Palatka was established as a trading post in 1821 and is today the county seat of Putnam County, Florida. The name comes from the Timucuan Indian word Pilotakata, meaning “crossing.” The original settlement was burned during the Seminole War of 1836. In 1838, the US government constructed Fort Shannon, which served as a garrison, supply depot, and hospital for the forts in the area.
During the American Civil War, Federal troops occupied the city. During the postwar period, riverboats plied the St Johns River to points south and Palatka became the gateway to the interior of Florida.
Palatka became known as the “Gem of the St Johns” and boasted several world-class hotels that included the Arlington, Saratoga, La Fayette, and the Putnam House, with accommodations to host 6,000 visitors. Palatka prospered in the late 1800s as an enormous resource for timber and citrus and had a reputation for natural beauty that attracted many visitors.
A devastating fire in downtown Palatka in 1884 destroyed many of the grand hotels and deep freezes in 1894 and 1895 devastated the area’s citrus industry, causing a decline in the area’s visitation and industry.
Today, Palatka has a large downtown business district, a beautiful waterfront park, and many historic and cultural sites.