The Thiesen Building
The Thiesen Building, 40 S Palafox, represents a time of optimism in the business community of Pensacola. This building was the first structure of its type in Pensacola when it was built in 1901. Christian Thiesen was a Danish immigrant who settled in Pensacola in 1882 and ran a successful real estate business. The architectural firm Morgan & Dillon was selected to build Pensacola's first commercial high-rise. At the time, Thiesen's idea was viewed as foolish by other Pensacolians. However, after its construction, the Thiesen Building was the tallest and first to have a mechanical passenger elevator. In addition, Thiesen was the first in the city to offer his tenants steam heat and janitor services.
In 1905 on Halloween night, a fire destroyed the entire block of 1 S Palafox and firefighters were able to put the fire out before it spread to the surrounding blocks. W.A. Blount and F.C. Brent owned most of the block that was damaged and quickly began rebuilding after the fire. The seven-story Blount Building on the corner and three-story Brent Building were completed in 1906. Both buildings have a steel structural skeleton, brick walls, and concrete floors that were early attempts at creating a fireproof building.
L&N Passenger Station
The Blount Building, once occupied by a Woolworth’s five and dime store, played a role in the struggle for civil rights in Florida. In the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans in segregated communities began sit-ins to protest against “whites only” lunch counters in stores. Members of Pensacola’s NAACP Youth Council, some as young as 12 years old, took their stand against segregation by peacefully occupying lunch counter seats here and elsewhere in the city. Led by Rev. William C. Dobbins and the Pensacola Council of Ministers, the youth were trained in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy of non-violence. Confronted by hecklers, they were physically and verbally harassed and even arrested on falsified charges. The African American community raised bail money and support for the youth through rallies at churches all over Pensacola. The battle to integrate the city’s lunch counters lasted 707 days and involved non-violent tactics such as sit-ins, pickets, marches, and a selective buying campaign or boycott. Downtown stores lost 80% of their business because of the boycott, and lunch counters in the City of Pensacola integrated on March 12, 1962.
Learn more about the African American Heritage Trail.