The town blends a deep reverence for its diverse past with a commitment to continuing its legacies in the present. Preserved antebellum homes and historic buildings such as the Georgian Revival Limestone House Bed & Breakfast and the Shoals Theatre have been revamped to offer impressive modern-day accommodations and entertainment. The Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts holds rotating exhibits in two homes on the National Register of Historic Places.
While a stroll through Florence may feel like stepping back to sweet Southern days gone by, it won’t be long before you’re immersed in the city’s booming retail economy, seen in its notable fashion offerings. Ecodesigner Natalie Chanin made Florence the home of Alabama Chanin’s design and production studio, where she creates and sells high-quality, environmentally conscious home goods and apparel. A progressive culinary scene is also emerging with restaurants like Odette, which features elevated, modernized Southern cuisine. Still you’ll find quaint go-to spots like Sweet Basil Cafe, serving classic soups, sandwiches, and desserts.
While visiting, be sure to stop by neighboring town Tuscumbia, a fellow member of “The Shoals” region, for an inspiring tour of Ivy Green, Helen Keller’s birthplace and childhood home. Built in 1820, the simple white clapboard house became the miraculous site where Helen, left blind and deaf from a severe illness at the age of 19 months, learned to communicate despite unfathomable barriers. See the Keller family’s original furnishings, as well as personal mementos, gifts, and books from Helen’s extraordinary life—which included learning multiple languages in Braille, writing several books, and lecturing around the world.
By Elizabeth Bonner
Photography by John O’Hagan