Pensacola’s downtown is full of historic sites, but the truth is that with more than 450 years of history behind it, every step you take is a part of our country’s earliest days and memories.
Pensacola’s architecture, street names, celebrations and even our food can be traced back to the diverse groups of settlers who first called the Gulf Coast home.
Founded by Spanish sailor Don Tristan de Luna in 1559, the Pensacola Bay Area was the first European settlement in the New World. Over the centuries, the flags of Spain, Britain, France, the Confederacy and the United States have flown over the “City of Five Flags.”
Our history is well preserved in many area sites, and a great place to start is where it all started, in the heart of Pensacola’s downtown.
Near the downtown waterfront, the Historic Pensacola Village includes of 27 properties in the Pensacola National Register Historic District. Eleven of these sites are open to the public.
The T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum, originally the 1908 City Hall building, is a virtual treasure trove of historic artifacts, Americana, and West Florida history. Historic Pensacola Village also includes the Pensacola Children’s Museum, the Voices of Pensacola Multicultural Center, the Museum of Commerce, and other sites.
Several private historic homes are open, too. Named for a free African-American resident who lived in the house in 1803, the Julee Panton Cottage is one home that is part of Historic Pensacola Village. The house is open for tours, complete with a furnished parlor, bedroom and kitchen. The 1805 Lavalle House, the 1871 Dorr House, the 1890 Lear-Rocheblave House and the Julee Cottage are all part of the village.
The Voices of Pensacola Multicultural Center explores Pensacola’s diverse multicultural history. Oral history labs as well as a lecture space with stage make a welcome addition to the downtown campus. Changing exhibits and The Marketplace, the museum store with meeting space, are also on the first floor.
Also part of Historic Pensacola Village, Old Christ Church on Seville Square was built by slave labor in 1824. It’s the oldest church in Florida still on its original site. On this site, visitors can see where Union soldiers stabled their horses during the Civil War.
Just north of the Historic Village is St. Michael’s Cemetery. Said to have been a burial site since the mid-1700s, St. Michael’s is one of the only cemeteries in the country that has both nobility and slaves buried side by side.
At a small park at the intersection of Palafox and La Rua Streets is a small, preserved section of old Fort George, built by the British when they occupied the city from 1763-1781. The fort was a major target during the Battle of Pensacola, one of the least known yet most significant battles of the American Revolution.
Or you can picnic in the park at Plaza Ferdinand VII, where Gen. Andrew Jackson accepted the territory of West Florida from Spain in 1821 and first raised the U.S. flag in Pensacola.
Belmont-Devilliers is a historic neighborhood centered around Belmont and Devilliers streets. This neighborhood was a melting pot for music, food and entertainment during the early 20th century. The Devilliers Cultural Heritage Museum was created as a performing arts venue to showcase local and national blues, gospel and jazz artists.
There you’ll also find St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, founded in 1887 as a mission church through the sponsorship of Christ Church, and founded in 1880, the Zion Talbot Chapel houses one of the first pipe organs found in Pensacola. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church was created in 1891 for the exclusive use of Creoles and blacks in Pensacola.
And that’s just downtown – the National Naval Aviation Museum, the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum and several waterfront forts are also just a short drive from the center of the city.
Five flags and nearly 500 years – enough history to keep any buff happy during their Pensacola vacation!
Historic Pensacola is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The Wentworth Museum is also open on Sunday for Half-Price Sundays from noon until 4 p.m. with tickets valid for seven days through the complex.
From gourmet food trucks to fine dining with water views, downtown Pensacola offers upscale options for any craving.
Whether you’re just getting started in antiquing or if it’s been a lifelong hobby, you’ll find that the hunt for the eclectic and historic is easy and unpretentious in the Pensacola Bay Area.
Relaxed southern style amidst historic buildings dotted with chic stores sums up the unique shopping atmosphere you’ll find when you stroll through Pensacola’s downtown. The downtown area is blossoming on all fronts, with an explosion of growth and quaint shops along colorful, crepe myrtle lined-streets.
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