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Education > School on Alachua Avenue
on Alachua Avenue
Public schooling for Gainesville children was available in the 19th century (somewhat) but no one went. Conditions were deplorable with classes held in abandoned buildings, no heat, and planks nailed to the walls for desks. It is no wonder that parents, if they could, preferred to send their children to private, fee-based schools. In 1882 William N. Sheets, Superintendent of Public Instruction, began to campaign for a suitable public school building. Sheets met with considerable opposition, but in 1885 the first public school building, shown in this photograph, was erected. It was built on the south side of East University Avenue at 4th Street, just west of Sweetwater Branch.
In an article that appeared in the "Gainesville Sun" on May 2, 1954, when Gainesville celebrated its centennial, Prof. F. W. Buchholz was quoted as saying that this building later became a laundry and then a refuge for transients under the sponsorship of the Volunteers of America.
In the background can be seen the tower of the First Baptist Church; that building was completed in 1897 and, except for the tower, was demolished in the late 1950s. The tower remained for years, inspiring the name of a restaurant and parking lot, but it too was demolished in 1964 when the new City Hall and library were built. The ice wagon in the photograph was owned by the Diamond Ice Company. For several years after artificial ice was introduced in Gainesville, residents debated which was better—natural ice or artificial ice; the episode is described in Jess Davis' "History of Alachua County"—the duel of the ice blocks.
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