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Education > East Florida Seminary
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 other 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. James Henry Roper, a North Carolinian, came to Gainesville in 1856 with a serious health problem. Mr. Roper had tuberculosis, as did so many others who came to Florida in those days, but he was a lucky man. He recovered his health and went on to make many contributions to his adopted state, including a stint as State Senator. Mr. Roper built the first school building in Gainesville the same year he arrived, on the southwest corner of the intersection of West University Avenue and 2nd Street. The next year he established the Gainesville Academy on the site of present-day Epworth Hall and the First United Methodist church-419 Northeast 1st Street. In 1866 he offered his land and school to the State of Florida in exchange for the relocation to Gainesville of the state-supported East Florida Seminary. The offer was accepted. This is a view, badly faded by time, of the EFS buildings. They were located in the block that is now called "Roper Park," bounded by Northeast 2nd and 3rd Streets and 4th and 5th Avenues.
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