Sumter County Chamber of Commerce - Gateway to Sumter County
P.O. Box 100, Sumterville, FL 33585-0100
102 North Highway 470, Lake Panasoffkee, FL 33538
tel (352) 793-3099 - fax (352) 793-2120
mobile site: www.VisitSumter.net
 
 

Communities in Sumter County

City of Bushnell
 

Named in honor of J. W. Bushnell, who surveyed the route of the Florida Railway and Navigation Company Railroad, the City of Bushnell was incorporated in 1912, when the courthouse was relocated from Sumterville.
   Today, the City of Bushnell operates one of the smallest Public Utilities in the State of Florida, serving water, electric, sewer and sanitation services to approximately 2300 homes and businesses.
   Bushnell is a growing and dynamic community enjoyed by young and old alike. True to its designation as a bird sanctuary, the area abounds in natural beauty. 
   Throughout the year, the City of Bushnell is host to a variety of public events including the “Annual Fall Festival”. In 2009, the City completed a visioning plan that will be used to guide future development. Featuring a county-operated library and boasting a modernized City Hall, Bushnell is well-positioned for future growth.
 
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 115 • Bushnell, FL 33513
Physical Address: 117 E. Joe P. Strickland Jr. Avenue • Bushnell, FL 33513
Phone: (352) 793-2591 • Fax: (352) 793-2711
Website:
www.cityofbushnellfl.com
 
City of Center Hill

Center Hill’s history dates as far back as 1842. However it received its official name when Mrs. Carrie Lovell named this little town “Center Hill” as it was in the center of the County and on top of a hill. In the early part of 1900, Center Hill became a “boom” town, and became known as the string bean capital of the world, shipping nearly 400 railroad cars of string beans that year.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 649 • Center Hill, FL 33514
Physical Address: 94 South Virginia Avenue • Center Hill, FL 33514
Phone: (352) 793-4431 • Fax: (352) 568-2264

City of Coleman

The community of Coleman was settled in 1882. The city is named for Dr. B. F. Coleman, who is listed in the Florida Gazette in 1886-87 as one of the early citizens. During this time, the main source of revenue was growing and selling oranges, but residents also made a living raising cotton, cattle, sheep and hogs.
 
Today, Coleman is home to the Federal Correctional Complex. The Complex opened in December 1995, providing jobs to more than 1,000 employees. The Complex is located east of Coleman on CR 470, consisting of Low Security - (352) 689-4000, Medium Security/Work Camp - (352) 689-5000 and U.S. Penitentiary - (352) 689-6000.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 456 • Coleman, FL 33521
Physical Address: 3502 East Warm Springs Avenue, Coleman, FL 33521
Phone: (352) 748-1017 • Fax: (352) 748-2291
 

Croom-A-Coochee

Croom-A-Coochee is an unincorporated community in Sumter County, which has grown up adjacent to the Croom Wildlife Management Area (WMA). In addition to Croom, Sumter County offers hunting in the Green Swamp, Richloam, and Half Moon. Additionally, a new area has opened at the northeast end of Lake Panasoffkee. Just north of Sumter County, in Marion County is the Ocala National Forest, which also offers hunting, camping, hiking and horse riding trails, as well as fishing.

Lake Panasoffkee

Exceptional Fishing
Visitors to Lake Panasoffkee enjoy some of the best freshwater fishing in Florida. In fact, it was named one of Florida’s Top 10 Family Fishing Destinations by World Fishing Network (WFN).
 
WFN said of Lake Panasoffkee: “Despite being just 55 miles northwest of Orlando, Lake Panasoffkee feels like you’re away from it all. Surrounded by parks and campgrounds, this lake is known for its bass fishing and big longnose gar. Lake Panasoffkee Park offers a whole line of fun outdoor activities in addition to fishing and camping, including biking, horseback riding, hiking, bird watching, and more.”

The lake is famous for its authentic “old Florida” fish camps with cabins, RV and camping sites, boat ramps, bait and tackle shops and seasoned local experts. Guides can help you land trophy-sized Largemouth Bass, Shellcrackers and Bluegills. Warmouth, Catfish and Sunfish are also plentiful. Expansive flats of eel grass, Hydrilla and Peppergrass provide the sanctuary for excellent fishing in this 5,500-acre spring fed lake. The third largest lake in west central Florida, Lake Panasoffkee connects to the Withlacoochee River via the Outlet River which flows out to the Gulf of Mexico.

Birding
The Lake Panasoffkee Wildlife Management Area, located at 7519 NW 18th Way (along State Road 44) near Wildwood, is a site along the Great Florida Birding Trail. Among the species you’ll find are Sandhill Cranes, herons, egrets, ibis, kestrels, meadowlarks, killdeer and warblers. With eight miles of marked trails for cycling and 18 miles for horseback riding and hiking, the area is popular for seasonal hunting, birding by boat, by bicycle or on foot, and camping. Call 352-796-7211 ext. 4470 or visit
www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/areas/ lakepanasoffkee.html.

History
The town, known as Panasoffkee, or “Valley of Water” in the Indian Language, was settled around 1880. It was known as the largest fruit center in the world. In addition to citrus, sugar cane mills dotted the edge of the lake. Barrels of sugar and syrup were shipped north, along with the oranges.

Panasoffkee became an important turpentine and lumber center during the latter part of the 19th century. Several general stores, three hotels, a drug store, meat market, two active churches, a saloon, and a school came into existence. Winter tourists continued to come for the excellent hunting and fishing.

In 1998, the state Legislature created the Lake Panasoffkee Restoration Council to develop a restoration plan for the lake. The 10-year project restored Lake Panasoffkee’s historic fish bedding areas and the historic lake shoreline, and improved navigation. Lake Panasoffkee is one of the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s SWIM Program priority water bodies and is designated as an Outstanding Florida Water by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Recreation opportunities include bicycling, bird watching, boating and paddling, camping, equestrian use, fishing, hiking, hunting and a pavilion with picnic tables and grills.

Royal

Royal was established in 1865 by freed slaves from the old Green Plantation located near the Withlacoochee River.

With freedom, slaves were granted 40 acres and a mule to homestead. The first name given this community was Picketsville because of the white picket fences used to designate each slave's 40 acres parcel. The first industries were farming, logging and turpentine dipping.

In 1875 Reverend Alfred Brown built the first church, Ebenezer A. M. E. Church and also the first school, Royal Elementary & Middle School, a one-room schoolhouse. Mr. Perman E. Williams was the first officially appointed principal. Mr. Alonzo A. Young, Sr. served as the last Principal from 1947-69. Young men from the federal government Works Project Administration (WPA) and community volunteers built the last and largest school.

Today this is the site of the Royal Volunteer Fire Department, Royal Community Center and the last building used as the Royal school cafeteria, which was built in 1945. This historic building was donated for use by the community as the A. A. Young, Sr. Historical and Enrichment Center of Royal.

Sumterville

The County Seat in 1881, Sumterville was an integral part of Sumter County history. Sumterville proper is a cozy old village of about 100 inhabitants and has been twice elected the county seat.

In the early days, a stage line operated from Tampa to Sumterville. The stage line continued operations when the railroad was built nearby, providing transportation for both passengers and freight.

Residents soon discovered that the local limestone, which covers a large portion of this section of Sumter County, was a plentiful and valuable resource. Sumter County furnished crushed limestone rock for road construction, shipping it to projects throughout the south. The area around modern-day Sumterville is still home to a number of aggregate-mining operations.

The Town of Oxford

Sometime around 1870, pioneers began to settle in Oxford. On the road south of town, there was a pond that caused problems during the rainy seasons. Travelers were forced to get the help of teams of oxen to cross this section of the road, and this could have led to the name Ox-ford.

After the 1894-1895 freeze ruined most of the area's citrus farmers, a few families remained in Oxford where they turned to truck farming for a living. Cantaloupes and melons developed as a quality crop, and now tomatoes are raised in and around Oxford. Oxford today is still a small rural community located in the north portion of the County. The residents of Oxford strive to maintain their small town heritage while welcoming the influx of new neighbors in The Villages.

The Villages

Widely heralded as the world's premier retirement community, The Villages is a master planned community located in the northeast corner of Sumter County that began development in the 1960s under the guidance of the Schwartz family. The entire community straddles several adjacent counties and is the largest residential development in Central Florida. According to a 2008 Census Bureau report, The Villages is the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States.

The Villages' neighborhoods, downtown areas, shopping centers and medical facilities are connected with convenient golf cart trails and tunnels that allow residents to travel almost anywhere within the development without getting into a car. With over 75,000 residents enjoying a lifestyle that features 441 holes of golf, 48 swimming pools, 49 recreation centers, two old fashioned "downtowns," 2 libraries, 3 fitness centers, and over 1400 clubs and organizations, "Florida's Friendliest Hometown" is truly the community where the dreams one has for retirement come true.

Webster

Webster was first settled in 1855 under the name of Orange City. The town was renamed Webster by Postmaster George Franklin Hays after it was discovered that another community in Florida was using the name.

Webster was based on the citrus industry until the great freeze of 1894-95 when the great freeze destroyed large portions of the orange groves. Naval store industry replaced the citrus industry for a time. After the naval stores industry failed, Webster became one of the largest vegetable producers in the state and in the early 1900s was known as the Cucumber Capital. In 1937 the Sumter County Farmers Market was established to provide a market where farmers in the surrounding area could sell their produce. The current Farmers Market now consists of a large flea market on Monday and a livestock auction (one of the few remaining in the state) on Tuesday.

Webster continues to grow. It has recently added a sewer system, a forty-seven acre recreation park, an eighty home subdivision and new retailers. The community is made up of good schools, churches and friendly people that make the Webster area a good place to call home.

Wildwood

I.E. Barwick is credited with founding the City of Wildwood in 1877 when he called a group of citizens together to organize a committee to form a town and preserve law and order. The first official record of the incorporation of the City of Wildwood is contained in the Acts of the Legislature, Chapter 3968, which indicates that the State Legislature validated the city's incorporation on May 16, 1889. There are no official city records prior to 1915 because any records that might have been filed in the county courthouse concerning Wildwood's early days were destroyed in the fire that leveled the county courthouse in Sumterville on January 30, 1909.

Mr. Barwick purchased 80-acres of land from a former black slave by the name of Malinda Thompson, who had inherited the land from her son, Isaac Flagister. Mr. Barwick sold some of the land to people in the area, donated lots to the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist congregations to build their churches on, and donated about one acre to the railroad for the purpose of building a depot. The remaining 40 to 50 acres Barwick mortgaged to build a hotel, livery stable and other improvements as the foundation of the city. The Sumter Presbyterian Church (now the First Presbyterian Church of Wildwood) was the first Church to be constructed (1884 -1885). The Methodist and Baptist congregations used the Presbyterian Church building until they were able to build their own churches (Baptist in 1885 and Methodist in 1892).

Wildwoods first business district was established sometime between 1877 and 1879 and consisted of five buildings and a hotel. In 1889 all but the hotel were destroyed by fire. The second business district was constructed in 1892 on the site of the first business district, but in 1904 it was also destroyed by fire. The hotel remained until 1966 when it was dismantled for the four-laning of US 301. A third business district was established and several of those buildings (across US 301 from City Hall) are still standing and occupied by businesses today.

Wildwood has had three City Halls over the years. The first one was known as the Big Wigwam because of its octagonal shape. Besides being used for political meetings and public gatherings, it was also used as a theater, a skating rink, and a recreation hall. It was torn down in 1925. It was two years before the next City Hall was built (1927) at a cost of $11,500. It had some additions and renovations over the years and the police department, jail and fire department were added to it. It served the city until August of 2000 when the current City Hall was opened.

Wildwood's early economy was primarily built around the lumber industry. Barwick also built and owned a timber mill near town. Then the railroad came to Wildwood in 1882, and Wildwood became the hub for the railroad until the 1960s when Seaboard Coastline began laying off employees. By the mid 1970s the Wildwood hub operation was shut down.

When the railroad industry declined in the 60s, a few farsighted leaders were able to successfully redirect the town. A shopping center was built and when Florida's Turnpike was completed in 1964 (soon followed by I-75), it was the efforts of J.W. Peebles and E.C. Rowell that got the Wildwood-301 interchange constructed on the extension connecting the turnpike with I-75. This connection made Wildwood the only city in the state which has immediate access to both the Florida Turnpike and I-75 and to both US 301 and SR 44. Today, these transportation connections make Wildwood attractive to industries for the purpose of transporting their supplies and products, and make Wildwood a transportation hub once again.

When The Villages retirement community started to grow towards Sumter County and Wildwood in the 1990s and early 2000s, future looking city officials saw opportunity knocking on the door and started to work on planning for controlled future growth by implementing business and residential design standards, a new tree ordinance, expansion of wastewater facilities, drilling new wells in locations where growth is expected to occur, and putting the pipes in the ground so developers could hook up to services. Developers from around the country began buying up land around the area to build affordable single and multi-family housing, commercial stores, shopping centers and business parks. Developers are annexing their properties into the city because they need city water, sewer and refuse services in order to be approved for development and construction to begin. The city benefits because it adds to the ad valorem tax base, which the city needs in order to keep providing services to its residents and businesses.

Wildwood is again looking to the future for the benefit of the residents and business owners who are the city's number one priority.