Step back in time to McIntosh, a small Victorian town located in North Central Florida approximately 20 miles south of Gainesville. Experience the graciousness of Old Florida while lingering in the shade created by a canopy of century-old live oak trees.
Little has been recorded about the McIntosh area prior to the beginning of its development. An account of plantation life in the vicinity of McIntosh is given in a diary kept by George Houstoun in 1851. Houstoun also writes of a plantation owned by Col. John Houstoun McIntosh which existed from the early 1820’s until its destruction by the Indians during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). A description of the Indians burning Col. McIntosh’s sugar mill is included in an account dating back to the time. While several deeds record his ownership of lands around McIntosh, Col. McIntosh never actually owned the townsite. However, his colorful reputation while serving with the Georgia 4th Regiment during the Second Seminole Indian War, plus ownership of the plantation, may have suggested the name for the town.
On February 2,1849, Nehemiah Brush, a merchant from Baltimore, bought a large portion including 4,000 acres of the Arrendondo Spanish land grant that today encompasses McIntosh, at a government auction held in nearby Micanopy. His son, Col. Charles Brush, along with Eugene and Julia Brush (Van Ness) developed the area that today encompasses McIntosh, into building lots and ten-acre plots for growing citrus. At that time, oranges were shipped by ferry on Orange Lake to Palatka and then north by way of the St. Johns River. In 1881, following the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Florida Southern Railway (later the Seaboard Railway Co.) was constructed in McIntosh aiding in the transport of locally produced vegetables and oranges to distant markets, and, additionally, provided passenger travel. The completion of Florida Southern Railroad was a significant occurrence, as it stimulated the development of much of the interior of peninsular Florida, and the McIntosh Depot was built in 1885.
As an incentive to settlement, Col. Brush filed the first plat in 1885 and offered to donate a lot within the residential area “to any settler who will build a house of a certain value.” When Col. Brush became seriously ill, Eugene Van Ness assumed management of McIntosh. Eugene Van Ness filed the second plat in 1888 in anticipation of the Town’ commercial development. Circulars were printed and distributed in the North promoting the settlement of McIntosh.
The residential areas of McIntosh developed west of the railroad and the early business areas because higher ground was more desirable for homes. During the period from the late 1880’s to the early 1900’s frame houses were constructed in these areas. Built mostly of hard yellow pine, the predominant architectural style of the district is frame vernacular, or ‘cracker’, with styles evident of Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, and Bungalow.
Horses were still the chief means of transportation, but by 1895, McIntosh boasted a doctor, postmaster, Western Union, a church, meat store, school, drug store, ice house, millinery shop, the McIntosh Hotel, Christian Mercantile Store, grocery stores, Masonic Hall, and packing houses. The Town was incorporated by an act of the Legislature in 1913, with the charter providing for a mayor and town council.
From the late Spanish era of the 19th century up until the 1980’s, agriculture was the main source of economy. The Town’s agricultural economy prospered in the early 20th century, and the economy was aided by tourists who came by railroad to hunt and fish at Orange Lake. Following several disastrous freezes, commercial citrus ventures were mainly abandoned, and the last train passed through McIntosh in 1974. Farmers diversified into cattle and horses, with pastures replacing the vegetable fields and orange groves.
By the end of 1923, “The North Marion News” was published weekly in town with the last issue being printed in 1942. The Old Wire Road, a dirt wagon and stagecoach route and the present U. S. Hwy. 441, was eventually widened and paved, along with Avenue f and Avenue G, and the commercial district moved from near the Depot and railroad easement up to the highway.
Unlike most towns and cities in Florida, the Town of McIntosh has changed little since the 1930’s. The McIntosh Historic District was designated on November 18, 1983 with 68 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The district extends west from 4th Street to 10th Street and south from Avenue D to Avenue H. The McIntosh Historic District is significant for its tangible, largely unaltered, representation of an important period in the history of Florida.
In 1991, McIntosh hosted the movie filming of ‘Doc Hollywood’ starring Michael J. Fox and Woody Harrelson.
Ocala.com McIntosh Thrives, But Quietly – July 5, 2006 http://www.ocala.com/article/20060705/OCALALIFE/60705014?p=1&tc=pg