Historical Points of Interest In & Around Pensacola
By VISIT FLORIDA staff
A variety of Pensacola points of interest make for an educational driving tour of Pensacola and Milton.
Pensacola earned the title "America's First Place City" in 1559 - it was the first area settled by Europeans in the United States. The Pensacola Bay Area's protected, natural deep-water harbor has made it a highly contested military and shipping location for centuries. Having been under the control of the Spanish, French, English, Americans, and Confederates throughout its history, it is also known as the "City of Five Flags."
Milton was established in 1825 as a trading post on the Blackwater River. Hidden in a nearby swamp is the archeological site of the remains of the 19th century Arcadia Mill. This historical enterprise introduced Northwest Florida to the industrial revolution with a water-powered sawmill, quarry, gristmill, cotton mill, and the first textile mill in the South to convert local natural resources into finished consumer products. In fact, by the late 1850's, Santa Rosa County was the most industrialized county in the entire state of Florida.
Pensacola Bay Area
Fascinating historical sites provide perspective on the Pensacola Bay Area's colorful past. Pensacola, FL points of interest in the downtown area include Historic Pensacola Village, (850) 595-5985, which offers exhibits including furnished period houses and archaeological sites spanning from the earliest Spanish explorers to the 1920's, including the oldest church in Florida still on its original foundation, Old Christ Church. Nearby, the T. T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum, (850) 595-5985, is filled with historic displays and a hands-on Discovery Gallery that will enthrall children of all ages for hours. The Colonial Archaeological Trail, (850) 595-5985, adjacent to the museum, offers self-guided tours of the site of Fort George, built in 1772 as the principle defense of the city. In the midst of the historic village, Seville Square, (850) 436-5670, a grassy park graced by a romantic gazebo and a canopy of majestic oak trees, serves as a respite and a popular location for a variety of unique festivals. Several cafes and bistros near the square provide an opportunity to take in both a tasty lunch and rich history. The Pensacola Children's Museum, (850) 595-1559, offers exhibits on the early Indians, military and maritime history and the Pensacola Bay Area's multicultural heritage.
The Pensacola Museum of Art, (850) 432-6247, housed in the beautifully restored old city jail, features nationally-known exhibits and offers an exciting and enlightening program specially designed to challenge the minds of children. Just across the street, the Pensacola Cultural Center is home to the Pensacola Little Theatre, (850) 432-2042, which stages a full season of entertaining theatrical performances. Local and national musical groups and theater troupes perform at the beautifully restored Saenger Theatre, (850) 595-3880, and the Pensacola Civic Center, (850) 432-0800.
Veteran's Memorial Park, on Bayfront Parkway features the only half-size, permanent replica of the Vietnam Memorial outside of Washington D.C. and the World War II Memorial. Across Bayfront Parkway is the Hawkshaw Lagoon Missing Children's Memorial, directly on Pensacola Bay.
Popular downtown eateries reflect new influences and culinary standards influenced by the city's 450-year history, while capitalizing on their ready access to plentiful seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. As you can see, there are plenty of Pensacola, FL points of interest with a historical bent, as well as tons of things to do in Pensacola.
The City of Milton, a rivertown on the banks of the Blackwater River was founded in 1844 and is the 11th oldest city in Florida. From the earliest days of the city, the Blackwater River served as a transportation artery for the timber, brick, naval stores and shipbuilding industries. Today, the river remains the heart of downtown with Milton's Riverwalk Park, (850) 983-5400, gracing the banks. Forests of longleaf pine once dominated the lands surrounding Milton and provided much of the "heart pine" lumber found in the many historic buildings. These buildings include the restored Imogene Theater, (850) 626-2117, St. Mary's Episcopal Church, and the Milton L & N Train Depot, (850) 623-3645. The Santa Rosa Historical Society Museum of Local History, (850) 626-2117, showcase show early Milton pioneers lived and worked. The West Florida Railroad Museum, (850) 623-3645, depicts Milton's rich railroad history.
Main Street Milton, (850) 626-6246, is a Florida Main Street community working to preserve the unique historical character of downtown Milton while returning downtown Milton's historic commercial district to an active, lively community center with a strong economic base.
The rich history of the area weaves a story of abundant natural resources. Milton is known as the "Canoe Capital of Florida" because of the miles of creeks and rivers that wind through the area. The Blackwater Heritage State Trail, (850) 983-5338, a rails-to-trails project, has sites located close to the downtown area to Naval Air Station-Whiting Field and provides opportunities for biking, walking, jogging, in-line skating and horses.
Experience the sights and sounds of this small southern city that serves as a gateway to an abundance of historical and natural resources. Here, you can enjoy the diverse styles of southern architecture, the creeks and trails, and the whistle of the train as it crosses the historic swing span bridge over the Blackwater River.