First Baptist Church, 27 N. Polk Ave. – This Romanesque Revival-style church was built in 1907. The First Baptist Church congregation was organized in 1889, and the first wood-frame sanctuary was built in 1897. It was moved to S. Orange Avenue and used by Elizabeth Missionary Baptist Church until 1987. In 1977, the original stained glass windows were removed from this red-brick church and installed in a new sanctuary for First Baptist Church on N. Brevard Avenue. Now Heritage Baptist Church owns this structure.
Settlement in the Arcadia area began in the mid-1850’s as southwest Florida endured the Third Seminole War (1855-1858) followed by the U.S. Civil War.
Known first as Waldron’s Landing, Raulerson’s Landing, and “Tater Hill Bluff,” Arcadia was established as a post office in 1883; incorporated as a town in 1886 (nine months after the arrival of the first train); became the county seat in 1888; and was reincorporated as a city in 1901. According to legend, the town was named for Arcadia Albritton Coker in gratitude for a birthday cake she baked!
Citrus cultivation and truck farms (especially watermelon) were early–and enduring–industries. During the “range wars” or “cattle wars” of the late 19th century, Arcadia was as wild as any frontier town.
Following the devastating fire of Thanksgiving Day, November 30, 1905, Arcadia decreed only brick or block structures downtown. The City prospered through the teens and twenties: three railroads, the Dixie Highway (western route), a Tourist Camp, and the All-Florida Chautauqua Amphitheatre were built, and the first rodeo was held in 1929–now the Arcadia All-Florida Grand Championship Rodeo.
During World War I, two U.S. Army Air Fields were established for training pilots, so Arcadia called itself “Aviation City.” The air fields were rebuilt prior to World War II and initiated the city’s renewal following the Great Depression and its rapid growth in the late 20th century.
In 1984, more than 370 historic homes and businesses were placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and 2017, the Historical Society and the Peace River Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution installed a Florida Historic Marker to commemorate the Arcadia Historic District. In 1985, the Florida Main Street program revitalized downtown when many shops began selling antiques.
Arcadia was again in the Main Street Program after the disastrous hurricanes of 2004, including a direct strike from Hurricane Charley. In 2017, many structures were damaged by Hurricane Irma.
The DeSoto County Historical Society was founded during the centennial celebrations for Arcadia and DeSoto County in 1986-1987. More details and structures are available in the Walking Tour of Historic Arcadia, Florida booklet on sale in shops and from the Society.
Credit for the data above is given to the following website:
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