Gainesville, c. 1900.
Confederate Statue in downtown Gainesville
Alachua County Courthouse Family and Civil Justice Center
Hippodrome State Theater
Gainesville's original inhabitants were the Timucua Indians. Spanish colonists began cattle ranching in the Payne's Prairie area using Timucua labor and the largest ranch became known as LaChua. Though the ranch was eventually destroyed by British raiders, it nevertheless gave its name to the Alachua band of the Seminole tribe who settled in the region in the 1700s under the leadership of the great chief Ahaya the Cowkeeper.
Gainesville was originally formed along the Florida Railroad Company's line stretching from Cedar Key to Fernandina Beach as part of a route eventually carrying cargo from New Orleans to New York. In 1854 Gainesville became the new Alachua County seat (moving from the more populated but inconveniently located Newnansville). The city is named for General Edmund P. Gaines, commander of U.S. Army troops in Florida during the Second Seminole War.
Gainesville was the scene of small-scale fighting in the Civil War. On February 15, 1864, a skirmish erupted when about 50 Union troops entered the city intending to capture two trains. The Second Florida Cavalry successfully repulsed this raid. The raiding party was eventually defeated at the Battle of Olustee five days later. Later that year, the Battle of Gainesville took place on August 17, 1864. Three-hundred Union troops occupying the city were attacked by the Florida Cavalry. The Federals were driven out of town and suffered significant casualties.
Following the civil war, the city prospered as a major citrus growing center, with direct rail access to ports on the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. However, this prosperity ended when the great freezes of 1894 and 1899 destroyed the entire crops, and citrus growing moved permanently south to the Orlando area. Other attempts to replace this lost industry included phosphate mining, turpentine production and tung oil had only moderate success.
Gainesville's fortunes took a major turn for the better, however, when the University of Florida was created by the Florida Legislature in 1905. Gainesville was chosen, beating out other cities who saw their colleges close, such as Lake City and Bartow. Fortunately, the city had the foresight to construct a modern municipal water, sewer and electric system and was able to offer these services to a new university location for free. A site was selected at a location then considered about a mile west of town. The first classes were held at Buckman Hall in the fall of 1906.
Over the past century, the university has brought the town a youthful population, cultural opportunities, and world class medical facilities. The sports drink Gatorade was invented in Gainesville as a means of refreshing the UF football team and UF still receives a share of the profits from the beverage.
Celebrities that live or have lived in Gainesville include:
Michael Connelly, multiple-bestselling thriller/mystery writer
Bo Diddley, musician
Rodney Mullen, professional skateboarder
Buddy Ebsen, actor
Frank Viola, Christian author and church planter
Ric Flair, professional wrestling personality
Robert Frost, poet
Joe Haldeman, science fiction author
Bob Graham, Governor and U.S. Senator
Marty Liquori, Olympic track & field athlete and TV announcer
Tom Petty, musician
River Phoenix, actor
Joaquin Phoenix, actor
Brittany Daniel, actress
Clinton Portis, football player
Maya Rudolph, comedian
Minnie Riperton, musician
Steve Spurrier, football player and coach
Emmitt Smith, professional football player
John Thompson, mathematician, Fields medalist
Bernard Williams, sprinter and Olympic gold medalist
Less than Jake, band
Hot Water Music, band
Sister Hazel, band
Against Me!, band
Stephen Root, actor
Jack Youngblood, professional football player & NFL Hall of Famer
Harry Crews, author
Stephen Stills, musician
Stephanie Abrams, meteorologist
The Know How, Ska band
Brian Elsmore, CIO
Other celebrity ties to Gainesville include Faye Dunaway, who went to the University of Florida, Malcolm Gets, who grew up there, graduated from the university, and wrote and performed at the Community Playhouse and the Hippodrome, and Bob Vila, who graduated from the College of Journalism and Communications. Renee Richards lived in Gainesville for a time, Roger Maris had a distributorship and raised his family there, and the motion picture actor William H. Macy has visited his father there from time to time.
Points of interest
Visit Gainesville - the official tourism information source for Gainesville and its surrounds
Florida Museum of Natural History (including the Butterfly Rainforest exhibit)
Harn Museum of Art
Hippodrome State Theatre
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
University of Florida
The Devil's Millhopper
As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there are 95,447 people living within the city limits, 37,279 households, and 18,341 families residing in the city. The population of the metropolitan area as of the censusGR2 of 2000 was 217,955. The population density is 764.9/km² (1,981.0/mi²). There are 40,105 housing units at an average density of 321.4/km² (832.4/mi²).