Whether you call it the Heart of the Shoals, the Renaissance City, the Bible Belt, or Flotown, about forty thousand people call it home. Florence, Alabama is located at the foot of Muscle Shoals on a hill overlooking the Tennessee River. Life is simply beautiful in Florence, from the beautiful University of North Alabama campus to the historic downtown area to the view of the Tennessee River. Florence is one of the oldest cities in Alabama being established in the early 18th century. But how did this historic city begin and grow into what it is today?
The land of Florence, Alabama used to belong to the Chickasaw Indians. The Cypress Land Company purchased the land in 1818. John Coffee, Andrew Jackson’s best friend, hired Italian engineer Ferdinand Sannoner to survey the land. Coffee was so impressed by his work, that he let Sannoner name the land. He named the land Florence, after his hometown in Florence, Italy. The Cypress Land Company was hoping that Florence would become a major commercial town because of its location up on a hill looking over the Tennessee River but the town never lived up to the company’s expectations. The city was officially established on March 12, 1826. People were attracted to Florence because they believed that the elevation above the Tennessee River protected them against some diseases that went around in the valley. Others came to Florence to be educated at LaGrange College (“Brief History of Florence, Alabama”).
LaGrange College was established on January 11, 1830 in Leighton, Alabama. It was the first state-chartered college in Alabama. LaGrange College opened with seventy male students and three faculty members. In 1855, The Session of Alabama and Memphis Annual Conference voted to move LaGrange College 15 miles away to Florence, Alabama. The move took three days to complete. The university consisted of several big tents until buildings were constructed (Lindley). The relocation of LaGrange College from Colbert County to Florence played an important role in the city's economic development (“Brief History of Florence, Alabama”).
In 1856, the college was renamed Florence Wesleyan University. The North Alabama Methodist Conference sold the college to the state, so that it could be turned into a training school for teachers, known as a normal school. In 1872, the school was renamed the State Normal School at Florence. The school was the first state-supported teachers college south of the Ohio River and was also one of the first coeducational teacher-training institutions in the nation.
In 1916, there were so many students enrolled at the State Normal School that the boys had to live in tents. In 1929, the school was renamed Florence State Teachers College. The school's name was shortened in 1957 to Florence State College. In 1968, Florence State College changed its name to Florence State University. A Greek system was established in 1972, with ten fraternities and seven sororities. Also in 1972 the Flowers Hall...