Florida Main Street
Program of the Month
September 2007 Community of the Month
Main Street Starke
Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning Announces Florida Main Street Community of the MonthSecretary of State Kurt S. Browning announced today that Main Street Starke has been designated the Florida Main Street Community of the Month for September 2007. Communities are selected based on their participation in the Florida Main Street Program. Starke was designated a Florida Main Street Community in 2005. Home to the "sweetest strawberries this side of heaven," Starke is a small city of just over 5,800 residents with an energetic and committed Main Street program determined to enhance and expand their thriving downtown district. "Starke is a small town with big ideas, and that is commendable," said Secretary Browning. "The city is rightfully proud of its historic charm and relaxing atmosphere, and with the good food, festivals, and economic diversity, there is plenty to recommend it as a place to visit or to call home."
Settlers first began moving to what became Bradford County in the early nineteenth century. 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. Since its earliest days, Starke has been a railroad community. David L. Yulee's Atlantic to Gulf Railroad made Starke a center for the cotton, lumber, and turpentine that supported the region's economy until the early 1900s. 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 almost overnight. Within months, the establishment of one of the largest troop training centers of the war, Camp Blanding brought 20,000 construction workers and 60,000 troops to the small railroad and farming community. In the 1950s, DuPont began mining heavy minerals in the area, and the Florida State Prison helped continue Starke's economic expansion.
With the two-word slogan, "Community Unity," Main Street Starke, under the leadership of program manager Kim Skidmore, has been actively pursuing ideas to improve the city's downtown. A grant from the Bradford County Development Authority has enabled University of Florida graduate students from the Department of Urban and Regional Planning to contribute and develop strategies and policy suggestions for the program, and in June, Starke served as host city of the Florida Main Street Program's summer quarterly meeting. By retaining much of its historic aesthetic charm, Starke's downtown has been chosen as the setting for several Hollywood films.
In just over two years, Main Street Starke has initiated 28 revitalization projects, 21 of which were rehabilitations. Over $7 million has been reinvested in downtown and 15 new businesses have opened, creating 45 new jobs. Starke hosts four large events each year, including the popular Strawberry Festival in April. The new Starke Bikefest has already become an extremely popular event for the area, with more than 15,000 attendees this year.
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.