What is Ocala block?
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Ocala block was a popular choice for building homes in mid-20th century Gainesville and around Florida. It’s made of solid concrete, looks like an oversize brick, and has a defining characteristic that limestone was used as an aggregate in the concrete mix to achieve a beige to salmon color range.
“We believe there was no one company called ‘Ocala Block,’ but many manufacturers across the state,” according to Morris Hylton, Director of the Historic Preservation Program at the University of Florida School of Architecture. “The limestone used to create the blocks was from a quarry in Ocala—which lends it the range of colors. The limestone was not good enough to produce solid stone blocks, but okay to be crushed and used in road material and manufacture of the Ocala block.”
When we come across Ocala block houses today during our home inspections, it has often been painted over, like in the photo above. But the block was intended to remain bare and mid-century Florida architects working in a modern style, like Paul Rudolph and Donald Singer, prized the material for it’s natural color. “I love my Ocala block because it never has to be painted,” one practical Gainesville homeowner recently told us.
The blocks were also sometimes custom-manufactured to an unusual shape designed by the architect for a specific project. The wall of the visitors center at Cedar Key State Park, shown below, is one interesting example.
To learn about another historic building material, one that is also unique to Gainesville, see our blog post “What is a chert house?”
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