Track 2: Materials over Time: Points of Change
APT Student Scholar Abstract
What is Ocala block?
Tuesday, September 25
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: BNCC- 101BG
Morris Hylton, Prof. – University of Florida
"Years ago, you could buy something called Ocala Block that manufacturers around the state made in varying sizes, colours and shapes."
- Ruck, Dan. "Concrete Blocks: They Don't Make 'em like They Used to." South Florida Business Journal, December 3, 2001.
Ocala Block is a very commonly used name for a type of concrete masonry unit in Florida. Popular as a building material in the North Central and Southwest regions of the state, Ocala block reached its peak usage during the mid-twentieth century and eventually faded from the manufacturing and construction market by the end of the mid-century era (1970s-1980s).
Word of mouth suggests that the composition of the block includes the special, local limestone of Central and West Florida known as 'Ocala limestone', which was named for the town of Ocala, Florida where the stone was first observed and recorded by geologists. With a colour palette ranging from cream to light ochre, Ocala block came in varying sizes and in hollow and solid form as compared to the standardized traditional concrete masonry units.
Despite its ubiquitous presence in the built fabric of Florida, including in both high-style structures and vernacular buildings, Ocala block has no recorded history or any written literature that speaks of its origin, wide public appeal, and composition and materiality.
The author’s master’s thesis deals with this primary investigation of 'Ocala Block', exploring the material’s origin, composition, standardization, and widespread popularity and application.
The thesis is divided into a tripartite investigation on 'What is Ocala block?': first being the ‘Contextual Investigation' exploring the historicity of Ocala town, its mining and manufacturing history is analyzed along with the architectural context of mid-twentieth century Florida; second being the 'Technical Investigation' examining detail and use of concrete blocks from early to mid-twentieth century, especially in Florida, from an industrial perspective has been assessed along with the geologic understanding of 'Ocala limestone', followed by a primary materials analyses of samples of Ocala block in order to decode a broad recipe(s); the third component is the 'Anecdotal Research' consisting of several leads on the Ocala block that are significant to this primary research, but not be extrapolated keeping the parameters/limitations of a thesis in mind.
Ocala Block, its nomenclature and a distinct appearance make it exclusive to Florida, which asks for development of literature for its tangible and intangible values. Absent in the market now, but existing extensively in the building stock of the mid-twentieth century, a discourse needs to begin on its materiality for future preservation.
- Upon completion, participant will be able to define what the origin of the moniker 'Ocala block' and why.
- Upon completion, participant will be able to convey what the visual markers are for an Ocala block.
- Upon completion, participant will be able to gauge a basic recipe for Ocala block.
- Upon completion, participant will be able to describe why Ocala block faded from the construction market at the end of the mid-century period.