An Overview of the History of Babcock Ranch

When you move to Babcock Ranch, imagine what life was like as a ranch hand there.

That’s because Babcock Ranch was once Crescent B Ranch. There was cattle ranching, tree farming, rock mining, vegetable growing, alligator farming and even experimental ostrich breeding.

Imagine cowmen rounding up free-range cattle over a territory that covered 91,000 acres. That explains why Floridians call them cow hunters.

Of course, before the arrival of European settlers, the region was inhabited by the Calusa Indians, a tribe that has since disappeared. The Seminole Tribe still calls Southwest Florida home, however.

But modern history brought spirited settlers to the area now called Babcock Ranch. An overview of the history of Babcock Ranch will make you feel like you belong to a long line of settlers who were awed by the natural beauty of the region.

Early history

The Perry Wadsworth McAdow family made its fortune in the Spotted Horse gold mines of Fergus County, Montana. Like today’s northern visitors, the family took to Southwest Florida’s warmer weather and purchased what is now Babcock Ranch in the late 1800s.

The McAdow family had a significant influence on trade in the region that stretched to Punta Gorda and it quickly became a hub for commerce. Perry McAdow became president of the Punta Gorda Bank, chartered in 1899 with $15,000 in capital. The bank building also housed Earnest Dry Goods, the Punta Gorda Trading Company, Wade’s Drug Store and McAdow Hall.

Babcock History

In 1914, Pittsburgh lumber magnate and politicians Edward Babcock purchased the 91,000-acre Crescent B Ranch and renamed it Babcock Ranch.

Timber business was brisk because the pine-tree resin the Babcocks harvested was valuable because of its power to ward off termites. The most prominent customers were diamond mines in South Africa, which used the resin for to keep the pesky wood-eating bugs at bay.

By the 1930s, Edward’s son Fred Babcock expanded the ranch’s operations with new businesses such as rock mining, alligator farming, vegetable farming and swamp buggy tours.

After Fred Babcock’s death, the heirs of the ranch attempted to sell it to the state. But those negotiations ended in 2005 without a sale.

Enter Syd Kitson

In 2006, developer Syd Kitson engineered the purchase of Babcock Ranch and sold 73,000 acres to the state and Lee County for preservation.  It is the single-largest land preservation effort in Florida’s history.

Kitson retained 18,000 acres to build the town of Babcock Ranch, the world’s first new town powered primarily by the sun. In a partnership with Florida Power & Light, the FPL Babcock Ranch Energy Center provides 74.5 megawatts of energy. The 330,000 panels will power the 19,500 homes and 6 million square feet of commercial space that will eventually make up the town.

The solar field is located north of the town of Babcock Ranch on land donated by Kitson and is owned and operated by Florida Power. The FPL Babcock Ranch Energy Center will produce so much energy that there will be extra left over to power other areas of Southwest Florida.

To learn more about Babcock Ranch, please call 877-484-4344.