Lake City, Florida

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Lake City, Florida
Top, left to right: Lake De Soto, Battle of Olustee monument, Columbia County Courthouse, City Hall, Florida Gateway College, Osceola National Forest
Top, left to right: Lake De Soto, Battle of Olustee monument, Columbia County Courthouse, City Hall, Florida Gateway College, Osceola National Forest
Motto: Gateway to Florida
Location in Columbia County and the state of Florida
Location in Columbia County and the state of Florida
Coordinates: 30°11′N 82°38′W / 30.183°N 82.633°W / 30.183; -82.633Coordinates: 30°11′N 82°38′W / 30.183°N 82.633°W / 30.183; -82.633
Country United States
State Florida
County  Columbia
Settled 1830
Incorporated 1859
 • Type Council-Manager
 • Mayor Stephen M. Witt
 • City Manager Wendell Johnson
 • City 12.4 sq mi (32.2 km2)
 • Land 12.0 sq mi (31.1 km2)
 • Water 0.4 sq mi (1.0 km2)  3.20%
Elevation3 188 ft (57 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • City 12,046
 • Estimate (2016)[3] 12,285
 • Density 1,002/sq mi (387.0/km2)
 • Metro 67,531
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 32024-32025, 32055-32056
Area code(s) 386
FIPS code 12-37775[4]
GNIS feature ID 0305917[5]

Lake City is the county seat of Columbia County,[6] Florida, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city's population was 12,046.[2] It is the principal city of the Lake City Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is composed of Columbia County, and had a 2010 population of 67,531.[7] The city's sesquicentennial was held in 2009.



Excerpt from A Map of the Seat of War in Florida in 1839 showing the town of Alligator.

The site of present-day Lake City began as a Seminole community called Alligator Village (Alpata Telophka). Historians don't know when it was established, but its existence was documented by the U.S. Army in 1821. A February 1821 report by Captain John H. Bell mentions that the recent death of the micco (chief) of Alligator Village prevented the micco's attendance at a gathering of chiefs. The most famous resident of Alligator Village was Alligator Warrior (Halpatter Tustenuggee) or simply Chief Alligator. He was the grandson of Micanopy (King) Payne (Mekk-Onvpv Pin) and led Seminole warriors in the Second Seminole War (1835–1842) to prevent the relocation of Florida's Indians to the Arkansas Territory (now known as Oklahoma). Although Alligator Warrior was certainly a leader of warriors, the U.S. military mistakenly referred to him as a chief because they did not understand Seminole culture.

After Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821, pioneer and immigrant settlers from the United States formed their own settlement adjacent to Alligator Village and called it Alligator.[8] Following the 1823 Treaty of Moultrie Creek, the residents of Alligator village relocated to the banks of Peace Creek in the newly established Seminole reservation, leaving Alligator Town on its own. When Columbia County was formed in 1832, Alligator Town became the seat of the county government. During the Seminole Wars several forts were established in the area including Fort White on the Santa Fe River and Fort Alligator, also called Fort Lancaster, in present-day downtown Lake City. By 1845 the last of the Native Americans left the area of present-day Lake City or were forcibly removed.[9]

Alligator Town was incorporated and changed to Lake City in 1859. The name was changed because the mayor's wife, who had recently moved to the town, refused to hang her lace curtains in a town named Alligator. Local bodies of water include Lake DeSoto, Lake Isabella, Alligator Lake, Lake Hamburg, Gwen Lake, Lake Harper and Watertown Lake.[10]

Civil War[edit]

Olustee Battle Monument

In February 1864 Union troops under Truman Seymour advanced west out of Jacksonville. His objective was to disrupt Confederate supplies, obtain African-American recruits and obtain supplies.[11] Confederate General Joseph Finnegan assembled troops and called for reinforecements from P. G. T. Beauregard in response to the Union threat. On February 11, 1864 a Union cavalry raid was defeated in Lake City by Finnegan's troops stationed in the city.[12] After the Union cavalry was repulsed Finnegan moved his forces to Olustee Station about ten miles east of Lake City. The Confederate presence at Olustee Station was reinforced to prepare for the coming Union troops from Jacksonville.

Union forces engaged the Confederate forces at the Battle of Olustee on February 20, 1864 near the Olustee Station. It was the only major battle in Florida during the war. Union casualties were 1,861 men killed, wounded or missing; Confederate casualties were 946 killed, wounded or missing. The Confederate dead were buried in Lake City.[13]

In 1928 a memorial for the Battle of Olustee was established in downtown Lake City.

Modern Lake City[edit]

The first fire department was established in 1883 to complement the police department. In 1891 Lake City became the first city in Florida to have electric lights from a local power and light company. By the early 20th century, Lake City had become an important railroad junction, served by the Seaboard Air Line, Atlantic Coast Line, Georgia Southern Railroad, and the Florida Railroad.[14]

Photograph of Marion Street in the 1920s.

Florida Agricultural College was established in 1884 and became a full university with twenty-five instructors in 1904. In 1905 the Florida Agricultural College was moved to Gainesville and became part of the University of Florida.[10] After World War II a local air base was converted into the Columbia Forestry School in 1947. The Columbia Forestry School had low enrollments and funds forcing the school to seek help from the Florida Legislature. The University of Florida assumed management of the school and in 1950 it became the University of Florida Forest Ranger School. As part of the network of community colleges established in Florida the school became the Lake City Junior College and Forest Ranger School in 1962. Lake City Junior College was renamed to Lake City Community College in 1970 and then again in 2010 to its present name Florida Gateway College.[15]

By 1950, the population of Lake City was 7,467 people, and forestry (turpentine, lumber, and pulpwood) had become a mainstay of the local economy.[10]

In 1958, the Columbia Amateur Radio Society[16] was formed. This was a group of amateur radio operators that enjoyed the ability to communicate all over the world. This radio club still exists today.

Lake City's centennial was celebrated in 1959 with parades, fireworks and a 58-page book documenting one hundred years of progress, A Century in the Sun. The citizens of the town dressed in period attire, complete with whiskers. A good-natured clash arose between the men with additional facial hair and the women who did not like it.[10]

Lake City has two historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior. The Lake City Historic Commercial District is located in the downtown city core and was designated on June 6, 1994. The Lake Isabella Historic Residential District is located south of the main portion of town and was designated on November 15, 1993.


Lake City is located in northern Florida at 30°11′N 82°38′W (30.1896, -82.6397). It lies near the intersection of Interstate 10 and Interstate 75. Jacksonville is 60 miles (97 km) to the east, Tallahassee is 106 miles (171 km) to the west, Gainesville is 46 miles (74 km) to the south, and Valdosta, Georgia, is 62 miles (100 km) to the northwest.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Lake City has a total area of 12.4 square miles (32.2 km2), of which 12.0 square miles (31.1 km2) is land, and 0.39 square miles (1.0 km2) or 3.20%, is water.[1]


Columbia County Courthouse, constructed 1902; Frank P. Milburn, architect
Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 659
1870 964 46.3%
1880 1,379 43.0%
1890 2,020 46.5%
1900 4,013 98.7%
1910 5,032 25.4%
1920 3,341 −33.6%
1930 4,416 32.2%
1940 5,836 32.2%
1950 7,571 29.7%
1960 9,465 25.0%
1970 10,575 11.7%
1980 9,257 −12.5%
1990 10,005 8.1%
2000 9,980 −0.2%
2010 12,046 20.7%
Est. 2016 12,285 [3] 2.0%
U.S. Decennial Census[17]

As of the census[4] of 2010, there are 12,046 people, 4,650 households, 2558 Family households, residing in the city. The population density is 1002.4 per square mile. There are 5,539 housing units at an average density of 460.81 per square mile (286.40/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 56.6% White, 37.3% African American, 0.4% Native American, 1.6% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 0.9% from other races, and 2.7% from two or more races. 5.4% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 4,650 households out of which 28.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.5% are married couples living together, 20.4% have a female householder with no husband present, and 39.9% are non-families. 33.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 15.8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.34 and the average family size is 3.01.

In the city, the population is spread out with 25.4% under the age of 18, 9.3% from 18 to 24, 25.1% from 25 to 44, 20.6% from 45 to 64, and 19.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 37 years. For every 100 females there are 89.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 85.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $28,533, and the median income for a family is $39,133. Males have a median income of $31,261 versus $27,656 for females. The per capita income for the city is $18,083. 20.5% of the population and 17.4% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 25.9% of those under the age of 18 and 14.0% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


Lake City is part of the humid subtropical climate zone of the Southeastern United States. Due to its latitude and relative position north of Florida's peninsula it is subject at times to continental conditions, which cause rare cold snaps that may affect sensitive winter crops.[18] The hottest temperature ever recorded in the city was 106 °F (41 °C) on June 4, 1918, and the coldest temperature ever recorded was 6 °F (−14 °C) on February 13, 1899.[19]


The Columbia County School District operates nine elementary schools, three middle schools, three high schools and an alternative school. Lake City also has one higher education institution, Florida Gateway College, that offers associate degrees and four-year bachelor's degrees.


Lake City and Columbia County are known as "The Gateway to Florida" because Interstate 75 runs through them, carrying a large percentage of Florida's tourist and commercial traffic. Lake City is the northernmost sizable town/city in Florida on Interstate 75 and the location where I-10 and I-75 intersect. Interstate 10 is the southernmost east-west major interstate highway and traverses the country from Jacksonville, Florida, to Santa Monica, California. U.S. 41 and U.S. 90 (the U.S. highway versions of I-75 and I-10) have intersected in Lake City since 1927, long before the Interstate highways were built. The city relies on travelers for a considerable part of its economy.

Shands at Lake Shore

Agricultural products of the area include tobacco, corn, peanuts, cotton, melons, timber and pulpwood.

Lake City is the location of the Osceola National Forest's administrative offices.

The Lake City Gateway Airport is a local center of business. The airport is classified as a general aviation facility, but two on-site operations are somewhat unusual. HAECO (formerly TIMCO) is an aircraft modification and rehabilitation operation for large (B-727, 737 and Airbus A-320 A-319) civilian and military aircraft. The U.S. Forest Service uses C-130 transport aircraft in support of its forest fire-fighting operations in the southeastern United States.

Since 2000, three companies have begun large operations in Lake City: Hunter Panels, New Millennium and United States Cold Storage. Target built their first company-owned and third-party-operated perishable food distribution center in Lake City in 2008.[20]

The top employers in the Lake City area are:[21]

Rank Company Name Business Description # Employees
1 Columbia County School System Education/Schools/Training & Development Centers 1,400
2 VA Medical Center Healthcare 1,200
3 Anderson Columbia Co., Inc. Asphalt/Paving 775
4 PCS Phosphate Manufacturer 706
5 Wal-Mart Supercenter Retail Sales 505
6 Lake City Medical Center Healthcare 430
7 Sitel Call Center 358
8 Shands at Lake Shore Healthcare 353
9 HAECO Aircraft Maintenance 312
10 CCA - Lake City Correctional Facility Correctional Facility 279
11 City of Lake City Government 260
12 S&S Food Stores Convenience Stores 249
13 Columbia County Manager Government 248
14 Florida Gateway College Education 225
15 Health Care Center of Lake City Healthcare 163
16 Publix Super Markets, Inc. Grocery Stores 151
17 Corbitt Manufacturing Co., Inc. Manufacturer 115
18 New Millennium Manufacturer 82
19 Target Food Distribution Center Distribution 78


Olustee Battle Festival[edit]

Every February since 1976, Lake City has hosted the Olustee Battle Festival and reenactment of the Battle of Olustee.[22] The Miss Olustee Pageant is held two weeks prior to the Battle Festival. Highlights include:

  • Memorial service at Oak Lawn Cemetery to honor those who died from both sides (Friday morning)
  • Olustee Festival & Craft Show: arts, crafts, foods, exhibits, and two stages with continuous live entertainment Friday and Saturday
  • Battle of the Ironclads, the Monitor and the Merrimac: Friday night on Lake DeSoto
  • Dancing: Friday night Trails End Dance; Saturday afternoon Street Dance; Saturday night Blue-Grey Square Dance
  • Running races: Blue-Grey 5-K and 1 Mile Kids Fun Run early Saturday morning
  • Olustee Festival Parade: Saturday mid-morning
  • Olustee Battle Reenactment: Hundreds of re-enactors come from all over the country to participate in this historical event
  • Columbia County Historical Museum: "Angels of Mercy" drama Friday afternoon; museum open all weekend
  • Olustee Battlefield State Park: open 9am-6pm all weekend, 15 miles (24 km) east of Lake City

Alligator Warrior Festival[edit]

This festival at O'Leno State Park 20 miles (32 km) south of Lake City celebrates early 19th-century history, from 1800 to 1859, in north Florida, especially that of Alligator/Lake City and Newnansville/Alachua and is held each year on the weekend (Friday-Sunday) of the 3rd Saturday in October.[23]mThe first Alligator Festival was held in 1995 at Olustee Park in downtown Lake City. Starting in 2010 the annual festival has been held at O'Leno State Park, in Columbia County, where the appropriate facilities exist for a full-scale battle reenactment, historic camping and large crowds.[23]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Lake City city, Florida". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved July 17, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Lake City, FL Population - Census 2010 and 2000 Interactive Map, Demographics, Statistics, Quick Facts". CensusViewer. Retrieved 2014-08-02. 
  3. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 9, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  6. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  7. ^ "Columbia County QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau". Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2014-08-02. 
  8. ^ "Alligator Town Marker". Retrieved 24 April 2017. 
  9. ^ "Lake City". Retrieved 7 June 2017. 
  10. ^ a b c d Williams, Morris (March 8, 2008). "Lake City's 150th birthday — time for a celebration". Lake City Reporter. Retrieved 22 March 2008. 
  11. ^ "Events Leading up to the Battle of Olustee". Retrieved 3 May 2017. 
  12. ^ "Events Leading up to the Battle of Olustee". Retrieved 3 May 2017. 
  13. ^ "Olustee Battlefield". Florida Public Archaeology Network. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Lake City". Retrieved 4 May 2017. 
  15. ^ Summers, Susan. "Forest Technology Program, Lake City Community College: The Founding of a School, the Evolution of a College.". Retrieved 4 May 2017. 
  16. ^ "The Columbia Amateur Radio Society". Retrieved 2014-08-02. 
  17. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Monthly Averages for". Weather Channel. 2011-10-12. Retrieved 2011-10-12. 
  19. ^ a b "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2013-11-25. 
  20. ^ "Target Distribution Centers | Target Corporate". Retrieved 2014-08-02. 
  21. ^ [1] Archived July 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ "Annual Olustee Festival". Retrieved 2014-08-02. 
  23. ^ a b "Alligator Warrior Festival". 2013-11-09. Retrieved 2014-08-02. 
  24. ^

External links[edit]