Orange Park was initially a farming settlement known as Laurel Grove. Orange Park was incorporated in 1879 by the Florida Legislature. It was originally intended to be a community of small farms and subdivided lots in the Northern area of Clay County. The name stems from the hopes of creating a citrus based economy, but the Great Freeze of 1895 decimated the option of this dream, much as it did for the neighboring area of Mandarin across the river. As a sleepy farming community, Orange Park remained sparsely populated until the building of the Buckman Bridge across the St. John's River in 1970. This became an alternate method of crossing the expansive river, with the other 2 routes being the Fuller Warren Bridge in Jacksonville, and the Shands Bridge to the South in the county seat of Green Cove Springs. The bridge carries the traffic of the !-295 Beltway across the river.
While this development opened up the area to rapid growth, it has also been known to stagnate growth, as the capacity of traffic on the bridge has often exceeded its capabilities. The Northbound and Southbound (more accurately, the Eastbound and Westbound) lanes of the bridge are constructed on different bridge structures, meaning that an incident as innocuous as an automobile breakdown can snarl traffic for hours in one direction or the other. Nonetheless, the completion of the bridge spurred rapid development in the area from the early 1970's right up until today. Orange Park is also accessible from the West side of Jacksonville by Roosevelt Boulevard and Blanding Boulevard. JAX NAS is directly to the South of the bridge, and military training exercises can often be viewed from the bridge. It is not uncommon to see crab traps or small fishing vessels around the bridge structure.
Orange Park has become a large bedroom community of the Jacksonville Metropolitan area. In addition to numerous subdivisions, there is quite a bit of commercial activity in the community. Many big-box stores are in the area, including Lowe's, Home Depot, Best Buy and others. The Orange Park Mall, once one of the largest in all of Northeast Florida, has suffered the same fate as malls across the country, and is now just a shell of what it once was. Jacksonville Memory Gardens was the initial final resting place for the 3 members of the Lynyrd Skynyrd rock band that perished in October of 1977, although their remains were moved to undisclosed locations after a vandalism incident involving the grave site in 2000. Orange Park was also the residence of country singer Slim Whitman when he passed away in 2013. Many residents of Orange Park have ties to the US military, due to its proximity to JAX NAS.
Orange Park continues to be a popular area for families that want to live near Jacksonville, but would like a more suburban lifestyle than the city affords them. Lots tend to be larger than those in Jacksonville, and housing is still at affordable levels. Many homes are 1500 to 1900 square foot ranch style homes, that were very popular in the 1970's & 1980's, but some of the newer construction features 2 story larger homes with over 2000 square feet of living area. Although crossing the Buckman Bridge can be hit or miss during rush hour traffic, it does not seem to be a big deterrent to families coming to the area. True to its name, Doctor's Lake and Doctor's Inlet on the southern edge of Orange Park seem to be popular with people connected to the medical facilities in and around Jacksonville.
Some of the popular neighborhoods in Orange Park include: Holly Parke
Bounded on the North by the Clay/Duval County Line, on the East by the St Johns River, on the South by Doctor's Inlet/Doctor's Lake/Swimming Pen Creek/through swamp to Black Creek, on the South by Black Creek, and on the West by CR-209/Little Black Creek/Double Prong Branch/South Prong Branch and at the Brannon/Chaffee Rd & South Prong Branch- Due West to Mill Branch/Yellow Water Creek.