In 1980, the City of Ocala proposed widening SE Wenona Avenue, connecting it with NE 8th Avenue and continuing it to SE 17th Street. Many buildings that embody the history of Ocala during the late 19th and early 20th centuries were threatened. In response to the proposed widening, a group of concerned residents of the neighborhood, known as the Wenona Association, banded together to stop this intrusion. Other citizens, and the Ocala Women’s Club, also opposed the plan. Following a petition drive and public hearing, the group defeated the city proposal. As a result of these efforts, the Historic Ocala Preservation Society, HOPS, was founded.
Prior to 1980, little historic preservation activity had occurred in Ocala. For more than 40 years, HOPS has worked to preserve the history of Ocala through many different avenues. Since its formation, the volunteer run organization has worked with the City of Ocala and Marion County on multiple projects, including establishing the four historic districts, donated the Downtown Gazebo to the City of Ocala, placed Fessenden Elementary School and Lake Weir Yacht Club on the National Register of Historic Places, established educational programs for the youth of Marion County, developed walking tours of the Downtown, Southeast, and Tuscawilla Historic Districts, implemented an On-Cell Program for self-guided tours throughout the districts, supported preservationist efforts before the Ocala Preservation Historic Advisory Board, offered research assistance to historic property owners, and saved many properties from demolition.