All images courtesy of the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library's Local History Collection, Collier Library's Archives and Special Collections at the University of North Alabama, and the National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site.
Established in 1830, the University of North Alabama is Alabama's oldest four-year public university. It started as LaGrange College, located in nearby Colbert County, before moving to its present location and becoming Florence Wesleyan University in 1855. The university was re-established after the Civil War as the first state-supported teachers college south of the Ohio River, and in 1873, it became one of the nation's first co-educational colleges, enrolling 31 women the following year. Women joined the faculty in 1879.
In 1929, the name changed again to the Florence State Teachers College when the institution received accreditation and offered a four-year degree in elementary education. By 1947, curriculum expanded again and other fields of study were added. The name changed to Florence State College after a graduate program offering a Master of Arts degree was added.
Though African Americans worked at the college through enslavement and later positions as janitorial staff, they were denied admission as students until integration of the campus in 1963 when Wendell Wilkie Gunn integrated the campus as the first African American student.
In 1967, the name of the campus changed again to Florence State University, reflecting a steady expansion of the institution's academic offerings and mission. Less than a decade later, in 1974, the university went through a final name change to symbolize its place as a more comprehensive, regional university, and the University of North Alabama, as we know it today, was born.
The campus was originally designed by prominent landscape architects The Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Massachusetts, and in 2002, much of the campus was restored to reflect the original design. Several roads were closed to vehicular traffic and walkways restored, making the entire campus more inviting and pedestrian friendly. The curvilinear brick walkways that wind through campus are meant to symbolize the Tennessee River.
The Olmsted Brothers designed other university campuses, such as Stanford University in California, residential subdivisions, and dozens of park systems for metropolitan areas, including such famous landmarks as Central Park in New York City.