Ormond Beach's history can be traced back to English settlers and the Timucua Indians. Over the years the state had been claimed by many European nations and finally became part of the United States in 1819. In the 1700s and early 1800s, the area around the Halifax and Tomoka Rivers was occupied by large sugar mill plantations. The second Seminole War (1835-1842) put an end to the plantations. After Florida entered the Union and Volusia County was created in 1854, there were some 20 families living in the entire county. A few families from Georgia and the Carolinas started the Tomoka Settlement, which was at the west end of the present city limits. Their orange groves were destroyed in the big freeze of 1895-96.
Meanwhile, a group of families from New Britain, Connecticut, started a retirement colony on the west bank of the Halifax River. They were former employees of the Corbin Lock Company and they called their new home New Britain, Connecticut until they incorporated a city and named it Ormond Beach in 1880. Two of the early colonists, John Anderson and Joseph Downing Price, built the Hotel Ormond, which opened its doors January 1, 1888. Henry Flagler bought the hotel in 1890, retaining Anderson and Price as managers, and also purchased the railroad, which had been brought into Ormond Beach by Utley J. White. A bridge for rails and carriages was erected across the Halifax River so that Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway could discharge passengers at the entrance of the Hotel Ormond. Early in the 1900s, a visitor at the hotel discovered that the newfangled motor car could drive on the sands of the beach. In 1902, Ransome E. Olds and Henry Winton staged an unofficial race on the beach at Ormond. The following year the American Automobile Association brought in its timing equipment and Ormond Beach became the Birthplace of Speed.
Many famous and well-known men and women stayed during the winter months at the Hotel Ormond, including Flagler's friend, John D. Rockefeller. After a few seasons, however, Rockefeller bought a house across the street from the hotel, now called "The Casements," and lived there until his death in 1937 at the age of 97. The Casements is now a cultural center for the city.
Ormond Beach has continued to grow. It now boasts some 35,000 residents and has expanded to the west and north. While continuing to recognize its heritage, Ormond Beach has become one of the state's finer communities in which to live.
On Friday and Saturday following Thanksgiving, Ormond Beach will once again pay homage to the automobile and the city's substantial place in its evolution. This area's long association with racing began on the hard packed sand of Ormond Beach in March 1903. For eight years the small seaside community was the world's center of racing. During those formative years, inventors with names like Olds, Winton, Ford, Chevrolet, Stanley and Packard came to test their machines on the only reliable flat track in the United States.
At 7 p.m. on Friday, over 300 cars will leave the Casements on the east side of the Halifax River on Granada, lined up in chronological order, making the Gaslight Parade a true rolling history of the evolution of the automobile. Sponsored and staged by the Volusia Region AACA, it is one of the finest, if not the finest, antique automobile parades in the world.
On Saturday, the Birthplace of Speed Antique Car show will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Presented by the Volusia Region AACA, the show will consist of approximately 150 of the finest restored and original antique/classic cars in the southeast. The unique setting along the Intracoastal Waterway in the beautiful Fortunato Park, on the N.E. corner, will be a fitting showplace for such fine automobiles as the Dusenberg, Packard, Cord, Lincoln, Mercedes, and Jaguar. Many of the drivers will wear period costumes to match their cars.
Spectators will be admitted free to all events. While viewing the antique auto show, visitors are invited to enjoy musical entertainment, purchase old-fashioned food samplings, and visit many of Ormond's historical treasures - the Cupola, the Historical Trust MacDonald House and the Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens.
Come celebrate "The Birthplace of Speed" in Historic Ormond Beach this Thanksgiving weekend! For more information, contact Ken with AACA Volusia Region at 386-566-2537 or go to www.aaca.org/volusia.