Roper Park is the original site of the parade grounds and barracks for the East Florida Seminary, a non-sectarian educational institution and a forerunner of the University of Florida, which was located in Gainsville in part due to the presence of the Seminary. James H. Roper (1835-1883) moved to Gainesville in 1856 after he recieved his degree from Trinity College in North Carolina. He started the first school, in the new town, the Gainesville Academy, which moved to this site in 1857. It was the only school in the county that operated in during the Civil War. The East Florida Seminary in Ocala closed when the war began , and Roper, a member of the State Senate in 1865-66 and the Board of Education, engineered its relocation to Gainesville by donating his school's building and site in 1866. The Seminary accepted students who lived east of the Suwannee River.Roper was president for the first two years and remained on the Board of Education through 1883. After his resignation as president, Roper pursued his interests in rental property, orange groves, and his livery stable, amoung other activities. He was a Gainsville city councilman in 1876. He died at age 48 in Mt. Gilead, N.C.
The barracks for the East Florida Seminary were built on this site in 1886, behind this marker and directly east of the academic hall.The two-story frame building had a double veranda along the south side, and a two-story porch surrounded an open courtyard in its center. The 197' by 90' building occupied the north half of the block. Out-of-town students lived in 45 12'x14' rooms that contained two iron beds with moss mattresses and feather pillows, a study table, a washstand, and a stove. Male teachers occupied 14 rooms. The kitchen, bathrooms and infirmary were located in seperate buildings north of the barracks, and the two-story dining hall was located on the east side of the lower floor.Parade grounds where male students were required to do daily military drills occupiedthe south half of the block (in front of this marker).The Friday dress parade was attended by many of the locals, particularly the young ladies. When Gainsville was awarded the University of Florida, a torchlit parade wound its way through the streets, and around the drill field.The City of Gainesville purchased the block in 1906. In 1907, Mayor William Thomas bought the barracks and added them to the nearby White House Hotel.