Articles, Blog

Gainesville, Florida

August 12, 2019


Gainesville is the county seat and largest
city in Alachua County, Florida, and the principal city of the Gainesville, Florida Metropolitan
Statistical Area. The population of Gainesville in the 2010 United States Census was 124,354.
Gainesville is the largest city in the region of North Central Florida.
Gainesville is home to the University of Florida, the nation’s eighth largest university campus
by enrollment, as well as to Santa Fe College. The Gainesville MSA was ranked as the #1 place
to live in North America in the 2007 edition of Cities Ranked and Rated. Also in 2007,
Gainesville was ranked as one of the “best places to live and play” in the United States
by National Geographic Adventure. Gainesville was ranked as the “5th meanest city” in the
United States by the National Coalition for the Homeless twice, first in 2004 for its
criminalization of homelessness and then in 2009 for its ordinance restricting soup kitchens
to 130 meals a day. History
Native American, Pre-European Circa 12,000 years ago Paleo-Indians lived
in Florida, but fewer than 100 sites have been found. Although it is not known for certain
whether any permanent settlements from that period were in the present city limits of
Gainesville, archeological evidence of human presence exists. With the end of the ice age
to the north, sea levels rose so that coastal Florida became inundated and Florida’s land
mass shrank while the southeastern United States became wetter than it had been, so
the Paleo-Indians required fewer moves between water spots and more populous camps inhabited
for longer periods of time emerged; among the spots where camps from this later period
have been found is around Paynes Prairie very close to Gainesville.
Eventually more complex social organization and agricultural practices emerged into what
archeologists classify as the Deptford culture. A Deptford culture campsite has been excavated
beneath the subsequent Alachua culture “Law School Burial Mound” on the grounds of the
University of Florida. Around the 1st century AD, Deptford people commenced moving into
the environs of Gainesville to take advantage of wetlands in the environs of Paynes Prairie
and northern Orange Lake, becoming the Cades Pond culture. In the 7th century the Deptford people were
displaced by migrants thought to be from the Ocmulgee culture of the river valleys of southern
Georgia, dubbed the Alachua culture since most of their villages have been found in
present-day Alachua County. The UF campus burial mound was built about 1000 A.D. by
Alachua culture inhabitants who probably lived along the shore of Lake Alice.
Alachua culture villages budded off to form clusters connected by a series of forest trails,
many of which are still in use as paved roads; among these clusters are some in the present
city limits of Gainesville near the Devil’s Millhopper and near Moon Lake from the city
limits) as well as northwest of and north-central of Paynes Prairie, and west of Newnans Lake.
In the recorded period, the region was home to the Potano, a Timucua chiefdom descended
from Alachua culture people. European colonialization
Hernando de Soto and his army passed through Gainesville in August 1539 towards the beginning
of their four-year exploration of what is now the southeastern United States, the third
village where they stayed, Utinamocharra, having been in the dense cluster east of Moon
Lake at the northwestern edge of present-day Gainesville.
The Native Americans, having little resistance to diseases introduced from Europe, declined
significantly in number after the arrival of Europeans, and Spanish suppression of native
revolts further reduced the population. The remaining Timucua were converted to Roman
Catholicism and organized into missions overseen by Franciscan priests. The Mission San Francisco
de Potano, the first doctrina in Florida west of the St. Johns River, was founded in 1606
at the south edge of present-day San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park. In or adjacent
to present-day Gainesville were two other missions, Santa Ana and San Miguel, which
were south of and within a day’s walk from San Francisco, and are thought to be in the
cluster east of Moon Lake where Spanish and Indian artifacts from the Mission-period have
been found. The earliest missions were apparently established adjacent to native villages visited
by De Soto’s expedition; Santa Ana is thought to be located where Utinamocharra lay, and
in 1606 the friar who served as the priest was told of cruelties that the chief, when
a boy, had suffered from De Soto’s men. Chief Potano’s town was relocated in the colonial
period to the vicinity of the Devil’s Millhopper, which is now inside the Gainesville city limits,
from the western shore of Orange Lake. In the first decade of the 18th century, however,
colonial soldiers from the Province of Carolina and their Yamasee Indian allies had killed
or carried off nearly all the remaining native inhabitants and the few remaining Timucua
fled and ended up living in the vicinity of St. Augustine.
Spanish colonists began cattle ranching in the Paynes Prairie area using Timucua labor,
and the largest hacienda became known as La Chua. Although La Chua was destroyed by the
above-mentioned raiders from Carolina, the ranch nevertheless gave its name to the Alachua
band of the Seminole tribe who settled in the region in the 18th century under the leadership
of the great chief Ahaya the Cowkeeper. Early American settlement
Gainesville was founded to place the Alachua County seat on the proposed route of the Florida
Railroad Company’s line stretching from Cedar Key to Fernandina Beach. County residents
decided to move the county seat from Newnansville in 1853, as the proposed railroad would bypass
Newnansville. A site on Black Oak Ridge where the railroad was expected to cross it was
selected in 1854. It is generally accepted that the new settlement was named for General
Edmund P. Gaines, commander of U.S. Army troops in Florida early in the Second Seminole War.
The railroad was completed from Fernandina to Gainesville in 1859, passing six blocks
south of the courthouse. It is claimed that Gainesville was originally
named Hogtown; however, Hogtown was actually an early 19th-century settlement in and around
what is now Westside Park where a historical marker notes Hogtown’s location at that site.
Hogtown is the eponymous village of the adjacent Hogtown Creek which flows 5.7 miles through
Gainesville. Hogtown continued to exist until after Gainesville was founded, as evidenced
on a map showing both towns which was published in 1864 based on surveys from 1855. Two residents
of Hogtown played a prominent role in establishing Gainesville. William Lewis, who owned a plantation
in Hogtown, delivered 20 votes pledged to him to create a new town on the expected route
of the railroad, in an attempt to have the new town named Lewisville. Tillman Ingram,
who also owned a plantation and a sawmill in Hogtown, helped swing the vote to move
the county seat to the new town by offering to build a new courthouse at a low price.
Residents of Newnansville, disgruntled at losing the county seat, called the site chosen
for the new town “Hog Wallow”, because of its location between Hogtown and Paynes Prairie.
The former site of Hogtown was annexed by the City of Gainesville in 1961.
A town site of 103.25 acres was purchased for $642.51. The County Commission ordered
the public sale of lots in the town site in 1854, but no deeds were recorded until 1856.
A courthouse was constructed in Gainesville in 1856, and the county seat was then officially
moved from Newnansville. A jail was built in 1857, and a well was dug and a pump for
public use installed the same year. Property values rose quickly. A city block on the edge
of town purchased for $14.57 in 1857 sold for $100 in 1858. The railroad from Fernandina
reached Gainesville in 1859, and connected to Cedar Key the next year. By that time,
there were eight or nine stores and three hotels surrounding the courthouse square.
Secession and the Civil War In the 1850s secessionist sentiment was strong
in Gainesville. Half of the white residents in Gainesville had been born in South Carolina,
or had parents who had been born in that state. Aside from a few foreign-born residents, the
other whites in town had also been born in Florida or other Southern states. Another
factor was fear of blacks. Blacks, mostly slaves, were a majority of the population
in Alachua County. John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 frightened the whites in Gainesville,
leading them to organize a militia company called the Gainesville Minute Men.
The Gainesville Minute Men were incorporated into the First Florida Regiment soon after
Florida seceded from the Union. Several more companies were recruited in Gainesville and
Alachua County during the Civil War. During the war Gainesville served as a depot for
food requisitioned by the Confederate government from the surrounding area. A small post on
the east side of Gainesville called Fort Lee was an induction point for men entering the
Confederate States Army. Fighting on a small scale reached Gainesville
twice. On February 15, 1864, a small Union raiding party occupied Gainesville. Elements
of the Second Florida Cavalry attempted to drive the Union force from the town but were
defeated in a street battle. The raiding party was associated with a larger Union invasion
of Florida that was defeated at the Battle of Olustee five days later. The Union troops
did not seize or destroy any property on this raid, but did distribute food stores to the
residents, who were suffering from shortages. Six months later, early in the morning of
August 17, 1864, 265 Union troops and 15 “loyal Floridians” reached Gainesville. The troops
stopped just east of town to prepare breakfast and care for their horses. A small home guard
of 30 to 40 old men and boys attacked the Union camp, and were easily driven off. The
Union troops then broke ranks and started looting the town. While the Union troops were
scattered throughout the town a large number of Confederate troops were spotted approaching.
The Union troops resisted the Confederate advance for an hour and a half, but were finally
driven from Gainesville with heavy casualties. After the Civil War
For several months following the Civil War, the 3rd United States Colored Troops were
stationed in Gainesville, which encouraged freed men to settle there. At the same time
black farm laborers were recruited from Georgia and South Carolina to help harvest what was
expected to be a very large cotton crop, but heavy rain ruined the cotton, and the recently
arrived blacks were left without work. Black residents soon outnumbered whites in Gainesville,
which had had 223 white residents in 1860. Vagrancy and theft became major problems in
Gainesville, and large numbers of blacks were arrested by federal troops.
White residents resumed political life in Florida immediately after the end of the Civil
War. Gainesville incorporated as a city in 1866, but the city government was weak and
the council did not maintain a regular schedule of meetings. With military control asserted
over Florida in 1867 as part of Reconstruction, the reconstituted Florida legislature required
all cities to re-incorporate, and Gainesville did so in 1869. During Reconstruction Gainesville
blacks were elected to a number of state and local offices. Blacks had largely been disenfranchised
by the 1890s, however. Following the Civil War, the city prospered
as an important cotton shipping facility. Florida produced more Sea Island Cotton in
the 1880s than any other state, and Gainesville was the leading shipping point for cotton
in Florida. Two more railroads had reached Gainesville by the 1880s, and citrus and vegetables
had become important local crops. However, the citrus industry ended when the great freezes
of 1894−95 and 1899 destroyed the crops, and citrus growing was largely abandoned in
the area. Phosphate mining and lumbering became important parts of the local economy. A manufacturing
area grew up south of downtown, near the railroads. The first school for blacks in Gainesville,
the Union Academy, was established in 1866 by the Freedmen’s Bureau to educate freed
slaves. White residents of Gainesville were opposed to education for blacks and treated
the teachers at the school badly, including incidents of boys throwing “missiles” into
the classrooms. By 1898 the school served 500 students, and it continued in operation
until 1929. White students had only private schools available before 1869, including the
East Florida Seminary, which moved from Ocala in 1866 and merged with the Gainesville Academy.
Even after a public school system had been established in Alachua County, most white
children who went to school did so at private schools, and the Union Academy was in session
for a larger part of the year, and its teachers were better paid, than was the case for the
public schools. Public education remained underfunded into the 1880s, classes having
to meet in abandoned houses or rented rooms. The school year for public schools was as
short as three months for some years. The first public school building was built in
1885. The Gainesville Graded and High School, with twelve classrooms and an auditorium,
opened in 1900, and most of the private schools closed soon after. The county school board
also provided some funds for upkeep of the Union Academy.
There was no dedicated church building in Gainesville in the first years of its existence.
A church built in 1859 by the Presbyterians was shared by itinerant preachers of several
denominations until 1874. The Methodist mission to Gainesville lapsed during the Civil War,
and a church they had built was used by a black congregation after the war. Several
white Protestant denominations organized congregations and built churches in the 1870s. Catholics,
who had been holding services in private homes for 25 years, built a church in 1887. Jewish
families began moving to Gainesville in the late 1860s. Although a Jewish cemetery was
established in 1872, there was no synagogue in Gainesville until 1924.
Gainesville was a rough town after the Civil War and into the early 20th century. Whites
and blacks commonly carried firearms, and gunshots were often heard at night. Killings
and serious injuries were frequent. Some of the violence was racial. Young Mens Democratic
Clubs, formed in the late 1860s to fight political domination by Republican northerners and blacks,
reportedly burned the homes of many Republicans and killed nineteen people, including five
blacks. A black man was taken from the jail and lynched in 1871. In 1891 a black man and
a white man, members of a dreaded gang, were also taken from the jail and lynched. Later
that year a black man accused of giving shelter to Harmon Murray, another member of that gang,
was also taken from the jail and lynched. The city had only a single police officer
until well into the 20th century, which was inadequate to deal with the violence. A posse
authorized by the city council also did little to stem the violence. Punishments for crime
included public executions, the pillory, lashes and fines. A volunteer fire department was organized
in 1882, but was unable to stop several fires in 1884 that burned most of the wooden buildings
in downtown Gainesville. The burned buildings were replaced with brick structures. A brick
courthouse replaced the old wooden one in 1885. Public utilities were gradually installed
in the city late in the 19th century; gas in 1887, water in 1891, and telephones and
electricity later in the 1890s. By 1900 Gainesville was the seventh largest city in Florida, with
over 3,600 residents. The Republican Party remained strong in Gainesville
even after the end of Reconstruction in 1876 because of the large number of blacks and
Northern whites who had moved there after the Civil War. Some Southerners had also joined
the Republican Party. Alachua County was one of the few counties in Florida that was won
by the Republican Party in the election of 1880. In the 1880s Republicans and Democrats
reached an accommodation. In the election of 1883 most city races were won by wide majorities,
with both Republicans and Democrats, white and blacks, being elected. There was tension
within the Republican Party between blacks and Northern whites, however. By 1885 the
arrival of whites from northern states and the departure of blacks gave Gainesville a
white majority. The imposition by the Florida Legislature in 1889 of a poll tax and a de
facto literacy test in the form of separate ballot boxes for each office, which required
voters to be able to read labels on the boxes in order to vote correctly, effectively disenfranchised
most blacks. Some blacks switched to the Democratic Party, further weakening the Republicans,
and the Republican Party ceased to be a factor in Gainesville politics in the 1890s.
20th century Major change came to Gainesville early in
the 20th century. Citizens felt that the city did not have sufficient resources and powers
to provide the services demanded in a growing city. The state legislature was asked to grant
Gainesville a new charter, and in 1905 it did so, also enlarging the city limits. The
city offered its first bond issue the same year. Money from bond issues was used to start
a sewer system and pave important streets, initially with crushed rock, and after 1910,
with bricks. When private companies were unable to provide adequate electric service to Gainesville,
the city built a generating plant, which became operational in 1914.
Another development in 1905 had a significant impact on the future of Gainesville. At the
time, Florida was funding eight post-secondary schools. Concerned about rising requests for
funding and duplication of course offerings, the state legislature passed the Buckman Act,
consolidating the eight institutions into four segregated schools, including, for white
men, the University of the State of Florida. Gainesville competed for the university, with
Lake City as its principal rival. Gainesville offered free water for the school from the
city system, 500 acres west of the city, purchase of the East Florida Seminary site from the
state for $30,000, and $40,000 cash. The fact that Alachua was a dry county, banning the
sale of all alcohol other than low-alcohol beer, was viewed as a factor in favor of Gainesville.
The state selected Gainesville, causing the biggest celebration in the history of the
city. The university opened with 136 students in
the fall of 1906. For the first decade of the school’s existence it was in a rural setting,
connected to downtown Gainesville by a single crushed rock road. The school had to close
its gates at night to keep wandering cows out. Buildings at the university were originally
built with state funds, but in 1919 the city contributed $1,000 for a new gymnasium to
help bring the New York Giants to town for spring training. As the university grew, commercial
establishments spread westward along University Avenue and new subdivisions were developed
near the campus. The city experienced growing pains in the
first decades of the century. The city’s only water supply had been Boulware Springs for
many years, but the limits of its supply had been reached, and the city could no longer
connect new subdivisions to city utilities. A bond issue was required to drill a well
and build a water tower. A fire house was built in 1903, and the fire department was
modernized, replacing its last horses with motorized equipment in 1913. However, the
department remained a volunteer organization until the 1920s.
Gainesville’s economy was still dominated by agriculture. Gainesville was a major shipping
point for cotton until the industry was devastated by the boll weevil infestation in 1916-18,
after which cotton was abandoned as a crop in the area. Truck farming had become important
in north central Florida, with large shipments of vegetables and melons from Gainesville
to markets in the northern US. Phosphate mining continued to be important, although starting
to decline, and industries such as processing naval stores and making fertilizer thrived
in Gainesville. World War I severely affected the economy in Gainesville. Markets in Europe,
in particular Germany, were cut off by the war, and phosphate mining and the naval stores
industry went into a slump, aggravated by the loss of cotton processing and shipping.
Boom and bust Gainesville participated in the national economic
boom that followed the end of World War I. In 1925, Gainesville was swept up by the land
boom that had started in Miami Beach earlier in the year. New subdivisions were platted
and auctioned, binders on property were sold and resold with ever increasing prices, and
almost 100 real estate brokers and agents were registered in Gainesville on the first
day licenses were required. Plans were floated to build a modern first-class hotel in Gainesville.
After a false start in which the financing plans fell through, a developer from southern
Florida who had become heavily involved in the real estate market in Gainesville, W.
McKey Kelly, put forward plans for a ten-story, 120-room hotel. Construction on the Hotel
Kelly, also known as the Dixie Hotel, started in 1926, but Kelly ran out of money before
construction was completed, and the collapse of the land boom doomed the project. The unfinished
hotel sat empty for more than a decade until a federal grant and private donation allowed
its completion as the Seagle Building. Glen Springs hosted the first concrete swimming
pool in Gainesville in the mid-1920s. It was a popular recreation site for over 40 years.
Changes in city government occurred in the 1920s. The city changed its charter to add
a city manager. The police force was increased from three men to nine, and a desk sergeant
was available to answer a telephone 24 hours a day. A county hospital opened in Gainesville
in 1928. More streets were paved, using asphalt rather than bricks. Increasing demand for
electricity led the city commission to consider contracting with Florida Power and Light rather
than issuing bonds to expand the city generating capacity, but voters passed an amendment to
the city charter forbidding any such deal. With a booming population, schools had become
overcrowded. Gainesville High School was opened in 1926 and expanded two years later. The
old Gainesville Graded and High School became an elementary school. Lincoln School, offering
12 grades for blacks, opened in 1923. It was the first public high school for blacks in
Gainesville. The Ku Klux Klan became active in Gainesville
in the early 1920s. As elsewhere, it was anti-black, anti-semitic, and anti-Catholic, and professed
to uphold morality. In an early incident, a worker was kidnapped from his job late at
night and beaten severely for neglecting his wife and children. A police officer had tried
to intervene, but retreated when guns were drawn. City officials condoned the incident.
Former mayor William Reuben Thomas condemned the event and called for the mayor and police
chief, who apparently were members of the Klan, to step down, to no avail. The Klan
also objected to a Catholic priest who had organized a drama club at the University,
and in 1923 Catholic priests were officially banned from all state college campuses. The
next year three men in full Klan regalia kidnapped the priest from his rectory, beat him severely,
and castrated him. The priest and another witness identified two of the kidnappers as
the mayor and police chief of Gainesville, but there was no publicity and no investigation
of the incident. In the 1930s the Klan took credit for burning down the houses of prostitution
on North Main Street, ostensibly to protect the morals of the students at the University.
The collapse of the land boom in 1925-1926 had not been as severe in Gainesville as in
southern Florida, but did cool off the local economy. As a result, the Wall Street Crash
of 1929 was not felt as strongly as in many other places. The city of Gainesville remained
solvent throughout the Great Depression, and unemployment was lower than in most of the
country. Agriculture continued to be a mainstay of the local economy. In 1922 tung trees were
planted in Alachua County, and Gainesville became the center of tung oil production in
the United States. Tung oil had previously been available only from China. Both tung
oil and tung tree seeds were shipped around the world from Gainesville. The University
of Florida, with about 1,000 employees and 2,000 students, helped stabilize the local
economy during the Depression. In the middle and late 1930s various New Deal programs brought
money and employment to Gainesville. Utility lines were extended, streets paved and sidewalks
installed. The Seagle Building was completed and occupied by the University of Florida.
An airport, Gainesville’s first, was built. World War II and after
World War II brought economic and population growth to Gainesville. Even before the United
States entered the war, the opening of Camp Blanding affected Gainesville, with soldiers
on leave visiting the city, and officers renting housing for their families. The airport was
improved and taken over by the Army Air Corps as the Alachua Army Airbase. Agriculture prospered
and local industries received contracts for producing military supplies. Building construction
also increased. The hospital was expanded with financial help from the federal government.
The university was used to train enlisted men, air cadets and officers.
The end of World War II brought even more growth to Gainesville. The G.I. Bill allowed
war veterans to attend college, and enrollment at the University of Florida boomed. More
than half of the approximately 9,000 students at the university in 1946-47 were veterans.
Many of the veterans had families, straining housing availability in the city. The university
became co-educational in 1947, with the admission of over 800 women. The population of Gainesville
doubled from 1940 to 1950, with construction and employment at the university becoming
more important in the city’s economy. The city’s power plant was inadequate for demand.
The federal government had required the city to buy electricity from private power companies
rather than expand its own generating capacity during World War II. After the voters again
rejected a proposal for the city to buy electric power wholesale, the city embarked on a major
expansion of power generation. The water and sewer systems also were greatly expanded.
The airport was returned to the city, and scheduled passenger flights started in 1950.
The police department expanded from about 10 officers in the 1930s to 40 by 1950. Also
in 1950, the old system of named streets was replaced by a quadrant system of numbered
streets. The rapid growth of Gainesville put a strain
on the public schools. When residents voted down proposals to issue bonds for school construction,
the school board acquired surplus barracks from army bases to use as temporary classroom.
The newer residents helped to pass school bond issues beginning in the 1950s. The return
of veterans to Gainesville and the growth of the university also began to influence
politics in Gainesville. In the 1930s, land ownership in and around Gainesville, and with
it political power, had become concentrated in fewer hands. Veterans returning to the
city after World War II had difficulty entering financial and political inner circles. University
faculty and staff had been well integrated into the community before the war, but the
growth after the war brought in many faculty who were dissatisfied with the political status
quo in Gainesville. To avert tensions with local politicians, J. Hillis Miller, president
of the university from 1947 to 1953, barred university faculty and staff from participating
in local politics. During the 1960s, Gainesville became a center
for college activism, and was described by then-professor Marshall Jones as “The Berkeley
of the South”. The city was the center of the Gainesville Eight case in the 1970s, in
which eight activists were accused of conspiracy to violently disrupt the 1972 Republican National
Convention in Miami Beach. After their acquittal, activism declined, but rose again during the
mid-1980s, as the University of Florida became the state’s focal point for anti-apartheid
activism. The city gained notoriety in 2010 and 2011
after local church Dove World Outreach Center was involved in anti-sharia law campaigns,
Quran burnings and the promotion of the “Innocence of Muslims” movie trailer.
Geography Gainesville is located at 29°39’55” North,
82°20’10” West, which is roughly the same latitude as Houston, Texas. According to the
United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 62.4 square miles, of which
61.3 square miles is land and 1.1 square miles is water. The total area is 1.74% water.
Gainesville’s tree canopy is both dense and species rich, including broadleaf evergreens,
conifers, and deciduous species; the city has been recognized by the National Arbor
Day Foundation every year since 1982 as a “Tree City, USA”.
Gainesville is the only city with more than 10,000 residents in the Gainesville, Florida
Metropolitan Statistical Area, and it is surrounded by rural area, including the 21,000-acre wilderness
of Paynes Prairie on its southern edge. The city is characterized by its medium size and
central location, about 90 minutes driving time from either Jacksonville or Orlando,
two hours driving time from Tampa, and five hours driving time from either Atlanta or
Miami. The area is dominated by the presence of the University of Florida, which in 2008
had been the third largest university campus in the USA and as of fall 2011 was the seventh
largest campus by enrollment in the USA. Climate
Gainesville’s climate is defined as humid subtropical. Due to its inland location, Gainesville
experiences wide temperature fluctuation for Florida. During the hot season, roughly from
May 15 to September 30, the city’s climate is similar to the rest of the state, with
frequent afternoon thunderstorms and high humidity. Temperatures range from the low
70s at night to around 92 °F during the day on average. The all-time record high of
104 °F was reached on June 27, 1952. From November through March, however, the Gainesville
area has a climate distinct from much of peninsular Florida with 16 nights of freezing or below
temperatures and sustained freezes occurring every few years. The all-time record low of
6 °F was reached on February 13, 1899, and the city experienced light snow and freezing
rain on Christmas Eve, 1989. Traces of snow were also recorded in 1976, 1996 and again
on December 26, 2010. The daily average temperature in January is 54.3 °F. In average winters,
Gainesville will see temperatures drop below 30 °F. As with the rest of the state, cold
temperatures are almost always accompanied by clear skies and high pressure systems;
snow is therefore rare. The city’s flora and fauna are also distinct
from coastal regions of the state, and include many deciduous species, such as dogwood, maple,
hickory and sweet gum, alongside palms, live oaks, and other evergreens. Thus, the city
enjoys brief periods of fall color in late November and December and a noticeable and
prolonged spring from mid February through early April. This is a generally pleasant
period, as colorful blooms of azalea and redbud complement a cloudless blue sky, for this
is also the period of the lowest precipitation and lowest humidity. The city averages 47.56
inches of rain per year. June thru September accounts for a majority of annual rainfall,
while autumn and early winter is the driest period.
Cityscape Since the 1990s, suburban sprawl has been
a concern for a majority of the city commissioners. However, the “New Urbanization” plan to gentrify
the area between historic Downtown and the University of Florida may slow the growth
of suburban sectors and spark a migration toward upper-level apartments in the inner
city. The area immediately north of the University of Florida is also seeing active redevelopment.
Many gentrification plans rely on tax incentives which have sparked controversy, and even so
are sometimes unsuccessful. University Corners, which would not have been proposed without
a $98 million tax incentive program by the city was to be “a crowning jewel of the city’s
redevelopment efforts”, 450 condos and hotel units and 98,000 square feet of retail space
in eight stories covering three city blocks, on 3.4 acres purchased for $15.5 million.
19 thriving businesses were demolished in April 2007, but in May 2008 deposit checks
were refunded to about 105 people who reserved units, and in July 2008 developers spent “$120,000
to beautify the site, so we won’t have this ugly green fence.”
The east side of Gainesville houses the majority of the African-American community within the
city, while the west side consists of the mainly white student and resident population.
There are also large-scale planned communities on the far west side, most notably Haile Plantation,
which was built on the site of a former plantation. The destruction of the city’s landmark Victorian
courthouse in the 1960s, which some considered unnecessary, brought the idea of historic
preservation to the attention of the community. The bland county building which replaced the
grand courthouse became known to some locals as the “air conditioner”. Additional destruction
of other historic buildings in the downtown followed. Only a small handful of older buildings
are left, like the Hippodrome State Theatre, at one time a federal building. Revitalization
of the city’s core has picked up, and many parking lots and underutilized buildings are
being replaced with infill development and near-campus housing which blend in with existing
historic structures. There is a proposal to rebuild a replica of the old courthouse on
a parking lot one block from the original location.
Helping in this effort are the number of areas and buildings which have been added to the
National Register of Historic Places. Dozens of examples of restored Victorian and Queen
Anne style residences constructed in the city’s agricultural heyday of the 1880s and 1890s
can be found in the following districts: Northeast Gainesville Residential District
Southeast Gainesville Residential District Pleasant Street Historic District
Additionally, the University of Florida Campus Historic District, consisting of eleven buildings,
plus an additional fourteen contributing properties, lie within the boundaries of the city. Most
of the buildings in the Campus Historic District are constructed in variations of Collegiate
Gothic architecture, which returned to prominence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Historic structures on the Register in and around downtown are:
Bailey Plantation House Colson House
Matheson House Thomas Hotel
The Old Post Office Masonic Temple
Seagle Building, downtown Gainesville’s tallest building.
Baird Hardware Company Warehouse Cox Furniture Store
Cox Furniture Warehouse Epworth Hall
Old Gainesville Depot Mary Phifer McKenzie House
Star Garage Developments and expansions
Butler Plaza- Expanding North. Celebration Pointe
Innovation Hub University Corners- Planned 10 story apartment
Complex. Demographics
The population of Gainesville was estimated to be 125,365 in 2011. The population of Gainesville
was 124,354 at the 2010 census, a 30.3% change from 2000. At the 2010 census there were 51,029
households, with 2.2 persons per household. Children under the age of 5 were 4.4% of the
population, under 18 13.4%, and people 65 years or over were 8.3% of the population.
64.9% of the population was white, 23.0% black, 6.9% Asian, 0.3% American Indians and Alaska
Natives, 0.1% Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, 1.9% some other race, and 2.9%
reporting two or more races. 10.0 percent were Hispanic or Latino of any race, and 58.7%
were non-Hispanic whites. 51.6% of the population were female. For the period 2007-11, the estimated
median household income $30,952, and the per capita income was $19,100.
Languages As of 2000, 87.10% of residents spoke English
as their first language, while 6.31% spoke Spanish, 1.28% spoke Chinese, 0.55% spoke
French, 0.52% spoke Korean, and 0.50% spoke German as their mother tongue. In total, 12.89%
of the total population spoke languages other than English.
Economy Numerous guides such as the 2004 book Cities
Ranked and Rated: More than 400 Metropolitan Areas Evaluated in the U.S. and Canada have
mentioned Gainesville’s low cost of living. The restaurants near the University of Florida
also tend to be inexpensive. The property taxes are high to offset the cost of the university,
as the university’s land is tax-exempt. However, the median home cost remains slightly below
the national average, and Gainesville residents, like all Floridians, do not pay state income
taxes. The city’s job market scored only 6 points
out of a possible 100 in the Cities Ranked and Rated guide, as the downside to the low
cost of living is an extremely weak local job market that is oversupplied with college-educated
residents. The median income in Gainesville is slightly below the U.S. average.
The city of Gainesville promotes solar power by allowing small businesses and homeowners
to supply electricity into the municipal power grid under favorable tariff. Presently the
purchasing rate is set at $0.32 per kilowatt-hour. The sports drink Gatorade was invented in
Gainesville in the 1960s as a means of refreshing the UF football team. UF still receives a
share of the profits from the beverage. However, Gatorade’s headquarters are now located in
Chicago. Top employers
According to Gainesville’s 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers
in the city are: Education All of the Gainesville urban area is served
by Alachua County Public Schools, which has some 75 different institutions in the county,
most of which are in the Gainesville area. Gainesville is also home to the University
of Florida and Santa Fe College. The University of Florida is a major financial boost to the
community, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenues are created by the
athletic events that occur at UF, including SEC football games. In all the University
of Florida contributes nearly $9 billion annually to Florida’s economy and is responsible for
more than 100,000 jobs. Other educational institutions include City
College, Oak Hall School, and Saint Francis Catholic High School.
Schools 17 elementary schools
5 middle schools 6 high schools
3 Colleges 8 Private Schools
Elementary schools Bobby Oaks Elementary School
Chiles Elementary School Duval Elementary School
JJ Finley Elementary School Foster Elementary School
Glen Springs Elementary School Hidden Oak Elementary School
Idylwilde Elementary School Lake Forest Elementary School
Littlewood Elementary School Meadowbrook Elementary School
Metcalfe Elementary School Norton Elementary School
Prairie View Elementary School Rawlings Elementary School
Talbot Elementary School Terwilliger Elementary School
Wiles Elementary School Williams Elementary School
Middle schools Middle schools in the county run from 6th
to 8th grades. Howard Bishop Middle School
Fort Clarke Middle School Kanapaha Middle School
Lincoln Middle School Westwood Middle School
High schools High schools in Gainesville run from 9th to
12th grades. Buchholz High School
Eastside High School Gainesville High School
Loften High School Oak Hall School
Saint Francis Catholic High School Private schools
Brentwood School Cornerstone Academy
Gainesville Country Day School Millhopper Montessori School
P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School Queen of Peace Academy
St. Patrick Interparish School The Rock School
Westwood Hills Christrian School Colleges & Universities
City College Santa Fe College
University of Florida City Libraries
The Alachua County Library District provides public library service to a county-wide population
of 253,451. The Library District has reciprocal borrowing agreements with the surrounding
counties of Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Marion,
Putnam, and Union. These agreements are designed to facilitate access to the most conveniently
located library facility regardless of an individual’s county of residence.
Transportation Major roads
Gainesville has an extensive road system, which is served by Interstate 75, and several
Florida State Routes, including State routes 20, 24, and 26, among others. Gainesville
is also served by US 441 and nearby US 301, which gives a direct route to Jacksonville,
Ocala, and Orlando. Interstate 75 runs northwest and southeast
across the western edge of the city, with interchanges at SR 121/SR 331, SR 24, SR 26,
and SR 222. U.S. Route 441 is the main local north and
south road through Gainesville. It runs on the eastern edge of University of Florida.
It is known to locals as 13th Street, before curving to the northwest and finally joining
SR 20, thereby converting it into an additional hidden state road. At the intersection of
SR 121, the DeSoto Trail moves from SR 121 to US 441.
State Road 20 runs Northwest and Southeast through Gainesville. In East Gainesville,
the road again becomes a stand-alone route that is four lanes wide Highway as it heads
to Hawthorne, Interlachen, and Palatka State Road 24 runs northeast and sowthwest
through Gainesville. The Northeast corner of SR 24 and SR 222 is the site of the Gainesville
Regional Airport, before heading to Waldo, Starke, and Jacksonville
State Road 26 is the main local east and west road through Gainesville. It spans from Fanning
Springs to Putnam Hall in Putnam County. State Road 121 runs north and south on the
western part of the city. The DeSoto Trail breaks away. As SR 121 Heads north to Lake
Butler, Raiford, and Macclenny. State Road 331 runs northeast and southwest
through the City. It also serves as a truck route for State Roads 24, 26, and 121. Despite
skirting the Gainesville City Limits, SR 331 runs north and south as a four-lane divided
rural highway. The city’s streets are set up on a grid system
with four quadrants. All streets are numbered, except for a few major thoroughfares which
are often named for the towns to which they lead, Hawthorne Road, Williston Road, Archer
Road and Newberry Road. Streets ending in the suffixes Avenue, Place, Road or Lane run
generally east-west, while all other streets run generally north-south.
Rail Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach buses connect with
Jacksonville, Florida, to the north and Lakeland, Florida, to the south. Buses arrive/depart
stations to connect with the Silver Service. Amtrak train service is available at Palatka,
Florida, 32 miles to the east. At one time, Gainesville had railroad lines
extending in six directions from the community and was served by several depots, the earliest
route constructed reaching the town in 1859. As traffic and business patterns changed,
the less heavily used railroads were abandoned beginning in 1943, and some routes realigned,
with the last trains running in the middle of Main Street in 1948. By the 1980s, the
only freight operator into the city was the Seaboard System. Passenger service into Gainesville
had ended by the time of Amtrak’s 1971 creation. In 1984, the last freight trackage was removed
as the Seaboard abandoned the branch through Gainesville to Hawthorne due to light customer
traffic on the line. Airport, Bus, & Others
In addition to its extensive road network, Gainesville is also served by Gainesville
Regional Transit System, or RTS, which is the fourth largest mass transit system in
the state. The area is also served by Gainesville Regional Airport in the northeast part of
the city, with daily service to Atlanta, Miami and Charlotte.
According to the 2000 Census, 5.25 percent of Gainesville residents commuted to work
by bike, among the highest figures in the nation for a major population center.
Culture Gainesville is known as a supporter of the
visual arts. Each year, two large art festivals attract artists and visitors from all over
the southeastern United States. Cultural facilities include the Florida Museum
of Natural History, Harn Museum of Art, the Hippodrome State Theatre, and the Curtis M.
Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Smaller theaters include the Acrosstown Repertory
Theatre and the Gainesville Community Playhouse. GCP is the oldest community theater group
in Florida; in 2006, it christened a new theater building.
The presence of a major university enhances the city’s opportunities for cultural lifestyles.
The University of Florida College of Fine Arts is the umbrella college for the School
of Music, School of Theatre and Dance, School of Art and Art History, and a number of other
programs and centers including The University Galleries, the Center for World Art, and Digital
Worlds. Collectively, the College offers many performance events and artist/lecture opportunities
for students and the greater Gainesville community, the majority of which are offered at little
or no cost. Since 1989, Gainesville has been home to Theatre
Strike Force, the University of Florida’s premier improv troupe. In addition Gainesville
also plays host to several sketch comedy troupes and stand-up comedians.
In April 2003, Gainesville became known as the “Healthiest Community in America” when
it achieved the only “Gold Well City” award given by the Wellness Councils of America.
Headed up by Gainesville Health & Fitness Centers, and with the support of Shands HealthCare
and the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, 21 businesses comprising 60 percent of the
city’s workforce became involved in the “Gold Well City” effort. As of July 2011,
Gainesville remained the only city in the country to reach the achievement.
The counties surrounding Alachua County vote strongly Republican, while Alachua County
votes strongly Democratic. In the 2008 election, there was a 22% gap in votes in Alachua County
between Barack Obama and John McCain, while the remaining eleven candidates on the ballot
and write-in votes received approximately 1.46% of the vote.
Homelessness The National Coalition for the Homeless cited
Gainesville as the 5th meanest city in the United States for the city’s criminalization
of homelessness in the Coalition’s two most recent reports, the latter time for its meal
limit ordinance. Gainesville has a number of ordinances that target the homeless, including
an anti-panhandling measure and a measure illegalizing sleeping outdoors on public property.
In 2005, the Alachua Board of County Commissioners and the Gainesville City Commission responded
by issuing a written “Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness”; which was followed by the 2010
“A Needs Assessment of Unsheltered Homeless Individuals In Gainesville, Florida” presentation
to a joint meeting of Gainesville and Alachua County Commissions. Gainesville’s city government
is currently considering the site of the former Gainesville Correction Institution for a new
homeless shelter. Marijuana
Gainesville is renowned in the recreational drug culture for “Gainesville Green”, a particularly
potent strain of marijuana. Orange and Blue magazine published a feature article in 2003
about the history of Gainesville Green and the local marijuana culture in general. In
the mid-1990s, there were several Gainesville Hemp Festivals which took place outside of
the Alachua County courthouse. Music scene
Gainesville is well known for its music scene and has spawned a number of bands and musicians,
including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Stephen Stills, Don Felder and Bernie Leadon
of The Eagles, The Motels, Against Me!, Less Than Jake, Hot Water Music, John Vanderslice,
Sister Hazel, Hundred Waters, and For Squirrels. It is also currently the location of independent
label No Idea Records and the former home of Plan-It-X Records, which moved to Bloomington,
Indiana. For two years, the Gainesville non-profit Harvest of Hope Foundation hosted the Harvest
of Hope Festival in St. Augustine, Florida. Gainesville is also the home of Florida Rocks!
music promotions, the founders of ‘Santa Jam’ who hold concerts every December throughout
North Florida as a toy fundraiser for sick, injured, and homeless children. In 2011-2012
they distributed over 660 toys to Shands Children’s Hospital, local churches & homeless charities,
and to needy families in several counties. No Idea Records puts on the annual 3-day rock
festival known as The Fest, which typically occurs during the last weekend in October,
coinciding with the annual Florida-Georgia football game, in order to minimize tensions
between the largely out of town music festival goers with the University of Florida students
and alumni. Between 1987 and 1993, Gainesville had a very
active rock music scene, with Hollywood star River Phoenix having the local club Hardback
Cafe as his main base. Phoenix’s band Aleka’s Attic was a constant feature of the rock scene,
among others. The Phoenix family is still a presence in Gainesville with Rain Phoenix’s
band Papercranes and Liberty Phoenix’s store, Indigo.
Today, Gainesville is still known for its strong music community and was named “Best
Place to Start a Band in the United States” by Blender magazine in March 2008. The article
cited the large student population, cheap rent, and friendly venues as reasons.
Over the past decade, Gainesville has been home to a wide variety of bands, from the
Latin/afrobeat sounds of Umoja Orchestra, to the rock of Morningbell, to ska staples
The Know How. Gainesville’s reputation as an independent
music mecca can be traced back to 1984 when a local music video station was brought on
the air. The station was called TV-69, broadcast on UHF 69 and was owned by Cozzin Communications.
The channel drew considerable media attention thanks to its promotion by famous comedian
Bill Cosby, who was part-owner of that station when it started. TV-69 featured many videos
by punk and indie-label bands and had several locally produced videos.
Sports The Florida Gators is the varsity team of
the University of Florida, and competes at the Southeastern Conference of the National
Collegiate Athletic Association since 1933. It has been ranked in the top 10 in the NACDA
ranking since the 1983–84 season. it has won 31 national team championships, including
two men’s basketball titles, three football titles, four men’s golf titles, and six women’s
tennis titles. The Gainesville Raceway is a dragstrip opened
in 1969 that hosts the Gatornationals, one of the four NHRA major races.
Annual cultural events The Spring Arts Festival, hosted each year,
usually in early April, by Santa Fe College, is one of the three largest annual events
in Gainesville and is known for its high quality, unique artwork.
The nationally recognized The Downtown Festival and Art Show, hosted each fall by the City
of Gainesville, attracts award-winning artists and draws a crowd of more than 100,000.
The Hoggetowne Medieval Faire has attracted thousands of fairgoers for over 20 years.
The Gainesville Improv Festival provides a venue for new talent.
Media Print
Gainesville is served by The Gainesville Sun and The Independent Florida Alligator, the
student newspaper for the University of Florida and Santa Fe College.
The New York Times Editing Center also resides in Gainesville.
Radio Arbitron ranks the Gainesville-Ocala market
as the nation’s 83rd-largest. Thirteen radio stations are licensed to operate in the city
of Gainesville—five AM stations, six commercial FM stations, and two low-power non-commercial
FM stations. Three of the stations are operated by broadcasting students at the University
of Florida. WUFT-FM is the city’s NPR member station, while the WRUF stations are operated
as commercial stations. Television Gainesville is the 162nd-largest television
market in the nation, as measured by Nielsen Media Research. Broadcast television stations
in the Gainesville market consist of WCJB, an ABC affiliate in Gainesville; WGFL, a CBS
affiliate broadcasting from High Springs; WOGX, a Fox affiliate from Ocala; and WUFT,
the PBS station affiliated with the University of Florida in Gainesville. NBC affiliate WNBW
began broadcasting in the city on January 1, 2009.
Points of interest 34th Street Wall
Baughman Center Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field
Bivens Arm Civic Media Center
Devil’s Millhopper Florida Museum of Natural History, including
the Butterfly Rainforest exhibit Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail State Park
Gainesville Raceway Haile Homestead
Harn Museum of Art Hippodrome State Theatre
Ichetucknee Springs State Park Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
Lake Alice Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park
Newnan’s Lake Paynes Prairie
San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo
Stephen C. O’Connell Center William Reuben Thomas Center
Sister cities Gainesville maintains sister city relationships
with four cities in three separate arrangements: Novorossiisk, Russia
Kfar Saba, Israel Qalqilya, Palestine
Duhok, Kurdistan, Iraq See also
List of people from Gainesville, Florida University of Florida
References Notes Geographic data notes Further reading
Andersen, Lars. Paynes Prairie: The Great Savanna: A History and Guide. Sarasota, Florida,
USA: Pineapple Press. ISBN 1-56164-296-7. Retrieved 2011-05-18. 
Braley, R. Olin. The Killing of Harmon Murray: Being a True Account of the Life and Times
of Florida’s Premier Black Outlaw. Gainesville, Florida: The Alachua Press. 
Hicks, Rob. Images of America: Gainesville. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-5402-0. 
Hildreth, Charles H.; Merlin G. Cox. History of Gainesville, Florida 1854-1979. Gainesville,
Florida: Alachua County Historical Society.  McCarthy, Kevin M.; Murray D. Laurie. Guide
to the University of Florida and Gainesville. Sarasota, florida: Pineapple Press. ISBN 1-56164-134-0. 
Milanich, Jerald T.. Florida Indians and the Invasion from Europe. Gainesville, Florida,
USA: University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1636-3.  Milanich, Jerald T.. Florida’s Indians from
Ancient Times to the Present. Gainesville, Florida, USA: University Press of Florida.
ISBN 0-8130-1598-7.  Milanich, Jerald T.. The Timucua. Oxford,
UK: Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 0-631-21864-5.  Milanich, Jerald T.. Laboring in the Fields
of the Lord: Spanish Missions and Southeastern Indians. Gainesville, Florida, USA: University
Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-2966-X.  Newton, Michael. The
Invisible Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Florida. Gainesville, Florida: The University Press
of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-2120-0.  Pickard, Ben. Historic Gainesville: a tour
Guide to the Past. Gainesville, Florida: Historic Gainesville, Inc. 
Rajtar, Steve. A Guide to Historic Gainesville. Charleston, South Carolina; London: History
Press. ISBN 978-1-59629-217-8.  Taulbee, Lindsay. “Gainesville in the ‘70s:
Changes roiling beneath a polite Southern surface”. Gainesville Magazine. Gainesville
Sun. Retrieved 13 May 2011.  Washington, Ray. “University of Florida: Unrest
amid the boom times 1960-1980”. Gainesville Sun. Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
External links Official website
Gainesville Florida Visitors & Convention Bureau
Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce University of Florida Digital Collections,
including vast materials from and about Gainesville

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