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South Florida State College (SFSC), in partnership with the DeSoto County Historical Society (DCHS), will provide an online mobile-friendly, self-guided walking tour of historic downtown Arcadia, Fla., on Dec. 6 to celebrate the anniversary of the town’s incorporation on Dec. 6, 1886.
“SFSC has a DeSoto Campus with a branch library,” said Claire A. Miller, SFSC librarian. “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,” Miller said. “We’ve mixed the old and the new.”
A QR or Quick Response Code will help people partake in the tour and will be posted throughout downtown Arcadia. A QR code can be scanned like a UPC by a cell phone or other mobile device.
Although the first pioneers settled the area that is now Arcadia in 1856, they did not apply for a post office until 1883. A settlement grew on the banks of the Peace River because it served as the main means of transportation.
About a mile east of the river, the Florida Southern Railway laid tracks, and the first train arrived on March 4, 1886. Business owners constructed businesses near the train depot and stores on the riverbank moved “uptown.” The train depot, today a storefront, is one of the first stops on the walking tour.
In 1901, the city of Arcadia was incorporated, and on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1905, fire destroyed the business district. The city council decreed all future construction of block or brick, and so the handsome masonry commercial buildings standing today were built between 1906 and 1926. Most of the structures on the tour date from this period of construction. The Arcadia Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, and in 1985, Arcadia began its revitalization as a Main Street city. Although well-known for its wealth of antique shops, the city also offers specialty boutiques, offices, and restaurants.
To learn more about Arcadia, its history, and its historic commercial structures, access the online self-guided walking tour at 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 DCHS’s Research Library and Museum in Arcadia. “If only those buildings could talk,” she said. “I bet they’d have some tales to tell.”