Growth and expansion of education opportunities mark the first half of the new century on many levels with new buildings and programs.
1900 -John F. Slater (Elementary) School –The new building on South Court Street will be named John F. Slater (Elementary) School. It was named after philanthropist and education advocate the late John F. Slater.
1901 – Night School for working children – A night school for working children located in the Sunday School rooms at East Florence Baptist Church was started.
1902 – The Southern Library Association – The Southern Library Association (the library) was relocated from city hall to the basement of the 1901 courthouse where it remained for almost thirty years.
1903 – Seven Points School (Elementary School) – Seven Points School opened for elementary students. Miss Olive Bencham was the teacher.
1903 -Burrell Normal School – Burrell Normal School opened on West College Street in Florence. It was funded by the American Missionary Association for grades 1-12.
Photos: L, “Florence Gets Negro School,” from the *Florence Herald,* Friday, June 26, 1903, p. 1. R, photo of the Burrell Normal School.
September 16, 1908 – Florence University for Women – Florence University for Women opens
1912 – Firenze Club – The Southern Literary Club became the Firenze Club.
1913 – State Normal School -State Normal College School changes its name back to State Normal School.
1914 – High School Department – The High School Department of the Florence City Schools is founded.
1914 – Florence High School – Florence High School opens in the old two-story John Trumbull Burtwell house on Pine Street, with Prof. H.B. Norton serving as principal. This school will serve as Florence’s high school until the founding of Coffee High School in 1916.
October 12, 1916 – Coffee High School – The cornerstone for the new Coffee High School is laid.
1917 – Coffee High School – Coffee High School opens on Jackson Highway (now Hermitage Drive) in Florence. It was named for Captain Alexander Donelson Coffee and his wife, Camilla Madding Coffee.
Photo from the Florence City Schools Archives
1917 – Military Training Class at the Kilby School – A Military Training Class at the Kilby School on the Florence Normal Campus is formed. Starting at 5:30 am, young men trained for an hour.
May 1918 – Coffee High School – May, The 1st class graduates from Coffee High School.
1921 – Pine Ridge School – Pine Ridge School opens as an elementary school for African-American students. It was located at the intersection of Veterans Drive and Kirkman Street.
1921 – Red Building – “Red Building” (a two room structure) moved from Patton School to Coffee High School.
March 28, 1921 – Gilbert Elementary School – The new Gilbert Elementary School building in North Florence is completed. A six weeks’ inaugural session is held in the building that spring, combining “nearly 500 pupils” of the Fifth Ward School at North Florence taught by Miss Josie Milner and the elementary school formed around the Coffee High School, of which Miss Verta Jones is supervisor. Rev. IT Carlton of North Wood Avenue Methodist Church is acting principal of this initial spring term. The building was named for former Superintendent H. C. Gilbert.
Photo taken of a drawing at the Florence/Lauderdale Public Library
November 16, 1922 – Florence Military Academy – The Florence Military Academy (Formerly the Lawrenceburg Military Academy of Lawrenceburg, TN) announces its intention to open for the term beginning Mon., Jan. 1st, 1923.
1929 – Florence State Teachers College – State Normal School changes its name to Florence State Teachers College.
1930 – Southern Library – Soon after the completion of Bob Graves Hall, the administration building for the University of North Alabama, the Southern Library moved into a room located on the second floor of the building at the invitation of President Henry J. Willingham. In exchange for this accommodation, students at the college were allowed free access to the books and reference materials of the Southern Library. The library was open to the public every Tuesday afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m.
1936 -Florence Jr. High School – Florence Jr. High School building added to Coffee H.S. campus.
1936 – Slater Negro School – Slater Negro School moves to a new brick building on South Court Street.
1937 – Burrell High School – Burrell High School (formerly Burrell Normal) became part of Florence City Schools.
1937 – The Florence Exchange Club – The Florence Exchange Club, through the efforts of Dr. Roy Basler, a professor at Florence State Teachers College, persuaded the Florence City Commission to appoint a Library Board. At a public meeting, Frank M. Perry, Jr. presented a lot on North Court Street for a proposed library, contingent upon a suitable building being erected for the library.
1938 – Southern Library of Florence – The Tennessee Valley Authority placed on deposit with the Southern Library of Florence a large number of books made available through its library program. These volumes covered a wide range of subjects, including fiction, non-fiction, travels, and biographies. As part of the agreement, the Southern Library made these books available to the general public without cost. The library also expanded its hours of operation to the public.
1939 – New Library – Florence State Teachers College – New Library building added at the campus of Florence State Teachers College.
October 17, 1942 – Lauderdale County Colored Teachers Institute – The Lauderdale County Colored Teachers Institute is held at the Slater School.
1943 -The Florence Exchange Club – The Florence Exchange Club revived its program to promote the building of a new home for the library. This effort was led by Dr. Henry W. Chaney, head of the local health department. The Board of City Commissioners was approached with a request that a new library board be appointed. A second Library Board was then appointed. At this time the Florence/Lauderdale Public Library was organized, the Southern Library was dissolved and all of its books and assets were transferred to the new city and county public library board.
1945 -Florence Library – In August, near the end of World War II, a gift of $25,000 was made by Louis Rosenbaum to the Library Board for the purchase or construction of a suitable building to house the Florence Library.
1945 – Florence/Lauderdale Public Library – A building site for the future home of the Florence/Lauderdale Public Library on North Wood Avenue was acquired for $5,000.
1945 – The First Bookmobile In Florence/Lauderdale County – Post 11 of the American Legion provided funds for the first bookmobile to serve the rural areas of Lauderdale County. Miss Marion Neill, who was an experienced bookmobile librarian was hired to organize and oversee the bookmobile program for the Florence/Lauderdale Public Library.
1945 – The Florence Library – The library moved into a temporary space in the former restaurant in the Reeder Hotel on East Tennessee Street.
1945 – The Rosenbaum Gift To The Library Board In Florence – The Rosenbaum gift enabled the employment of a professional librarian, Miss Evelyn Peeler, from Salisbury, North Carolina.
1947 – The New Florence/Lauderdale Public Library – A successful campaign beat the goal and raised more than $56,500 for the construction of the new Florence/Lauderdale Public Library. The Rosenbaums also pledged an additional $15,000 towards the construction if the campaign goal was meet.
1947 – Coffee High School – Second Gymnasium added to Coffee H. S. campus.
October 1947 – Books For The Florence Library – The Tennessee Valley Authority transferred 9,000 volumes to the city of Florence for the library. They also contracted to give $6,000 a year for three years to be used to help operate the local public library.
November 26, 1947 – The Contract To Build The New Florence/Lauderdale Public Library – The library was to be built on North Wood Avenue between Mobile and Tombigbee Streets.
June 24, 1948 – The New Florence/Lauderdale Public Library – The cornerstone is laid for the new Florence Public Library on N. Wood Ave.
October 1948 – The Muscle Shoals Regional Library – The Muscle Shoals Regional Library was organized with its headquarters located in the Florence/Lauderdale Public Library. The original members of this Regional Library included Colbert and Lauderdale counties, Florence, Sheffield, Leighton, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Alabama State Library Services. (The Helen Keller Library in Tuscumbia became a part of this regional library organization in 1959.)
January 9, 1949 – The New Florence/Lauderdale Public Library – An open house for the new Florence/Lauderdale Public Library was held to celebrate its completion.