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Sebring Chamber Visitor's Guide & Member Directory

History

History Sebring continues to extend the same warm welcome it has since it was founded in 1912 by Ohio industrialist George Sebring. The pioneer visionary designed a circular plan as a focal point for the entire lakeside community he planned as “The City on the Circle.” George Sebring’s idea was that all roads would radiate from the center of the community. Despite many modern improvements, his design remains essentially the same today as when the concept was still a sketch. Archival records indicate the founder’s “Circle Plan” for the downtown area was based on the design of Heliopolis, an ancient Egyptian city. The unique design of the new town 14 Welcome to Sebring quickly caught the attention of investors, real estate entrepreneurs and bankers who were drawn to the layout of the community, seeing it as a potential financial bonanza. Adding to the allure was the development of cattle ranches and citrus groves complemented by connections via Seaboard Air Line Railroad’s famous “Orange Blossom Special” to other cities across the nation’s eastern coastline. By the mid-1920s, the population of Sebring had grown nearly fourfold, and much of the city’s early development had reached its peak. The City on the Circle had developed into the business mecca George Sebring had envisioned. But the demand for housing outpaced the ability of developers’ ability to Sebring Train Depot Ralph Lyon construct. That didn’t stop Biltmore investors from financing the $30 million development of Harder Hall as a major resort complex complete with its own golf course and home sites. By the late 1920s, an end to the boom brought fraudulent land sales, railroad embargoes and clogged shipyards. The City of Sebring suffered along with the rest of the nation following the stock market’s “Crash of ‘29.” But the area got a tremendous boost from the establishment of Highlands Hammock State Park — Florida’s very first state park — and the construction of Hendrick’s Field by the U.S. Army Air Force. Today, the airfield is home to Sebring Regional Airport.

Downtown Sebring has since been designated a 1920s Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. Area pride and excitement was revived in the 1950s when annual international sports car racing began at the airport, utilizing many of the concrete runways built during the facility’s years as a military flight training base. The world renowned Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida continues today as the oldest sports car race of its kind in North America. Like many central business districts in America, downtown Sebring suffered a slump in the 1970s that began to correct itself a decade later. With an eye on the future, the Sebring City Council — through special legislation — created the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) to spearhead development and improvements in the downtown area. As a result, Sebring was named a Florida Main Street Community in 1966 and subsequently invested more than $20 million in renovations and upgrades. Today, downtown Sebring offers a unique blend of shops, restaurants and professional businesses, including hometown newspaper “The News-Sun,” which has documented Sebring’s history for 96 years. All are within walking distance of Sebring’s Cultural Center, which includes the public library, Sebring Sebring Fire Station No. 14 Kile Brewer Historical Society, Highlands Art League, Highlands Museum of the Arts, the Yellow House Gallery, and Highlands Little Theatre. Retail businesses continue to grow, both downtown and along U.S. 27. An enclosed shopping mall with five major anchor stores and dozens of smaller businesses make indoor shopping a great experience. In addition to the mall, every need from automobiles, insurance and home furnishings to hardware, building supplies, groceries and antiques can be found right here at home, where the economy is growing and locals and visitors alike are welcomed by our merchants and professionals. Welcome to Sebring 15

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