The Robinson Library

The Robinson Library >> Florida >> Cities, Towns, Etc.

the seat of Alachua County; area ~49 square miles; population ~109,000

location of Gainesville
location of Gainesville


Timucua Indians were the first known inhabitants of the Gainesville area, while Spanish colonial cattle ranchers were the first European residents.

The first permanent settlement on the site was established along the Florida Railroad Company's line about 1830. It was named for General Edmund P. Gaines, a figure of the War of 1812 and commander of U.S. Army troops in Florida during the Second Seminole War. The city became the seat of Alachua County in 1854.

Gainesville was the scene of small-scale fighting in the Civil War. On February 15, 1864, about fifty Union troops entered the city intending to capture two trains. The Second Florida Cavalry successfully repulsed the raid; the raiding party was subsequently defeated at the Battle of Olustee on February 19. On August 17, 1864, three hundred Union troops occupying the city were attacked by the Florida Cavalry. The Battle of Gainesville resulted in the Union troops being driven out of town after suffering significant casualties.

After the war, Gainesville prospered as a major citrus growing and shipping center. The prosperity ended, however, when the great freezes of 1894 and 1899 destroyed entire orchards. The citrus industry moved south to the Orlando area, and Gainesville's future seemed uncertain.

The city's fortunes took a major turn for the better when the University of Florida was created by the Florida Legislature in 1905. Gainesville was chosen as the site for the university, and the first classes were held at Buckman Hall in the fall of 1906.


The University of Florida is a principal contributor to the Gainesville economy. Other industries include production and transportation of beef cattle, poultry, and lumber. Chief manufactures include sporting goods, batteries, electronic parts, and plastics.

Being located almost exactly half way between Atlanta and Miami (five hours either way), Gainesville is an important stop for automobile travelers.


Gainesville is served by the School Board of Alachua County.

The University of Florida is the fourth-largest university in the United States. Santa Fe Community College, one of the nation's largest community colleges, is also located here.

Gator statues on the University of Florida campus
Gator statues on the University of Florida campus

Sites and Attractions

Dozens of examples of restored Victorian and Queen Anne style residences constructed during the city's agricultural heydays of the 1880's and 1890's are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as are several commercial structures.

Cultural attractions include the Florida Museum of Natural History, the Harn Museum of Art, the Hippodrome State Theatre, the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, The Civic Media Center, and Kanapaha Botanical Gardens.

Gainesville Raceway hosts one of the largest national events on the NHRA circuit every March -- the Gatornationals.

clock tower in downtown Gainesville
clock tower in downtown Gainesville

Other Information

Gatorade was invented in Gainesville as a means of refreshing the University of Florida football team. The university still receives a share of the profits from sales of the drink.

Official Websites

City of Gainesville
Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce

See Also

War of 1812
Civil War

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> Cities, Towns, Etc.

This page was last updated on August 28, 2018.