Things to know about Alachua FL
Alachua (/əˈlætʃueɪ/ i ə-LATCH-oo-ay) is the second-largest city in Alachua County, Florida and the third-largest in North Central Florida. According to the 2020 census, the city's population was 10,574. The city is part of the Gainesville metropolitan area, which had a population of 339,247 in 2020.
Alachua has one of the largest bio and life sciences sectors in Florida and is the site for the Santa Fe College Perry Center for Emerging Technologies.
Evidence of habitation by pre-historic Paleo-Indians exists in several documented locations within the San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park. In the historic era, the primary town for the Potano tribe that lived throughout North Central Florida also was within San Felasco. This town became the site of the first Spanish doctrina (mission with a resident priest) in the Florida interior in 1606, Mission San Francisco de Potano, and it was the last to be abandoned by the Spanish in the early 1700s due to raids instigated by the British. Nearby to the north along the Santa Fe River was another mission, Santa Fe de Toloca, which was part of the mission chain stretching from St. Augustine to Pensacola.
The area slightly northeast of the current City of Alachua was among the first settled by Americans in Florida in the early 19th Century. Many participants in the Patriot War that attempted to force the annexation of Florida to the United States from the Spanish resided there, including the Dell family. The exact date of first settlement is unknown, but the community first known as Dell's Courthouse then later renamed as Newnansville is, along with Micanopy, the oldest distinctly American settlement in the State. The Methodist church that started with the Dell family continues to this day and is the oldest in the State, First United Methodist Church of Alachua.
Newnansville became the second county seat of Alachua County and one of the central locations for activity during the Second Seminole War, with the inclusion of Fort Gilleland within its borders. The influx of settlers seeking refuge within the city temporarily increased the population between 1,500 to 2,000, making it one of the largest cities in the State.
When the first cross-state railroad, the Florida Railroad, bypassed Newnansville in the early 1850s, members of the County Commission voted by a slim margin to relocate the county seat along the rail line in a centrally-located, new city to be called Gainesville. Newnansville began to lose influence and, when the Savannah, Florida and Western Railroad bypassed the city by about 1.5 miles to the southwest in the early 1880s, citizens began to relocate along the new rail line (eventually abandoning Newnansville and turning it into a ghost town) and established the City of Alachua.
Alachua was founded in 1884, with its post office opening in 1887. It was incorporated as a city on 12 April 1905, at which time it had a population of 526 people. A third rail line passed through the new city, and a booming cotton industry helped support the building of several lavish Queen Anne-style homes and brick businesses along Main Street at the turn of the century.
Alachua stagnated when the boll weevil nearly destroyed the American cotton industry in 1919-1920, then through the Great Depression in the 1930s. The main industries through the middle of the Twentieth Century were lumber and food processing, notably through Duke Lumber Company and Copeland Sausage Company, respectively.
Interstate 75 passed slightly to the west of Downtown Alachua when it was built in the 1960s, providing new access and economic opportunity. Alachua faced another downturn with the closing of Copeland Sausage in 1976, and by the 1980s the buildings and businesses on Main Street were in poor shape. A concerted effort by the citizens and local government of Alachua focused on rehabilitating Downtown, and the construction of Progress Corporate Park with the University of Florida led to the creation of the UF Innovate Sid Martin Biotech Incubator which has resulted in the formation of one of the State's largest bio and life science business sectors.
Alachua is located at 29°46′45″N 82°28′47″W / 29.77917°N 82.47972°W / 29.77917; -82.47972 (29.779286, –82.479849). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 35.1 square miles (91.0 km2), of which 34.7 square miles (90.0 km2) is land and 0.39 square miles (1.0 km2) (1.08%) is water.
Alachua's Main Street runs along a North-South direction and is the heart of the City of Alachua Downtown Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The rest of the Historic District lies mainly to the west of Main Street and consists of residential structures built primarily in the early 20th Century. Main Street is bisected by US Highway 441, which runs East-West along the old Atlantic Coast Line railway. The Historic District lies south of US 441.
Selected historic structures of note that are listed in the Register:
Main Street Businesses
Main Street Residences
Businesses line US 441 heading west toward the Interstate 75 corridor and east toward Gainesville. Heading east on US 441 lies Progress Corporate Park, which is the heart of Alachua's bio and life sciences sector. The northern entrance of the San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park is accessible through the corporate park entrance and also via the San Felasco Parkway, constructed in 2019 to aid in expansion of the corporate sector.
As of the census of 2000, there were 6,098 people, 2,348 households, and 1,751 families residing in the city. The population density was 211.0 inhabitants per square mile (81.5/km2). There were 2,501 housing units at an average density of 86.5 per square mile (33.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 67.56% White, 29.08% African American, 0.15% Native American, 1.12% Asian, 1.13% from other races, and 0.97% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.61% of the population.
There were 2,348 households, out of which 34.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.5% were married couples living together, 19.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.4% were non-families. 19.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 2.97.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 27.8% under the age of 18, 7.8% from 18 to 24, 26.9% from 25 to 44, 25.8% from 45 to 64, and 11.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was ,075, and the median income for a family was ,542. Males had a median income of ,315 versus ,018 for females. The per capita income for the city was ,299. About 14.0% of families and 16.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.3% of those under age 18 and 11.6% of those age 65 or over.
The largest Hare Krishna community in the Western Hemisphere is located in Alachua, with satellite communities throughout North Florida.
Alachua is served by the School Board of Alachua County, which operates two elementary schools, W.W. Irby Elementary (K–2), Alachua Elementary (3–5), A.L. Mebane Middle School and Santa Fe High School in the city, and the Alachua County Library District, which operates a branch library in the city. Alachua is home to the Alachua Learning Academy, a K–8th grade public charter school.
The Santa Fe College Perry Center for Emerging Technologies is located in Alachua across the street from Progress Corporate Park, which houses one of the largest bio and life science business clusters in the State. Biotechnology and veterinary tech magnet programs at A.L. Mebane Middle School and Santa Fe High School are intended to help students prepare for the Biotechnology Laboratory Technology, A.S. degree at Santa Fe College.
Alachua has a very active recreation program centered around the facilities at Hal Brady Recreation Complex and Legacy Park. Youth activities that are offered include baseball, softball, tackle football and cheerleading, girls volleyball, soccer, and basketball. Adult activities include Zumba and karate as well as open gym availability at Legacy Park Multipurpose Center. Senior activities offered at the Cleather Hathcock Community Center include bingo, arts and crafts, and food distribution in partnership with St. Matthew Baptist Church.
There are several regular events and festivals held in Alachua:
The newspaper Alachua County Today has its headquarters in the City of Alachua. The paper serves all the communities within Alachua County, but it focuses on smaller municipalities outside Gainesville.