Tallahassee is the capital of the U.S. state of Florida. It is the county seat and only incorporated municipality in Leon County, and is the 128th largest city in the United States. Tallahassee became the capital of Florida, then the Florida Territory, in 1824. In 2010, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau was 181,376, and the Tallahassee metropolitan area is 375,371 as of 2012.
Tallahassee is a college town with two public universities: Florida State University, a large research university, and Florida A&M University, the country's largest historically black university. It is also home to Tallahassee Community College, and branches of several other institutions.
Tallahassee is a center for trade and agriculture in the Florida Panhandle and is served by Tallahassee Regional Airport. With one of the fastest growing manufacturing and high tech economies in Florida, its major private employers include a General Dynamics Land Systems manufacturing facility (military and combat applications), the Municipal Code Corporation, which specializes in the publication of municipal and county legal references; and a number of national law firms, lobbying organizations, trade associations and professional associations, including the Florida Bar and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. It is recognized as a regional center for scientific research, and is home to the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, the largest and highest-powered magnet research laboratory in the world.
During the 17th century several Spanish missions were established in the territory of the Apalachee to procure food and labor for the colony at St. Augustine. The largest, Mission San Luis de Apalachee, has been partially reconstructed by the state of Florida. The name "Tallahassee" is a Muskogean Indian word often translated as "old fields", and it likely stems from the Creek (later called Seminole) Indians who migrated from Georgia and Alabama to this region in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They found large areas of cleared land previously occupied by the Apalachee tribe. Earlier, the Mississippian Indians built mounds near Lake Jackson around AD 1200, which survive today in the Lake Jackson Archaeological State Park.
The expedition of Panfilo de Narvaez encountered the Apalachees, although it did not reach the site of Tallahassee. Hernando de Soto and his expedition occupied the Apalachee town of Anhaica in what is now Tallahassee in the winter of 1538–1539. Based on archaeological excavations this site is now known to be located about east of the present Florida State Capitol. The DeSoto encampment is believed to be the first place Christmas was celebrated in the continental United States.
During the First Seminole War, General Andrew Jackson fought two separate skirmishes in and around Tallahassee. The first battle took place on November 12, 1817. Chief Neamathla, of the village of Fowltown, just west of present day Tallahassee had refused Jackson's orders to relocate. Jackson responded by entering the village, burning it to the ground, and driving off its occupants. The Indians later retaliated, by killing 50 soldiers and civilians. Jackson reentered Florida in March 1818. According to Jackson's adjutant, Colonel Robert Butler, they "advanced on the Indian village called Tallahasse (sic) [where] two of the enemy were made prisoner."
From 1821 through 1845 the rough-hewn frontier capital gradually grew into a town during Florida's territorial period. The Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolution, returned for a tour of the United States in 1824. The US Congress voted to give him $200,000 (the same amount he had given the colonies in 1778), US citizenship, and the Lafayette Land Grant, of land that today includes large portions of Tallahassee. In 1845 a Greek revival masonry structure was erected as the Capitol building in time for statehood. Now known as the "old Capitol," it stands in front of the Capitol high rise building that was built in the 1970s.
Tallahassee was the center of the slave trade in Florida as the city was the capital of the Cotton Belt. During the American Civil War, Tallahassee was the only Confederate state capital east of the Mississippi not captured by Union forces. A small engagement, the Battle of Natural Bridge, was fought south of the city on March 6, 1865.
During the 19th century the institutions that would eventually be combined into what is now known as Florida State University were established in Tallahassee, firmly cementing it as a university town. These including the Tallahassee Female Academy (founded 1843) and the Florida Institute (founded 1854). In 1851 the Florida legislature decreed two seminaries to be built on either side of the Suwanee River, East Florida Seminary and West Florida Seminary. In 1855 West Florida Seminary was transferred to the Florida Institute building (which had been established as an inducement for the state to place the seminary in Tallahassee). In 1858 the seminary absorbed the Tallahassee Female Academy and became coeducational.
After the Civil War much of Florida's industry moved to the south and east, a trend that continues today. The end of slavery hindered the cotton and tobacco trade, and the state's major industries shifted to citrus, lumber, naval stores, cattle ranching and tourism. The post-Civil War period was also when many former plantations in the Tallahassee area were purchased by wealthy northerners for use as winter hunting preserves. This included the hunting preserve of Henry L. Beadel, who bequeathed his land for the study of the effects of fire on wildlife habitat. Today the preserve is known as the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, nationally recognized for its research into fire ecology and the use of prescribed burning.
In 1970, the Census Bureau reported city's population as 74.0% white and 25.4% black.
In 1977 a 23-story high-rise Capitol building designed by architect Edward Durell Stone was completed, which is now the third-tallest state capitol building in the United States. In 1978 the old capitol, directly in front of the new capitol, was scheduled for demolition, but state officials decided to keep the Old Capitol as a museum.