Florence, Alabama
Downtown Florence Historic District
Downtown Florence Historic District
Flag of Florence, Alabama
Official seal of Florence, Alabama
"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; -87.66278
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)
Elevation607 ft (185 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 ID2403619[3]

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.

Florence is the largest and principal city of the Quad Cities commonly known as "The Shoals" (which also includes the cities of Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia in Colbert County).[4][5] Florence is considered northwestern Alabama's primary economic hub. Florence is the most populous city of 30 places in the United States with the name Florence, which was slightly larger than Florence, South Carolina.

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 400 BCE and 100 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.[6]

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.[citation needed]


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.[7]

The average temperature of Florence is 59 °F (15 °C). The average yearly precipitation in Florence is 57.06 in (144.9 cm).[7] 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).[8]

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.

Climate data for Florence, 1991–2020 simulated normals (558 ft elevation)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 50.5
Daily mean °F (°C) 40.6
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 30.7
Average precipitation inches (mm) 5.30
Average dew point °F (°C) 32.2
Source: PRISM Climate Group[9]



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.[10] 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).[11]

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.[12] 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.[13][14] In 1819, Coffee commissioned Ferdinand Sannoner, a young Italian engineer, to survey and plan the town.[11] Situating the town on the plateau overlooking the Tennessee River provided protection from flooding as well as the disease of the swampier lowlands by the riverbank. The investors were so pleased with Sannoner's work that he was allowed to choose the name of the new settlement; he named it after Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region of Italy.[12]

Antebellum Florence (1826–1860)

The first river steamboat visited the town in 1821.[15] 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.[12] Florence quickly became an important commercial hub on the Tennessee River, but it did not reach the level its founders had hoped.[14] However, Florence did grow quickly enough to be incorporated by the State Legislature in 1826.[16] By 1831, the increased cotton cultivation in the area to the east of Florence necessitated the expansion and improvement of transport facilities in the area, including the digging of a canal around the Muscle Shoals.[17] Congress appropriated land for that purpose and construction began in 1831, with the Muscle Shoals Canal opening in 1837, however, the locks could not support steamships and the state had difficulty maintaining the construction, so it was abandoned shortly thereafter.[18] Equally important was the construction of a railroad bridge across the Tennessee River, with the first bridge being completed in the 1830s, but would be washed away by a flood soon after completion.[19] Another bridge would be completed in 1840 and would last until the mid-1850s, when it was damaged by tornadoes in 1850 and 1854, resulting in its decommissioning. The rock piers of the 1840 bridge survived the damage and form the foundation of the present structure.[19] As a part of Florence's development as a commercial hub, a variety of manufacturing enterprises sprung up around the city, including an iron foundry, lumber, cotton, and wool mills, as well as a complex of cotton, flour, and corn mills along Cypress Creek known as the Globe Factory.[20]

Plantations, too, sprung up around Florence, driven by cheap fertile land and high cotton prices. Two of these plantation homes are of note: Sweetwater Mansion and the Forks of Cypress. Sweetwater Mansion is notable for being the residence of Robert M. Patton, the first governor of Alabama after the Civil War and for the various paranormal sightings that have occurred there.[21] The Forks of Cypress, on the other hand, was the plantation home of James Jackson, one of the original Cypress Land Co. trustees, and was acclaimed for its architectural style and the quality of its racing horses.[22] With the plantation economy, so too came slavery. While slavery in northwest Alabama did not reach the magnitude that it did in the Black Belt, a significant percentage of the population (about 14% in 1818) was enslaved and by 1860, there were twenty three plantations in Lauderdale County that had over fifty slaves.[23] Not all slaves worked on the plantation, however, many worked in construction or in other contexts. Dred Scott was brought to Florence in the 1820s and served as a hosteler in the local inn, before his participation in the landmark Supreme Court case.[24]

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.[25] LaGrange College, Alabama's first chartered college, was established near Leighton in 1830 before being moved across the river to Florence in 1855. The move to Florence was controversial, however, and the Florence site was denied the use of the LaGrange name and was thus chartered as Florence Wesleyan University in 1856, with its main building being Wesleyan Hall. One hundred and 60 students enrolled in the first year of operation (1855) of Florence Wesleyan University and quickly attracted students from five states and two foreign countries.[26] The university also chartered a grammar school, which still serves today as Kilby Laboratory School, the only university-operated elementary school in Alabama. After becoming publicly owned during the Postbellum period, the university went through a variety of name changes, including: Florence Normal School, Florence State Teachers College, and Florence State University, before changing its name to the University of North Alabama in 1972.

Civil War through the turn of the century (1861–1900)

The 20th-century

The Burrell Normal School was open from 1903 until 1969, and served as a private segregated school for African American students in Florence, serving grades 1-12 and a normal school.[27][28]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[29]
2018 Estimate[30]


Florence Racial Composition[31]
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

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.[32]

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

Other recreation


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.

Notable people


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  2. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 29, 2021.
  3. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Florence, Alabama
  4. ^ "Florence-Muscle Shoals MSA". Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  5. ^ Florence-Muscle Shoals map
  6. ^ Barske, Carolyn M. (October 7, 2015). "Indian Mound and Museum". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
  7. ^ a b "Florence, Alabama Köppen Climate Classification (Weatherbase)". Weatherbase.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
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  12. ^ a b c Knight, Ben (November 19, 1975). "A look at early Florence, Sheffield". Times Daily. p. 4. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  13. ^ Allen, Sherhonda (February 4, 2003). "Founding fathers-Seven men formed the company that spearheaded the birth of a city". TimesDaily. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  14. ^ 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. S2CID 144767237.
  15. ^ 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.
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  17. ^ "History of Florence, Lauderdale County Alabama". genealogytrails.com. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
  18. ^ "First Muscle Shoals Canal / Second Muscle Shoals Canal Historical Marker". www.hmdb.org. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
  19. ^ a b "Old Railroad Bridge Company". Retrieved August 27, 2023.
  20. ^ "Ante-Bellum Cotton Mills 1840 Historical Marker". www.hmdb.org. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
  21. ^ "Sweetwater Historical Marker". www.hmdb.org. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
  22. ^ "Florence, Alabama Historical Marker". www.hmdb.org. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
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  25. ^ "Florence Synodical Female College".
  26. ^ "<HTML>". June 16, 2007. Archived from the original on June 16, 2007. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
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