Board of Directors 2022
President Norma Banas
Vice Pres. Vernon Keen
Secretary Karen Smoczynski
Treasurer Dennis Tyson
Museum Carol Mahler
Directors Stuart Swanberg
Past Pres. Lewis Parker
Judge Danielle Brewer inducting 2022 Board of Directors
DeSoto County Historical Society (EIN 85-8013127211C-7). We are a State of Florida Nonprofit Charitable Corporation authorized to solicit funds within the State of Florida.
DeSoto County Historical Society holds Public Charity Status with the IRS as a 501-c-3 Corporation established May 4, 1990. A copy of the Official Registration and financial information may be obtained from the Division of Consumer Services by calling toll-free 1-800-435-7352 within the State. Registration does not imply endorsement, approval or recommendation by the State. Our registration # is CH53049. (No part of your donation goes to pay for salaries or un-related expenses.)
BECOME A MEMBER
The Historical Society is a group interested in the rich heritage of our area. Learn our history, help others discover their heritage, join volunteers with interesting and fun activities and be a part of an interesting group of people.
As a member you will receive a monthly newsletter inviting you to our programs and events, our monthly meetings, Pioneer Day festival on the third Saturday in March, and more. Click here for membership form.
Winter Resident Membership
To invite our winter residents into our organization, the Society has established a half-year membership for those who reside in our county for only part of the year: $12.00 for an individual and $20.00 for a couple. If you know anyone who qualifies, let them know.
Howard and Velma Melton Historical Research Library
WALKING TOUR OF ARCADIA
Online, Mobile-Friendly Self-Guided Walking Tour of Downtown Now Available!
Arcadia was incorporation as a town on Dec. 6, 1886. The DeSoto County Historical Society is proud to collaborate with South Florida State College to provide an online, mobile-friendly, self-guided walking tour of the historic downtown.
“Although our main campus is in Highlands County, the college has a DeSoto County campus with a branch library” College Librarian Claire A. Miller said. “People have always sought history in libraries—especially local history—so it makes sense for the college library to make this information accessible.”
The tour includes Google map directions and GPS coordinates as well as analog maps. “We’ve combined historic information with digital technology,” said Miller. “We’ve mixed the old and the new.”
A QR or Quick Response Code—that can be scanned like a UPC by a cell phone or other mobile device—will help people find and use the tour. The QR Code will be posted throughout downtown Arcadia.
Although the first pioneers settled what is now Arcadia in 1856, they did not apply for a post office until 1883. Settlement grew on the banks of Peace River because it served as the main means of transportation.
About a mile east of the river, the Florida Southern Railway laid tracks (now the southbound lanes of U.S. Highway 17), and the first train arrived on March 4, 1886. Banks, offices, and shops were constructed near the train depot, and stores on the riverbank moved “uptown.” The 1911 train depot, today a store front, is one of the first stops on the walking tour.
In 1901, the City of Arcadia was incorporated, and on Thanksgiving Day, November 30, 1905, fire destroyed the business district. Businessmen agreed that all future construction must be block or brick, and so the handsome masonry commercial buildings standing today were built from 1906 to 1926—plus the three buildings that survived the fire.
The Arcadia Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, and thanks to the Society and the Peace River Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a Florida Historic Marker about the district was installed in January in the Tree of Knowledge Park, where the tour begins.
As well as showcasing Arcadia’s history, the District is also features specialty stores, boutiques, banks, professional offices, restaurants, and more. Famous for its antique shops and fourth Saturday antique fairs, Arcadia began its revitalization as a Main Street City in 1985.
Thanks to the College and the Historical Society, people may easily learn about the town, its history, and its historic commercial structures by accessing the online self-guided walking tour: http://libguides.southflorida.edu/florida/desoto_walking_tour.
“The self-guided walking tour allows people to “read” the downtown buildings like a history book,” said Carol Mahler, volunteer coordinator of the Society’s Research Library and Museum in Arcadia. “If only those buildings could talk,” she said. “I bet they’d have some tales to tell.”
The Historical Society will provide hour-long guided walking tours of historic Arcadia, Florida, for your group for a donation of $5.00 per person. If you want to “make a day of it,” we can arrange for lunch for your group at one of our local restaurants for an additional charge. Then you’ll have time to browse in Arcadia’s many antique shops and specialty boutiques. click here for Self Guided Tour Map.
To schedule your group’s tour, please contact our tour guide, Carol Mahler, at 863-445-0789 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VOLUNTEERS are the backbone of any organization. The Society is proud to have the JROTC students from DeSoto County High School do community service with the Historical Society. The students help with Pioneer Day parking, at Yard Sale, and every 2nd Saturday doing whatever is needed at the Museum and Seed House. We are thankful and appreciative for their help and thank their Commander, Ronald Baynes for organizing the volunteers.
DeSoto County Historical Society, Inc.
P. O. Box 1824
Arcadia, FL 34265