Inverness is a small city located in central Florida in an area of lakes and hilly terrain. Its earliest settlers of European descent arrived in 1836, when a fort was built and used from April 2 to April 18 by the 1st Georgia Battalion of Volunteers to fend off an Indian attack. After that skirmish, Fort Cooper was used occasionally until 1842. The fort is now on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located in Fort Cooper State Park in Inverness.
The Withlacoochee State Trail goes by the state park, the Tsala Apopka Chain of Lakes and the former railroad station at 300 North Apopka Avenue. The railroad station was built in 1900 for the Seaboard Air Line and Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. It has the typical vertical board siding of the time.
Originally called Tompkinsville after A.D. “Uncle Alf” Tompkins who had owned the town since 1868, the name was changed to Inverness when Tompkins sold the town to a Jacksonville, Florida, firm. The City of Inverness was incorporated in 1919.
The old Citrus County Courthouse at Apopka Avenue and Courthouse Square now houses a museum of local history. Visitors may also view the old courtroom. The present building replaced one of Victorian style built in the 1890s. It was built in 1911 of flash brick, hardwood and terrazzo. The rooms were heated with fireplaces. The picturesque clock in the clock tower cost 800 dollars.
Crown Court, located at 109 North Seminole Avenue, has been transformed from the luxurious Crown Hotel to its current use as an assisted living facility. Originally built in the 1890s as a one-story general store and boarding house, a second story was added and it was known as Orange Hotel and Hotel Inverness. Then it was sawn down the middle and moved from the corner of West Main Street and Seminole Avenue to its present location. A third story was added by raising the first two stories and adding a new ground floor. It hosted a beauty shop and law offices. The building was owned by “Aunt Tom” Scott from 1901 to 1959. In the 1950s it was called the Colonial Hotel. After British businessman Reg Breally bought it in 1979 and renovated it in the style of an English country inn, it was known as the Crown Hotel. Its red double-decker bus was famous for being used in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps.” Jill and Nigel Sumner operated the hotel from 1990 to 2002. They sold it to Thomas Dryburg and P.C. Hyland, but the property went into foreclosure within a year. Dryburg and Hyland loaded up a moving truck with the hotel’s valuables and left in the middle of the night. The hotel was auctioned in 2003 for $900,000 to Cary and Brenda Jensen. They transformed the hotel into its present use as an assisted living facility.
The Masonic Temple, located at 111 West Main Street, was the most expensive building in the county when it was built in 1910, coming in at a price of $17,285. The building originally had stores on the first floor, offices on the second floor, and the Masonic Lodge room on the third floor. The worshipful master of the lodge, Walter F. Warnock, Sr., was also a clerk of the Circuit Court and editor of The Citrus County Chronicle. The Masons used the building until lightning caused fire damage in 1965 and it was decided to move to a new location. Over the years, the Masonic Temple has been used as a community center, city hall, and movie theater, as well as housing various offices and businesses. Its neo-classical design and historical significance merited the historical plaque that was placed October 20, 2000.
Deco Café is located across the street from the Old Courthouse at 109 Courthouse Square. It was built in 1910 as City Savings Bank. It became a commissary for a lumber company in 1920, and subsequently, a dry goods store, law offices, a newspaper office, dry cleaning business, and cell phone store. Deco Café is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and after 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
The McLeod House Bistro, 207 North Apopka Avenue, is situated in a house built in 1915. The McLeod family lived in the house from 1941 to 1998. Oscar Penn McLeod’s family members were early Florida pioneers. He raised twelve children in the house. The bistro is open Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Except for the state park, all of these attractions are within easy walking distance in downtown Inverness.
The information for this article was found in the Downtown Historic Tour Guide for Inverness, Florida, and Steve Rajtar’s Hike Plan for Inverness.