The City of Palatka has a rich and extensive history!
Naturalist William Bartram visited the area in the 1760s and 1770 recording and illustrating his discoveries in his book,Travels (published in 1791).
During the Civil War control of Palatka changed several times between Confederate and Union Forces.
The post-Civil War era was Palatka's golden age when citrus groves flourished and steamboats brought tourists to the "Gem City of the St Johns".
Its prime location on the St Johns River served as a destination for northern visitors at the turn of the twentieth century. At one time several grand hotels as well as other smaller establishments were located in Palatka totally over 5,000 guest rooms. The climate attracted many notable winter visitors such as Harriett Beecher Stowe, Thomas Edison, Henry Flagler, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland and his new wife chose to honeymoon here.
Winter residents included Judge James Ross Mellon of Pittsburgh. Judge Mellon owned a bank and railroad in his home state. His home in the South Historic District at 429 Emmett Street still remains as one of the city's significant landmarks. Judge Mellon provided funding for several projects in his adopted city. Today the most visible is the former Larimer City Library now the Larimer Arts Center. It was designed by the famous architect, Henry John Klutho in memory of Judge Mellon's wife, Rachel Hughey Larimer.
Mr. Klutho also designed the adjacent Palatka City Hall in 1905 (unfortunately demolished in the 1970s for new construction) and the Hotel James (existant but vacant) on St Johns Avenue.
Palatka is home to a municipal golf course designed by Donald Ross and constructed in 1925.
Ravine Gardens State Park is located within the city limits and was constructed as a WPA project with over 100,000 azaleas planted surrounding a natural ravine. Palatka is also know as the "Azalea City" and hosts the Azalea Festival, the oldest continuous festival in Florida in March.
Babe Ruth taught baseball here at Doan's All-American Baseball School in the 1940s at The Azalea Bowl, another WPA constructed project. While in Palatka, Ruth rent a room in homes in the South Historic District at 703 Emmett Street and 422 River Street.
Palatka was the birthplace of the man Babe Ruth described as the best baseball player he had ever seen, John Henry "Pop" Lloyd. Pop Lloyd was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.
Billy Graham was baptized in Palatka at the Peniel Baptist Church
Palatka remained an industrial and tourist center in the 20th century and became known as the "Bass Capital". In the 1960s, Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart fished for bass on the river from a charter boat called "Noah's Ark" owned by a local resident Noah Tilghman. In 1968, Mr. Stewart wrote an article for the Ford Times about his fishing experiences here.
Wilson Cypress Mill was located adjacent to "The Hammock" and during the height of its operations was the second largest cypress mill in the world!
C.S. Belton helped organize the Belton's Society Syncopaters and was responsible for bringing many jazz greats to Palatka including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Waller, Jimmie Luncefore, Andy Kirk and Earl Hines.