Florence, Alabama: Downtown Historic District
As time marches on it’s hard to imagine life in the 1800’s, but in the Historic District of Downtown Florence located on Walnut Street, Wood Avenue, and stretching into the College district it’s easy to picture the rich culture and history that was cultivated during these times because of the beautifully preserved homes that line the shaded streets of our lovely downtown. When I tour a home on one of these streets I find myself truly wishing that the walls could talk as I think about the original residents who literally laid the foundations for generations of families to enjoy a place to create lasting memories of holidays and celebrations, family dinners and the raising of children. It’s humbling to think that these homes have seen the Civil War and housed great Generals, musicians, authors, and leaders. Each house has a story to tell and by preserving the architectural design of the house we preserve the memories of those who came before us and called Florence home—continuing the tradition of making The Shoals a place of distinction and charm.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of touring one of these historical homes, then you have at least seen the streets, sidewalks, and wrap around porches complete with lazy, spinning fans and wooden rocking chairs. Walnut Street started development in the 1880’s and like a picture from a postcard is lined with street lamps that illuminate the quiet sidewalks and tall oaks at night. During the day, as you take walks or drive thru the area you can enjoy the beautiful landscaping complete with bright pink azaleas, droopy crape myrtles, hanging ferns, and gates covered in ivy. The Victorian and bungalow style homes, painted in various hues, include a plaque for the National Register of Historical Places presented by the Florence Historical Commission that include the name of the home and year it was built.
The Wood Avenue Historic District also has many homes that are part of the National Register of Historical Places and extends all the way to Seven Points, which contains popular restaurants and antique shopping. The street, lined with towering, ancient trees makes for a lovely street to travel down on a daily basis. It runs past the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library and has long stretches of sidewalks perfect for exercising and pushing strollers on mid-afternoon walks. On your walks you will immediately notice the gorgeous Georgian Revival and Queen Anne architecture that predominantly occupies the streets. Other home styles include bungalow and even two Plantation Cottage homes built in the 1820’s. The real development of the neighborhood took off in the 1880’s and hosted famous local resident Helen Keller while she attended school. The streets off of Wood Avenue twist and turn past the beautiful University of North Alabama campus and eventually transitions into the College Place Historic District, which contains more and more incredible homes.
Downtown Florence, Alabama is one-of-a-kind in part due to the revitalization of Court Street, but we must also give credit to the residential streets winding around the popular stores and restaurants that have recently popped up. The historic neighborhood districts have seen the ebb and flow of the flourishing downtown area, but has created a story all it’s own. The possibility of owning one of these homes is the potential to obtain a piece of history. There are several homes for sale along Wood Avenue and sprinkled throughout the three districts, waiting for someone to claim, maintain, and even renovate them. We can only hope that we continue to appreciate the homes that have stood the test of time and protect them so that future generations can perhaps be a part of history as well.