Florence Municipal Building

Florence Municipal Building

110 West College Street

This property has a long history of civic function in the city of Florence. Today it houses the Florence Municipal Building, but throughout its history, this lot has been home to a livery stable, a firehouse, the original city hall, and two of the city's most famous hotels.

This 1921 Sanborn Fire Insurance Company map shows this lot in 1921

Florence City Hall and the Fire Station

Florence City Hall was built on this site in 1893. The fire department was first located in the basement of city hall, but by 1905, it had moved to the middle of the block along Pine Street. Early fire equipment in Florence included a hand-drawn hose cart and a hook and ladder cart pulled by horses. The fire department rented horses from Jesse Patton's livery stable.


The Jefferson Hotel

The Jefferson Hotel opened in 1902 and was the only large hotel in the city. The hotel also housed several businesses, such as Constance Perkins Jr.'s barbershop. The Jefferson was purchased in 1923 by Charles Negley. A week after Negley purchased it, an explosion in the pressing shop located in the basement of the hotel caused a massive fire that destroyed the building.

The Hotel Negley

After the fire, Charles Negley built a new hotel on the same spot. The Hotel Negley opened in 1925, the hotel boasted 4 floors, 100 rooms, hot and cold water, a high speed 12-15 person Otis elevator, and a formal dining room. Like its predecessor, the Jefferson, the Hotel Negley had shops and restaurants that catered to the citizens of Florence as well as out-of-town guests.


Listen to Anita Cobb talk about the Negley Hotel as an air raid shelter:

Intelligence Row

The road between the Florence Municipal Building and the city government building is known as Short Court Street, but once upon a time was referred to as "Intelligence Row." The first two Lauderdale County Courthouses stood opposite from Intelligence Row on Short Court Street, and many of the city's lawyers and doctors located their offices here. Lawyers would congregate under the shade of the mulberry trees to talk, debate, and play checkers. Pulitzer Prize-winning author T.S. Stribling describes Intelligence Row in his book, The Laughing Stock. Stribling wrote that the Row was fronted with “a few gnarled Mulberry trees and an old brick walk flush with the ground. The whole Row was given over to ancient brick buildings given over to doctors and lawyers. It looked musty and sleepy and picturesque. It suggested Dickens.”

Emmet O'Neal

Emmet O’Neal was born in Florence in 1853. His father Edward became governor of Alabama in 1882 and Emmet followed in his footsteps and became the 34th governor of Alabama in 1910. O’Neal was influential in crafting the suffrage provision of the 1901 Alabama constitution that disenfranchised many African Americans and poor whites throughout the state. As governor he championed several progressive ideas, such as local government commissions as opposed to the older, more corrupt ward system. O'Neal purchased Courtview (now Rogers Hall at the University of North Alabama) in 1900 and resided there until 1915.

Architecture

The current building was completed in 1954 and built in the International Style. This style is characterized by wide windows, often in ribbons, steel and reinforced concrete construction, flat roofs, and strict geometric forms. International style buildings were common for civic functions; they projected modernity and utilitarian function and represented a shift away from buildings with applied decorative features.