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Astor is a census-designated place (CDP) in Lake County, Florida, United States. It is located along the St. Johns River between Lake George and Lake Dexter, across from the community of Volusia in Volusia County. The population was 1,487 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Orlando–Kissimmee–Sanford Metropolitan Statistical Area.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,487 people, 641 households, and 444 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 603.3 people per square mile (233.4/km²). There were 1,027 housing units at an average density of 416.6/sq mi (161.2/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 96.97% White, 0.67% African American, 0.81% Native American, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 1.21% from other races, and 0.27% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.15% of the population.
There were 641 households out of which 20.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.2% were married couples living together, 7.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.7% were non-families. 24.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.68.
In the CDP the population was spread out with 19.9% under the age of 18, 5.2% from 18 to 24, 20.4% from 25 to 44, 30.6% from 45 to 64, and 23.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 48 years. For every 100 females there were 97.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.7 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $31,284, and the median income for a family was $31,786. Males had a median income of $22,074 versus $20,949 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $14,467. About 9.2% of families and 12.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.3% of those under age 18 and 6.7% of those age 65 or over.
Astor is located at 29°10′N 81°32′W (29.1639, -81.5346).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2), all of it land (this measurement seems to exclude Astor’s network of canals, which extends over 4 miles (6.4 km) in length, providing river access for many of its residents.) Astor lies entirely within the boundaries of the Ocala National Forest.
Astor is primarily accessible by land via State Road 40, which is the main highway through the community. State Road 40 bisects the Ocala National Forest, approaching Astor from the west and continuing east over the Astor Bridge across the St. Johns River to Volusia, in Volusia County.
The Astor area and much of the land along the St. Johns River was inhabited by Timucua natives prior to settlement by Europeans. Early attempts at settlement included an English trading post in 1763, and in 1822 a plantation growing sugar cane and oranges was established by Jewish immigrant Moses Elias Levy. By 1838 the Seminole Wars had begun and the United States government established Fort Butler to defend the river as the primary route of transportation inside Florida. These earliest efforts at settlement all met with failure due to war or disease, and until the 1870s the area was largely deserted.
In 1874, William Backhouse Astor, Jr. from New York City’s wealthy Astor family purchased over 12,000 acres (49 km2) of land, upon which he began to establish a town he called Manhattan. New settlers arrived by steamboat to the town which Astor had endowed with a church, schoolhouse, botanical garden, and free cemetery. William Astor also built a hotel, saw mill, and eventually a railroad, the St. John’s and Lake Eustis Railway, which departed town headed inland towards the communities of Eustis and Leesburg. A few miles to the west of town, a satellite community called Astor Park grew up along the shore of Lake Schimmerhorn (named for Astor’s wife, Caroline Schermerhorn Astor). Over the next twenty years Astor saw his town grow, but the Manhattan name never caught on. When William Astor died in 1892, the town was officially renamed Astor in his honor.
John Jacob Astor IV inherited his father William’s estate and continued to promote the town and their business interests in Florida. Following his demise in the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, the estate passed to his son, Vincent. William Vincent Astor was not interested in his grandfather’s Florida enterprises, and so the Astor family’s interests in the area were sold. This, combined with a severe decline in steamboat travel on the St. Johns due to increased availability of rail travel signaled the end of the town’s prosperity and prominence. The first Astor Bridge was built in 1926; by 1928, Astor’s hotel had burned down and the railroad was abandoned, leaving Astor without telephone or telegraph service for the next few decades.
DeLand hosts all home games for Stetson University Hatters athletic teams. The men’s and women’s basketball teams play at the J. Ollie Edmunds Center, an on-campus arena which opened in 1974 and seats approximately 5,000 spectators.
The Hatters baseball team plays at Melching Field at Conrad Park, a 2,500-seat ballpark located off campus just south of downtown DeLand. Melching Field was built in 1999 and is recognized as one of the finer college baseball venues in the NCAA, having hosted numerous Atlantic Sun Conference championships and other baseball related tournaments and events. Prior to the opening of Melching Field, the Hatters played at old Conrad Park on the same site, which also hosted spring training games in the 1940s and 1950s and the DeLand Red Hats, a Florida State League minor league franchise.
Today the community of Astor is largely reliant upon tourism, and is a popular spot for winter visitors from the north and fishing, hunting, and boating enthusiasts.