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Secretary of State Announces MainStreet DeLand and Main Street Starke As the December 2008 Florida Main Street Communities of the Month

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Florida Department of State
Kurt S. Browning
Secretary of State

For Immediate Release
December 08, 2008

Joan Jefferson

Secretary of State Announces MainStreet DeLand and Main Street Starke As the December 2008 Florida Main Street Communities of the Month

Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning announced today that MainStreet DeLand and Main Street Starke will share the designation of December 2008 Florida Main Street Program of the Month. Communities are selected for this award based on active participation in the Florida Main Street Program.

"The communities of DeLand and Starke have shown extraordinary determination to restore and revitalize their downtowns," said Secretary Browning. "The unique qualities and heritage of these towns have been respected and cherished for the enjoyment of the community and visitors."

DeLand was one of the first five Florida Main Street communities designated in 1985, and is the only Florida city to have been recognized with the Great American Main Street Award, which it received in 1997. As a Florida Main Street Community, downtown DeLand has seen significant success with the reinvestment of more than $73 million in private and public projects, a net gain of 103 businesses and 500 new jobs, and nearly 20,000 volunteer hours.

In 1876, after visiting the small community of Persimmon Hollow along the St. Johns River, Henry Addison DeLand decided to settle his affairs in New York and make central Florida his home. In recognition of DeLand's contributions, the citizens renamed the town in his honor upon its incorporation in 1882.

One of DeLand's friends, New York hat baron John B. Stetson, founded the DeLand Academy, which was later renamed Stetson University. Today, the scenic and historic campus just north of downtown is home to the oldest private university in Florida. The Stetson University campus and Downtown DeLand Historic District are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Just minutes away from the central Florida tourist hubs of Daytona Beach and Orlando, today the thriving downtown is filled with local shops and historic character. MainStreet DeLand's mural program has brought large-scale works of art to downtown. Begun in 1996 and funded by an array of private donations, the murals depict scenes from the region's history. DeLand is home to the Museum of Florida Arts (previously the DeLand Museum of Art) and has positioned itself as a regional cultural center. MainStreet DeLand also supported the restoration of the historic Volusia County Courthouse, construction of the new Justice Center, retention of the Post Office in the downtown core, and creation of the City of Deland Municipal Complex.

Home to the "sweetest strawberries this side of heaven," Starke is a small city just 24 miles northeast of Gainesville, with an energetic and committed Main Street community determined to enhance and expand their downtown district. Starke was designated a Florida Main Street Community in 2005.

Settlers first began moving to what became Bradford County in the early nineteenth century, and by 1857, the town of Starke had its own post office. The city was named for the fiancée of the first postmaster, George W. Cole, whose family name was Starke. With the introduction of refrigerated trains, strawberries became Bradford County's main crop and remain Starke's calling card.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor and America's entrance into World War II changed Starke practically overnight. Within months, Camp Blanding, one of the largest troop training centers of the war, brought 20,000 construction workers and 60,000 troops to the small railroad and farming community. In the 1950s, the DuPont corporation began mining heavy minerals in the area, and the Florida State Prison helped extend Starke's economic expansion.

Starke's approach to revitalizing and beautifying its downtown has been successful on many levels. With several early commercial buildings undergoing rehabilitation, Starke's downtown has been fortunate to retain much of its historic aesthetic charm. This has attracted production company interest to the town as a setting for Hollywood films such as G.I. Jane, Joel Schumacher's Tigerland, Basic and What's Love Got To Do With It. Constructed in 1902, the Romanesque Revival Old Bradford County Courthouse now serves as the Andrews Center at Santa Fe Community College. The Old Starke Post Office now houses the Sugar Tree Café at street level, and apartments on the second floor.

Since 2005, Main Street Starke has seen a reinvestment of over $16 million through public and private projects. The downtown has grown, with 27 new businesses opening, and the creation of 128 new jobs. Starke's Main Street Program also hosts many events each year, including the popular Strawberry Festival in April and the Starke Bikefest in June.

Florida Main Street is a technical assistance program of the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State. The Bureau conducts statewide programs aimed at identifying, evaluating, and preserving Florida's historic 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.

To learn more about MainStreet DeLand, visit www.mainstreetdeland.com or contact program manager, Jack Becker by phone at 386.738.0649 or email jackmainst@bellsouth.net. To learn more about Main Street Starke, visit www.mainstreetstarke.com or call 904.964.5278.

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