Between a Beach and a Mouse

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Tiny Town Tuesday

Admittedly Deland, Florida does not really qualify as a “tiny” town, but it is small and quaint and has that Main Street factor that piques my curiosity about its history. Mostly imagined.

I could be the sort to look up facts and find out what this building was really used for or if the names of the roads have always been the same, but mostly I like to make stuff up.

It happens in an instant. I am there in 1890-something, my many layers of petticoats kicking up dust as I walk along the dirt road; the brim of my new hat shading my eyes from the sun. A parasol and satchel are draped over one wrist. I nod a greeting to everyone I pass as I head to the notions store for thread.

It’s not even high noon and the saloon is already open and populated. I shake my head in mild concern, hoping the heat of the Florida summer doesn’t increase the alcohol’s affect on petty disagreements.

I pass the Opera House, oh how I love to go to the theater…

And now for those with a need for a more factual history, here are a few DeLand points of interest for you:

  • It was founded in 1876, incorporated in 1882, and named for its founder, Henry Addison DeLand, a baking soda magnate from New York.
  • Safely tucked between the world’s most famous beach (Daytona) and the home of the mouse (Orlando).
  • Home of Stetson University, known for its exemplary music programs and producing a number of major league baseball players.

In the heart of the vibrant downtown district, two main streets, full of independently owned stores and restaurants, intersect. Homage is paid to this town’s history in the preservation, restoration and repurposing of its older buildings. Surrounding downtown are quaint neighborhoods defined by Mediterranean Revival architecture and canopied streets. It boasts a lively arts community and hosts an art show that draws 50,000 visitors every year.

Just up the street from the city center is the beautiful Blue Springs Park – home of over 200 manatees in the early part of each year. When the St. John’s River gets too chilly for them, they amble their way into the always constant 72 degree water of the springs.  Old natural Florida is maintained in this park with its giant oak trees draped in Spanish moss and abundance of native Florida flora and fauna.

So, while it may not qualify as truly tiny town, it is still wrapped in history. It’s a beautiful little secret the residents are content to keep.

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