The University of Florida’s forgotten origins

Boulware Springs Water Works in Southeast Gainesville is a historic and somewhat mysterious building above a natural spring that looks all but forgotten. The white and green building was once used a meeting space, but it is now serves solely as a historic site. There are restrooms for visitors, but it once was part of the waterworks facility that provided water for the local area.

Before there was an actual water treatment plan in Gainesville, Boulware Springs was the main source of water for the city.

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The water pumped out of Boulware was Gainesville’s main attraction when the state of Florida was considering where to place the University of Florida. Although Lake City, to the north of Gainesville, was the crossroads of what is now I-75 and I-10, the free supply of water coming from Boulware Springs led the state to build a campus in Gainesville.

The nature park at Boulware Springs is the trailhead for the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail, but the area looks a lot different now than it once did. These days, the springs don’t look as fresh and clear as they once did, but visitors can go to Boulware Springs to see turtles, fish and other animals. The nature park itself is still a nice place for a picnic or to bring your dog, but not a place to swim.

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Although the water from Boulware Springs is no longer necessary for Gainesville and UF, the natural spring now flows into the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park creating a habitat for the wildlife there.

Not many people know the history of Gainesville before it became the home of the University of Florida. But Boulware Springs must have been a real impressive sight to see when it was offered as the selling point for Gainesville in 1905.

The next time you are looking for a little local history while spending some time in nature, go visit Boulware Springs Water Works before heading off on the Hawthorne Trail and appreciate what it is and what it was: the home of the University of Florida.

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