From the Archives: Florida Views: Historical Maps of Florida Cities and Towns

By Florida Verve Staff

The panoramic map was one of the most popular forms of cartography in the United States during the late nineteenth century. Panoramas adorned the walls of homes, and politicians used the maps to promote the prosperity of their respective cities. But, as these maps of cities and towns in Florida show, the panoramic map also tells the story of a place in a particular moment of time — a pictorial biography, in a way.

The late nineteenth century was a transformative period for Florida in which the state’s economy experienced unprecedented growth: new towns popped up, older cities grew, and industries boomed. Florida historian Michael Gannon writes:

As the change of centuries drew near, Floridians took understandable pride in the growth and development that had taken place. It was clear that Florida’s economic position was different from that of her sister states from the old Confederacy. Though once an emerging cotton state, after the war Florida had moved away from cotton, and her population, predominantly southern in origin, became engaged in different activities: timber, cattle, citrus, winter vegetables, and tourism.

Indeed, the state had shed its backwater skin, and the first glimpse of modern Florida had emerged.

Despite its geographic isolation, Key West was the state’s largest city in 1884. The map captures Key West’s vibrant port which fueled the city’s culture and economy.

In 1885, Pensacola was Florida’s third largest city. Due to the vast amounts of timber shipped from its port, Pensacola earned the nickname “The Naples of America” during this time period.

The 1880s were the halcyon years for Cedar Key in which the area prospered from fishing, logging, and pencil manufacturing.

Unlike other southern capital cities, Tallahassee avoided devastation during the Civil War. In the late nineteenth century, wealthy northern businessmen came to Florida’s capital city and turned the region’s former cotton plantations into hunting preserves.

One of Florida’s first tourism hot spots, northern visitors (they were not called tourists at the time) flocked to Green Cove Springs during the 1880s. Because of its warm mineral spring and fine hotels, the city was referred to as “The Saratoga of the South.”

Henry A. DeLand, a successful businessman from New York with case of “orange fever,”founded the city of DeLand in 1876.

Formerly known as Alligator, the city changed its name to Lake City in 1859. Why? The story goes that the mayor’s wife had a robust aversion to living in a place named in honor of Florida’s largest reptile. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Florida’s gateway city became an important railroad hub.

Longwood, now part of Seminole County, was founded by a Bostonian named E.W. Henck in the late 1870s. Henck, like a lot of city founders, was an entrepreneur who dabbled in real estate, railroads, and hotels.

Maps Courtesy of Library of Congress