Much of the land which the city now occupies was part of a 160-acre (65 ha) farm owned by Darel Zachary (1827-1907). In the 1880s, Zachary sold his land to the Illinois Central Railroad, who built a track and a depot on it. A village quickly grew up around the depot, which came to be called "Zachary" after the original farmer. Zachary's first post office was opened in 1885, and it was incorporated as a city on August 2, 1889, with Thomas Edward McHugh as its first mayor. A fire devastated the city in 1903, supposedly caused by a greengrocer trying to flame-ripen his bananas. The "historic village" at the center of the city is composed of buildings which either survived the fire, or were built shortly after it, the oldest (excluding the depot) being the 1898 Allison House. The first census was carried out in 1914 and reported just 419 residents. Zachary was the first city in Louisiana since the Reconstruction Era to elect a Republican as mayor, Jack Louis Breaux.