Florence, SC, likes to call itself "A City of Character," a reference to its distinctiveness, its history and its charm. One of many cities throughout the South that arose in the wake of the spread of the railroad, Florence started from a railroad depot in 1853. A planned community, it was laid out with seven streets and 96 lots. A railroad town, it was named for Florence Harllee, the daughter of a railroad executive.
During the Civil War, the area saw much military activity, including the construction of a stockade to hold prisoners. After the war, the city, then with a population of 700, was chartered in 1871. Soon a thriving business bloomed transporting to the rest of the country the agricultural riches of the Pee Dee River Basin, named for the Pee Dee natives who occupied the land before Europeans arrived. The name also identifies the eight-county region that Florence serves as a hub.
Giving itself a Christmas present in 1890, Florence incorporated on Christmas Eve that year.
. Rails continued to drive the city's economic engine, with more than 60 trains daily, combining freight and passenger service, in the 1940s. The transportation theme continued in the 20th century, but highways replaced rails as Florence today lies at the nexus of I-95 and the beginning of I-20. The city is positioned just 100 miles from Charleston, 90 miles for the state capital at Columbia, and 70 miles from Myrtle Beach and the Atlantic Ocean. Charlotte, NC, is just 100 miles north.
Its population of 33,000 today may seem like a small town, yet Florence supports performance theater, symphony, several ballet companies, museums, festivals and even a hockey team. Residents take the Southern concepts of gentility and hospitality very seriously. County seat of Florence County, the city lies between the Carolina Piedmont and Coastal regions.
Education, health and social services employ more than a quarter of Florence's citizens, with manufacturing at 14%. Most employment sources are close to residents' homes, making the mean travel time to work less than 20 minutes. Among the major regional manufacturers is Honda, employing 1500 people. Another major manufacturer is Nan-Ya Plastic with a force of 980. Roche Pharmaceuticals and DuPont have major operaions here. One attraction is that the cost of living is low, about 95% of the national norm, with the median housing price at about $91,000.
A well-educated citizenry makes any city attractive to business, and Florence offers a population more than 75% of which holds high school diplomas or higher. More than 25% hold bachelor's degrees, while nearly 10% hold graduate degrees. Francis Marion University, named for the famous "Swamp Fox" of the American Revolution, is a public-supported institution founded as a state college in 1970. Strong in liberal arts, the university also grants master's degrees in selected areas. Its 4,000 students pursue degrees in a wide variety of fields. Florence-Darling Technical College offers programs in technical fields, such as allied health and information science.
For its size, Florence has a wealth of cultural and arts institutions. Its theater was founded in the 1920s, its museum in the 1930s, and its symphony in the 1940s. Florence has a museum devoted to the U.S. Civil War, an institution it prefers to call, in the Southern manner, The War Between the States.Museum. Materials displayed focus on the local history of the period. The Florence Museum of Art, Science and History is a major cultural resource for the Pee Dee District. Theater and music at Francis Marion University further enrich the arts experience in Florence.
Focused on economic growth, good quality-of-life values, and Southern sensibilities, Florence, SC, attracts a vigorous, youthful resident--the median age is 38--and offers a high standard of living at reasonable cost.