Tallahassee-Leon County History

Tallahassee-Leon County History

Explore the Past, Envision the Future

Welcome to the Tallahassee-Leon County Bicentennial Timeline, a captivating tribute to 200 years of shared memories, ambitions, and enduring traditions. Join us as we commemorate our past and look forward to our dynamic next chapters. Explore our legacy of generations past, help shape our destiny, and be a part of the Tallahassee-Leon County story.

  • 1823

    Dr. William Simmons of St. Augustine and John Lee Williams of Pensacola recommend Tallahassee as the site for Florida’s territorial capital.

  • March 4, 1824

    Territorial Governor William Duval signs a proclamation designating Tallahassee as the new territorial capital. A log cabin Capitol building is soon constructed.

  • December 29, 1824

    Leon County, carved out of eastern Gadsden County, is established.

  • Edith Elliot with class at Leon Academy in 1890


    The first Leon Academy opens for white students. It would eventually become Leon High School in its present location on East Tennessee Street.

  • 1843

    Fire consumes most of downtown Tallahassee from the Capitol to the 200-foot-wide buffer of Park Avenue

  • Florida map after statehood

    March 3, 1845

    Florida is admitted to the Union as the 27th state. Florida’s territorial period is over.

  • 1857

    The West Florida Seminary opens in Tallahassee. It will eventually become the Florida State College for Women and Florida State University.

  • 1861

    Florida votes to secede from the Union, joining other Southern states as the Civil War begins.

  • March 6, 1865

    At Natural Bridge near Woodville, Confederate troops and militia, including cadets from the West Florida Seminary, repel a Union attempt to advance on Tallahassee. It is the last significant Confederate victory of the Civil War.

  • May 20, 1865

    The Emancipation Proclamation is read from the steps of the Knott House in downtown Tallahassee, freeing all enslaved people in Florida.

  • 1869

    The Lincoln Academy, the first school for African Americans in Leon County, is opened. 

  • 1887

    Florida A&M University is founded by Representative Thomas V. Gibbs and Thomas D. Tucker with 15 students and two instructors.

  • 1902

    Two wings and the dome are added to the Historic Capitol to provide room for the growing state government.

  • 1924

    Tallahassee celebrates its Centennial with a weeklong festival and the opening of Centennial Field in downtown.

  • 1929

    Dale Mabry Field opens as the city's first airport.

    It would become an Army air base during World War II.

  • 1945

    Jake Gaither becomes FAMU’s football coach. He would go on to win 6 Black college football national championships. The university’s football stadium and gymnasium bear his name.

  • 1953

    Louise Maclay donates Killearn Gardens on the north side of Tallahassee to the state of Florida. It would become Maclay Gardens State Park with the formal dedication by Governor Leroy Collins occurring in 1956.

  • 1956

    FAMU students Carrie Patterson and Wilhelmina Jakes refuse to give up their seats on a city bus. Their arrests spark a months-long Tallahassee bus boycott that ends in a favorable U.S. Supreme Court decision.

  • FAMU Student Protests 1960


    After a series of Civil Rights sit-ins and jail-ins in Tallahassee and elsewhere over “whites only” lunch counters, Governor Leroy Collins changes his stance on segregation, calling it “morally wrong” and “undemocratic.”

  • Florida Theater Protests 1963


    Hundreds of FAMU students are arrested as they protest segregated theaters in Tallahassee.

  • 1968

    Springtime Tallahassee festival begins as a way to keep Tallahassee the state’s capital.

  • 1971

    James Ford is elected the first African American to the Tallahassee City Commission since Reconstruction and becomes the first elected black mayor of a United States capital city the next year.

  • Florida Capital Sesquicentennial


    The Florida Capital Sesquicentennial is commemorated in Tallahassee at Centennial Field and elsewhere. 

  • Coach Bobby Bowden


    Bobby Bowden is hired as FSU’s new football coach. He would go on to win two national championships (1993 and 1999).

  • 1977

    Construction of the new capitol in Tallahassee is finished and it is agreed that the 1902 capitol building will become a museum.

  • 1985

    Hurricane Kate knocks out power in most of the city and county for two weeks.

  • Park Avenue Tallahassee


    The annual Tallahassee Winter Festival begins.

  • 1990

    Anita Davis becomes the first African American woman elected to the Leon County Commission.

  • National High Magnetics Field Lab


    FSU’s National High Magnetics Field Laboratory (MagLab) opens. It would become the largest and highest-powered magnet lab in the world.

  • 2000

    Tallahassee is the center of a contested U.S. presidential election for 36 days.

  • 2014

    The 24-acre Cascades Park, considered a resurgence of a historic Tallahassee landmark, opens in Downtown Tallahassee.

  • Tallahassee Bicentennial Logo


    Ambitious from the Beginning, Tallahassee-Leon County celebrates its 200th anniversary.

Want to Learn More?

Visit our Blog page to learn more about Tallahassee and Leon County’s history. Read about Tallahassee’s founding, the Centennial celebration of 1924, Tallahassee fun facts, and more!