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Florence and Lauderdale County had one hospital, Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital. ECM was a 358-bed facility owned by RCCH HealthCare Partners in Brentwood, Tennessee. In 2010 RCCH HealthCare Partners announced that they would build a new hospital in Florence. The hospital was completed in December 2018.
The type of municipal government is mayor-council.
Florence was surveyed for the Cypress Land Company in 1818 by Italian surveyor Ferdinand Sannoner, who named it after Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region of Italy. Florence, Alabama was incorporated in 1826.
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 city is very strictly zoned, and therefore seems to be much larger than the population of 40,000. Communities within Florence that aren't counted towards the population include St. Florian, Happy Hollow, Underwood, Petersville, Zip City, Cloverdale, etc. This explains the metropolitan area being close to 150,000 but the "city" only being home to 40,000.
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, the University of North Alabama, a public, co-educational, higher education institution, is Alabama's oldest state-certified university. The University is the largest in north Alabama, 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.
The city has a mayor-council form of government. Council members are elected from six single-member districts, and the mayor is elected separately.
Steve Holt was elected as the mayor of Florence on October 4, 2016. He was officially sworn in as mayor on November 2, 2016. He defeated incumbent mayor Mickey Haddock in a municipal runoff. Holt is the former 20-year president of the Shoals Chamber of Commerce.
District 1: Kaytrina P. Simmons
District 2: William (Dick) Jordan
District 3: David P. Bradley Jr.
District 4: Michelle Rupe Eubanks
District 5: Blake Edwards
District 6: Andrew Betterton
Culture and events
The City of Florence is home to several museums, historical sites and numerous parks to serve the cultural and recreational needs of citizens and tourists. A variety of festivals also occur throughout the year.
Kennedy Douglass Center for the Arts is the center for numerous cultural activities, exhibits and events. The center showcases artists from around the Southeast United States, and offers classes and workshops to people of all ages. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and provides administrative offices for Florence's six museums. The museums are open Tuesday - Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Sunday 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM and are closed Monday.
The Indian Mound and Museum is the largest of its type in the Tennessee Valley Region. The earthwork mound, which measures 310Hx230Wx42D (feet) and is named Wawmanona, was built circa 500 A.D. It is thought to be a locale for tribal ceremony and ritual. The museum displays Native American artifacts from the Mound and the surrounding area, which represent different cultures dating back 10,000 years.
Pope's Tavern is a renowned historical stop; it served as a hospital for Civil War soldiers from both the Union and Confederate armies. It also served as a stagecoach stop, a tavern and an inn. The museum houses Civil War artifacts, as well as antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries. It is one of Florence's oldest standing structures.
The W.C. Handy Home and Museum is dedicated to one of Florence's most famous sons. Known as the "father of the blues", Handy was born in a log cabin at this site in 1873. The museum contains a collection of Handy's personal papers, artifacts and other items he donated before his death in 1958.
The Rosenbaum House, at 601 Riverview Drive, is the only building in the state designed by the nationally known architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It was built in 1939. The house was the first in the city to have such novelties as a carport and under-floor heating. It is open for tours six days of the week.
The Children's Museum of the Shoals contains exhibits displaying the history, people and events that make up the Shoals' history. The museum is designed to promote learning in a hands-on environment. The museum offers educational workshops year-round for children of all ages.
The Forks of Cypress was a cotton plantation located in Florence. Its remains can be seen in the form of 24 Greek columns, as well as the Jackson Family cemetery. Both are on private property and are not open to the public.
The festivals are listed chronologically.
The Sam Phillips Music Celebration is a week-long event the first week of January. It celebrates the life of Sam Phillips with events that include the Sam Phillips Birthday Party, "Conversations on Sam," Sam Jam Concert, Muscle Shoals to Music Row Live and a finale concert. Although Sam is credited for the birth of rock n' roll and the discovery of many acclaimed artists, such as Elvis Presley, he also recorded gospel, rhythm & blues, country and rockabilly. This festival started in 2005. For more information, contact WQLT/Big River Broadcasting at 256-764-8121.
Arts Alive, in May, first started in 1986. Artists from around the Southeast gather in Wilson Park for two days to show and sell their work.
The Spirit of Freedom Celebration is an annual Fourth of July tradition, presented by the Shoals Radio Group (WLAY-FM, WVNA-FM, WMSR-FM, WMXV, WVNA and WLAY). Thousands of people gather at McFarland Park starting in the morning for a day spent listening to a variety of musical acts. The celebration concludes around 10:00 p.m. with a huge fireworks display over the Tennessee River.
The W. C. Handy Music Festival is perhaps Florence's most well-known event. Every year for a week in late July or early August, musicians from around the country descend upon the Shoals. Area restaurants offer live music most nights, and artists often perform in Wilson Park or along streets downtown. Though the focus was originally on blues and jazz, the musical selection now includes rock, country, gospel and others. The festival, the largest in the Shoals area, also includes educational events, art shows, athletic competitions, great food and more.
The Alabama Renaissance Faire is held in Wilson Park during the fourth weekend in October. The festival celebrates Florence's heritage as the "Renaissance City" by recreating the feel of a medieval fair. Activities include arts and crafts, magicians, reenactments and musical performances. Festivalgoers are also invited to dress in period clothing.
First Fridays in Florence is a growing arts and music event occurring every first Friday from April to December in downtown Florence. The nine months of art and music nights began in 2005. The city's downtown development efforts, including First Fridays events, were featured as a "wise" community in the EPA Smart Growth publication This is Smart Growth.
Braly Municipal Stadium, on the campus of Florence Middle School, is the home to both the University of North Alabama and Florence High School football teams.
Aerial view of Florence
Cox Creek Park is home to a children's playground, horsehoe pits, an indoor archery range, and twelve tennis courts. Recent additions have included the new Florence Skate Park, the only skateboard park in the area, and a new stadium for the University of North Alabama softball team. The Florence/Lauderdale Farmer's Market is also located at the park.
Deibert Park was a former horse farm belonging to the Deibert family, the park now includes a playground, picnic shelters, and three ponds. The network of walking trails is enjoyed by walkers, joggers, and bikers. The Children's Museum of the Shoals is also on the park property.
Florence Sportsplex has baseball, softball, and soccer fields. It is located at the corner of Alabama Highway 20 and Gunwaleford Road.
Martin Park is the location for the city swimming facility, at the Royal Avenue Recreation Center. The park is also home to a playground, tennis courts, picnic shelters, and a 0.75 miles (1.21 km) fitness trail.
McFarland Park is also the location of the Florence Harbor and Marina. While serving as host to several events throughout the year, the park is also equipped with a playground, numerous picnic shelters, campgrounds, soccer fields, baseball fields, a disc golf course, a golf driving range, and lighted walking trails. Situated along Pickwick Lake, the park is also used by fishermen, boaters, and swimmers.
River Heritage Park is located at the base of the Renaissance Tower and adjacent to the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Conference Center. The park contains scenic overlooks of the Tennessee River and Wilson Dam. Also included are picnic shelters, a playground, and an interactive fountain called the Splash Pad.
Veterans Memorial Park contains a memorial to the war veterans of Florence and Lauderdale county. Twenty-two campsites, six lighted tennis courts, baseball and softball fields, playgrounds, and picnic shelters are also found at the park. Veterans Park is also home to one of the oldest disc golf courses in the state, established in 1983.
Wildwood Park is located adjacent to the University of North Alabama along Cypress Creek. It is the most secluded and serene of the city parks. The park has a pavilion, picnic tables, nature trails, and bicycle trails. Swimming, fishing and canoeing are some of the park's recreational activities.
Wilson Park is located in the heart of downtown, across from the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library. Its grounds are used for numerous festivals and events. The original Plan of Florence in 1818 showed the area as a Public Walk. In 1924, the park was renamed in honor of former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, shortly after his death.
Blackberry Trail Golf Course - a municipal golf course
Broadway Recreation Center
Florence Harbor - a full-service marina on Tennessee River (Pickwick Lake) mile marker 256
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" (the unofficial, but locally accepted name) finished construction. The bridge is part of a new corridor that will eventually 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 is also an important road to Florence and the Shoals area, serving as a four-lane link to Interstate 65 in Cullman. After many years of political campaigning by local leaders to have the four-laning of the road completed, the project wrapped up 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 at the present time. One solution discussed over the years 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. Meanwhile, 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.
Another plan recently discussed is extending Interstate 565 west from its current terminus just outside Decatur, perhaps along Alabama 20/Alternate U.S. 72. The plan has received some support from Decatur officials, some of whom would like to see the Interstate eventually extend west of Decatur and at least into Lawrence County.
For air transportation, 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 Boutique Air which provides several daily flights to Atlanta and Nashville. Huntsville International Airport, another option for Florence residents, offers service to eleven domestic destinations, and is about an hour's drive from Florence.
Local industry is also served by the Tennessee Southern Railroad (TSRR), which runs from Florence to Columbia, Tennessee, and the Port of Florence on Pickwick Lake.
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 average temperature of Florence is 59 F (15 C). The average yearly precipitation in Florence is 57.06 in (144.9 cm). 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 (1.44 cm).
While Florence is almost 300 miles (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 (112 kph) winds and some storm damage.