Downtown Florence-A History

Lithograph of Court Street, 1880s, University of North Alabama Archives

Lithograph of Court Street, 1880s, University of North Alabama Archives

Downtown Florence’s story begins in March of 1818 with the formation of the Cypress Land Company. General John Coffee, Thomas Bibb, and John McKinley were just some of the men who were the first trustees of this company and who purchased 5, 515 acres of land on the north bank of the Tennessee River. The Cypress Land Company then hired Ferdinand Sannoner, and Italian-born surveyor, to survey the purchased land. Sannoner proceeded to divide up the land into four hundred lots and placed the four primary streets, which at that time were Court, Tennessee, Market, & Seminary, into a grid pattern. In return for his services, Sannoner was allowed to name the town whatever he chose. In the end, he chose to name the city Florence after his home town of Florence, Italy.

Beginning in July of that same year, lots were auctioned off and those who bought the various lots located in the downtown area immediately began to build. The building boom that soon commenced lasted until the Civil War hit the area. In 1866, just after the war, a portion of the downtown area was ravaged by fire. Residents of Florence quickly began to rebuild the area bringing back old businesses and welcoming new ones as well.

Over the years, new businesses have come and gone. While some of the building facades from years past are the same, new businesses have taken root and have added to the charm and unique atmosphere downtown 100_1117[1]Florence exudes. The downtown historic district is contained within the confines of Tuscaloosa, College, Pine, and Walnut streets with the main streets being Court and Pine streets which run north to south. Streets running in a west to east pattern within the historic district include Tuscaloosa, Tombigbee, Mobile, Tennessee, and College Streets. It is also surrounded by several historic residential districts which include the Walnut Street Historic District, Wilson Park Complex, Sannoner Historic District, Wood Avenue Historic District, College Place Historic District, and the Seminary-O’Neal Historic District.

The downtown area serves as a hub for shopping as well as inexpensive and fine dining and is simply a picturesque place to meet for a night on the town or for some light shopping. The area is also the setting for the town’s First Fridays and also plays host to various festivals held throughout the year such as the W.C. Handy festival in July and the Renaissance Faire held in October. From ice cream to antiques, historic Downtown Florence has a little something for everyone. We invite you to take a stroll in our idyllic downtown and explore for yourself everything that downtown Florence has to offer.

Picture depicts the

Picture depicts the second courthouse built downtown, city hall, the Confederate memorial statue, and the Jefferson Hotel, University of North Alabama Archives

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