The Hippodrome State Theatre in downtown Gainesville

Gainesville has gained a reputation as one of the best places to live and play in the United States, earning the #1 ranking in 2007 from "Cities Ranked and Rated" and "National Geographic Adventure." The city was originally founded as a place where the Alachua County Seat could be placed directly alongside the Florida Railroad connecting Fernandina (on the east coast) with Cedar Key (on the west coast). The original county seat was at Newnansville but the railroad elected to bypass that town, so county residents took it upon themselves to relocate their county seat. The land was selected in 1854, the new county courthouse completed in 1856 and the railroad arrived in 1859, the tracks crossing town just six blocks south of the courthouse. The city was named after General Edmund P. Gaines, commander of the Union Army in Florida during the Second Seminole War.

A couple of battles were fought between Union and Confederate troops in Gainesville in 1864 and when the Civil War ended, the 3rd United States Colored Troops were stationed in town. In 1866, the Union Academy, a school for freed slaves, was established in Gainesville. By 1898 the school was being attended by 500 students per year and continued in operation until 1929.

Citrus was a major business in the Gainesville area until the big freezes in the late 1890's wiped out the trees. Then the citrus business moved south to the Orlando area. Phosphate mining, turpentine production and the tung oil industry moved in but none of them were as prosperous as citrus farming had been. Then the Florida Legislature decided to place the University of Florida in Gainesville in 1905. First classes were held in 1906 and Gainesville hasn't looked back since.

Today, the University of Florida is one of the largest universities in the United States, and the university has built world-class medical facilities in Gainesville as part of its educational programming. The area is a hotbed for entrepreneurial pursuits, never mind being a perennial college football, basketball and baseball heavyweight. Since 2003, Gainesville has also been recognized as the healthiest community in the United States.

Since the late 1970's, Gainesville has been a leader in what is now called "redevelopment." This is an action through which developers take on the rebuilding and preservation of historic structures with an eye to modernizing the structures, improving usability and preserving that historic ambience. The redevelopment efforts in the Gainesville area have slowed the growth of suburban sprawl, even as the population has continued to grow.

Gainesville is one of the few places in the United States where home prices have remained pretty static since 2005. Gainesville is also one of the best educated cities in the United States with more than 22% of the population having some kind of graduate degree.

Union Street Station, a modern addition to the historic area of downtown Gainesville

Harry's, an eatery downstairs in the old Gainesville Opera House in downtown

The cream-colored edifice is the entrance to the Gainesville Opera House

Townhomes, condos and Arlington Square Apartments just east of downtown

Sun Center, a redeveloped project in historic downtown