The Duckpond Neighborhood in Gainesville FL is Gainesville’s first neighborhood. It began in the 1870s, and embraces 8 subdivisions (but only comprises a total of 292 acres in size).
I lived in the neighborhood from 1986 through 2007.
The neighborhood is extremely walkable, extending only 1 mile by one-half mile in size, and sitting adjacent to downtown Gainesville. Streets are a connected grid pattern, with sidewalks on both sides of all streets. Most streets are curbed and quite narrow. Residents are extremely sociable, proud and fiercely protective of the neighborhood.
Many historic Victorian homes are found in the neighborhood, as well as a large collection of graceful and grand live oak trees providing a shading canopy for the streets. There are a total of over 290 designated historic homes in the neighborhood. These homes reflect the architectural styles prevalent in Florida from the 1880s through the 1930s.
Twenty-four of the Duckpond neighborhood homes were built before 1900, mainly in the popular Queen Anne style of the period. Some, with their jutting gables, variety of roof forms and spacious verandas, come from the time at which leading businessmen and merchants walked home from their downtown offices to lunch with their families.
In 1900, the City constructed schools that were eventually connected and became known as Kirby Smith School. At this time, with a city population of almost 4,000, Gainesville was the fourth largest city in Florida.
In 1926, a water retention basin was built in the middle of Sweetwater Branch creek, which flows through the neighborhood. As the duck population grew within the basin, it became known as the Duck Pond, which gave the neighborhood its name.
The area became a popular, elite and exclusive residential area for prominent Gainesville businessmen. From 1909 to 1950, four University of Florida presidents had homes in the neighborhood, making it the center of social and intellectual life in the town.
The neighborhood contains the Thomas Center gardens and city office complex-originally, it was known as the Hotel Thomas, built in 1910 for the residence of William Reuben Thomas. Combined with the canopied and narrow streets, small Roper Park, and Sweetwater Branch (a creek and linear park), the neighborhood contains plentiful parks and walkable streets for romantic strolls.
In the decades following WWII, many of the older residences along NE 1st Street were demolished to make way for banks and parking lots, and many of the remaining homes on that street were converted to offices. This threatening crisis led to the formation of Historic Gainesville in 1972, which resulted in a restoration of the Thomas Center, the creation of the Northeast Historic District (an ordinance which protects over 700 buildings and is considered one of the strongest in the state), and placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, the timeless, traditional, human-scaled, walkable character of the neighborhood is exemplified by the fact that it is now (2000-2002) the neighborhood with the most rapidly escalating property values in all of Alachua County.
Historic Gainesville: A Tour of the Past, Ben Pickard (ed.) (1991). Historic Gainesville.
Historic Alachua County and Old Gainesville: A Tour Guide to the Past, Ben Pickard (2001). Alachua Press.