Florence, Alabama
Downtown Florence Historic District
Downtown Florence Historic District
"Alabama's Renaissance City"
Location of Florence in Lauderdale County, Alabama.
Location of Florence in Lauderdale County, Alabama.
Coordinates: 34°49′13″N 87°39′46″W / 34.82028°N 87.66278°W / 34.82028; -87.66278Coordinates: 34°49′13″N 87°39′46″W / 34.82028°N 87.66278°W / 34.82028; -87.66278
CountryUnited States
IncorporatedJanuary 7, 1826[1]
Named forFlorence, Tuscany, Italy
 • TypeMayor/Council (Since 1984)
 • MayorAndrew Betterton
 • City26.73 sq mi (69.23 km2)
 • Land26.52 sq mi (68.68 km2)
 • Water0.21 sq mi (0.55 km2)
548 ft (167 m)
 • City40,184
 • Density1,515.35/sq mi (585.08/km2)
 • Metro
147,317 (US: 281st)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
Area codes256, 938
FIPS code01-26896
GNIS feature ID0118442

Florence is a city in, and the county seat of, Lauderdale County, Alabama, United States, in the state's northwestern corner. It is situated along the Tennessee River and is home to the University of North Alabama, the oldest college in the state.

Florence is the largest and principal city of the Florence-Muscle Shoals Metropolitan Statistical Area commonly known as "The Shoals" (which also includes the cities of Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia in Colbert County).[3][4] Florence is considered northwestern Alabama's primary economic hub.

Annual tourism events include the W. C. Handy Music Festival in the summer and the Renaissance Faire in the fall. Landmarks in Florence include the 20th-century Rosenbaum House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home located in Alabama. The Florence Indian Mound, constructed by indigenous people between 100 BCE and 400 BCE in the Woodland period, is the largest surviving earthen mound in the state and is 43 feet high. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been protected by the city since 1945. In 2017 a new, expanded museum was built to replace one built in 1968 that displays artifacts and interprets the ancient and historic cultures of all the indigenous peoples in the area.[5]

The type of municipal government is a mayor-council system.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Florence has a total area of 25.0 square miles (65 km2), of which 24.9 square miles (64 km2) is land, and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.40%) is water. Florence is located on Wilson Lake and Pickwick Lake, bodies of water on the Tennessee River dammed by Pickwick Dam and Wilson Dams. Pickwick Lake was created by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), an agency established under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. It was a public works program intended to build dams and hydroelectric power and related infrastructure to generate electricity for the rural region to stimulate economic development, provide flood control, and recreational opportunities. Wilson Dam (now operated by the TVA) was authorized by President Woodrow Wilson in 1918 and was the first dam constructed on the Tennessee River.


Evidence for human habitation in the Florence area goes back to at least 500 BCE, when the Florence Indian Mound, the largest of its type in the Tennessee Valley, was constructed as an earthwork during the Woodland period.[6] Successive cultures arose after this. In the historic period, the area of present-day Florence was occupied by the Chickasaw Nation. They first encountered white traders and settlers beginning in the late 1700s, and were forced to cede their land to the Federal government through a series of treaties in early 1800s, as part of the Indian Removal policy to extinguish tribal land claims east of the Mississippi River. The Chickasaw were removed to west of the river in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).[7]

General John Coffee, John McKinley, a future U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and five other trustees established the Cypress Land Company to found a town on a hill overlooking the Tennessee River.[8] The company bought the land, believing that Florence's location along Jackson's Military Road and at the end of the treacherous Muscle Shoals rapids on the Tennessee River would enable it to develop as a major commercial center.[9][10] In 1819, Coffee commissioned Ferdinand Sannoner, a young Italian engineer, to survey and plan the town.[7] As a reward for his work, Sannoner was allowed to choose the name of the new settlement; he named it after Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region of Italy.[8]

The first river steamboat visited the town in 1821.[11] Speculators and settlers, including General Andrew Jackson and President James Monroe, bought up plots of land as they were sold by the Cypress Land Co.[8] Florence quickly became a commercial hub on the Tennessee River, but it did not reach the level its founders had hoped.[10] Florence did grow quickly enough to be incorporated by the State Legislature in 1826.[12]

Adolph Metzner drawing of the "female college" in Florence
Adolph Metzner drawing of the "female college" in Florence

As a sign of progress and ambition, townspeople established the Florence Female Academy here in 1847, for paying female students. By the 1850s, the school was converted into the Florence Synodical Female College, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. It closed in 1893. A historical marker commemorates the site.[13]


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census[14]
2018 Estimate[15]


Florence Racial Composition[16]
Race Num. Perc.
White 28,006 69.69%
Black or African American 7,503 18.67%
Native American 122 0.3%
Asian 519 1.29%
Pacific Islander 22 0.05%
Other/Mixed 1,916 4.77%
Hispanic or Latino 2,096 5.22%

As of the 2020 United States Census, there were 40,184 people, 17,475 households, and 9,718 families residing in the city.


According to the 2010 census:


As of the census of 2000, there were 36,264 people, 15,820 households, and 9,555 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,454.6 inhabitants per square mile (561.6/km2). There were 17,707 housing units at an average density of 710.2 per square mile (274.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 78.39% White, 19.20% Black or African American, 0.24% Native American, 0.62% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.54% from other races, and 0.97% from two or more races. 1.34% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 15,820 households, out of which 25.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them: 43.6% were married couples living together, 14.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.6% were non-families. Nearly 33.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20, and the average family size was 2.82.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 21.4% under the age of 18, 13.7% from 18 to 24, 25.7% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 17.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 84.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $28,330, and the median income for a family was $40,577. Males had a median income of $34,398 versus $21,385 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,464. About 14.4% of families and 20.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.9% of those under age 18 and 13.3% of those age 65 or over.


Harrison Plaza, University of North Alabama
Harrison Plaza, University of North Alabama

Situated in Florence, and founded in 1830 as LaGrange College, and later operating as a normal school, the University of North Alabama, a public, co-educational, higher education institution, is Alabama's oldest state-certified university.[17] The university is the largest in North Alabama[citation needed], with an enrollment topping 7,000 for the first time in 2007. International students now compose roughly 10% of the student population.

The university is situated on 130 acres (53 ha) and surrounded by historic neighborhoods. It is located just north of the downtown business district. Kilby Laboratory School, grades K – 6, is affiliated with the university and is the only laboratory school in the state.

Florence City Schools is the organization of the K–12 public school system. Florence High School (grades 10–12) is the main high school, with an enrollment of approximately 1,000 students. It was created by a merger between the previous two city high schools, Bradshaw High School and Coffee High School. Florence High is located at the former Bradshaw site in the eastern part of the city. The merger also led to the creation of Florence Middle School (grades 7–8) and the Florence Freshman Center (grade 9). The middle school is located at the former Coffee High campus, east of downtown, and the Florence Freshman Center is located at the Florence High School campus.

There are five private schools in Florence: Riverhill School for K-6, St. Joseph Regional Catholic School for grades K–8, and Mars Hill Bible School, Shoals Christian School, and Florence Christian Academy. Each of the latter are multi-denominational, K–12 schools.


The city has a mayor-council form of government. Each of the council members is elected from one of six single-member districts. The mayor is elected at-large.


Andrew Betterton was elected as the mayor of Florence on October 6, 2020. He defeated incumbent Mayor Steve Holt by 11 votes.

City Council

Culture and events

The City of Florence is home to several museums, historical sites and numerous parks that serve the cultural and recreational needs of citizens and tourists. A variety of festivals are held throughout the year.



The festivals are listed chronologically.

Other attractions

See also: List of Registered Historic Places in Lauderdale County, Alabama



Aerial view of Florence
Aerial view of Florence

Other recreation


O'Neal Bridge over the Tennessee River
O'Neal Bridge over the Tennessee River

Florence is the merger point for two major U.S. Highways, as well as several Alabama Highways. Both U.S. Highway 43 and U.S. Highway 72 merge just east of the city limits in Killen, and are co-signed their entire length through the city. Highway 43, running north and south, helps connect the city to Lawrenceburg and Columbia to the north in Tennessee, as well as Tuscaloosa and Mobile to the south. Highway 72 helps connect the city to Huntsville and Chattanooga, Tennessee to the east and Memphis, Tennessee to the west. Interstate 65 is accessible about forty-five minutes east on Highway 72. Both of these roads cross the Tennessee River on O'Neal Bridge, connecting Florence to Sheffield.

Alabama state highways that serve the city include State Route 13, State Route 17, State Route 20, State Route 133, and State Route 157. Alabama 133 connected Florence and Muscle Shoals via Wilson Dam until 2002, when the new six-lane "Patton Island Bridge" finished construction. The bridge is part of a new corridor that will eventually[citation needed] see the widening of Wilson Dam Road in Muscle Shoals to Alabama 20, and the construction of a new road from the bridge to Florence Blvd. in Florence. State Route 157, a road to Florence and the Shoals area, serves as a four-lane link to Interstate 65 in Cullman. the project was completed in the summer of 2007. The road is known as the "University of North Alabama Highway".

Florence and the Shoals area does not have a direct link to an Interstate highway. One solution discussed has been the Memphis to Atlanta Highway, proposed to connect the two cities via a freeway through north Alabama. However, in recent years Mississippi has concentrated its funding on U.S. 78 (Interstate 22), also known as "Corridor X". Though U.S. 72 through Mississippi is four lanes, there are no plans to upgrade it to freeway status. The state of Georgia has also not committed to the necessary work to connect the freeway from the Alabama state line to Atlanta. The highway remains in the planning stages with the Alabama Department of Transportation.[citation needed]

Another plan recently discussed is extending Interstate 565 west from its current terminus just outside Decatur, along Alabama 20/Alternate U.S. 72. The plan has received support from Decatur officials.[citation needed]

Florence is served by the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport in Muscle Shoals. The airport is used for commercial and general aviation, It is served commercially by Contour Airlines which provides several daily flights to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, an American Airlines hub, giving the city access to hundreds of domestic and international destinations. Huntsville International Airport, another option for Florence residents, offers service to eleven domestic destinations, and is an hour's drive from Florence.

Local industry is served by the Tennessee Southern Railroad (TSRR), which runs from Florence to Columbia, Tennessee, and the Port of Florence on Pickwick Lake.


Numerous radio, television and low-power FM radio stations and translators serve Florence and the greater area, all of which are in the greater Florence MSA. Among them are:

AM radio

FM radio


Past television stations
Cable providers
Florence is served by Comcast and AT&T. Their services include television, internet, home phone, and home security services. Comcast has been a provider of television and other services in the Florence area since the early 1960s. AT&T has provided services to Florence since the early 2000s, when they acquired Bell South. Florence is also served by major satellite television providers, including DirecTV and Dish Network.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Florence has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.[24]

The average temperature of Florence is 59 °F (15 °C). The average yearly precipitation in Florence is 57.06 in (144.9 cm).[24] On average, Florence gets 2.25 in (5.7 cm) of snow per year, which is above the average for Alabama of 0.57 in (1.4 cm).[25]

While Florence is almost 300 mi (480 km) from the Gulf of Mexico, strong hurricanes have brought severe weather to the area. For example, in 2005, the path of Hurricane Katrina came very close to the city, causing nearly 70 mph (110 km/h) winds and some storm damage.

Notable people


  1. ^ Act 95. "AN ACT to incorporate the town of Florence in the state of Alabama." Acts Passed at the Seventh Annual Session of the General Assembly of the State of Alabama. 1825. Pages 70–73. Retrieved 2022-05-21.
  2. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 29, 2021.
  3. ^ "Florence-Muscle Shoals MSA". Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  4. ^ Florence-Muscle Shoals map
  5. ^ Barske, Carolyn M. (October 7, 2015). "Indian Mound and Museum". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
  6. ^ Pretes, Michael (2020). "Florence, AL and the Muscle Shoals Region". Southeastern Geographer. 60: 193–196. doi:10.1353/sgo.2020.0023. S2CID 226604262.
  7. ^ a b "Florence". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c Knight, Ben (November 19, 1975). "A look at early Florence, Sheffield". Times Daily. p. 4. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  9. ^ Allen, Sherhonda. "Founding fathers-Seven men formed the company that spearheaded the birth of a city". TimesDaily. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  10. ^ a b Johnson, Kenneth R. (1981). "Slavery and Racism in Florence, AL, 1841-1862". Civil War History. 27: 155–171. doi:10.1353/cwh.1981.0040.
  11. ^ Thomas Perkins Abernethy. (1922). The formative period in Alabama, 1815-1828. Montgomery, Ala.: The Brown printing Company. p. 78. HathiTrust website Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  12. ^ "Early history". Times Daily. April 30, 1948. p. 4. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  13. ^ "Florence Synodical Female College".
  14. ^ United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 7, 2014.
  15. ^ "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 8, 2018.
  16. ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 8, 2021.
  17. ^ "Florence, AL". Forbes. Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  18. ^ "Cox Creek Complex". City of Florence, Alabama. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  19. ^ "Florence Harbor – Where the skies are so blue!". Florenceharbor.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  20. ^ Veterans Memorial Park Course. Professional Disc Golf Association. Retrieved March 12, 2012.
  21. ^ "Woodrow Wilson Park 1818". The Historical Marker Database. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  22. ^ "Florence Harbor Marina". Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  23. ^ "About Us". courierjournal.net. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  24. ^ a b "Florence, Alabama Köppen Climate Classification (Weatherbase)". Weatherbase.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  25. ^ "Florence, AL Weather". USA.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.