Florida is a town in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States. It is part of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is home to the east portal of the Hoosac Tunnel, as well as Whitcomb Summit (elevation 2,172 ft or 662 m), the highest point of the Mohawk Trail. Florida contains the village of Drury. At the 2010 census the town had a total population of 752.
The area was first settled by Europeans as part of the Equivalent Lands (specifically, the “Berkshire Equivalent”). Most of what is now Florida was originally a grant to the town of Bernardston, Massachusetts made sometime before 1771. The first settler, Dr. Daniel Nelson, arrived around 1783. The town was incorporated in 1805 and named “Florida”, perhaps because Spanish Florida was a topic of conversation at the time.
The town was mostly agrarian, with maple syrup, wool, and potatoes its main products for many years. However, in the mid-nineteenth century, the town was a boom town for the workers involved in the construction of the Hoosac Tunnel, a rail tunnel which begins on the town’s eastern border and extends through the Hoosac Range to neighboring North Adams.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, in his American Notebooks, names the town as Lebrida, not Florida, and speaks of the Hoosac Range as “the Green Mountain” in the singular. It is possible that the name Lebrida was a corruption of Florida; or the other way around. While the reference to “the Green Mountain” evidently reflects local tradition of the time (1838), and may in fact be what gave the name Green Mountains to the entire range, as another mountain in Vermont also bears the name Green Mountain. Today the town is sparsely populated, with most residents working in neighboring towns.
Florida has one school, the Gabriel Abbott Memorial School, which serves students from kindergarten through eighth grade. The school also serves the students of neighboring Monroe. The town sends its high school students to either Drury High School or Charles H. McCann Technical High School, both of which are in North Adams.
The nearest community college is Berkshire Community College, located in Pittsfield. The nearest public college is the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in neighboring North Adams, and the nearest university is the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The nearest private college is Williams College in Williamstown.
As of the census of 2000, there were 676 people, 265 households, and 196 families residing in the town. Florida’s population ranks 27th out of the 32 towns in Berkshire County, and 337th out of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts. The population density was 27.7 people per square mile (10.7/km2), making it the 24th most densely populated town in the county, and 333rd in the Commonwealth. There were 294 housing units at an average density of 12.1 per square mile (4.7/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.49% White, 0.59% African American, 0.44% Native American, 0.44% Asian, 0.30% from other races, and 0.74% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.44% of the population.
There were 265 households, out of which 32.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 65.7% were married couples living together, 4.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.7% were non-families. 22.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 2.99.
In the town, the population was spread out, with 25.1% under the age of 18, 4.3% from 18 to 24, 30.8% from 25 to 44, 25.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 109.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 107.4 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $43,000, and the median income for a family was $52,500. Males had a median income of $32,000 versus $23,906 for females. The per capita income for the town was $16,979. About 3.3% of families and 5.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.3% of those under age 18 and 8.6% of those age 65 or over.