Porter’s will honor longtime residents

Gainesville resident will show where UF football team played on field in Porter's

Fred Awbrey outside the Porter’s Community Center where he will make a presentation Monday evening about a field that used to be in Porter’s where the University of Florida played its first football game.

CLEVELAND TINKER/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 5:00 p.m.

The Porter's Community Organization will recognize residents it considers to be pioneers in the predominantly black community near downtown Gainesville during a special ceremony and also hear a presentation about the University of Florida playing its first football game on a field in Porter's.



What: The Porter’s Community Organization will be hosting a special ceremony to recognize community pioneers and hear a presentation about a field in Porter’s where UF played its first home football games.

When: 6 p.m. Monday.

Where: Porter’s Community Center, 512 SW 6th Ave.

Information: Call 352-377-2868.

The ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at the Porter's Community Center at 512 SW 6th Ave. The public is invited.

Gigi Simmons, the newly elected president of the organization, said the pioneers will be given plaques for their contributions to the community. Then, Fred Awbrey, a resident of Gainesville, will talk about the field in Porter's where UF played its first home football game.

Simmons said the pioneers are all 70 or older and have lived in the community for more than 30 years. They are: Rufus "Uncle Nine" Brooks; Henry Leath, and his sister, Mamie Leath; James "Bama" Prouvitt; Janie Williams, a former Alachua County School Board member and past president of the organization, and Ruby Williams.

"They all, in one way or another, have made life better in the Porter's community and we just want to let them know we appreciate them for all that they do," said Simmons, adding that Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe will help her present the plaques to the pioneers.

Awbrey, a retired teacher who taught in Orange Park, volunteers at the Matheson Museum in downtown Gainesville and spends a lot of time in the Alachua County library. He said he found out about UF playing its first home football game in Porter's at the downtown library after reading an article on microfilm in the Gainesville Daily Sun written in 1883.

The story said a white baseball team known as Oak Hall played a game at a field in the Porter's community.

He said he later read an article on microfilm that said UF's football team was playing games at the same field.

He said although there is no map from that time period with the field on it, he said references in the paper specifically say "the ballpark" was located near "Lynch Lot" and "South Pleasant Street." Those street names are on maps from that time period and they were located in Porter's.

Awbrey said the ballpark was located between SW 5th Avenue (Market Street) to the north, SW Depot Avenue to the south, SW 3rd Street (Arredondo Street) to the west and SW 1st Street (Garden Street) to the east.

Awbrey said the East Florida Seminary School, which later became UF, played six football games at the field from 1902-1904 and UF played 16 to 17 games there from 1906-1910.

"The field was fenced in and people were charged admission," said Awbrey. "In 1911, the ballpark was closed and the fence was taken to the UF campus."

Awbrey said his research also reveals that the field was an "integral part of life for everybody in Gainesville" from 1883-1946 because the circus was held on the field, and the Central City Nine, a black baseball team, played on the field. He said trains used to travel along Depot Avenue, making the field an ideal spot because it was located a short walking distance from the train tracks.

"My goal is to one day get an historic marker placed on the site," Awbrey said.

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