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Walk Right in History's Steps

Visitors to Pensacola and Perdido Key can explore the ruins of ancient wars at historic forts, walk in the footsteps of settlers and soldiers long past at historic sites and stir up the occasional ghost at the lighthouse. There are endless sites and stories to explore.

Set one or more kids loose and they will eventually build a fort and stage an imaginary battle. It’s in our nature to explore, build and protect. That’s why millions of people are drawn here every year to delve into our history. There’s something about touring old military forts and historic homes that speak to us as humans. Sometimes when we learn how our ancestors lived, we learn something about ourselves.

Historic Military Forts

The Pensacola Bay Area is home to four historic forts, each with its own fascinating stories of conquest and courage. Fort George was an elaborate fortification built by the British in 1778. After archaeologists discovered remnants of the fort in the 1970s, it was partially reconstructed and opened as a public park. Completed in 1834, Fort Pickens was built by slave labor over a five-year period and is currently part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Fort Barrancas was constructed on the site of earlier forts that date as far back as 1698. In its first iteration, Fort San Carlos de Barrancas was erected by the Spanish in 1787 and held until 1818, when it was overtaken by U.S. forces led by General Andrew Jackson. Following construction of Fort Pickens, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers greatly expanded Fort Barrancas. Fort McRee was built in 1834 on the edge of Perdido Key to defend Pensacola Bay and its harbor. Bombarded and burned in the Civil War, the fort was left to the elements. Over decades, the Gulf of Mexico slowly reclaimed the fort. Accessible only by boat, now its ruins are a favorite anchoring spot for snorkelers.

Pensacola Lighthouse & Museum

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Pensacola Lighthouse was first lit on New Year’s Day 1859. During the day, visitors can climb 177 steps to the top and take in one of the best views in the area. (It’s also the best place to watch the Blue Angels practice.) After dark, they can go on a lighthouse Ghost Hunt. The site was featured on the SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters, and many believe it to be one of the most haunted lighthouses in America. For those more romantically inclined, bring a special someone along for a moonlit Toast of the Top Sunset Tour. There’s also a local history museum and gift shop.

Historic Pensacola Village

Located downtown, Historic Pensacola Village includes 27 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Eleven historic homes and sites are open to the public, including the Lavalle House (1805), Dorr House (1871), Lear/Rocheblave House (1890) and Old Christ Church (1832), one of Florida’s oldest surviving church buildings. Explore them all to get a sense of local life in 18th and 19th centuries and behold a wide range of architectural styles – French Creole, Victorian, Greek Revival and more. One must-see property is Julee Cottage (1805), named for Julee Panton, a free African-American woman who owned the home after the Civil War. Tours can be self-guided or taken with a costumed living history guide. For those who prefer a more leisurely visit, seven-day tickets are available. Come be a part of history brought to life.

The Alger-Sullivan Historic District in Century

Dating back to the 1700s, the northern region of Escambia County Florida holds a vibrant history. Located about an hour north of Pensacola, right on the Alabama line sits the town of Century, previously known as the small village of “Teaspoon.” The old timber mill, railroads, and other preserved sites keep the memories alive of a once flourishing Southern mill town that was built on the hope for a successful, lasting settlement that would exist long beyond the economically booming years of the timber mill. Plan a day-trip to visit the sites and enjoy guided tours through three different museums, free of charge. For available hours, call the society President, Jerry Fischer, at 850-256-3980. 

 

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