Florence…Did You Know?

By  | August 6, 2018 | Filed under: Interesting Facts, News

NOTE:  Alabama celebrates her bicentennial this year.  QCDNews presents Interesting Facts about some of North Alabama’s cities.

Florence is located in north Alabama along the Tennessee River and is the county seat of Lauderdale County. The town was named after Florence, in Tuscany, Italy, by Italian engineer Ferdinand Sannoner, who surveyed the land for the settlement. Currently, Florence is known as “Alabama’s Renaissance City” because of its annual hosting of the Alabama Renaissance Faire. Florence is celebrating 200 years as a city this  year and festivities have been happening every month of 2018.

The area of present-day Lauderdale County and Florence was originally part of the Chickasaw Nation, which ceded its lands to the federal government in several treaties during the early nineteenth century. Shortly after the last Chickasaw treaty was signed, the federal government held the first land sale in the area. The Cypress Land Company purchased the land that Florence now occupies, anticipating that it would become a major commercial town because of its location on a hill overlooking the Tennessee River. Gen. John Coffee, a partner in the Cypress Land Company with future U.S. president Andrew Jackson, commissioned Italian engineer Ferdinand Sannoner to survey the land in 1818.  Coffee was so pleased with Sannoner’s work that he asked the surveyor to name the town; he chose Florence, his home in Italy. The city of Florence was established on March 12, 1818, and immediately took its place as the county seat, but it was not incorporated officially until nearly a decade later in 1826.

Before long, Florence had become one of the first textile centers in the Southeast. The Civil War caused a severe economic downturn in the town, as it repeatedly changed hands between Union and Confederate forces, leaving nearly all of its industrial base and parts of the city destroyed.
In 1885, LaGrange College (now the University of North Alabama), moved from nearby Leighton, Colbert County, to Florence and played an important role in spurring the city’s economic revival. By 1887, the town had begun to flourish once again, with the population increasing from 1,600 in 1865 to some 6,000. In 1889, the Florence Wagon Company began operation and became the second-largest such company in the South.

The Indian Mound and Museum interprets the Tennessee Valley’s largest domiciliary mound, a human-made mountain of dirt and natural debris that served as the base for homes during the Woodland period of Native American prehistory.  Other events include the Frontier Days Celebration and the Freedom of America Celebration held on July 4 each year.
The Alabama Renaissance Faire takes place in Florence every October; it has been named one of the top 20 events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society. Arts Alive is a juried gallery exhibition held every May at the Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts and includes artist booths in adjoining Wilson Park.

Florence is home to the Rosenbaum House, the only house in the state of Alabama designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Pope’s Tavern Museum is one of the oldest structures in Florence and served as a hospital for Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War. Another significant destination is the W. C. Handy Home, Museum, and Library, celebrating the life and work of the Father of the Blues. The town also holds a week-long W. C. Handy Music Festival during the summer.

Wilson Lock and Dam was completed in the early 1920s to make a portion of the Tennessee River navigable and has become a major transportation resource for the Shoals Area and a foundation for the Tennessee Valley Authority, as well as a popular recreational area.

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