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Contact: Chris Cate

Secretary Detzner Designates Palatka as Florida Main Street Program of the Month

Recognizes organization’s contribution to preservation and restoration

Tallahassee, Florida –

Secretary of State Ken Detzner today announced Palatka Main Street as the Florida Main Street Program of the Month for September 2012. The selection for this award is based on the Palatka program’s involvement and active participation in the Florida Main Street Program.

"By investing in the revitalization of Downtown Palatka, the Palatka Main Street program has both honored its community’s past while moving it prosperously into the future," said Secretary Detzner. "New businesses that enrich the city and offer job opportunities to its residents have continued to open in Palatka, making me pleased to honor Palatka as the September Program of the Month."

Palatka is a city with a rich and storied history. The St. Johns River, which runs through Palatka, has provided the area with abundant natural resources which aided early native settlers in the past and continue to delight residents and tourists today. The city’s name comes from Seminoles who moved into the area in the late 18th century. They called the area "Pilotaikita", meaning "cow crossing" or "cow ford." Palatka began to grow in size when ferry service was established between Palatka and St. Augustine in 1922, and a road was built between the two cities as well. As settlers from all over the country began to move to Palatka, tensions arose between the new settlers and the Native Americans who already resided there. After the Second Seminole War, many of the Seminoles in Florida were relocated to Oklahoma. The military piers, buildings and blockhouses that remained behind cultivated the development of the city. In 1849, Putnam County was created, and Palatka was made the county seat.

In the 1850s, Palatka continued to attract new residents, most commonly Americans who didn’t want to endure cold winters. As new residents and tourists made their way to Palatka, the city became a major center for transportation, freight, lumber and citrus. Steamboat traffic on the St. Johns River established Palatka as a vital hub in Central Florida. The city was incorporated on January 8, 1853, but the growth of Palatka was interrupted temporarily by the events of the Civil War. The tourist trend returned soon after the war was over and, between 1865 and 1895, the city acquired railroad lines and continued to be at the forefront of transportation in Central Florida. The city would suffer a great setback in 1884 when a devastating fire destroyed nearly the entire business district in Palatka. However, by 1890 Palatka was rebuilt with brick, a "second city" in Florida, and emerged bigger and better with eight first class hotels, the largest of which was the Putnam House.

Today, tourism remains an important industry in Palatka, where it is well known for exciting local events. The Florida Azalea Festival and the Blue Crab Festival attract residents and visitors. Palatka continues to celebrate its natural resources. Sailing, fishing and rowing draw many visitors, and the area provides a beautiful landscape for horseback riding and walking trails.

The Florida Main Street Program designated Palatka a Main Street Community in 1989. As a Florida Main Street Community, Palatka has attracted a net gain of 181 new businesses and 491 jobs, as well as investments totaling more than $21 million dollars in 790 public and private construction projects. Dedicated community members have contributed nearly 22,000 volunteer hours in their Main Street Program.

To learn more about Palatka Main Street, contact program manager Charles Rudd by phone at 386.329.0100 ext. 333 or email [email protected].

About Florida Main Street

Florida Main Street is a technical assistance program of the Bureau of Historic Preservation, managed by the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources. The bureau conducts statewide programs aimed at identifying, evaluating and preserving Florida’s historical resources. Main Street, with its emphasis on preservation, is an effective strategy for achieving these goals in Florida’s historic retail districts. Since 1985, the bureau has offered manager training, consultant team visits, design and other technical assistance, as well as the benefit of experience gained by other Florida Main Street programs.