Tallahassee capital of Florida, United States
Tallahassee, city, capital of Florida, U.S., and seat (1824) of Leon county. It’s located in central the primary state’s northern panhandle region, about halfway between Pensacola (west) and Jacksonville (east).
Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto camped in the region during the winter of 1539–40; it had been initially occupied by Apalachee and later by Creek peoples. Seven Franciscan missions were established, making use of their headquarters at Fort San Luis (1633), which has been destroyed (1704) by forces led by Governor James Moore of Carolina during Queen Anne’s War (1702–13). In 1821, when Florida became an American territory, it’d take two capitals, St. Augustine and Pensacola. As a central location between both, Tallahassee (derived from the Greek word meaning “old town”) became the capital in 1824. The porticoed capitol building, begun in 1839, acquired its dome in 1902 and was restored after a new skyscraper capitol was completed in 1977. Prince Achille Murat, the nephew of Napoleon I, and his wife, Catherine Willis, great-grandniece of George Washington, were early city residents. Through the American Civil War, Tallahassee was far taken off the significant battle areas. It was the only natural capital of a Confederate state east of the Mississippi River not captured by Union forces. However, there was an engagement (March 6, 1865) at Natural Bridge, about 10 miles (16 km) southeast (now a situation historic site), when a local militia repulsed a Union march on the city.
Tallahassee is just a trade and distribution point for the surrounding lumbering, agriculture, and livestock region; printing and publishing and the manufacture of electronic equipment and metal products are also of some importance. Services (associated with the government or the area’s higher education institutions) constitute a significant part of the economy. The town is the seat of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (1887), Florida State University (1851), and Tallahassee Community College (1966).
Local attractions are the Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science, the Museum of Florida History, and the Columns (1830), the oldest building. The annual month-long Springtime Tallahassee (March–April) commemorates the city’s founding. Apalachicola National Forest borders Tallahassee on the southwest; on the city’s northern edge are Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens and Lake Jackson Mounds State Archaeological Site. Also nearby to the south is Edward Ball Wakulla Springs, State Park.
Geographic location has been the critical aspect in Florida’s long and colorful development, and it can help explain the striking contemporary character of the state. The more significant part of Florida lies on a peninsula that protrudes southeastward from the North American continent, separating the waters of the Atlantic Ocean from those of the Gulf of Mexico and pointing toward Cuba and the Caribbean Sea beyond. Florida shares a land border with only two other states along its northern boundary: Georgia (east) and Alabama (west). The nearest foreign territory is the island of Bimini in the Bahamas, some 50 miles (80 km) to the east of the state’s southern tip. Florida is the southernmost of the 48 conterminous United States, its northernmost point lying about 100 miles (160 km) farther south than California’s southern border. The Florida Keys, a crescent of islands that forms the state’s southernmost portion, extend to within about 75 miles (120 km) of the Tropic of Cancer. Florida’s marine shoreline totals more than 8,400 miles (13,500 km), including some 5,100 miles (8,200 km) over the gulf; among U.S. states, only Alaska has a longer coastline.