The building in this photograph is now called Epworth Hall. It is located at 419 Northeast 1st Street, and it was the Academic Building of the East Florida Seminary. For a high resolution photo, click here. In 1883 the original wooden building burned and this brick structure was built on the same site. It had four classrooms on the ground floor, and a study hall, library, and offices on the upper floor. After East Florida Seminary was closed and the University of Florida was opened, UF classes were conducted in Epworth Hall until buildings could be constructed on the new campus. Epworth Hall was deeded to the Methodist Church in 1911. Named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, the building was renovated in 1973. At that time the cornerstone that had been laid in 1883 was lifted, revealing a disintegrating tin box buried behind it. The box contained many treasures, including newspapers, a Spanish silver half-dollar dated 1830, East Florida Seminary papers, local business cards, and even a copy of Gainesville ordinances, dated 1882. In 1851 the Florida Legislature passed a bill to establish two tax-supported state schools-one in East Florida, the other in West Florida, divided by the Suwannee River-and the sites would be determined by which two counties offered the most in land and resources. A year later, in 1852, East Florida Seminary was founded as a fee-based school in Ocala but, short of funds, the school asked for state support. That support was granted in 1853 and EFS resources (land, buildings and cash) were turned over to the state. Over the years, Mr. James Henry Roper, an educator from North Carolina, built a school called the Gainesville Academy on Northeast 1st Street. Mr. Roper was also a State Senator from Alachua County, and in 1866 he offered his land and school to the State of Florida in exchange for the relocation of EFS to Gainesville. His offer was accepted. The impact of East Florida Seminary on Gainesville was extensive. As the best school in this part of the state, it was a magnet to new settlers, resulting in greater opportunities and prosperity for everyone. East Florida Seminary was absorbed into the University of Florida in 1905-1906.
The event shown below was part of the centennial celebration of the University of Florida and was held the week of March 17-22, 1953. During this event a marker was dedicated for
Epworth Hall, the first permanent home of the East Florida Seminary and eventually UF. Gainesville's 1st United Methodist Church can be seen in the background.
First United Methodist Church 419 N.E. First Street Gainesville, Florida 32601 352-372-8523