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Education > East Florida Seminary
Florida Seminary - Drawing
This engraving of East Florida Seminary's Academic Building is from "Eden of the South" by Carl Webber, published in 1883. EFS was a private school in Gainesville from 1866 to 1905, and it was the "earliest parent of the University of Florida," according to Sam Proctor in "Gator History." Epworth Hall, as this building is known today, is the only East Florida Seminary building that survived. In 1911 it was deeded to the First United Methodist Church, located at 419 Northeast 1st Street. Today the entrance to Epworth Hall is on the west side of the building, but as part of the East Florida Seminary the entrance was on the south side.
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.
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