Downtown Florence Historic District
|Nickname(s): "Alabama's Renaissance City"|
|Incorporated||January 7, 1826|
|• Type||Mayor/Council (Since 1984)|
|• Mayor||Mickey Haddock|
|• City||25 sq mi (64.8 km2)|
|• Land||24.9 sq mi (64.6 km2)|
|• Water||0.1 sq mi (0.2 km2)|
|Elevation||548 ft (167 m)|
|• Density||1,450.6/sq mi (566.68/km2)|
|Time zone||Central (CST) (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|Area code(s)||256, 938|
|GNIS feature ID||0118442|
According to the 2010 Census, the city's population was 39,319.
Florence is the largest and principal city of the Metropolitan Statistical Area known as "The Shoals" (which includes Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia metropolitan areas in Colbert and Lauderdale counties). Florence is considered the primary economic hub of northwestern Alabama.
Florence is renowned for its annual tourism events, including W.C. Handy Music Festival in the summer, and the Renaissance Faire in the fall. Landmarks in Florence include the Rosenbaum House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home located in Alabama.
The type of municipal government is mayor-council.
- 1 Geography
- 2 History
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Education
- 5 Culture and events
- 6 Recreation
- 7 Notable people
- 8 Transportation
- 9 Media
- 10 Climate
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Florence is located at .
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Florence has a total area of 25.0 square miles (65 km2), of which 24.9 square miles (64 km2) is land, and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.40%) is water. Florence is located on Wilson Lake and Pickwick Lake, bodies of water on the Tennessee River dammed by Wheeler and Wilson Dams. Wheeler Lake was created by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), one of several alphabet agencies of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. Wilson Dam, authorized by President Woodrow Wilson in 1918, was the first dam constructed on the Tennessee River.
Florence was surveyed for the Cypress Land Company in 1818 by Italian surveyor Ferdinand Sannoner, who named it after Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region of Italy. Florence, Alabama was incorporated in 1826.
Whereas according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau:
- 75.0% White
- 19.4% Black
- 0.4% Native American
- 1.4% Asian
- 0.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
- 1.9% Two or more races
- 3.6% Hispanic or Latino (of any race)
As of the census of 2000, there were 36,264 people, 15,820 households, and 9,555 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,454.6 people per square mile (561.6/km²). There were 17,707 housing units at an average density of 710.2 per square mile (274.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 78.39% White, 19.20% Black or African American, 0.24% Native American, 0.62% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.54% from other races, and 0.97% from two or more races. 1.34% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 15,820 households, out of which 25.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them: 43.6% were married couples living together, 14.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.6% were non-families. Nearly 33.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20, and the average family size was 2.82.
In the city, the population was spread out with 21.4% under the age of 18, 13.7% from 18 to 24, 25.7% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 17.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 84.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $28,330, and the median income for a family was $40,577. Males had a median income of $34,398 versus $21,385 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,464. About 14.4% of families and 20.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.9% of those under age 18 and 13.3% of those age 65 or over.
Situated in Florence, and founded in 1830 as LaGrange College, the University of North Alabama, a public, co-educational, higher education institution, is Alabama's oldest state-certified university. The University is the largest in north Alabama, with an enrollment topping 7,000 for the first time in 2007. Culturally diverse, international students now comprise roughly 10% of the student population. The University is known for its beautifully landscaped, pedestrian-friendly campus that is situated on 130 acres (0.53 km2) and surrounded by historic neighborhoods. It is located just north of the downtown business district.
Florence City Schools is the organization of the K-12 public school system. Florence High School (grades 10-12) is the main high school, with an enrollment of approximately 1,000 students. It was created by a merger between the previous two city high schools, Bradshaw High School and Coffee High School . It is located at the former site of Bradshaw High School. The merger also led to the creation of Florence Middle School (grades 7-8) and the Florence Freshman Center (grade 9), both located at the former Coffee High School campus.
There are five private schools in Florence: Riverhill School (non-parochial Pre K-9 , actually located just north of Florence in St. Florian), St. Joseph Regional Catholic School (K-8), Mars Hill Bible School, Shoals Christian School, and Florence Christian Academy. Those are multi-denominational, private K-12 schools.
Culture and events
The city of Florence is home to several museums, historical sites and numerous parks to serve the cultural and recreational needs of citizens and tourists. A variety of festivals also occur throughout the year.
- The Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts is the center for numerous cultural activities, exhibits and events. The center showcases artists from around the Southeast, and offers classes and workshops to people of all ages. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and provides administrative offices for Florence's six museums. The museums are open Tuesday - Saturday 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Sunday 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM, closed Monday.
- The Indian Mound and Museum is the largest of its type in the Tennessee Valley Region. The mound, which measures 310Hx230Wx42D (feet) and named "Wawmanona" was built circa 500 A.D. and is thought to be locale for tribal ceremony and ritual. The museum displays Native American artifacts from the Mound and the surrounding area, dating back 10,000 years.
- Pope's Tavern is a renowned historical stop and served as a hospital along the way of many skirmishing Civil War soldiers from both the Union and Confederate armies. It also served time as a stagecoach stop, a tavern, and an inn. The museum houses Civil War artifacts as well as antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries. It is one of Florence's oldest standing structures.
- The W.C. Handy Home and Museum is dedicated to one of Florence's most famous sons. Known as the "Father of the Blues", Handy was born in a log cabin at this site in 1873. The museum contains a collection Handy's personal papers, artifacts, and other items he donated before his death in 1958.
- The Rosenbaum House, at 601 Riverview Drive, is the only building in the state designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It was built in 1939. The house was the first in the city to have such novelties as a carport and under-floor heating. It is open for tours six days of the week.
- The Children's Museum of the Shoals contains exhibits displaying the history, people, and events that make up the Shoals' history. The museum is designed to promote learning in a hands-on environment. The museum offers educational workshops year-round for children of all ages.
- The Forks of Cypress was a cotton plantation located in Florence. Its remains can still be seen in the form of 24 Greek columns, as well as the Jackson Family cemetery. Both are private property and not open to the public.
The festivals are listed in order by month that the event falls on the calendar.
- The Sam Phillips Music Celebration is a week long event that is on the first week of January. It celebrates the life of Sam Phillips with events that include the Sam Phillips Birthday Party, "Conversations on Sam," Sam Jam Concert, Muscle Shoals to Music Row Live and a finale concert. Although Sam is credited for the birth of Rock n' Roll and the discovery of many acclaimed artists such as Elvis Presley, he also recorded Gospel, Rhythm & Blues, Country & Rockabilly. This festival started in 2005. For more information, contact WQLT/Big River Broadcasting at 256-764-8121.
- The George Lindsey/UNA Film Festival started in 1997 and is named in honor of George Lindsey, an actor who is most famous for his character portrayal of "Goober Pyle" on The Andy Griffith Show (television series). Mr. Lindsey is a UNA (then known as Florence State College) graduate. The event takes place in April.
- Arts Alive, in May, was first started in 1986. Artists from around the Southeast gather in Wilson Park for two days to show and sell their work.
- The Spirit of Freedom Celebration is an annual Fourth of July tradition, presented by the Shoals Radio Group (WLAY-FM, WVNA-FM, WMSR-FM, WMXV, WVNA and WLAY). Thousands of people gather at McFarland Park starting in the morning, for a day spent listening to a variety of musical acts. The celebration concludes around 10:00 p.m. with a huge fireworks display over the Tennessee River.
- The W. C. Handy Music Festival is perhaps Florence's most well-known event. Every year, for a week in late July or early August, musicians from around the country descend upon the Shoals. Area restaurants offer live music most nights, and artists often perform in Wilson Park or along streets downtown. Though the focus was originally on blues and jazz, the musical selection now includes rock, country, gospel and others. The festival, the largest in the Shoals area, also includes educational events, art shows, athletic competitions, great food, and more.
- Every September, Florence is the termination point for riders in the annual Trail of Tears Remembrance Motorcycle Ride, which terminates in nearby McFarland Park. The ride is in remembrance of a dark chapter in American history in which Native Americans were shipped off to Oklahoma and the mid-west by the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
- The Alabama Renaissance Faire is held in Wilson Park during the fourth weekend in October. The festival celebrates Florence's heritage as the "Renaissance City" by recreating the feel of a medieval fair. Activities include arts and crafts, magicians, reenactments and musical performances. Festival-goers are also invited to dress in period clothing.
- First Fridays in Florence is a growing arts and music event occurring every First Friday from April to December in Historic Downtown Florence. The nine months of art and music nights began in 2005. Florence, Alabama and its downtown development efforts (including First Fridays events) were featured as a "wise" community in the EPA Smart Growth publication This is Smart Growth.
- Tom Braly Municipal Stadium, on the campus of Florence Middle School, is the home to both the University of North Alabama and Florence High School football teams. The stadium has one of the finest playing surfaces in the country, with the ability to withstand up to six inches (152 mm) of rainfall. Capacity is 14,125. Since 1986, the stadium has been home of the NCAA Division II Football Championship Game. The game is nationally televised and usually takes place the second or third weekend in December.
- The Sweetwater Arts and Entertainment District is a proposed redevelopment for the East Florence business district. The plan has designated a mixture of zoning regulations for the area that will allow for the establishment of nightclubs and other entertainment venues. The city envisions a district similar to Beale Street in Memphis that will help draw in tourists and serve citizens and the students at the University of North Alabama.
- Cox Creek Park is home to a children's playground, horsehoe pits, an indoor archery range, and twelve tennis courts. Recent additions have included the new Florence Skate Park, the only skateboard park in the area, and a new stadium for the University of North Alabama softball team. The Florence/Lauderdale Farmer's Market is also located at the park.
- Deibert Park was a former horse farm belonging to the Deibert family, the park now includes a playground, picnic shelters, and three ponds. The network of walking trails is enjoyed by walkers, joggers, and bikers. The Children's Museum of the Shoals is also on the park property.
- Florence Sportplex has baseball, softball, and soccer fields. It located at the corner of Alabama Highway 20 and Gunwaleford Road.
- Martin Park is the location for the city swimming facility, at the Royal Avenue Recreation Center. The park is also home to a playground, tennis courts, picnic shelters, and a 0.75 miles (1.21 km) fitness trail.
- McFarland Park is also the location of the Florence Harbor and Marina. While serving as host to several events throughout the year, the park is also equipped with a playground, numerous picnic shelters, campgrounds, soccer fields, baseball fields, a disc golf course, a golf driving range, and lighted walking trails. Situated along Pickwick Lake, the park is also used by fishermen, boaters, and swimmers.
- River Heritage Park is located at the base of the Renaissance Tower and adjacent to the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Conference Center. The park contains scenic overlooks of the Tennessee River and Wilson Dam. Also included are be picnic shelters, a playground, and an interactive fountain.
- Veterans Park contains a memorial to the war veterans of Florence and Lauderdale county. Twenty-two campsites, six lighted tennis courts, baseball and softball fields, playgrounds, and picnic shelters are also found at the park. Veterans Park is also home to one of the oldest disc golf courses in the state, established in 1983.
- Wildwood Park is located adjacent to the University of North Alabama along Cypress Creek. It is the most secluded and serene of the city parks. The park has a pavilion, picnic tables, nature trails, and bicycle trails. Swimming, fishing and canoeing are some of the park's recreational activities.
- Woodrow Wilson Park is located in the heart of downtown, across from the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library. Its grounds are used for numerous festivals and events. The original Plan of Florence in 1818 showed the area as a Public Walk. In 1924, the park was renamed in honor of former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, shortly after his death.
- Blackberry Trail Golf Course - a municipal golf course
- Broadway Recreation Center
- Florence Harbor - a full service marina on Tennessee River (Pickwick Lake) mile marker 256
- Handy Recreation Center - has a pool
- Royal Avenue Recreation Center - has a pool
Florence is the birthplace of W.C. Handy, the "Father of the Blues," as well as of pioneering record producer Sam Phillips, who founded Sun Records and discovered Elvis Presley and other pioneering legends of rock and roll and country music. T.S. Stribling, a 20th-century novelist who was a student in Florence as a young man, wrote a prose trilogy about the city consisting of The Forge, The Store (which won the Pulitzer Prize), and Unfinished Cathedral. Stribling also spent his final months in the city, dying in 1965. Florence is where the 2009 British Open winner Stewart Cink was raised. Florence is the birthplace of one-half of The Midnight Express, "Loverboy" Dennis Condrey. Dred Scott also once resided in Florence, where, as a slave, he worked as a hostler at the Peter Blow Inn on Tennessee Street. A plaque at the former site commemorates his time there. Bobby W. Miller, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma, Alabama in 1965, was credited later with ending segregated locker rooms at the Ford Motor Company Die Cast Plant in Sheffield, Alabama, where he was employed from 1962-1974. Miller was shot down twice in Vietnam and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. Tom York grew up in Florence, graduated from Florence State Teachers' College, now the University of North Alabama, and spent eight years in radio in Florence (WLAY). In 1957, he joined WBRC-TV in Birmingham, Alabama as their sports director. He also originated the Tom York Morning Show (one of America's longest running one-hour local talk shows) on the air for 32 years. He was awarded an Emmy by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1995.
- Oscar DePriest, the first African American to be elected to Congress from outside the southern states and the first in the 20th century
- Stewart Cink, PGA golfer, 2009 British Open Champion
- Sam Phillips, record producer, discovered Elvis Presley
- Donna Jean Godchaux, singer, The Grateful Dead
- George W. Goethals, chief engineer on the Panama Canal
- Kelvin Holly, musician, guitarist for Little Richard, The Amazing Rhythm Aces
- Patterson Hood, guitarist, singer and songwriter for Drive-By Truckers
- John Paul White,guitarist, singer and songwriter for Grammy Award winning duo The Civil Wars
- Charles Moore, civil rights photographer
- Billy Reid, fashion designer
- Dred Scott, of the Dred Scott vs. Sanford case
- Whitney Boddie, WNBA basketball player
- Josh Willingham, major league baseball player, Minnesota Twins
- John Coffee, General during the War of 1812
- Mary Phagan, a 13-year old girl murdered in Atlanta, Georgia, April 26, 1913, Confederate Memorial Day.
Florence is the merger point for two major U.S. Highways, as well as several Alabama Highways. Both U.S. Highway 43 and U.S. Highway 72 merge just east of the city limits in Killen, and are co-signed their entire length through the city. Highway 43, running north and south, helps connect the city to Lawrenceburg and Columbia to the north in Tennessee, as well as Tuscaloosa and Mobile to the south. Highway 72 helps connect the city to Huntsville and Chattanooga, Tennessee to the east and Memphis, Tennessee to the west. Interstate 65 is accessible about forty-five minutes east on Highway 72. Both of these roads cross the Tenneessee River on O'Neal Bridge, connecting Florence to Sheffield.
Alabama state highways that serve the city include Alabama 13, Alabama 17, Alabama 20, Alabama 133, and Alabama 157. Alabama 133 connected Florence and Muscle Shoals via Wilson Dam until 2002, when the new six-lane "Patton Island Bridge" (the unofficial, but locally accepted name) finished construction. The bridge is part of a new corridor that will eventually see the widening of Wilson Dam Road in Muscle Shoals to Alabama 20, and the construction of a new road from the bridge to Florence Blvd. in Florence. Alabama 157 is also an important road to Florence and the Shoals area, serving as a four-lane link to Interstate 65 in Cullman. After many years of political campaigning by local leaders to have the four-laning of the road completed, the project wrapped up in the summer of 2007. The road is known as the "University of North Alabama Highway".
Florence and the Shoals area does not have a direct link to an Interstate highway at the present time. One solution discussed over the years has been the "Memphis to Atlanta Highway", proposed to connect the two cities via a freeway through north Alabama. However, in recent years Mississippi has concentrated its funding on U.S. 78 (future Interstate 22), also known as "Corridor X". Though U.S. 72 through Mississippi is four lanes, there are no plans to upgrade it to freeway status. Meanwhile, the state of Georgia has also not committed to the necessary work to connect the freeway from the Alabama state line to Atlanta. The highway remains in the planning stages with the Alabama Department of Transportation.
Another plan recently discussed is extending Interstate 565 west from its current terminus just outside of Decatur, perhaps along Alabama 20/Alternate U.S. 72. The plan has received some support from Decatur officials, some of whom would like to see the Interstate eventually extend west of Decatur and at least into Lawrence County.
For air transportation, Florence is served by the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport in Muscle Shoals. The airport is mostly used for general aviation, but daily flights to Atlanta are also offered by Mesaba Airlines- a Delta Connection carrier. Huntsville International Airport, offering service to eleven domestic destinations, is about an hours drive from Florence.
Local industry is also served by the Tennessee Southern Railroad (TSRR), which runs from Florence to Columbia, Tennessee, and the Port of Florence on Pickwick Lake.
The TimesDaily is a daily newspaper published in Florence that serves the greater Florence area, and which is owned by the Tennessee Valley Printing Company, who purchased the newspaper and associated media from The New York Times Company in March, 2009.
The Shoals Insider is a local news website. It is much like a newspaper, but doesn't print on paper. Local arrest records, foreclosures, divorces and other public documents are published daily, as well as news articles. 
The Courier-Journal is a locally-owned and distributed weekly publication serving the greater Florence area.
No'Ala is a locally-owned Shoals area lifestyle magazine published six times annually. 
There are numerous radio, television and low-power FM radio stations and translators that serve Florence and the greater area, all which are in the greater Florence MSA.
Among them are:
- WSBM (1340 AM; 1 kW; Florence, AL; Owner: Big River Broadcasting Corporation)
- WVNA (1590 AM; 5 kW; Tuscumbia, AL; Owner: Clear Channel Broadcasting Licenses, INC.)
- WBTG (1290 AM; 1 kW; Sheffield, AL)
- WBCF (1240 AM; 1 kW; Florence, AL; Owner: Benny Carle Broadcasting, INC.)
- WLAY (1450 AM; 1 kW; Muscle Shoals, AL; Owner: Clear Channel Broadcasting Licenses, INC.)
- WJHX (620 AM; 5 kW; Lexington, AL; Owner: Manual Huerta)
- WZZA (1410 AM; 1 kW; Tuscumbia, AL; Owner: Muscle Shoals Broadcasting, INC.)
- WLAY-FM (100.3 FM; Tuscumbia, AL; Owner: Clear Channel Broadcasting Licenses, INC.)
- W274AA (102.7 FM; Muscle Shoals, AL; Owner: WILLIAM P. ROGERS)
- W280DA (103.9 FM; Florence, AL; Owner: BIBLE BROADCASTING NETWORK, INC.)
- WAKD (89.9 FM; Sheffield, AL; Owner: AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION)
- WQLT-FM (107.3 FM; Florence, AL; Owner: Big River Broadcasting Corporation)
- W258AE (99.5 FM; Florence, AL; Owner: WAY-FM MEDIA GROUP, INC.)
- WFIX (91.3 FM; Florence, AL; Owner: TRI-STATE INSPIRATIONAL B/C CORP.)
- W254AA (98.7 FM; Colbert Heights, AL; Owner: WILLIAM P. ROGERS)
- WXFL (96.1 FM; Florence, AL; Owner: Big River Broadcasting Corporation)
- WVNA-FM (105.5 FM; Muscle Shoals, AL; Owner: Clear Channel Broadcasting Licenses, INC.)
- WBTG-FM (106.3 FM; Sheffield, AL; Owner: SLATTON & ASSOCS. BROADCASTERS, INC.)
- W202BY (88.3 FM; Killen, AL; Owner: WAY-FM MEDIA GROUP, INC.)
- W253AH (98.5 FM; Florence, AL; Owner: Big River Broadcasting Corporation)
- W276AM (103.1 FM; Florence, ETC., AL; Owner: J AND J BROADCASTING)
- W225AB (92.9 FM; Florence, AL; Owner: WILLIAM P. ROGERS)
- WYTK (93.9 FM; Rogersville, AL; Owner: SHOALS BROADCASTING CORPORATION)
- WQPR (88.7 FM; Muscle Shoals, AL; Owner: THE BD OF TRUSTEES UNIV. OF ALABAMA)
- WPMR (95.7 FM; Russellville, Al: Owner: Provision Ministries (Wanda Keele.)
Television and Low-Power Television
- WXFL-LD (Channel 5; Florence, ETC., AL; Owner: Benny Carle Broadcasting, INC.)
- WBCF-LP (Channel 3; Florence, AL; Owner: Benny Carle Broadcasting, INC.)
- WHDF (Channel 15; Florence, AL; Owner: VALLEY TELEVISION, LLC)
- WFIQ (Channel 36; Florence, AL; Owner: ALABAMA EDUCATIONAL TELEVISION COMMISSION)
- W46CF (Channel 45; Tuscumbia, AL; Owner: WMTY Incorporated (William Pete Nichols)
Past television stations
- WYLE (Channel 26; Florence, AL; Owner: ETC COMMUNICATIONS INC.)
- WOWL (Channel 15; Florence, AL)
- W57BV (Channel 57; Florence, AL; Owner: TRINITY BROADCASTING NETWORK)
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Florence has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.
The average temperature of Florence is 59 F (15 C). The average yearly precipitation in Florence is 57.06 in (144.9 cm). On average, Florence gets 2.25 in (5.7 cm) of snow per year, which is above the average for Alabama of 0.57 in (1.44 cm).
While Florence is almost 300 miles (480 km) from the Gulf of Mexico, strong hurricanes have brought severe weather to the area. For example, in 2005, the path of Hurricane Katrina came very close to the city, causing nearly 70 mph (112 kph) winds and some storm damage.
- Act 95. "AN ACT to incorporate the town of Florence in the state of Alabama." Acts Passed at the Seventh Annual Session of the General Assembly of the State of Alabama. 1825. Pages 70-73.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-05-14.
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 127.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- Veterans Memorial Park Course. Professional Disc Golf Association. Accessed 2012-03-12.
- "Woodrow Wilson Park 1818". The Historical Marker Database. Retrieved 2012-03-28.
- "Florence Harbor Marina". Retrieved 2012-04-01.
- Florence Alabama 03/29/03
- "NYT Sells Times Daily." TimesDaily. Wednesday, March 25, 2009. http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090325/ARTICLES/903255029
- Climate Summary for Florence, Alabama
- Climate Summary for Florence, Alabama
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