Leesburg is a city in Lake County, Florida, United States. The population was 15,956 at the 2000 census. As of 2005, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau was 19,086. Leesburg is in central Florida, between Lake Harris and Lake Griffin, at the head of the Oklawaha River system.
Leesburg was first settled in 1857 by Evander McIver Lee. Several of his brothers followed him to the area. One of them, Calvin Lee, was credited with giving the town its name. The city was incorporated in 1875, and was designated as the county seat of Sumter County for a time. When Lake County was formed in 1887, Tavares was designated as its seat.
In the early 20th century, Leesburg was an important center for watermelon production. In 1930, it held its first Watermelon Festival, an annual tradition that lasted for nearly 30 years. But gradually watermelon production dwindled and, for the last festival in 1957, watermelons had to be brought to the city from outside the area.
In 1938, during the Great Depression, the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration invested in infrastructure and improvement projects across the county. Its Works Progress Administration began work on the Venetian Gardens waterside park, located on the shores of Lake Harris. These canals and gardens have been a centerpiece of the community ever since.
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