There is no other place in Central Florida like Port Orange! From its business community to schools, from its neighborhoods to city hall Port Orange is where opportunity and beauty blend together.
Port Orange’s history is rich and unique, starting with the prehistoric peoples of the land, namely the Timucuan and Seminole Indians, and with Dr. Andrew Turnbull’s New Smyrna Colony in 1768 during Florida’s plantation period. This area was full of explorers and efforts to tame this wild, unforgiving environment.
Records show that the beginnings of Port Orange started with a land grant of some 995 acres to Patrick Dean in 1804 by the Spanish Crown. The Dean Plantation focused on the production of cotton and sugar. To process the cane, a sugar mill was built and worked by draft animals. Improvements continued to the plantation when the Anderson family acquired the land in 1832. Around this time the combining of two family names forged the name Dunlawton, which the sugar mill and a main road in Port Orange still reflect. The Dunlawton Sugar Mill is now on the National Register of Historic Places and was the site of a small skirmish during the 1836 Second Seminole War. On what remains of the mill, the burn marks can still be seen from when the Seminoles set it afire.
The second era of growth for Port Orange occurred after the US Civil War when Dr. John Milton Hawks, an abolitionist and United States Army Surgeon, with other Union Army officers formed the Florida Land and Lumber Company. Believing they could make a go of the harsh land and make their fortunes, the company purchased land along the Halifax River in 1866. The settlement and the company consisted of some 500 freed slaves and their families looking to begin a new life. Originally named Orange Port by Dr. Hawks, the name was changed on April 26, 1867 to Port Orange because of US Postal policy restricting more than one community having the same name. Soon more freed slaves came to the area to work the fields and the saw mill thus instantly making Port Orange the most populous area in the country with some 1,600 black colonists. After falling on hard times, the settlement, the company, and the integrated school disbanded in 1869.A majority of the settlers returned to their home states or headed for area citrus groves looking for work. Over time, the few families and individuals who stayed made up the pioneering African-American neighborhood of Freemanville.
Port Orange hosts a Freemanville Day ceremony on the second Tuesday in February.
Although Port Orange suffered a great exodus of people when the Florida Land and Lumber dissolved, it continued to grow. Small pockets of homes and families near Rose Bay, the Dunlawton Sugar Mill, and Spruce Creek where the Spruce Creek Fly-In is located today, kept the community of Port Orange on the map. At the turn of the century, the force behind Port Orange’s economy was farming, oystering, citrus and cattle production as well as boat building. The first Port Orange Bridge that connected the mainland to the barrier land was completed in 1906 and financed with tolls. The small town that was Port Orange continued to exist into the middle of the twentieth century when its population, according to the 1970 Census, recorded 3,781 people calling this area home.
With the construction of Interstate 95 through Volusia County in 1976, the expansion of Port Orange west of the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) and the subsequent booming residential and commercial development was underway. Soon, Dunlawton Avenue was extended west from the FEC tracks to I-95 in 1978 at the cost $1.8million. Just six years later Port Orange was 22,000 strong. Today, with 57,218 people, the quality of life that Port Orange offers its citizens is unmatched. The tree lined streets, controlled development, city services, and recreational facilities have made Port Orange unique by choice!
City of Port Orange Phone Numbers - Area Code 386