What Is the Capital of Florida?
The Sunshine State is home to many big cities, and a few of them might seem like prime candidates to be the capital of Florida. Surprisingly, however, it is actually the state’s 7th largest city that is capital.
So, what is the capital of Florida? It is Tallahassee. Located in the northern part of the state, Tallahassee is about an 18 mile drive from the Florida/Georgia border.
Still, with metro areas like Miami, Tampa, and Orlando, some have wondered why such a small city in North Florida was chosen as the seat of government for the state. Why is Tallahassee the capital of Florida and not another larger city? Let’s find out!
A Brief History of Florida’s Capital
Tallahassee might be the 7th largest city in Florida, but it is the largest city in what is known as the Florida Panhandle. Located in Leon County, it has long been an epicenter for trade and agriculture in northern Florida and southwest Georgia.
The word Tallahassee means “old town” or “old fields,” and is derived from the Muskogee language. The area is the former location of Apalachee villages before they were destroyed by English and Creek raids that took place from 1702 to 1704. Following these raids, the Muscogee Creek people – now known as Seminoles – migrated into the region and established new communities.
The Seminoles remained in the region until the First Seminole War. This campaign, led by Andrew Jackson in 1818, drove the Seminoles away from Tallahassee, and they were eventually forced onto a large reservation in the center of the Florida.
In 1821, Florida was ceded by Spain to the United States. During the 1820s, American settlers would begin to take over the land and farms that had previously been established by the Indigenous populations of Florida.
Tallahassee became the capital of the Territory of Florida in 1824.
Why Is Tallahassee the Capital of Florida?
With so many other major cities in Florida, why was Tallahassee chosen as the state capital? It turns out, the decision was a matter of convenience.
Governor William P. Duval designated Tallahassee as the capital of the then-territory on March 4, 1824. It was deemed that Tallahassee was the best fit because it lay approximately halfway between Pensacola and St. Augustine.
In 1824, Pensacola and St. Augustine were the two largest cities in Florida, and territory officials would alternate their meetings between them. However, the back and forth travel became impractical. So Governor Duval tasked John Lee Williams of Pensacola and Dr. William Simmons of St. Augustine to establish centrally located Tallahassee as the territorial capital.
Williams and Simmons would meet with Neamathla, a Creek chief, about the decision. He objected, but begrudgingly gave his approval on the condition that it be kept a secret from the other Seminoles. A year later, however, Neamathla reneged his consent and threatened that the streets would “run red with blood” unless the new white settlers retreated.
Backed by a regiment of U.S. Army soldier, Governor Duval met with Neamathla and his 600 warriors. Duval illegally deposed Neamathla as head of the Seminoles, and ordered the tribe to a reservation near Tampa.
Florida would be granted statehood in 1845, and Tallahassee would remain as capital.
Today, Tallahassee is home to an estimated 191,000 people. A popular college town, much of this population is made up of students. The main schools in the city include Florida State University, Florida A&M University, and Tallahassee Community College.
Tallahassee is also home to the Florida State Capitol building, the Supreme Court of Florida, the Florida Governor’s Mansion, and close to 30 state agencies. The city is known for its many law firms, lobbying organizations, and trade and professional associations, like the Florida Chamber of Commerce. It is also the regional center for scientific research.
Tallahassee has a long and interesting history. By understanding this history a little better, we begin to get a better sense for why Tallahassee is the capital of Florida.