|City of Leesburg|
Leesburg City Hall
|Motto(s): "The Lakefront City"|
Location in Lake County and the state of Florida
|Country||United States of America|
|• City Manager||Al Miner|
|• Deputy City Manager||Michael Rankin|
|• Total||41.87 sq mi (108.43 km2)|
|• Land||31.78 sq mi (82.32 km2)|
|• Water||10.08 sq mi (26.12 km2)|
|Elevation||95 ft (29 m)|
|• Estimate (2016)||22,419|
|• Density||705.38/sq mi (272.35/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|ZIP codes||34748, 34788|
|GNIS feature ID||0285440|
Leesburg is a city in Lake County, Florida, United States. The population was 15,956 at the 2000 census. As of 2005, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau was 19,086. Leesburg is located in central Florida, between Lake Harris and Lake Griffin, at the head of the Oklawaha River system. It is part of the Orlando–Kissimmee–Sanford Metropolitan Statistical Area. Leesburg is the home of Lake-Sumter State College (LSSC) with campuses also in Clermont, Florida and Sumterville. It is also the home of Beacon College.
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Leesburg was first settled in 1857 by Evander McIver Lee. Several of Evander Lee's brothers followed him to the area. One of these brothers, Calvin Lee, was credited with giving the town its name. The city of Leesburg was first incorporated in 1875, and was the county seat of Sumter County for a time until Lake County was formed in 1887.
In the early 20th century, Leesburg was an important center for watermelon production. In 1930, Leesburg held its first Watermelon Festival, an annual tradition that would last until watermelon production in the area dwindled to the point that watermelons for the last festival in 1957 had to be brought in from outside the area. In 1938, the WPA began work on the Venetian Gardens waterside park, on the shores of Lake Harris. The canals and gardens of this park have been a centerpiece of the community ever since.
Lake Square Mall, now known as ViaPort, the city's major shopping mall, opened in 1980. On March 19, 1982, Ozzy Osbourne's guitarist Randy Rhoads, as well as the band's cook and bus driver, were killed in a plane crash at Flying Baron Estates. The citrus industry was the principal business in Leesburg for many years, until devastating freezes in December 1983 and February 1985 persuaded growers to move their groves further down the Florida peninsula. In 1997, Leesburg Bikefest started. It has since become an annual spring tradition, with upwards of 250,000 people visiting the motorcycle festival.
Today, most of Leesburg's growth and economic development is the result of the increasing popularity of the area as a retirement destination and the rapid growth of nearby Orlando. In 2011 and 2017, the Leesburg High School boys basketball team won the 4A state championship.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 24.4 square miles (63 km2), of which 18.7 square miles (48 km2) is land and 5.8 square miles (15 km2) (23.65%) is water.
Several major highways pass through Leesburg, including U.S. Highway 27, U.S. Highway 441 and S.R. 44. Florida's Turnpike passes just to the south and west of Leesburg. Leesburg was on the western leg of the Dixie Highway.
As of the census of 2000, there were 15,956 people, 6,775 households, and 4,078 families residing in the city. The population density was 854.8 inhabitants per square mile (330.0/km²). There were 7,742 housing units at an average density of 414.8 per square mile (160.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 66.60% White, 29.12% African American, 0.27% Native American, 1.33% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.26% from other races, and 1.41% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.12% of the population.
There were 6,775 households out of which 24.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.6% were married couples living together, 16.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.8% were non-families. 33.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.86.
In the city, the population was spread out with 23.5% under the age of 18, 7.8% from 18 to 24, 22.7% from 25 to 44, 19.7% from 45 to 64, and 26.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 83.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $25,988, and the median income for a family was $33,250. Males had a median income of $25,840 versus $20,888 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,762. About 16.2% of families and 19.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 35.3% of those under age 18 and 11.9% of those age 65 or over.
Lake County Schools operates public primary and secondary schools:
- Leesburg High School
- Oak Park Middle School
- Leesburg Elementary School
In 1922, the city's Cooke Field was used by the Philadelphia Phillies, who held their spring training sessions there until 1924. On March 14, 1923, the stadium was used for the site of an exhibition game between the Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1936, the city built the Ballpark at Venetian Gardens, which was used by several minor league baseball clubs that played in the Florida State League from 1937-1968. The city won league titles in 1941 and 1946. Since 2007, the city has been the home of the Leesburg Lightning, a wood bat collegiate summer baseball team in the Florida Collegiate Summer League.
During the 1920s, sharpshooter Annie Oakley, who had a residence in Leesburg, performed shooting exhibitions at Cooke Field. On one notable occurrence, she performed a shooting exhibition for players of the Philadelphia Phillies.
- Dan Hinote, St. Louis Blues center was born in Leesburg.
- Austin "Red" Robbins, ABA player, was born in Leesburg
- Abe Anellis, a food microbiologist who worked for the U.S. Army and was born in Mahilyow, Belarus, retired to Leesburg in 1977, where he lived until his death.
- Rear Admiral George Stephen Morrison grew up in Leesburg and was the father of Jim Morrison of The Doors
- Bill McBride, former candidate for Florida Governor, husband of former Florida CFO Alex Sink, grew up in Leesburg.
- David McCheyne Newell, author, journalist
- Johnny Thunder, singer
- Susan Harrison, actress
- Jonathan Hay, music producer, publicist
- Robert S Singleton, American engineer and scientist, graduated from Leesburg High School
- "2016 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved Jul 7, 2017.
- "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 9, 2017.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-07-22. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
- "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
- Reed, Rick (August 29, 2014). "Baseball played an important role in early Leesburg". Daily Commercial. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
- Reed, Rick (October 3, 2014). "Some of baseball's best got their start in Leesburg". Daily Commercial. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
- BR Minors
- Kasper, Shirl (1992). Annie Oakley. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 231–232. ISBN 0806124180.
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