So what do a steakhouse, a bar, a brewery and a plaza in Pensacola all have in common?
The seventh President of the United States.
Did you guess right? Don’t worry, if that answer leaves you scratching your head, here’s how:
In the early 1800s, Pensacola was the scene of international intrigue and border warfare. There were many different countries fighting over our deep-water port.
Pensacola can trace its presidential history to colonial times, when General – and future President – Andrew Jackson set his sights on Pensacola in the name of the new American nation.
“In 1814, Pensacola was under Spanish control and the U.S. and England were engaged in the War of 1812,” said Jacki Wilson, an archivist at the University of West Florida Historic Trust in downtown Pensacola.
“British ships were anchored in Pensacola Bay and Jackson, with 3,000 soldiers and Native Americans, used the British presence to invade and capture Pensacola. After the British retreated, Pensacola was returned to Spanish control after a few days.”
But Jackson was not done with Pensacola, which had 1,000 or fewer residents at the time. He invaded again in 1818, demanding Spain relinquish control. Following that, Pensacola was under American rule for a few months and negotiations began to transfer Florida to American control.
“Jackson’s two raids into Pensacola helped to convince Spain that transferring Florida to the U.S. was probably in Spain’s best interest,” Wilson said. “Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821. Jackson served as the U.S. emissary in 1821, accepting transfer of the new territory from Spain to the U.S. He then served as governor of the territory for a short time.”
The place in downtown Pensacola where Jackson accepted control of Florida from the Spanish Crown is now a public park known as Plaza Ferdinand, so named for the king who ruled the Spanish empire at the time. Today, a bust of Jackson is located on the south end of the plaza where Jackson was inaugurated as Governor and made a public speech to the townspeople, informing them that Pensacola was now under the Florida Territory and that the city would be its capital.
While in Pensacola, Jackson and his wife, Rachel, lived in a what was probably a wooden structure owned by a local doctor near the intersection of Palafox and Intendencia, where the World of Beer is now located.
Although Pensacola has grown dramatically in the two centuries since Jackson was here, some of the landscape remains the same. Plaza Ferdinand was established while he was here, and he would have visited Seville Square, the home to many modern festivals and events today.
Wilson pointed out that the original Tivoli High House on Zaragosa was there (the current Tivoli house is a recreation). Also, the Quina House on Alcaniz was built around 1810.
Jackson’s legacy in Pensacola is celebrated around downtown in the names of several businesses:
Jackson’s Steakhouse is located directly across from Plaza Ferdinand. The iconic Pensacola restaurant, whose logo is Jackson’s own signature, is known for its refined menu, premium steaks and wine in a high-ceiling room dating back to the 1860s.
Old Hickory Whiskey Bar on Palafox Street invokes Jackson’s nickname as “Old Hickory” in a location near the home where he lived in downtown. The bar’s namesake signature cocktail is a local favorite - made with bourbon, vermouth, bitters and served in a smoked glass.
Perfect Plain Brewing Co. is a 10-barrel brewhouse with a relaxed, dog-friendly atmosphere on Garden Street. The brewery that takes its name from a description that Rachel Jackson, wife of the seventh President, is said to have written about her initial reaction to Pensacola, calling it “a perfect plain.”
According to the brewery’s website, in a letter penned to her friend in July of 1821, Rachel wrote: “The land nearly as white as flour but productive of fine peaches, oranges in abundance, grapes, figs, pomegranates, etc. The town is immediately on the bay-the most beautiful water prospect I ever saw; and from 10 o’clock in the morning until 10 at night we have the finest sea breeze. There is something in it so exhilarating, so pure, so wholesome, it enlivens the whole system.”
Well, we couldn’t agree more.