Founded in 1820, Waldo is one of Alachua County’s oldest towns, originally the plantation village of Bellamy Station on the route of Florida’s oldest Federal highway, Bellamy Road. When Senator David Levy Yulee built Florida’s first trans-state railway, he renamed the town Waldo in honor of his friend, Dr. Benjamin Waldo of Ocala.
The town’s train depot served civil war troops, new settlers looking for good soil and a mild climate, as well as tourists looking for “a winter playground,” al of which could be found in beautiful Waldo. In its glory days Waldo boasted several resort hotels, two theaters, and an opera house. The railroad brought people from all around the country to a land that was excellent for hunting, fishing and boating. Investors built homes and thriving businesses, including an ice factory and cold storage, a grist mill, cotton gin, saw mill, wagon factory and a broom manufacturer. It is hard to believe, but at one time the Entenza family’s El Toney cigar factory was one of the largest employers in the state of Florida! Some of the original buildings still stand today.
A canal connected Lake Santa Fe in Melrose to the railway in Waldo, for the transit of oranges, vegetables, turpentine and passengers. The canal is being rehabilitated as a kayak and canoe paddling trail, which will once again connect Melrose, Lake Santa Fe and Waldo.
Like all of North Florida, Waldo’s citrus groves and tourism industry were laid to waste by a series of freezes in the 1890s, including a famed storm that put two inches of snow on the ground!
Today Waldo is a quiet town. The railway tracks carry freight trains. There is a branch of the Alachua County Library System, an active historical society and a number of different businesses.
The Waldo Flea Market is one of the largest in the state and is open daily.
Waldo Motorsports is one of the finest motocross facilities in the southeastern US.
RV and hotel facilities cater to travelers.
Tom’s Cypress on US 301 ships specialty cypress wood all over the world. Explore four acres of different kinds and sizes. Cypress knees and wood slabs are ideal for any number of craft, furniture or specialty construction projects. For something completely different, check out Tom’s collection of the largest display of commemorative Coca-Cola and soda bottles in the USA — over 3500 different bottles!