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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pensacola, FL

Pensacola in 1885

Nickname(s): The City of Five Flags

Motto: Enhancing the Quality of Life for all Citizens

Pensacola is the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle and the county seat of Escambia County. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 56,255 and as of 2007, the estimated population was 54,283. However, the Pensacola–Ferry PassBrent Metropolitan Statistical Area, comprising Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, had a population of 453,451.

Pensacola is a sea port on Pensacola Bay, which connects to the Gulf of Mexico. A large United States Naval Air Station, the first in the United States, is located southwest of Pensacola (near the community of Warrington) and is home to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team and the National Museum of Naval Aviation. The main campus of the University of West Florida is situated north of the city center.

Pensacola is nicknamed "The City of Five Flags" due to the five governments that have flown flags over it during its history: those of Spain (Castile), France, Great Britain, the Confederate States of America, and the United States. Other nicknames include "World's Whitest Beaches" (due to the white sand prevalent along beaches in the Florida panhandle), "Cradle of Naval Aviation" (the National Museum of Naval Aviation is located at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, home of the legendary Blue Angels), "Western Gate to the Sunshine State," "America's First Settlement," "Emerald Coast," "Redneck Riviera," and "Red Snapper Capital of the World."

On February 19 of 2009, the King and Queen of Spain, Juan Carlos I and Sofía, took part in commemorating Pensacola's 450th anniversary, as America's first European settlement.


Pensacola was the first European-inhabited settlement in what would later become the United States of America.

Pensacola, Florida has a rich and colorful history dating back 450 years, being the first European settlement in the continental United States (1559) and controlled by five countries. Pensacola's location has caused great turmoil, with many buildings destroyed by wars and by numerous major hurricanes. The location, south of the original British colonies, and on the dividing line between French Louisiana and Spanish Florida along the Perdido River, has caused the possession of the city to change multiple times. Pensacola has been under the possession of the Spanish, French, British, United States and Confederate States, and has remained a part of the United States since the end of the American Civil War. Along with wars, numerous hurricanes have been a massive factor in Pensacola history, destroying houses and leaving many people homeless.

Pensacola: site of 1698 settlement near Fort Barrancas is marked "X" (above left end of Santa Rosa Island).

Early exploration of Pensacola Bay (called Polonza or Ochuse) spanned decades, with Ponce de León (1513), Pánfilo de Narváez (1528), and Hernando de Soto plus others charting the area. The area was later named after Etzold's first name.

Due to prior exploration, the first settlement of Pensacola was large, with over 1,400 people on 11 ships from Vera Cruz, Mexico landing on August 15, 1559, led by Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano. However, weeks later on September 19, 1559, the colony was decimated by a hurricane which killed hundreds, sank five ships, grounded a caravel, and ruined supplies. The 1,000 survivors decided to relocate and resupply the settlement but, due to famine and attacks, the effort was abandoned in 1561. About 240 people sailed to Santa Elena (today's Parris Island, South Carolina), but another storm hit there, so they sailed to Cuba and scattered. The remaining 50 at Pensacola were taken back to Mexico, and the Viceroy's advisers concluded that northwest Florida was too dangerous to settle, a belief that endured for 135 years.

Pensacola was permanently reestablished by the Spanish in 1696 on the mainland, near Fort Barrancas (see map), It was occupied by the French in 1719 but another major hurricane devastated the settlement in 1722, causing the French to evacuate, and the Spanish returned.

The Spanish built three presidios in Pensacola:

Presidio Santa Maria de Galve (1698-1719): the presidio included fort San Carlos de Austria (east of present Fort Barrancas) and a village with church;

Presidio Isla de Santa Rosa (1722-1752): this next presidio was on Santa Rosa Island near the site of present Fort Pickens, but hurricanes battered the island in 1741 and 1752, and the presidio was closed and moved to the mainland;

Presidio San Miguel de Panzacola (1754-1763): the final presidio was about five miles east of the first presidio, over in the present-day historic district of downtown Pensacola, named from "Panzacola" (of Spain).

Aerial view of Fort Barrancas. The water battery is the white section.

At the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, Pensacola became the capital of the 14th British colony, West Florida. The British went back to the mainland area of fort San Carlos de Barrancas, building the Royal Navy Redoubt. After Spain joined the American Revolution late in 1779, the Spanish captured East Florida and West Florida in the 1781 Battle of Pensacola, retaining it from (1781-1819). In the Transcontinental Treaty (Adams-Onis) of 1819, Spain renounced its claims to West Florida and ceded East Florida to the U.S. (US$5 million). In 1821, with Andrew Jackson as provisional governor, Pensacola became part of the United States.

St. Michael's Cemetery was established in the 18th Century at a location which at the time was on the distant eastern outskirts of the city. Initially owned by the Church of St. Michael, it is now owned and managed by St. Michael's Cemetery Foundation of Pensacola, Inc. Preliminary studies indicate that there are over 3200 marked burials as well as a large number unmarked.


Pensacola Beach, Florida


The climate of Pensacola is subtropical, with mild winters and hot, humid summers. Summer temperatures are characterized by highs in the low 90s and lows in the mid 70s. The average high in July is 91 °F (32.8 °C), with 59 days per year reaching at least 90 °F (32.2 °C). The average low in July is 75 °F (23.9 °C). Evening thunderstorms are common during the summer months. Temperatures above 100 °F (37.7 °C) are rare, and last occurred in July 2000, when seven days over 100 °F were recorded. The hottest temperature ever recorded in the city was 106 °F (41.1 °C) on July 14, 1980.

Average highs in January are 61 °F (16.1 °C) and average lows are 43 °F (6.1 °C). There are, on average, fifteen nights per year of below freezing temperatures. Temperatures below 20 °F are rare, and last occurred in January 2003, when a low of 18 °F (-7.7 °C) was seen.[17] The coldest temperature ever recorded in the city was 5 °F (-15 °C) on January 21, 1985. Snow is rare in Pensacola, but does occasionally fall. The most recent frozen precipitation occurred on December 25 and December 26, 2004, when the city received ice pellets.

The city receives 64.28 inches (1633 mm) of precipitation per year, with a rainy season in the summer. The rainiest month is July, with 8.02 inches (204 mm), while 3.89 inches (99 mm) falls in April, the driest month.


Flooding in Downtown Pensacola from Hurricane Katrina

Pensacola's location on the Florida Panhandle makes it vulnerable to hurricanes. Major hurricanes which have made landfall at or near Pensacola include Eloise (1975), Frederic (1979), Juan (1985), Erin (1995), Opal (1995), Georges (1998), Ivan (2004), and Dennis (2005).

Pensacola and several surrounding areas were devastated by Hurricane Ivan. Pensacola found itself on the eastern side of the eyewall, which sent a large storm surge into Escambia Bay that eventually destroyed most of the I-10 Escambia Bay Bridge. The storm heavily damaged the bridge. It knocked 58 spans off the eastbound and westbound bridges and misaligned another 66 spans, causing the bridge to close to traffic in both directions. Over six billion dollars in damage occurred in the metro area and more than 10,000 homes were destroyed, with another 27,000 heavily damaged. NASA created a comparison image to illustrate the massive damage. Hurricane Ivan drove up the cost of housing in the area, leading to a severe shortage of affordable housing. In July 2005, Hurricane Dennis made landfall just east of the city, sparing it the blow it had received from Ivan the year before. However, hurricane- and near-hurricane-force winds were recorded in downtown, causing moderate damage.

Gulf Coast after Hurricane Ivan

Although Pensacola only received a glancing blow from 2005's devastating Hurricane Katrina, light to moderate damage was reported in the area. There was significant damage to Pensacola air conditioning condenser units, but minimal structural damage. Katrina also undermined a large percentage of Pensacola's tourist base from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.


Pensacola is served by Interstate 10 and the Interstate 110 spur connecting I-10 with downtown Pensacola. Major air traffic in the Pensacola and greater northwest Florida area is handled by Pensacola Regional Airport. Airlines currently serving Pensacola Regional Airport are Air Tran Airways, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines and US Airways. Amtrak train service and Greyhound bus service are also available. However, Amtrak suspended service to Pensacola (and the rest of the Gulf Coast) because of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. As of October 2008, it is still unknown whether Amtrak service will be restored.

The local bus service is the Escambia County Area Transit (ECAT). In December 2007, ECAT announced that it would cut many of its routes, citing poor rider frequency. However in January 2008, ECAT announced that it would expand service to neighboring Gulf Breeze and change existing routes to more convenient locations.



The city of Pensacola is composed of several neighborhoods, each of a different age and character:

A generalized map of neighborhoods within the city limits of Pensacola.

1. Downtown Pensacola: The historic core of the city. Historic preservation efforts have centered around Palafox Street, downtown's main retail and entertainment corridor. Many of Pensacola's major attractions are here, including Plaza Ferdinand VII, the Pensacola Civic Center and Seville Quarter, as well as much of the city's government and professional office space.

Plaza Ferdinand

2. Brownsville: A working-class neighborhood composed of most of the streets with single-letter names from "E" Street west. It is perhaps most famous as the center of the Brownsville Revival of the 1990s. This neighborhood extends west into unincorporated Escambia County.

3. College Park: Consists mainly of middle class homes built in the 1970s. Major landmarks include Pensacola Junior College, Sacred Heart Hospital and Washington High School. Larger subdivisions include Springdale and Broadview Farms.

4. Cordova Park: Upper middle class housing built from the 1950s to the 1980s. Some of its wealthier residents live along Bayou Texar. Subdivisions include Cordova Park proper, Birnam Woods and Inverness. Cordova Mall is the commercial center of this neighborhood and the remainder of northeast Pensacola.

5. East Brent: Lies east of the unincorporated community of Brent. The area west of Interstate 110 is largely industrial. Major residential subdivisions on the east side of the neighborhood include Highland Terrace and Woodland Heights.

6. East Hill: A middle to upper class neighborhood known mostly for its 1920s-era bungalows and mansions. Housing stock extends into the post-World War II period. Like Cordova Park, the most expensive homes are found along the bayou. Major landmarks include Bayview Park and Old Sacred Heart Hospital.

Old Sacred Heart Hospital

7. East Pensacola Heights: Consists mostly of 1930s-era bungalows with a cluster of apartment complexes and towers along the Scenic Highway bayfront. This neighborhood is known for it's eclectic, bohemian atmosphere. Its commercial center stretches along Cervantes Street and includes the locally famous Jerry's Drive-In.

8. Gull Point: Developed mostly in the 1980s and predominantly upper-middle class residential. Major subdivisions include Baywoods, Bohemia, Ironwood and La Belle Terre/La Mirage.

9. North Hill: Pensacola's first suburb, dating to the post-Civil War period, it is home to the North Hill Preservation District and has been the focus of a tremendous revitalization effort. The majority of the homes in the neighborhood are large Victorians. Belmont-Devilliers, the historically black commercial district, is located in this area, as well as Pensacola High School, the oldest high school in the city.

House in the district

10. Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport

11. Sanders Beach/Tanyard: A working class neighborhood consisting of most of the streets with single-letter names south of Garden Street. Barrancas Avenue cuts diagonally through this neighborhood and connects Pensacola to Warrington via the Bayou Chico bridge. The area west of Pace Boulevard is mostly industrial, and the east side of the neighborhood consists mainly of 1930s-era bungalows.

12. Scenic Heights: A middle class neighborhood developed between the late 1950s and the late 1970s. It is vastly residential and includes the subdivisions of Scenic Heights proper, Belvedere Park, Eastgate, Hidden Oaks and Tierra Verde.

13. Seville Square: The oldest part of modern Pensacola. Consisting of homes, churches and commercial buildings dating to the 18th Century, this is the most consistently historic neighborhood in the city. Historic Pensacola Village, Seville Square Park, Old Christ Church and the New Urbanist development of Aragon Court are located in this neighborhood.

Tivoli High House, ticket and information center for the Village.

T.T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum

14. South Ferry Pass: Lies to the south of the unincorporated community of Ferry Pass. Predominantly residential, it includes the subdivisions of Camelot, Dunmire Woods and Eau Claire Estates, all developed in 1960s and 1970s. The small portion of the city limits that stretches north of Interstate 10 is located in this neighborhood.

15. Summit Park: Consists of the middle class subdivision of Summit Park proper as well as the adjacent upper middle class Gaberonne/Lavallet addition. Developed mostly in the 1960s, it also includes clusters of multi-family and high-density single-family residential development along Summit Boulevard and Spanish Trail.

16. Long Hollow: A working class neighborhood surrounding the Interstate 110 corridor. The Crystal Ice Company Building is a feature of this neighborhood.

Crystal Ice Company Building

City, schools, libraries and hospitals

Public primary and secondary education schools in Pensacola are administered by the Escambia County School District. The current superintendent of schools for Escambia County is Jim Paul. The University of West Florida, which resides north of the city, is the primary tertiary school in the area. UWF also has the largest library in the region, the John C. Pace Library.

Universities and colleges

University of West Florida
Pensacola Junior College
Troy University - Pensacola
Pensacola Christian College


The West Florida Regional Library is a system of libraries with five locations throughout the Pensacola area. They offer fiction and non-fiction books, magazines, books on cassette or CD, DVD and VHS films and music. Each library offers public access computers, children's materials, and a variety of reading materials.

Genealogy and local history resources are available at the Main Branch downtown. Library staff and various volunteers from the West Florida Genealogy Society are available to help start the research process. The Friends of the Library hold periodic book sales where donated and discarded items are sold to the public. Donations of books or audio-video items in good condition are welcome at the main library.


Baptist Hospital – Baptist Health Care,
Gulf Breeze Hospital – Baptist Health Care,
Naval Hospital – United States Navy,
Sacred Heart Hospital – Sacred Heart Health System,
Santa Rosa Medical Center – FastHealth Corporation,
West Florida Hospital – West Florida Healthcare,
Nemours Children's Clinic - Nemours Children's Clinic,


Festivals and holidays

Major holidays in Pensacola include Memorial Day (Memorial Day Weekend), Mardi Gras, and the Fiesta of Five Flags. Celebrations of note in Pensacola are the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival, the Seafood Festival, Crawfish Festival, Gay Pride(LGBT), (Memorial Day Weekend), The King Mackerel and Cobia Tournament, Florida Springfest (although canceled in 2006 through 2008), Gracefest (a Christian music festival), Lobsterfest, University of West Florida Festival on the Green, The Diesel Dee Diesel Dyow Attempts, the Bushwhacker Festival and the Bill Fishing Tournament.Independence Day and Blue Angel Weekend also attract many locals and tourists at nearby Pensacola Beach.

Historic Seville Square and its adjacent parks, Fountain Park and Bartram Park, are the sites of most of Pensacola's festivals. In the summer on Thursdays and on the Thursday in the beginning of the Christmas season, the Pensacola Heritage Foundation presents local bands in its famous gazebo for free and very popular concerts. In December the Pensacola Christmas Market is a popular event in Seville Square as is the Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival and Seafood Festival are in the fall and the Cajun Crawfish Festival in in the spring. Festivals in Seville Square is a successful tradition begun by local preservationists in the early 1960s led by Mary Turner Rule Reed and the Pensacola Heritage Foundation who started the movement to save and restore this square and Pensacola's old settlement around it.

Sports teams

Pensacola is home to several semiprofessional sports teams, including the Pensacola Lightning NAFL team (ranked fourth in the nation out of 147 teams in 2007) (now defunct), the Pensacola Pelicans of the American Association (of Independent Baseball) (AA), and the Gulf Coast Riptide of the Women's Football Alliance (WFA), who earned 8 consecutive Division Championships when they were the Pensacola Power of the National Women's Football Association (NWFA). Roy Jones, Jr., named "Fighter of the Decade" for the 1990s by the Boxing Writers Association of America and a former pound for pound champion, fights out of Pensacola. Pensacola also had a ECHL hockey team by the name of the Pensacola Ice Pilots which recently had its membership terminated on June 23, 2008. However, hockey will return to Pensacola in fall 2009 when the Pensacola Ice Flyers of the Southern Professional Hockey League hit the ice.

Music Scene and Subculture

Pensacola's music scene is considered very active. Perhaps most consistently, however, the city has been home to a small, but fairly active Punk, Folk and Indie scene with bands such as This Bike is a Pipe Bomb, Frank Booth, 60 Cycles of Sound, Deadly Fists of Kung Fu, among others. Country/Folk singer and host of the BBC documentary Searching for the Wrong Eyed-Jesus Jim White was raised in Pensacola before moving to Georgia after Hurricane Ivan. There is also a moderately sized gothic and Industrial scene in the greater Pensacola Area with events such as Freaky Fridaze held monthly at Bedlam, a popular nightclub in the downtown area. There has also been a recent growth in the hardcore metal scene in Pensacola, and shows of this genre are often held at the local American Legion post and the now-closed Red Door Venue, a Christian-based show.

Popular Venues include Sluggo's, the End of the Line Cafe, the Handlebar, and the Gutter Lounge; which has hosted shows by MC Chris and The Horror Pops. Because Pensacola is part of the greater Northwest Florida region, many people from Pensacola frequently attend shows and events in nearby Fort Walton Beach and Mobile, Alabama. Despite the large size of the Pensacola Metropolitan area, the music scene is fairly close knit, with many acts invariably influencing one another.

Aficionados of classical and jazz music also are active in Pensacola. Both Pensacola Junior College and the University of West Florida host a wide variety of concerts at various times of the year, headlining famous musicians as well as local bands and music professors. The Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, directed and conducted by Peter Rubardt, hosts a brilliant season of concerts each year at Pensacola's newly renovated Saenger Theatre. The very active Jazz Society of Pensacola sponsors the popular Pensacola JazzFest each spring downtown in Pensacola's Seville Square. Hundreds of people turn out to enjoy energizing jazz and big band musicians from all over the country perform. In years past, Pensacola was also the home for SpringFest and GraceFest, both mega-music street festivals in downtown Pensacola. The National Museum of Naval Aviation also hosts a yearly series of Big Band concerts, featuring bands such as the Glenn Miller Orchestra and Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Internet sensation Mark Gormley is from Pensacola, as is film composer and musician Nick Monteleone, both of whom were born in Pensacola.

Saenger Theatre

The Arts and Theatre

Pensacola has an active art scene thanks to the University of West Florida and the folk music subculture of the area. A recent revival in Dada and surrealism has also surfaced in the area and art shows have become more and more frequent. Events are planned by the Arts Council of Northwest Florida, including Gallery Night; a monthly event in which downtown businesses host artwork from featured area artists.

There are a number of different performance venues in the Pensacola Area, including the Pensacola Civic Center, often used for big ticket events, and the Saenger Theater, used for performances and mid level events. Currently the Saenger Theater is closed for renovations and is due to reopen in March of 2009.

Pensacola Christian College hosts its Fine Arts Series each year, attracting prominent artists that include the late Jerome Hines of the New York Metropolitan Opera, the Atlantic Brass Quintet, Christopher Parkening, the Vienna Boys' Choir and the Gregg Smith Singers. Other performances include operas, Shakespearean plays, and Gilbert and Sullivan musicals.

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