Florida Stories: A Walking Tour of Tallahassee

    By Tom Scherberger

    Want to explore the cultural, historical, and architectural treasures of Tallahassee, Fla.?

    Just go to Florida Stories Walking Tours, and download the app created by the Florida Humanities Council.

    With this app you can learn, at your own pace and on your own schedule, what some of Florida’s most unique towns and cities have to offer.

    Here’s an overview of what you can experience via the Tallahassee app:

    Where: Downtown Tallahassee
    Number
    of stops: 10
    Total
    time: 30 minutes
    Author
    : Rachel Basan Porter, Director of Research and Programming at the Florida Historic Capitol Museum.
    Start: Cascades Park, 1001 S. Gadsden St.

    Overview

    Crowds drawn to Tallahassee by government and football rarely pause to consider the city’s unique history. Tallahassee, built upon the remains of an Apalachee Indian settlement destroyed by Andrew Jackson, became the state capitol in 1824 because it happened to be halfway between Pensacola and St. Augustine, then the biggest population centers.

    Today, the city is a leafy mix of youthful college energy and the serious-minded business of government and family. There is much to be explored downtown and the surrounding area.

    Highlights

    Cascades Park is a former brownfield site transformed into a quiet corner of lush greenery and recreation trails.

    The John G. Riley Center and Museum, at the foot of the State Capitol, is the only African-American historic house in downtown Tallahassee and among the last remnants of Smokey Hollow, once home to 80 black families, schools, churches and businesses, that was demolished during 1960s urban renewal.

    The Knott House Museum dates to 1843, two years before Florida became a state. Most likely built by free black carpenter George Proctor, it was the Civil War headquarters of Union General Edward Moody McCook who on May 20, 1865, enforced the Emancipation Proclamation, an act which is celebrated annually here.

    The state-owned Grove Museum, one of Florida's best preserved antebellum Greek Revival residences, was home to two Florida governors and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    The historic Capitol building, now known as the Florida Historic Capitol Museum, is a Greek revival structure with candy-striped awnings, a copper dome, and a bas relief panel depicting the old state seal of Florida.

    Union Bank, the oldest surviving financial building in Florida, opened as a bank museum in 1984 and now interprets the African-American experience in Florida history.

    Quotable

    “You are suffering to make men free.” - The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to jailed Tallahassee lunch counter sit-in protester Patricia Stephens.

    Notable characters

    Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson, who sat down in the “whites only” section of a segregated bus on May 26, 1956, touched off a months-long boycott that led to the desegregation of the city’s buses.

    Fun Fact

    The tradition of flowers decorating lawmakers’ desks during opening day of the annual legislative session began in 1902 to mask the strong odor of the battleship linoleum flooring used in the old capitol.

    Things to do

    The Museum of Florida History, near the Capitol.

    Near the Capitol, try Andrew’s Capital Grill & Bar for lunch or dinner with the political crowd. Kool Beanz Café offers more eclectic food in a colorful setting. Proof Brewing leads the city’s growing craft brewery scene.

    The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse comprises 68,000 acres and is well worth the half-hour drive south of Tallahassee.

    SPONSORS & PARTNERS