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Lake City, Florida
Top, left to right: Lake De Soto, Battle of Olustee monument, Columbia County Courthouse, City Hall, Florida Gateway College, Osceola National Forest
Top, left to right: Lake De Soto, Battle of Olustee monument, Columbia County Courthouse, City Hall, Florida Gateway College, Osceola National Forest
Motto: Gateway to Florida
Location in Columbia County and the state of Florida
Location in Columbia County and the state of Florida
Country United States
State Florida
County  Columbia
Settled 1830
Incorporated 1859
 • City 12.4 sq mi (32.2 km2)
 • Land 12.0 sq mi (31.1 km2)
 • Water 0.4 sq mi (1.0 km2)  3.20%
Elevation3 188 ft (57 m)
Population (2010)
 • City 12,046
 • Density 1,002/sq mi (387.0/km2)
 • Metro 67,531
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 32024-32025, 32055-32056
Area code(s) 386
FIPS code 12-37775
GNIS feature ID 0305917

Lake City is the county seat of Columbia County, Florida, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city's population was 12,046. It is the principal city of the Lake City Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is composed of Columbia County, and had a 2010 population of 67,531. The city's sesquicentennial was held in 2009.


Aerial view of Lake City in 1885.

The site of Lake City was a Seminole village named Alpata Telophka or Hvlpvtv Tvlofv, meaning "Alligator Village". By 1830, a Euro-American town called Alligator was established, adjacent to the Seminole town. The city was incorporated and changed to its current name in 1859. The name was changed because the mayor's wife, who had recently moved to the town, refused to hang her lace curtains in a town named Alligator. Local bodies of water include Lake DeSoto, Lake Isabella, Alligator Lake, Lake Hamburg, Gwen Lake, Lake Harper and Watertown Lake.

The Civil War Battle of Olustee took place east of Lake City, near Olustee in Baker County, in February 1864. It was the only major battle in Florida during the war. Union casualties were 1,861 men killed, wounded or missing; Confederate casualties were 946 killed, wounded or missing. The Confederate dead were buried in Lake City.

By the early 20th century, Lake City had become an important railroad junction, served by the Seaboard Air Line, Atlantic Coast Line, Georgia Southern Railroad, and the Florida Railroad.

Florida Agricultural College, one of the four schools that formed the University of Florida, was originally located in Lake City before consolidation to Gainesville in 1905.

By 1950, the population of Lake City was 7,467 people, and forestry (turpentine, lumber, and pulpwood) had become a mainstay of the local economy.

In 1958, the Columbia Amateur Radio Society was formed. This was a group of amateur radio operators that enjoyed the ability to communicate all over the world. This radio club still exists today.

Lake City's centennial was celebrated in 1959 with parades, fireworks and a 58-page book documenting one hundred years of progress, A Century in the Sun. The citizens of the town dressed in period attire, complete with whiskers. A good-natured clash arose between the men with additional facial hair and the women who did not like it.

Lake City has two historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior. The Lake City Historic Commercial District is located in the downtown city core and was designated on June 6, 1994. The Lake Isabella Historic Residential District is located south of the main portion of town and was designated on November 15, 1993.


Lake City is located in northern Florida at 30°11′N 82°38′W (30.1896, -82.6397). It lies near the intersection of Interstate 10 and Interstate 75. Jacksonville is 60 miles (97 km) to the east, Tallahassee is 106 miles (171 km) to the west, Gainesville is 46 miles (74 km) to the south, and Valdosta, Georgia, is 62 miles (100 km) to the northwest.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Lake City has a total area of 12.4 square miles (32.2 km2), of which 12.0 square miles (31.1 km2) is land, and 0.39 square miles (1.0 km2) or 3.20%, is water.


Lake City Comm Hist Dist crths01
Columbia County Courthouse, constructed 1902; Frank P. Milburn, architect
Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 659
1870 964 46.3%
1880 1,379 43.0%
1890 2,020 46.5%
1900 4,013 98.7%
1910 5,032 25.4%
1920 3,341 −33.6%
1930 4,416 32.2%
1940 5,836 32.2%
1950 7,571 29.7%
1960 9,465 25.0%
1970 10,575 11.7%
1980 9,257 −12.5%
1990 10,005 8.1%
2000 9,980 −0.2%
2010 12,046 20.7%
Est. 2015 12,161 1.0%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2010, there are 12,046 people, 4,650 households, 2558 Family households, residing in the city. The population density is 1002.4 per square mile. There are 5,539 housing units at an average density of 460.81 per square mile (286.40/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 56.6% White, 37.3% African American, 0.4% Native American, 1.6% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 0.9% from other races, and 2.7% from two or more races. 5.4% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 4,650 households out of which 28.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.5% are married couples living together, 20.4% have a female householder with no husband present, and 39.9% are non-families. 33.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 15.8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.34 and the average family size is 3.01.

In the city, the population is spread out with 25.4% under the age of 18, 9.3% from 18 to 24, 25.1% from 25 to 44, 20.6% from 45 to 64, and 19.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 37 years. For every 100 females there are 89.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 85.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $28,533, and the median income for a family is $39,133. Males have a median income of $31,261 versus $27,656 for females. The per capita income for the city is $18,083. 20.5% of the population and 17.4% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 25.9% of those under the age of 18 and 14.0% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


Lake City is part of the humid subtropical climate zone of the Southeastern United States. Due to its latitude and relative position north of Florida's peninsula it is subject at times to continental conditions, which cause rare cold snaps that may affect sensitive winter crops. The hottest temperature ever recorded in the city was 106 °F (41 °C) on June 4, 1918, and the coldest temperature ever recorded was 6 °F (−14 °C) on February 13, 1899.


Olustee Battle Festival

Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park

Every February since 1976, Lake City has hosted the Olustee Battle Festival and reenactment of the Battle of Olustee. The Miss Olustee Pageant is held two weeks prior to the Battle Festival. Highlights include:

  • Memorial service at Oak Lawn Cemetery to honor those who died from both sides (Friday morning)
  • Olustee Festival & Craft Show: arts, crafts, foods, exhibits, and two stages with continuous live entertainment Friday and Saturday
  • Battle of the Ironclads, the Monitor and the Merrimac: Friday night on Lake DeSoto
  • Dancing: Friday night Trails End Dance; Saturday afternoon Street Dance; Saturday night Blue-Grey Square Dance
  • Running races: Blue-Grey 5-K and 1 Mile Kids Fun Run early Saturday morning
  • Olustee Festival Parade: Saturday mid-morning
  • Olustee Battle Reenactment: Hundreds of re-enactors come from all over the country to participate in this historical event
  • Columbia County Historical Museum: "Angels of Mercy" drama Friday afternoon; museum open all weekend
  • Olustee Battlefield State Park: open 9am-6pm all weekend, 15 miles (24 km) east of Lake City

Alligator Warrior Festival

This festival at O'Leno State Park 20 miles (32 km) south of Lake City celebrates early 19th-century history, from 1800 to 1859, in north Florida, especially that of Alligator/Lake City and Newnansville/Alachua and is held each year on the weekend (Friday-Sunday) of the 3rd Saturday in October.

Lake City started out as the Seminole community of Alligator Village (Hvlpvtv Tvlofv) in Spanish Florida. Historians don't know when it was established, but its existence was documented by the U.S. Army in 1821. Spanish Florida had long been a place of freedom for slaves escaping from the British colonies and the United States. Also, many of the refugees from the Creek War moved to Spanish Florida to live among or near the Seminole, because they had been forced to surrender their land to the U.S. after the Treaty of Fort Jackson. A February 1821 report by Captain John H. Bell mentions that the recent death of the micco (chief) of Alligator Village prevented the micco's attendance at a gathering of chiefs. After Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821, pioneer and immigrant settlers from the United States formed their own settlement adjacent to Alligator Village and called it Alligator Town. Following the 1823 Treaty of Moultrie Creek, the residents of Alligator village relocated to the banks of Peace Creek in the newly established Seminole reservation, leaving Alligator Town on its own. When Columbia County was formed in 1832, Alligator Town became the seat of the county government. Alligator Town was renamed Lake City in 1859.

The most famous resident of Alligator Village was Alligator Warrior (Hvlpvtv Tvstvnvke). He was a son of a daughter of Micanopy (King) Payne (Mekk-Onvpv Pin) and led Seminole warriors in the Second Seminole War (1835–1842) to prevent the relocation of Florida's Indians to the Arkansas Territory (now known as Oklahoma). Although Alligator Warrior was certainly a leader of warriors, the U.S. military mistakenly referred to him as a chief because they did not understand Seminole culture.

The Alligator Warrior Festival tries to educate and entertain by demonstrating how Native American, European, African and mixed-descent settlers lived in early 19th-century Florida. Living-history reenactors portraying 1830s Seminoles, U.S. soldiers, pioneer militia and settlers give presentations in their period camps and reenact the September 18, 1836, Battle of San Felasco Hammock, which is the battle of the Second Seminole War that took place closest to O'Leno State Park. The festival also includes Native American musicians and dancers, a drum arbor with dance ground and teepee camp, as well as other musicians, demonstrators of early 19th-century skills such as blacksmithing, barrel making, spinning and weaving, and traders selling historic replicas, skillfully handcrafted arts, manufactured souvenirs, and food.

The first Alligator Festival was held in 1995 at Olustee Park in downtown Lake City. The event was not held from 2000 to 2001 while Olustee Park was being completely rebuilt. The renovated Olustee Park was no longer suitable for the event so it was held at Wilson Park from 2002 to 2003. Needing a larger space, it was held at Gateway College from 2003 to 2007. The organizational committee reorganized into a non-profit corporation in 2007. Then, for the city's sesquicentennial (150th) celebration in 2009, the event was held at the old memorial stadium because use of the college grounds became unaffordable. Starting in 2010 the annual festival has been held at O'Leno State Park, in Columbia County, where the appropriate facilities exist for a full-scale battle reenactment, historic camping and large crowds.

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