Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Historic Pensacola, Florida

In one of the tourist brochures of Pensacola we read that the city was the oldest in the United States.  Strange, we had learned when we were in St.Augustine, Florida that it was the oldest.  We learned the full story yesterday at the Historic Pensacola Village.  The Spanish arrived with 1500 people in 1559, and left two years later.  A variety of misfortunes had brought their numbers down to 200 by the time they left.  If they had stayed, then Pensacola would be the oldest city, but the Spanish did not return for another 130 years.  After that France evicted them once, and then Spain returned to claim the land.  Pensacola, from 1752 to 1821 had a succession of Spanish and British forts (which had also been occupied by Americans), the ruins of which can be seen on the Colonial Archeological Trail in downtown Pensacola.  To summarize the complicated history, the city was under 5 flags which had been raised in turn 10x- here I am including the Confederate as well as the American flags.
Such a convoluted history makes for some interesting archeological findings!  Pictured above, from left to right, is an olive jug from Spain, white and blue plates from Mexico (ca.1550) and from France a marbleized  slipware- the red bowl- from the early 18th century. The other blue and red jug is also from France.  Near the historical village is an archeological museum where I took the above picture.
Most of our day was spent in the historical village, which has about 15 buildings from the early days of Pensacola.  Most of them are located on their original sites.  One that had been relocated is the Julee Panton Cottage built in 1804.  Fifteen to twenty per-cent of it was intact before reconstruction.  Julee was a "free woman of color" ( had been a slave in the past) who purchased real estate as well as slaves (whom she always later freed).  In the cottage is a display of a document she wrote in 1804 to the governor of Florida asking for a lot on which to build her home.  She made mention of the fact that she made her living manufacturing candles and baking cakes and pastry.  In 1900 the African American community outnumbered the whites, and despite the fact that many of them held professional jobs and were merchants, they were never accepted socially.  However, they continued to live side by side the whites in the downtown area.
Christ Episcopal Church, built in 1832, is one of the oldest surviving church buildings in Florida.
The original stained glass has been moved to the new church.  The altar area is the resting site for three of the church's rectors.   When that section of the church was lengthened it covered part of the graveyard which was behind the building, so their graves were included inside the church.
Joining a guided tour later in the day enabled us to see the inside of Christ Church, as well as two homes built in the late 1800s.  Pictured above is the Dorr house built in 1871 by Clara Barkley Dorr, the widow of a lumber tycoon.  In 1862 the Confederates burned everything in the town of Pensacola which they considered of some use to the enemy, which included sawmills, factories, boats, naval stores and warehouses.  By July of 1863 only 82 people were living in the city.  I will have more regarding Pensacola in my next posting.

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