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Exploring Pensacola’s Historic Downtown

Pensacola’s downtown area is full of historic sites, but the truth is that with more than 450 years of history behind it, every step you take on its brick sidewalks or city parks is a part of our country’s earliest days and memories.

Founded by Spanish sailor Don Tristan de Luna in 1559, the Pensacola Bay Area was the first European settlement in the New World. Over the centuries, the flags of Spain, Britain, France, the Confederacy and the United States have flown over the “City of Five Flags.”

Located just a few blocks from Pensacola Bay, the Historic Pensacola Village includes 27 properties in the Pensacola National Register Historic District. Eleven of these properties are interpreted facilities that are open to the public.

The T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum, originally the 1908 City Hall building, is a virtual treasure trove of historic artifacts, Americana, and West Florida history. Historic Pensacola Village also includes the Pensacola Children's Museum, the Voices of Pensacola Multicultural Center, the Museum of Commerce, and other sites.

Named for a free African-American resident who lived in the house in 1803, the Julee Panton Cottage is one home that is part of Historic Pensacola Village. The house is open for tours, complete with a furnished parlor, bedroom and kitchen. The 1805 Lavalle House, the 1871 Dorr House, the 1890 Lear-Rocheblave House and the  Julee Cottage are all part of the village.

Also, part of Historic Pensacola Village, Old Christ Church on Seville Square was built by slave labor in 1824. It’s the oldest church in Florida still on its original site. On this site, visitors can see where Union soldiers stabled their horses during the Civil War.

At a small park at the intersection of Palafox and La Rua Streets is a small, preserved section of old Fort George, built by the British when they occupied the city from 1763-1781. The fort was a major target during the Battle of Pensacola, one of the least known yet most significant battles of the American Revolution. Or you can picnic in the park at Plaza Ferdinand VII, where Gen. Andrew Jackson accepted the territory of West Florida from Spain in 1821 and first raised the U.S. flag in Pensacola.

Belmont-Devilliers is a historic neighborhood centered around Belmont and Devilliers streets. This neighborhood was a melting pot for music, food and entertainment during the early 20th century. The Devilliers Cultural Heritage Museum was created as a performing arts venue to showcase local and national blues, gospel and jazz artists.

Founded in 1887, St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church was formed as a mission church through the sponsorship of Christ Church, and founded in 1880, the Zion Talbot Chapel houses one of the first pipe organs found in Pensacola. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church was created in 1891 for the exclusive use of Creoles and blacks in Pensacola.

Said to have been a burial site since the mid-1700s, St. Michael’s Cemetery near the Pensacola Bay Center is one of the only cemeteries in the country that has both nobility and slaves buried side by side.

And that’s just downtown – the National Naval Aviation Museum, the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum and several waterfront forts are also just a short drive from the heart of the city.

Five flags and nearly 500 years – enough history to keep any buff happy during their Pensacola vacation!

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