The 1867 Matheson House with Augusta Florida Steele Matheson on the front steps.

Matheson Library & Archives

The Matheson History Museum is expanding! The museum is renovating the former Melting Pot building at 418 East University Avenue. The building will be transformed into a library, archive and community meeting space. For more information, contact

The Matheson History Museum's main exhibition gallery is housed in the former American Legion Hall, which was repurposed as a museum in 1994. The museum's office, library and archives are also housed in this building, which is located at 513 East University Avenue.

1867 Matheson House

​The Matheson House, one of the three oldest residences in Gainesville, was completed by James Douglas Matheson, an emigrant from South Carolina and a prominent merchant. The house was bequeathed to James's son, Chris, who served as the mayor of Gainesville from 1910 through 1917; was a state legislator; and later became a Presbyterian minister. His wife, Sarah Hamilton Matheson, was the first female elder at First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville. Sarah helped form the Alachua County Historical Society and served as its president. She also co-founded the Matheson History Museum, which opened in 1994. Sarah deeded the Matheson House to the museum upon her death in 1996. 

A blend of South Carolina plantation and classic revival raised cottage architecture, the Matheson House incorporates Gothic decorative elements in roof finials and an interior stairway. The  gambrel roof and ceiling-to-ground porch columns are uncommon in Florida. Inside, period furniture and personal possessions are a testament to the Matheson family's history and also reveal the early history of Gainesville. 

More information on the Matheson House and the Matheson family is available in Murray Laurie's 1999 book, "The Matheson House of Gainesville, Florida: Sheltering the Past." Copies are available in the Matheson's research library. 

Please call (352) 378-2280 to schedule a tour. Tours are available between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and cost $5 for adults and are free for age 12 and under.

Matheson History Museum


The Matheson History Museum offers small and large group tours of the 1867 Matheson House and the museum. To schedule a tour, please email or call (352) 378-2280.

Inside the Matheson History Museum building, Gainesville's old American Legion Hall, permanent and temporary exhibitions tell the story of Alachua County and surrounding environs. Permanent exhibits examine area history from the Timucuan Indians to the Spanish occupation of the area to William Bartram's travels and more.

School groups will learn about the history of Gainesville and Alachua County, the Matheson family and the museum's collections in an interactive, docent-led tour. Teachers may obtain curriculum guides by emailing The guides contain a teacher's introduction to the tour experience with suggestions for pre- and post-tour classroom activities. 

513 E University Avenue Gainesville FL 32601 US
Hours:      11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Tuesday - Saturday 

The museum also holds special events at night and on the weekends. Please see our events page for updated information. The Matheson History Museum is free and open to the public (donations are encouraged).

Phone:     (352) 378-2280

Sweetwater Park

Located directly behind the museum and maintained jointly by the Matheson History Museum and the City of Gainesville, Sweetwater Park is a botanical garden with an alphabetized display of native plant life. A Walk Through History, a 12-panel local history exhibit, lines Sweetwater Branch Creek, the city’s original eastern boundary. This outdoor exhibit is currently being refurbished; please pardon our dust as we install new signage. The park is free and open to the public.

The Tison Tool Barn 

Gifted to the museum in 1993, the Tison Tool Barn houses the extensive historic tool collection of John Mason Tison, Jr. It displays historic tools from various industries ranging from lumber to electrical engineering.


Please click the blue button to view more information about renting the museum for a special event. Contact to check availability. 

Research Requests

Please contact our director, Dr. Peggy Macdonald, at with local history questions or to schedule an appointment to conduct research in our collections. 

Visit the Museum

Follow Us on Facebook