitheater, the Chautauqua served as a beacon for various musicians, artists, and speakers from the Chautauqua circuit in New York.[5]

Within two years of opening, visitors traveled to the Keystone Inn and the community of Keystone Heights from across the country to experience the town for themselves. The small community boasted a public beach with a pavilion, picnic grounds and a nine-hole golf course. The University of Florida's football team would even stay at the inn before their homecoming games.[5]

The inn no longer exists. It burned down in October 1954, and was never rebuilt. However, it did play an important role in transforming Keystone Heights into a popular vacation destination, a status it still holds today. The former property of the inn is now a park in front of City Hall.[5]

1960 to present[edit]

In 1984, an American sycamore seedling, germinated by the United States Forest Service, was planted at the Keystone Heights Library. The "Moon Tree" traveled with Stuart Roosa, a former U.S. Forest Service smokejumper, aboard the Apollo 14 mission on January 31, 1971. Roosa and his five varieties of seeds orbited the moon 34 times and the resulting seedlings were planted all around the United States and the world.[6]

In the early 2000s, the city saw its tourism industry decline as many of its surrounding lakes, which serve as a primary inflow point for the Floridan aquifer, nearly disappeared. Increased rainfall totals in the 2010s have helped in the recovery of many area lakes including Lake Brooklyn and Lake Geneva.

The Black Creek Pipeline, a $43.3 million project to pump excess water from Black Creek in central Clay County to Alligator Creek just north of Lake Brooklyn, is expected to further restore lake levels. The project is slated to begin in August of 2022.[7]

In fall of 2021, Keystone Heights served as the host of the internationally-televised Nitro Rallycross North America Championship at the Florida International Rally and Motorsports Park at the Keystone Heights Airport. In April of 2022, Keystone Beach hosted the Motosurf Games, a motorized surfboard racing contest on Lake Geneva that was televised on CBS Sports. [8][9]


Keystone Heights is located in northeast Florida in the southwest corner of Clay County, at 29°47′14″N 82°1′59″W / 29.78722°N 82.03306°W / 29.78722; -82.03306 (29.787243, –82.033026).[10] The city overlooks the north shore of Lake Geneva. State Road 21 leads northeast 30 miles (48 km) (via SR 16) to Green Cove Springs, the Clay County seat, and south 18 miles (29 km) to Hawthorne. SR 100 crosses SR 21 and leads north 12 miles (19 km) to Starke and southeast 26 miles (42 km) to Palatka.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.1 square miles (2.9 km2), of which 0.012 square miles (0.03 km2), or 1.16%, is water.[11]


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census[12]

As of the census[2] of 2000, there were 1,349 people, 515 households, and 374 families residing in the city. The population density was 296.9 inhabitants per square mile (114.6/km2). There were 562 housing units at an average density of 123.7 per square mile (47.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 96.07% White, 0.44% African American, 0.52% Native American, 0.52% Asian, 0.30% Pacific Islander, 1.19% from other races, and 0.96% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 2.67% of the population.

There were 515 households, out of which 36.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.7% were married couples living together, 12.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.2% were non-families. 24.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.0% had someone living alone who was 65 or older. The average household size was 2.62 and the average family size was 3.09.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 28.1% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 25.0% from 25 to 44, 21.5% from 45 to 64, and 17.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 86.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $39,519, and the median income for a family was $47,404. Males had a median income of $37,500 versus $24,886 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,157. About 5.1% of families and 8.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.5% of those under age 18 and 7.5% of those age 65 or over.

City Government[edit]

Keystone Heights has a Council–manager form of government, with a mayor, vice mayor and three council members, all elected at large. They serve three-year terms. The current City Manager is Lynn Rutkowski.

The current office holders are:

  • Keystone Heights City Council Seat 1 – Tony Brown
  • Keystone Heights City Council Seat 2 – Christine Thompson
  • Keystone Heights City Council Seat 3 – Bobby Brown
  • Keystone Heights City Council Seat 4 – Karen Lake
  • Keystone Heights City Council Seat 5 – Stephen Hart


Schools within Keystone Heights are operated by the Clay County School District (Florida). In addition, the Bradford County Public Library is in Starke. It is a part of the New River Public Library Cooperative.

Higher Education

  • Santa Fe College's Watson Center located just outside city limits in Bradford County serves southern Clay and Bradford counties as an important learning and cultural institution.


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  4. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved 2021-11-21.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h[bare URL PDF]
  6. ^ Sealey, Jean (2015-02-06). "Keystone Heights enjoys link to Apollo 14 mission". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 2021-04-27.
  7. ^ Swirko, Cindy. "Water district launches Keystone Heights recharge project". Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 2022-08-01.
  8. ^ "Nitro Rallycross comes to the FIRM for 2021 Season | Keystone Heights Florida". Retrieved 2022-08-01.
  9. ^ "MotoSurf Games to make big splash at Lake Geneva: Modified surfboard competition headed to Keystone Heights". Clay Today. Retrieved 2022-08-01.
  10. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  11. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Keystone Heights city, Florida". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved June 26, 2014.
  12. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.

External links[edit]