All About Gainesville, Florida Geographic Area
Gainesville is the county seat and largest city in Alachua County in the U.S. state of Florida, and the principal city of the Gainesville, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The population of Gainesville in the 2010 Census was 124,354. Gainesville is also the largest city in the region of North Central Florida.
Gainesville is home to the University of Florida, the nation's seventh largest university campus by enrollment, as well as to Santa Fe College. The Gainesville MSA was ranked as the #1 place to live in the 2007 edition of Cities Ranked and Rated. Gainesville was also ranked as one of the "best places to live and play" in 2007 by National Geographic Adventure. Conversely, Gainesville was ranked as the 5th meanest city in the USA by the National Coalition for the Homeless twice, first in 2004 for its criminalization of homelessness and then in 2009 for its ordinance restricting soup kitchens to 130-meals a day.
12,000 years ago Paleo Indians lived in Florida, but fewer than 100 sites have been found and although it is not known for certain whether any permanent settlements from that period were in the present city limits of Gainesville, archeological evidence of human presence exists. Upon retreat of the ice age, coastal Florida became inundated and Florida’s land mass shrank while the southeastern United States became wetter than it had been, so the Paleoindians required fewer moves between water spots and more populous camps inhabited for longer periods of time emerged; among the spots where camps from this later period have been found is around Paynes Prairie very close to Gainesville.
Eventually more complex social organization and agricultural practices emerged into what archeologists classify as the Deptford culture (2500 – 100 BC). A campsite of people of the Deptford Culture has been excavated below the "Law School Burial Mound" on the grounds of the University of Florida. Around the 1st century AD, Deptford people commenced moving into the environs of Gainesville to take advantage of wetlands in the environs of Paynes Prairie and northern Orange Lake becoming the Cades Pond culture.
In the 7th century the Deptford people were displaced by migrants thought to be from the Ocmulgee culture of the river valleys of Southern Georgia, dubbed the Alachua culture since most of their villages have been found in present-day Alachua County. The "Law School Mound" on the University of Florida’s campus is a burial mound built c 1000 by people of the Alachua culture who probably lived along the shore of Lake Alice.
Alachua culture villages budded off to form clusters connected by a series of forest trails, many of which are still in use as paved roads; among these clusters are some in the present city limits of Gainesville near the Devil's Millhopper and near Moon Lake (the eastern shore of which is 0.4 miles from the city limits[geo note 1]) as well as northwest of and north-central of Paynes Prairie, and west of Newnans Lake.
In the recorded period, the region was home to the Potano, a Timucua chiefdom descended from the Alachua culture people (the town of Potano was in what is now the San Felasco Hammock northwest of Gainesville).
Hernando De Soto and his army passed through Gainesville in August, 1539 towards the beginning their four-year exploration of what is now the southeastern United States, the third village where they stayed, Utinamocharra, having been in the dense cluster east of Moon Lake at the northwestern edge of present-day Gainesville.
The Native Americans, having little resistance to diseases introduced from Europe, declined significantly in number after the arrival of Europeans and Spanish suppression of native revolts further reduced the population.
The remaining Timucua were converted to Roman Catholicism and organized into missions overseen by Franciscan priests. The Mission San Francisco de Potano, the first doctrina (a mission with a resident priest) in Florida west of the St. Johns River, was founded in 1606 at the south edge of present-day San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park. In or adjacent to present day Gainesville were two other missions (each named for the saint's day the first Mass was said in it), Santa Ana and San Miguel, which were south of and within a day's walk from San Francisco, are thought to be in the cluster east of Moon Lake where Spanish and Indian artifacts from the Mission-period have been found. The earliest missions were apparently established adjacent to native villages visited by De Soto's expedition; Santa Ana is thought to be located where Utinamocharra lay and in 1606 the friar who served as the priest was told of cruelties that the chief, when a boy, had suffered from De Soto's men. Chief Potano's town was relocated in the colonial period to the vicinity of the Devil's Millhopper, which is now inside the City of Gainesville, from the western shore of Orange Lake.
In the first decade of the 18th century, however, colonial soldiers from the Province of Carolina and their Yamasee Indian allies had killed or carried off nearly all the remaining native inhabitants (10,000 – 12,000 native Floridians were taken as slaves according to the governor of La Florida) and the few remaining Timucua fled and ended up living in the vicinity of St. Augustine.
Spanish colonists began cattle ranching in the Paynes Prairie area using Timucua labor and the largest hacienda (ranch) became known as La Chua (which combines the Spanish article La with the Timucuan word Chua, meaning sinkhole). Although La Chua was destroyed by the above-mentioned raiders from Carolina, the ranch nevertheless gave its name to the Alachua band of the Seminole tribe who settled in the region in the 18th century under the leadership of the great chief Ahaya the Cowkeeper.
Gainesville was founded to place the Alachua County seat on the proposed route of the Florida Railroad Company's line stretching from Cedar Key to Fernandina Beach. County residents decided to move the county seat from Newnansville (and chose the name Gainesville) in 1853, as the proposed railroad would bypass Newnansville. A site on Black Oak Ridge where the railroad was expected to cross it was selected in 1854. It is generally accepted that the new settlement was named for General Edmund P. Gaines, commander of U.S. Army troops in Florida early in the Second Seminole War. The railroad was completed from Fernandina to Gainesville in 1859, passing six blocks south of the courthouse.
A false but nonetheless popular legend, which has been repeated in some books, holds that Gainesville was originally named Hogtown; however, Hogtown was actually an early 19th century settlement in and around what is now Westside Park (in the northeast corner of the intersection of NW 8th Avenue and 34th Street) where a historical marker notes Hogtown's location at that site. Hogtown is the eponymous village of the adjacent Hogtown Creek which flows 5.7 miles through the City of Gainesville. Hogtown continued to exist until after Gainesville was founded as evidenced on a map showing both towns which was published in 1864 based on surveys from 1855. Two residents of Hogtown played a prominent role in establishing Gainesville. William Lewis, who owned a plantation in Hogtown, delivered 20 votes pledged to him to create a new town on the expected route of the railroad, in an attempt to have the new town named Lewisville. Tillman Ingram, who also owned a plantation and a sawmill in Hogtown, helped swing the vote to move the county seat to the new town by offering to build a new courthouse at a low price. Residents of Newnansville, disgruntled at losing the county seat, called the site chosen for the new town "Hog Wallow", because of its location between Hogtown and Paynes Prairie. The former site of Hogtown was annexed by the City of Gainesville in 1961.
A town site of 103.25 acres (41.78 ha) was purchased for $642.51. The County Commission ordered the public sale of lots in the town site in 1854, but no deeds were recorded until 1856. A courthouse was constructed in Gainesville in 1856, and the county seat was then officially moved from Newnansville. A jail was built in 1857, and a well was dug and a pump for public use installed the same year. Property values rose quickly. A city block on the edge of town purchased for $14.57 in 1857 sold for $100 in 1858. The railroad from Fernandina reached Gainesville in 1859, and connected to Cedar Key the next year. By that time, there were eight or nine stores and three hotels surrounding the courthouse square.
In the 1850s secessionist sentiment was strong in Gainesville. Half of the white residents in Gainesville had been born in South Carolina (where secessionist sentiments were very strong), or had parents who had been born in that state. Aside from a few foreign-born residents, the other whites in town had also been born in Florida or other Southern states. Another factor was fear of blacks. Blacks, mostly slaves, were a majority of the population in Alachua County (although there were few in Gainesville itself). John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 frightened the whites in Gainesville, leading them to organize a militia company called the Gainesville Minute Men.
The Gainesville Minute Men were incorporated into the First Florida Regiment soon after Florida seceded from the Union. Several more companies were recruited in Gainesville and Alachua County during the Civil War. During the war Gainesville served as a depot for food requisitioned by the Confederate government from the surrounding area. A small post on the east side of Gainesville called Fort Lee was an induction point for men entering the Confederate States Army.
Fighting on a small scale reached Gainesville twice. On February 15, 1864, a small Union raiding party occupied Gainesville. Elements of the Second Florida Cavalry attempted to drive the union force from the town, but were defeated in a street battle. The raiding party was associated with a larger invasion of Florida that was defeated at the Battle of Olustee five days later. The Union troops did not seize or destroy any property on this raid, but did distribute food stores to the residents, who were suffering from shortages. Early in the morning of August 17, 1864, 265 Union troops and 15 "loyal Floridians" reached Gainesville. The troops stopped just east of town to prepare breakfast and care for their horses. A small home guard of 30 to 40 old men and boys attacked the Union camp, and were easily driven off. The Union troops then broke ranks and started looting the town. While the Union troops were scattered throughout the town a large number of Confederate troops were spotted approaching. The Union troops resisted the Confederate advance for an hour and a half, but were finally driven from Gainesville with heavy casualties.
For several months following the civil war, the 3rd United States Colored Troops were stationed in Gainesville, which encouraged freed men to settle there. At the same time black farm laborers were recruited from Georgia and South Carolina to help harvest what was expected to be a very large cotton crop, but heavy rain ruined the cotton, and the recently arrived blacks were left without work. Black residents soon outnumbered whites in Gainesville, which had had 223 white residents in 1860. Vagrancy and theft became major problems in Gainesville, and large numbers of blacks were arrested by Federal Troops.
White residents resumed political life in Florida immediately after the end of the Civil War. Gainesville incorporated as a city in 1866, but the city government was weak and the council did not maintain a regular schedule of meetings. With military control asserted over Florida in 1867 as part of Reconstruction, the reconstituted Florida legislature required all cities to re-incorporate, and Gainesville did so in 1869. During Reconstruction Gainesville blacks were elected to a number of state and local offices. Blacks had largely been disenfranchised by the 1890s, however.
Following the Civil War, the city prospered as an important cotton shipping facility. Florida produced more Sea Island Cotton in the 1880s than any other state, and Gainesville was the leading shipping point for cotton in Florida. Two more railroads had reached Gainesville by the 1880s, and citrus and vegetables had become important local crops. However, the citrus industry ended when the great freezes of 1894–95 and 1899 destroyed the crops, and citrus growing was largely abandoned in the area. Phosphate mining and lumbering became important parts of the local economy. A manufacturing area had grown up south of downtown, near the railroads.
The first school for blacks in Gainesville, the Union Academy, was established in 1866 by the Freedmen's Bureau to educate freed slaves. White residents of Gainesville were opposed to education for blacks, and treated the teachers at the school badly, including incidents of boys throwing "missiles" into the classrooms. By 1898 the school served 500 students, and it continued in operation until 1929. White students had only private schools available before 1869, including the East Florida Seminary, which moved from Ocala in 1866 and merged with the Gainesville Academy (founded in 1856). Even after a public school system had been established in Alachua County, most white children who went to school did so at private schools, and the Union Academy was in session for a larger part of the year, and its teachers were better paid, than was the case for the public schools. Public education remained underfunded into the 1880s, classes having to meet in abandoned houses or rented rooms. The school year for public schools was as short as three months for some years. The first public school building was built in 1885. The Gainesville Graded and High School, with twelve classrooms and an auditorium, opened in 1900, and most of the private schools closed soon after. The county school board also provided some funds for upkeep of the Union Academy.
There was no dedicated church building in Gainesville in the first years of its existence. A church built in 1859 by the Presbyterians was shared by itinerant preachers of several denominations until 1874. The Methodist mission to Gainesville lapsed during the Civil War, and a church they had built was used by a black congregation after the war. Several white Protestant denominations organized congregations and built churches in the 1870s. Catholics, who had been holding services in private homes for 25 years, built a church in 1887. Jewish families began moving to Gainesville in the late 1860s. Although a Jewish cemetery was established in 1872, there was no synagogue in Gainesville until 1924.
Gainesville was a rough town after the Civil War, and into the early 20th century. Whites and blacks commonly carried firearms, and gunshots were often heard at night. Killings and serious injuries were frequent. Some of the violence was racial. Young Mens Democratic Clubs (usually a cover name for the Ku Klux Klan) formed in the late 1860s to fight political domination by Republican northerners and blacks reportedly burned the homes of many Republicans and killed nineteen, including five blacks. A black man was taken from the jail and lynched in 1871. In 1891 a black man and a white man, members of a dreaded gang, were also taken from the jail and lynched. Later that year a black man accused of giving shelter to Harmon Murray, another member of that gang, was also taken from the jail and lynched. The city had only a single police officer until well into the 20th century, which was inadequate to deal with the violence. A posse authorized by the city council also did little to stem the violence. Punishments for crime included public executions, the pillory, lashes and fines.
A volunteer fire department was organized in 1882, but was unable to stop several fires in 1884 that burned most of the wooden buildings in downtown Gainesville. The burned buildings were replaced with brick structures. A brick courthouse replaced the old wooden one in 1885. Public utilities were gradually installed in the city late in the 19th century; gas in 1887, water in 1891, and telephones and electricity later in the 1890s. By 1900 Gainesville was the seventh largest city in Florida, with over 3,600 residents.
The Republican Party remained strong in Gainesville even after the end of Reconstruction in 1876 because of the large number of blacks and Northern whites who had moved there after the Civil War. Some Southerners had also joined the Republican Party. Alachua county was one of the few counties in Florida that was won by the Republican Party in the election of 1880. In the 1880s Republicans and Democrats reached an accommodation. In the election of 1883 most city races were won by wide majorities, with both Republicans and Democrats, white and blacks, being elected. There was tension within the Republican Party between blacks and Northern whites, however. By 1885 the arrival of whites from northern states and the departure of blacks gave Gainesville a white majority. The imposition by the Florida Legislature in 1889 of a poll tax and a de facto literacy test in the form of separate ballot boxes for each office, which required voters to be able to read labels on the boxes in order to vote correctly, effectively disenfranchised most blacks. Some blacks switched to the Democratic Party, further weakening the Republicans, and the Republican Party ceased to be a factor in Gainesville politics in the 1890s.
Major change came to Gainesville early in the 20th century. Citizens felt that the city did not have sufficient resources and powers to provide the services demanded in a growing city. The state legislature was asked to grant Gainesville a new charter, and in 1905 it did so, also enlarging the city limits. The city offered its first bond issue the same year. Money from bond issues was used to start a sewer system and pave important streets, initially with crushed rock, and after 1910, with bricks. When private companies were unable to provide adequate electric service to Gainesville, the city built a generating plant, which became operational in 1914.
Another development in 1905 had a significant impact on the future of Gainesville. At the time, Florida was funding eight post-secondary schools. Concerned about rising requests for funding and duplication of course offerings, the state legislature passed the Buckman Act, consolidating the eight institutions into four segregated schools, including, for white men, the University of the State of Florida (renamed University of Florida in 1909). Gainesville competed for the university, with Lake City as its principal rival. Gainesville offered free water for the school from the city system, 500 acres west of the city, purchase of the East Florida Seminary site from the state for $30,000, and $40,000 cash. The fact that Alachua was a dry county, banning the sale of all alcohol other than low-alcohol beer, was viewed as a factor in favor of Gainesville. The state selected Gainesville, causing the biggest celebration in the history of the city.
The University opened with 136 students in the fall of 1906. For the first decade of the school's existence it was in a rural setting, connected to downtown Gainesville by a single crushed rock road. The school had to close its gates at night to keep wandering cows out. Buildings at the University were originally built with State funds, but in 1919 the city contributed $1,000 for a new gymnasium to help bring the New York Giants to town for spring training. As the University grew, commercial establishments spread westward along University Avenue and new subdivisions were developed near the campus.
The city experienced growing pains in the first decades of the century. The city's only water supply had been Boulware Springs for many years, but the limits of its supply had been reached, and the city could no longer connect new subdivisions to city utilities. A bond issue was required to drill a well and build a water tower. A fire house was built in 1903, and the fire department was modernized, replacing its last horses with motorized equipment in 1913. However, the department remained a volunteer organization until the 1920s.
Gainesville's economy was still dominated by agriculture. Gainesville was a major shipping point for cotton until the industry was devastated by the boll weevil infestation in 1916-18, after which cotton was abandoned as a crop in the area. Truck farming had become important in north central Florida, with large shipments of vegetables and melons from Gainesville to markets in the northern U. S. Phosphate mining continued to be important, although starting to decline, and industries such as processing naval stores and making fertilizer thrived in Gainesville. World War I severely affected the economy in Gainesville. Markets in Europe, in particular Germany, were cut off by the war, and phosphate mining and the naval stores industry went into a slump, aggravated by the loss of cotton processing and shipping.
Gainesville participated in the national economic boom that followed the end of World War I. In 1925, Gainesville was swept up by the land boom that had started in Miami Beach earlier in the year. New subdivisions were platted and auctioned, binders on property were sold and resold with ever increasing prices, and almost 100 real estate brokers and agents were registered in Gainesville on the first day licenses were required. Plans were floated to build a modern first-class hotel in Gainesville. After a false start in which the financing plans fell through, a developer from southern Florida who had become heavily involved in the real estate market in Gainesville, W. McKey Kelly, put forward plans for a ten-story, 120-room hotel. Construction on the Hotel Kelly, also known as the Dixie Hotel, started in 1926, but Kelly ran out of money before construction was completed, and the collapse of the land boom doomed the project. The unfinished hotel sat empty for more than a decade until a Federal grant and private donation allowed its completion as the Seagle Building.
Changes in city government occurred in the 1920s. The city changed its charter to add a city manager. The police force was increased from three men to nine, and a desk sergeant was available to answer a telephone 24 hours a day. A county hospital opened in Gainesville in 1928. More streets were paved, using asphalt rather than bricks. Increasing demand for electricity led the city commission to consider contracting with Florida Power and Light rather than issuing bonds to expand the city generating capacity, but voters passed an amendment to the city charter forbidding any such deal. With a booming population, schools had become overcrowded. Gainesville High School was opened in 1926 and expanded two years later. The old Gainesville Graded and High School became an elementary school. Lincoln School, offering 12 grades for blacks, opened in 1923. It was the first public high school for blacks in Gainesville.
The Ku Klux Klan became active in Gainesville in the early 1920s. As elsewhere, it was anti-black, anti-semitic, and anti-Catholic, and professed to uphold morality. In an early incident, a worker was kidnapped from his job late at night and beaten severely for neglecting his wife and children. A police officer had tried to intervene, but retreated when guns were drawn. City officials condoned the incident. Former mayor William Reuben Thomas condemned the event and called for the mayor and police chief, who apparently were members of the Klan, to step down, to no avail. The Klan also objected to a Catholic priest who had organized a drama club at the University, and in 1923 Catholic priests were officially banned from all state college campuses. The next year three men in full Klan regalia kidnapped the priest from his rectory, beat him severely, and castrated him. The priest and another witness identified two of the kidnappers as the mayor and police chief of Gainesville, but there was no publicity and no investigation of the incident. In the 1930s the Klan took credit for burning down the houses of prostitution on North Main Street, ostensibly to protect the morals of the students at the University.
The collapse of the land boom in 1925-1926 had not been as severe in Gainesville as in southern Florida, but did cool off the local economy. As a result, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 was not felt as strongly as in many other places. The city of Gainesville remained solvent throughout the Great Depression and unemployment was lower than in most of the country. Agriculture continued to be a mainstay of the local economy. In 1922 tung trees were planted in Alachua County, and Gainesville became the center of tung oil production in the United States. Tung oil had previously been available only from China. Both tung oil and tung tree seeds were shipped around the world from Gainesville. The University of Florida, with about 1,000 employees and 2,000 students, helped stabilize the local economy during the Depression. In the middle and late 1930s various New Deal programs brought money and employment to Gainesville. Utility lines were extended, streets paved and sidewalks installed. The Seagle Building was completed and occupied by the University of Florida. An airport, Gainesville's first, was built.
World War II brought economic and population growth to Gainesville. Even before the United States entered the war, the opening of Camp Blanding affected Gainesville, with soldiers on leave visiting the city, and officers renting housing for their families. The airport was improved and taken over by the Army Air Corps as the Alachua Army Airbase. Agriculture prospered and local industries received contracts for producing military supplies. Building construction also increased. The hospital was expanded with financial help from the Federal government. The university was used to train enlisted men, air cadets and officers.
The end of World War II brought even more growth to Gainesville. The G.I. Bill allowed war veterans to attend college, and enrollment at the University of Florida boomed. More than half of the approximately 9,000 students at the university in 1946-47 were veterans. Many of the veterans had families, straining housing availability in the city. The University became co-educational in 1947, with the admission of over 800 women. The population of Gainesville doubled from 1940 to 1950, with construction and employment at the university becoming more important in the city's economy. The city's power plant was inadequate for demand. The Federal government had required the city to buy electricity from private power companies rather than expand its own generating capacity during World War II. After the voters again rejected a proposal for the city to buy electric power wholesale, the city embarked on a major expansion of power generation. The water and sewer systems also were greatly expanded. The airport was returned to the city, and scheduled passenger flights started in 1950. The police department expanded from about 10 officers in the 1930s to 40 by 1950. Also in 1950, the old system of named streets was replaced by a quadrant system of numbered streets.
The rapid growth of Gainesville put a strain on the public schools. When residents voted down proposals to issue bonds for school construction, the school board acquired surplus barracks from army bases to use as temporary classroom. The newer residents helped to pass school bond issues beginning in the 1950s. The return of veterans to Gainesville and the growth of the university also began to influence politics in Gainesville. In the 1930s, land ownership in and around Gainesville, and with it political power, had become concentrated in fewer hands. Veterans returning to the city after World War II had difficulty entering financial and political inner circles. University faculty and staff had been well integrated into the community before the war, but the growth after the war brought in many faculty who were dissatisfied with the political status quo in Gainesville. To avert tensions with local politicians, J. Hillis Miller, President of the university from 1947 to 1953, barred university faculty and staff from participating in local politics.
During the 1960s, Gainesville became a center for college activism, and was described by then-professor Marshall Jones as "The Berkeley of the South". The city was the center of the Gainesville Eight case in the 1970s, in which eight activists were accused of conspiracy to violently disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach. After their acquittal, activism declined, but rose again during the mid-1980s, as the University of Florida became the state's focal point for anti-apartheid activism.
The city gained notoriety in 2010 and 2011 after local church Dove World Outreach Center began anti-sharia law campaigns and the Dove World Quran-burning controversy.
Gainesville is located at 29°39'55" North, 82°20'10" West (29.665245, -82.336097), which is roughly the same latitude as Houston, Texas. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 49.1 square miles (127 km2), of which 48.2 square miles (125 km2) is land and 0.9 square miles (2 km2) is water. The total area is 1.87% water.
Gainesville's tree canopy is both dense and species rich, including broadleaf evergreens, conifers, and deciduous species; the city has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation every year since 1982 as a "Tree City, USA".
Gainesville is the only city with more than 10,000 residents in the Gainesville, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area (Alachua and Gilchrist counties), and it is surrounded by rural area, including the 21,000-acre (85 km2) wilderness of Paynes Prairie on its southern edge. The city is characterized by its medium size, central location, about 90 minutes driving time from either Jacksonville or Orlando and five hours driving time from either Atlanta or Miami. The area is dominated by the presence of the University of Florida, which in 2008 had been the third largest university campus in the USA and as of Fall 2011 is the seventh largest campus by enrollment in the USA.
Gainesville's climate is defined as humid subtropical. Due to its inland location, Gainesville experiences wide temperature fluctuation for Florida. During the summer season, roughly from June 1 to September 30, the city's climate is similar to the rest of the state, with frequent afternoon thunderstorms and high humidity. Temperatures range from the low 70s at night to around 90 °F (32 °C) during the day on average. From October through May, however, the Gainesville area has a climate distinct from peninsular Florida with occasional freezing temperatures at night and sustained freezes occurring every few years. The all time record low of 10 °F (−12 °C) was reached on January 21, 1985, and the city was struck by a substantial snow and ice storm on Christmas Eve, 1989. Snow was also recorded in 1976, 1996 and again on December 26, 2010. In winter, highs average between 64 and 68 °F (18 and 20 °C), and lows average between 42 and 45 °F (6 and 7 °C). In average winters, Gainesville will see temperatures drop below 30 °F (−1 °C). Low temperatures between 10 and 20 °F (-12 and -7 °C) are not unheard of, and occur 3 to 4 times per decade on average. In Gainesville, cold temperatures are almost always accompanied by clear skies and high pressure systems; snow is therefore rare.
The city's flora and fauna are also distinct from coastal regions of the state, and include many deciduous species, such as dogwood, maple, hickory and sweet gum, alongside palms, live oaks, and other evergreens. Thus, the city enjoys brief periods of fall color in late November and December (though hardly comparable to areas further north) and a noticeable and prolonged spring from late February through early April. This is a generally pleasant period, as colorful blooms of azalea and redbud complement a cloudless blue sky, for this is also the period of low precipitation and lowest humidity. The city averages 48.36 inches (1,228 mm) of precipitation per year. Summer is the wettest season, with 19.51 inches (496 mm), while fall is the driest season, with only 9.04 inches (230 mm) of precipitation.
Since the 1990s, suburban sprawl has been a concern for a majority of the city commissioners. However, the "New Urbanization" plan to gentrify the area between historic Downtown and the University of Florida may slow the growth of suburban sectors and spark a migration toward upper-level apartments in the inner city. The area immediately north of the University of Florida is also seeing active redevelopment. Many gentrification plans rely on tax incentives which have sparked controversy, and even so are sometimes unsuccessful. University Corners, which would not have been proposed without a $98 million tax incentive program by the city was to be "a crowning jewel of the city's redevelopment efforts", 450 condos and hotel units and 98,000 square feet of retail space in eight stories covering three city blocks, on 3.4-acres purchased for $15.5 million. 19 thriving businesses were demolished in April, 2007 but in May, 2008 deposit checks were refunded to about 105 people who reserved units and in July, 2008 developers spent "$120,000 to beautify the site, so we won't have this ugly green fence."
The east side of Gainesville houses the majority of the African-American community within the city, while the west side consists of the mainly white student and resident population. There are also large-scale planned communities on the far west side, most notably Haile Plantation, which was built on the site of a former plantation.
The destruction of the city's landmark Victorian courthouse in the 1960s, which some considered unnecessary, brought the idea of historic preservation to the attention of the community. The bland county building which replaced the grand courthouse became known to some locals as the "air conditioner." Additional destruction of other historic buildings in the downtown followed. Only a small handful of older buildings are left, like the Hippodrome State Theatre, at one time a Federal building. Revitalization of the city's core has picked up, and many parking lots and underutilized buildings are being replaced with infill development and near-campus housing which blend in with existing historic structures. There is a proposal to rebuild a replica of the old courthouse on a parking lot one block from the original location.
Helping in this effort are the number of areas and buildings which have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Dozens of examples of restored Victorian and Queen Anne style residences constructed in the city's agricultural heyday of the 1880s and 1890s can be found in the following districts:
Additionally, the University of Florida Campus Historic District, consisting of eleven buildings, plus an additional fourteen contributing properties, lie within the boundaries of the city. Most of the buildings in the Campus Historic District are constructed in variations of Collegiate Gothic architecture, which returned to prominence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Historic structures on the Register in and around downtown are:
The population of Gainesville was 125,365 is 2011. The population of Gainesville was 124,354 in 2010, a 30.3% change from 2000. There were 48,800 households, with 2.2 persons per household and a median household income $30,036. The per capita income was $18,909. Children under the age of 5 were 4.4% of the population, under 18 13.4%, and people 65 years or over were 8.3% of the population. Fifty one point 6 percent of the population were female, 64.9% white, 23.0% black, 6.9% Asian, 0.3% American Indians and Alaska Natives, 0.1% Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, and 2.9% reporting two or more races. Ten percent were Hispanic or Latino, and 58.7 were non-Hispanic whites.
As of 2000, 87.10% of residents spoke English as their first language, while 6.31% spoke Spanish, 1.28% spoke Chinese, 0.55% spoke French, 0.52% spoke Korean, and 0.50% spoke German as their mother tongue. In total, 12.89% of the total population spoke languages other than English.
Numerous guides such as the 2004 book Cities Ranked and Rated: More than 400 Metropolitan Areas Evaluated in the U.S. and Canada have mentioned Gainesville's low cost of living. The restaurants near the University of Florida also tend to be inexpensive. The property taxes are high to offset the cost of the university, as the university's land is tax-exempt. However, the median home cost remains slightly below the national average, and Gainesville residents, like all Floridians, do not pay state income taxes.
This city's job market scored only 6 points out of a possible 100 in the Cities Ranked and Rated guide, as the downside to the low cost of living is an extremely weak local job market that is oversupplied with college-educated residents. The median income in Gainesville is slightly below the U.S. average.
The city of Gainesville promotes solar power by allowing small businesses and homeowners to supply electricity into the municipal power grid under favorable tariff. Presently purchasing rate is set at $0.32 per kilowatt-hour. 
The sports drink Gatorade was invented in Gainesville in the 1960s as a means of refreshing the UF football team. UF still receives a share of the profits from the beverage. However, Gatorade's headquarters are now located in Chicago, Illinois.
According to Gainesville's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
All of the Gainesville urban area is served by Alachua County Public Schools, which has some 75 different institutions in the county, most of which are in the Gainesville area. Fort Clarke Middle School, located in Northwest Gainesville, won the Sudler Cup in 2012 for the excellence of their music program. Gainesville is also home to the University of Florida and Santa Fe College. The University of Florida is a major financial boost to the community, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenues are created by the athletic events that occur at UF, including SEC football games. In all the University of Florida contributes nearly $9 billion annually to Florida's economy and is responsible for more than 100,000 jobs.
Other educational institutions include: City College (Gainesville campus), Oak Hall School, and Saint Francis Catholic High School.
The Alachua County Library District provides public library service to a county-wide population (in 2010) of 247,336. The Library District has reciprocal borrowing agreements with the surrounding counties of Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Marion, Putnam, and Union. These agreements are designed to facilitate access to the most conveniently located library facility regardless of an individual's county of residence.
Gainesville has an extensive road system, which is served by Interstate 75, and several Florida State Routes, including State routes 20, 24, and 26, among others. Gainesville is also served by US 441 and nearby US 301, which gives a direct route to Jacksonville, Ocala, and Orlando.
The city's streets are set up on a grid system with four quadrants (NW, NE, SW and SE). All streets are numbered, except for a few major thoroughfares which are often named for the towns to which they lead (such as Waldo Road (SR 24), Hawthorne Road (SR 20), Williston Road (SR 121), Archer Road (also SR 24) and Newberry Road (SR 26). Streets ending in the suffixes Avenue, Place, Road or Lane (often remembered by use of the acronym "APRiL") run generally east-west, while all other streets run generally north-south.
Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach buses connect with Jacksonville, Florida, to the north and Lakeland, Florida (to/from points south, LKL), to the south. Buses arrive/depart stations to connect with the Amtrak Silver Service. Amtrak train service is available at Palatka, Florida, 32 miles (51 km) to the east.
At one time, Gainesville had railroad lines extending in six directions from the community and was served by several depots, the earliest route constructed reaching the town in 1859. As traffic and business patterns changed, the less heavily used railroads were abandoned beginning in 1943, and some routes realigned, with the last trains running in the middle of Main Street in 1948. By the 1980s, the only freight operator into the city was the Seaboard System, (formerly the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad, now merged into CSX). Passenger service into Gainesville had ended by the time of Amtrak's 1971 creation. In 1984, the last freight trackage was removed as the Seaboard abandoned the branch through Gainesville to Hawthorne due to light customer traffic on the line.
In addition to its extensive road network, Gainesville is also served by Gainesville Regional Transit System, or RTS, which is the fourth largest mass transit system in the state. The area is also served by Gainesville Regional Airport in the northeast part of the city, with daily service to Atlanta, Miami and Charlotte.
According to the 2000 Census, 5.25 percent of Gainesville residents commute to work by bike, among the highest figures in the nation for a major population center.
Gainesville is known as a supporter of the visual arts. Each year, two large art festivals attract artists and visitors from all over the southeastern United States.
Cultural facilities include the Florida Museum of Natural History, Harn Museum of Art, the Hippodrome State Theatre, and the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Smaller theaters include the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre (ART) and the Gainesville Community Playhouse (GCP). GCP is the oldest community theater group in Florida; in 2006, it christened a new theater building.
The presence of a major university enhances the city's opportunities for cultural lifestyles. The University of Florida College of Fine Arts is the umbrella college for the School of Music, School of Theatre and Dance, School of Art and Art History, and a number of other programs and centers including The University Galleries, the Center for World Art, and Digital Worlds. Collectively, the College offers many performance events and artist/lecture opportunities for students and the greater Gainesville community, the majority of which are offered at little or no cost.
Since 1989, Gainesville has been home to Theatre Strike Force, the University of Florida's premier improv troupe. In addition Gainesville also plays host to several sketch comedy troupes and stand-up comedians.
In April 2003, Gainesville became known as the "Healthiest Community in America" when it achieved the only "Gold Well City" award given by the Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA). Headed up by Gainesville Health & Fitness Centers, and with the support of Shands HealthCare and the Gainesville-area Chamber of Commerce, 21 businesses comprising 60 percent of the city’s workforce became involved in the "Gold Well City" effort. As of July 2011, Gainesville remained the only city in the country to reach the achievement.
The counties surrounding Alachua County vote strongly Republican, while Alachua County votes strongly Democratic. In the 2008 election, there was a 22% gap in votes in Alachua county between Barack Obama and John McCain, while the remaining eleven candidates on the ballot and write-in votes received approximately 1.46% of the vote.
The National Coalition for the Homeless cited Gainesville as the 5th meanest city in the USA for the city's criminalization of homelessness in the Coalition's two most recent reports (in 2004 and 2009), the latter time for its meal limit ordinance. Gainesville has a number of ordinances that target the homeless, including an anti-panhandling measure, restrictions on feeding free meals to the hungry, and a measure illegalizing sleeping outdoors on public property. In 2005, the Alachua Board of County Commissioners and the Gainesville City Commission responded by issuing a written "Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness"; however, the plan has never been implemented and in 2010 "A Needs Assessment of Unsheltered Homeless Individuals In Gainesville, Florida" was presented to a joint meeting of Gainesville and Alachua County Commissions.
Restrictions on feeding the hungry have recently brought infamy to Gainesville when a documentary on the matter, "Civil Indigent" won several awards. A restriction of 130 meals at any site being served to the hungry had for 18 years been an unenforced ordinance until March 2009, when a downtown developer presented data to the City Plan Board (residents appointed by the City Commission to advise the Commission on planning issues) showing that a downtown soup kitchen distributed significantly more meals than the legal limit, which resulted in a strict enforcement of the meal limit ordinance Outrage has engendered much activism, including the founding of the "Coalition to End the Meal Limit NOW!" which organizes protests against, and publishes data about, the meal limit, the gathering of 13,060 signatures by an online petition to repeal meal limit, protesters picketing the Mayor's State of the City Address and picketing developers who lobby City Hall to keep a meal limit on soup kitchens, and groups including the Democratic Party of Alachua County urging the lifting of the meal limit. In 2009, the City Plan Board unanimously recommended to the Gainesville City Commission the 130-meals-per-day limit be lifted and in March, 2011 the City Plan Board again voted unanimously to recommend removing the limit; in March 2011 a downtown developer, contrariwise, asked the City Commission to decrease the number of meals that may be served. The Gainesville City Commission unanimously voted to repeal the meal limit on August 18, 2011, proposing to replace it with a three hour serving window as a compromise. Once the city attorney drafts a new ordinance, two more votes are needed for the change to take effect.
Gainesville is renowned in the recreational drug culture for "Gainesville Green," a particularly potent strain of marijuana. Orange and Blue magazine published a feature article in 2003 about the history of Gainesville Green and the local marijuana culture in general. In the mid-1990s, there were several Gainesville Hemp Festivals which took place outside of the Alachua county courthouse.
Gainesville is traditionally well known for its music scene and has spawned a number of bands and musicians including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Stephen Stills, Don Felder and Bernie Leadon of The Eagles, The Motels, Against Me!, Less Than Jake, Hot Water Music, John Vanderslice, Sister Hazel, and For Squirrels. It is also currently the location of independent label No Idea Records and the former home of Plan It X Records, which moved to Cairo, Ill. For two years, the Gainesville non-profit organization called Harvest of Hope Foundation hosted the Harvest of Hope Festival in St. Augustine, Florida. No Idea puts on the annual 3-day rock festival known as The Fest. The Fest typically occurs during the last weekend in October, coinciding with the annual Florida-Georgia football game (played in Jacksonville, FL), in order to minimize tensions between the largely out of town music festival goers with the University of Florida students and alumni. Even taking these precautions, The Fest still leads to increases in alcohol and drug fueled fights disagreements between the out of towners and the local residents and authorities.
Between 1987 and 1993, Gainesville had a very active rock music scene, with Hollywood star River Phoenix having the local club Hardback Cafe as his main base. Phoenix's band Aleka's Attic was a constant feature of the rock scene, among others. The Phoenix family is still a presence in Gainesville with Rain Phoenix's band Papercranes and Liberty Phoenix's store, Indigo.
Today, Gainesville is still known for its strong music community and was named "Best Place to Start a Band in the United States" by Blender Magazine in March 2008. The article cited the large student population, cheap rent, and friendly venues as reasons.
Over the past decade, Gainesville has been home to a wide variety of bands, from the Latin/afrobeat sounds of Umoja Orchestra, to the rock of Morningbell, to ska staples The Know How.
Gainesville's reputation as an independent music mecca can be traced back to 1984 when a local music video station was brought on the air. The station was called TV-69, broadcast on UHF 69 and was owned by Cozzin Communications. The channel drew considerable media attention thanks to its promotion by famous comedian Bill Cosby, who was part-owner of that station when it started. TV-69 featured many videos by punk and indie-label bands and had several locally produced videos ("Clone Love" by a local parody band, and a Dinosaur Jr song).
Gainesville is the 162nd-largest television market in the nation, as measured by Nielsen Media Research. Broadcast television stations in the Gainesville market consist of WCJB, an ABC affiliate in Gainesville; WGFL, a CBS affiliate broadcasting from High Springs; WOGX, a Fox affiliate from Ocala; and WUFT, the PBS station affiliated with the University of Florida in Gainesville. NBC affiliate WNBW began broadcasting in the city on January 1, 2009.
Arbitron ranks the Gainesville-Ocala market as the nation's 83rd-largest. Thirteen radio stations are licensed to operate in the city of Gainesville—five AM stations, six commercial FM stations, and two low-power non-commercial FM stations. Three of the stations (WRUF, WRUF-FM, and WUFT-FM) are operated by broadcasting students at the University of Florida. WUFT-FM is the city's NPR member station, while the WRUF stations are operated as commercial stations.
Gainesville is served by The Gainesville Sun and The Independent Florida Alligator, the student newspaper for the University of Florida and Santa Fe College.
Gainesville maintains sister city relationships with four cities in three separate arrangements: