Friday, July 24, 2020

Arcadia Homestead

Cassie Brown
Posted: 7/24/2020

In March 2019, the Arcadia Mill Historic Site opened a new historic site near their preexisting historic industrial site. The Arcadia Homestead sits on about seven acres where an 1830s plantation estate once sat. Since the house burned down about ninety years ago, the site includes a 1930s historic house, a small garden, and exposed archaeological remains of the plantation house and outbuildings.

The original plantation house was built in the 1830s and overlooked the industrial complex interpreted at the Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site. E. E. Simpson, one of the owners of the industrial complex, used the house as his summer home for him, his wife, and their thirteen children. After he died, his son C. H. Simpson took over the farming on the property. He eventually married Anna Fitzgerald and they lived in the historic house with their three children. In 1935, on a breezy March day, a spark from the chimney blew onto the roof and the house quickly burned to the ground. During the fire, the family managed to save some of their furniture and treasured valuables, but once the fire reached the guns and ammunition stored in the nursery, they had to flee to a safe distance. Since the fire occurred during one of the worse economic times the country has ever seen, the family had to quickly rebuild with almost no money. They took wood and supplies from around the farm to build a small bungalow to replace their opulent three-story house. They filled the house with furniture they saved from the fire and the family stayed there until 2016 when they donated the house and property to the UWF Historic Trust. The UWF Archaeology Department has been doing research on the property for several years and will hopefully continue to do so in the future.

The 1930s historic house is now a museum that highlights the history of the Simpson family and life during the Great Depression in the South. Through renovations in 2018, the house was brought back to 1930s style house. The living room and dining room houses furniture saved during the 1935 fire that the family kept for all the years that they lived in the house. A radio plays programs from the 1930s, such as Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats and the Hindenburg disaster. Historic silver is displayed in the dining room that belonged to E.E. Simpson’s wife. The kitchen has recipes from Anna Simpson posted on the wall in her handwriting. The room also includes a wood burning stove, a sewing machine and a gas-powered washing machine. Outside, the house has a small Victory garden that the staff maintains. The rest of the property has paths that walk under heritage live oaks and through archaeological remains of the historic site. These remains include the plantation house, a well, and a slave cabin. The Arcadia Homestead, like Arcadia Mill, is dedicated to telling the story of not just the plantation owners, but those unjustly enslaved that worked and lived on the property.

The Arcadia Homestead is a great stop for the family, where both children and adults can have fun and learn about local history. Children love running the grounds and looking through a house that is so much different than their own. Adults always feel that the house reminds them of someone from the past. The most common phrase they say is, “This feels like Grandma’s house.” They would be correct because while the Simpson family once was the richest families in the area, by the 1930s they were like everyone else because the Great Depression affected everyone. The historic house does not just represent that one family, it represents all families that lived through the Great Depression with very little.

The Arcadia Homestead is open Friday and Saturday, 10 AM to 4 PM. For more information visit their website,

Monday, July 20, 2020

Arcadia Homestead: Story Time with Miss Moss

Cassie Brown
Posted: 7/20/2020


In a time of quarantine and isolation, children (and even parents) are suffering from “cabin fever” and need something to do. The Arcadia Mill staff understand how difficult these times are and have created a way to entertain and educate children without putting anyone at risk. Every Wednesday, the character Miss Moss sits underneath the story tree and reads a story about history, culture, nature, feelings, and more. These short videos posted on social media have helped to not only entertain families, but to keep connections with the Arcadia community.
The “Story Time with Miss Moss,” program began in the Summer of 2019 by the Arcadia Mill staff for the Arcadia Homestead that opened earlier in the same year. For years, the Arcadia Mill Visitor Center had hosted their monthly kids craft program, and they wanted to continue this outreach by creating a program to encourage literacy at the Arcadia Homestead. The character Miss Moss was created by Krystal Johnson, the site’s Education Coordinator, as a tool to connect with children during these story times. In her overalls and moss-covered brim hat, Johnson sits in a rocking chair under the live heritage oaks on the homestead property to read a story. She reads stories such as “The Lorax,” “If You Give a Pig a Pancake,” and, “Where the Wild Things Are.” She even touches on topics like celebrating Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the freedom gained by those once enslaved. When asked why she started this program, Johnson replied, “I wanted to get families outdoors, enjoying nature and learning together. The enormous heritage oaks at Arcadia Homestead provide a picturesque, peaceful, and most importantly, shaded, area for gathering outdoors. I would often wonder about the stories these old live oak trees could tell about what they have witnessed in their centuries-long lives.”

With the impact of COVID-19 reaching across the country, the staff found a way to continue this treasured story time. The setting is a little different, with the viewer at home, but the message is still the same: The Arcadia staff wishes to continue educating, entertaining, and connecting with their community. The videos on Facebook of Miss Moss include a different story every week and recently have included a sing-along at the very end. While these videos have helped everyone stay connected this summer, the Arcadia staff deeply miss seeing everyone. When asked if there was anything else she wanted people to know about Miss Moss, she replied, “I miss the in-person experience of seeing children connect with the stories and interacting with Miss Moss, but it has been rewarding to receive responses from our original attendees who get excited each week about visiting the Story Tree from the comfort and safety of their own homes! I look forward to seeing them all sitting on the giant blanket in the grass with Miss Moss again someday.”

If you wish to watch “Story Time with Miss Moss” videos, follow Arcadia Mill on Facebook to see new uploads every Wednesday.


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Old City Hall

Spenser Andrade
Posted: 5/12/2020

Sitting on the western border of the Pensacola Historic District is the T. T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum. Sandwiched between two picturesque parks, Plaza Ferdinand VII and Museum Plaza, the Wentworth Museum is the UWF Historic Trust’s flagship museum and a prime example of Pensacola’s adaptive historic preservation efforts. The stunning architecture of the building includes elements from the Mission and Mediterranean Revival movements. These architectural styles enjoyed their greatest popularity during the early 1900s. One of the most frequently asked questions about the Wentworth is about the history of the building. Before becoming the museum it is today, the building originally served as Pensacola City Hall.

A Sanborn map of Pensacola showing the location of city hall in 1903.
The yellow square at the southwest corner of Jefferson and Zarragossa
would later become the site of the 1908 city hall.

Commonly called “old city hall” by some locals, the building was actually Pensacola’s new city hall from 1908 to 1986. According to the 1900 city directory, Pensacola’s former city hall was located at 405 South Jefferson Street. This building housed the city government, police and fire headquarters, and the jail. Nothing of this building survives to this day, and the address is currently the location of the Pensacola Museum of Art’s staff parking lot. Nonetheless, the 1908 city hall provided enough space for the city government to operate during a time of social and economic boom in the region. The building remained largely unchanged for the next fifty years. Minor additions to the building included the addition of elevators, new entry ways, and air conditioning in the 1950s.

The newly constructed city hall as it appeared around 1910. In the top-right,
an inventory of freshly-cut logs waiting to be shipped floating in the port

By the 1960s, the city government and services outgrew the capacity of the building. The city provided additional workspace by acquiring satellite offices around downtown. During the 1980s, as part of Pensacola “Direction 85” public works plan, the city secured funding for a new city hall on Main Street. Groundbreaking for a new Pensacola City Hall began in January 1984 and construction was completed in mid-1986. The 1908 city hall was acquired by the state and thoroughly renovated into a museum after receiving the Wentworth Collection. The namesake of the collection and museum is Theodore Thomas “T. T.” Wentworth, a long-time Pensacola resident. Mr. Wentworth stored and displayed a massive collection at his museum near his house in Ensley, Florida, a small community just north of Pensacola. Throughout his life, Wentworth amassed over 150,000 items. By the 1980s, his collection outgrew the capacity of his museum, and Wentworth donated his collection to the State of Florida. The newly renovated museum opened in 1988. Recent improvements to the building include modernized signage, window projections, new lamppost fixtures, and color-changing architectural lighting.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Port of Pensacola

Alex Ardoin
Posted: 5/8/2020

To those readers who live in and around Pensacola, you’ve most likely driven past the entrance to the Port of Pensacola. While these days it is a mere shell of its former self, it used to be the lifeblood of the city. Pensacola was originally surveyed out by Spanish explorers as the bay was suitable for a deep-water port. The first recorded export of commercial goods occurred in 1743.

The early days of the port consisted mostly of logging exports and berths for the fishing industry. In 1883, Eugene Edwin Saunders together with sea captain Thomas Everett Welles established the E. E. Saunders & Company and grew the company into the region’s largest Red Snapper dealer. William Benjamin Wright ran the W. B. Wright Company who was a major lumber exporter. In 1901 the W. B. Wright Company had the capacity to turn out over 65,000 feet of lumber, 20,000 laths, and 40,000 shingles.
Muscogee Wharf
Around the late 1800’s heading into the 1900’s there were several different wharves that jutted out into the bay. Among them were the Muscogee, Commendencia Street, and Tarragona Street wharves. The L&N Terminal building was constructed in 1902 and was situated on the Commendencia Street wharf. It was the major terminus for lumber and coal exports before becoming the Port Authority office in 1959. After its relocation to the corner of Barracks and Main streets its now serves as a coordinating center for the Florida Public Archaeology Network.

The modern port that resides in Pensacola today was opened in 1963. It sits on land that coincides with the original locations of the Commendencia and Tarragona wharves. The rail tracks that sat along the original route down Tarragona Street terminate in the modern port. In current times, logging and fishing have become slower industries and containerization of shipping has meant that the Port of Pensacola isn’t as bustling as it once was. As any good business does, the port has embraced new business opportunities. Artists and woodworkers and other tradesmen have begun to populate their spaces. Blue Origins, Jeff Bezos’ private space exploration company, has housed a ship in the port for repurposing operations and as home base for its future operations. The University of West Florida has recently established a fabrication facility that is part of the Mechanical Engineering department. General Electric uses the port as a venue to get their wind turbine housings onto freight ships to be routed to locations worldwide. In 2018, New York Yacht Club American Magic sailing team, who competes in the America’s Cup sailing competition, located their winter base at the Port of Pensacola.

Throughout Pensacola’s history the port has been an integral part of the city’s economy. They bay’s suitability to deep-water shipping was part of the reason for Pensacola’s location. Through fishing and logging industries, the port experienced incredible growth through the 1800’s to early 1900’s. Modern times have seen the port become less of a hub for the shipping trade but become a center of alternative business opportunities that show that it still has importance to the city of Pensacola.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Archives: The Three Rectors

Spenser Andrade
Posted: 5/5/2020

Located on the southwest corner of Seville Square, Old Christ Church is a prominent Pensacola landmark and undoubtedly a valuable historic structure. Built in 1832, the historic church served the Pensacola community for the next 71 years. The congregation moved to a new church located on North Palafox at the foot of the North Hill neighborhood in 1903. The church building continued to serve the community after it was converted into a public library and then a museum of local history. Fast forward to now, the building became part of the UWF Historic Trust. Today, the picturesque building serves as a popular venue for meetings, special events, and weddings. During normal museum hours, the church is part of the Trust’s ticketed guided tours. On the tour, visitors will be able to enter the church and learn about the history of the building from their guide. One of the more interesting facts given on the tour is the mention of three graves underneath the church.
The little black door behind Old Christ Church as seen from
Zarragoza Street.
Visitors may or may not notice the little black door located on the exterior of the church just under the stained glass of the western wall. Although off-limits to the public, the door secures the final resting place for three of the church’s former rectors. Inside the church, guests will see a marble plaque dedicated to Joseph Saunders, Frederick Peake, and David Flower. These men are the three rectors buried beneath the church. Reverends Saunders and Flower died in 1839 and 1853 respectively, and both rectors died of yellow fever. Unsurprisingly, these years also correspond with yellow fever epidemics in Pensacola. Reverend Peake died of tuberculosis in 1946. Further investigation explains why these men were buried underneath the church.
Originally, the present-day altar did not cover these graves. Additions to the original church extended the rear of the church by twenty feet covering their graves. Prior to this extension, the back of the church served as a vestry room (i.e., an office or changing room) for the clergy. After learning about a story of Union soldiers potentially vandalizing the graves during the Civil War, members of the Christ Episcopal Church congregation funded a $38,000 archaeological dig in 1988. A team of UWF archaeologists and volunteers conducted the excavation from May to July 1988. The excavation located all three graves and a forensic physical anthropologist from Florida State University helped identify the remains. After the culmination of the dig, the skeletons were placed in cedar caskets and reinterred underneath the church.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Arcadia Then and Now: Anna Simpson, 1930s

Hannah Matthews
Posted: 4/30/2020

We are living in uncertain times, my friend. COVID-19 was the unexpected and unwelcomed surprise that has upset our everyday life. This pandemic has touched everybody. We have all had to make sacrifices. We have had to cancel social events, celebrations, and valuable time with family members that we may never get back. We have had to adjust to online school and learn how to work from home. Some have lost loved ones; others have lost jobs. The news upsets us more than it calms our fears. It is okay to feel pessimistic. Nobody knows for sure when we will go back to normal, or how much of our “normal” life will resume once this pandemic has come to pass. During times like these, we need reassurance that we will overcome this difficult time. We need to hear stories of those who have come before us, and how they overcame their unprecedented hardships. We need to learn that not only can we learn from our mistakes in history, but we can take comfort in knowing that people, everyday people like us, once felt the same as we do right now.

People have caught on to this sentiment. Major news networks have done stories comparing our current situation to other trying times in our nation’s history. People are sharing more history-related content on social media than ever before. We are looking to the past for answers while seeking inspiration. Over the course of my quarantine journey, I have been thinking about one local woman’s experience during the Great Depression. Anna Simpson, the daughter-in-law of Arcadia Mill’s Ezekiel Simpson, faced unique hardships throughout the Great Depression. In March 1935, the Simpson family lost their historic home to a fire. Constructed in 1835 by slave labor, the house was a three-story mansion with fourteen rooms. The house predated the Civil War, and many citizens in Santa Rosa County often stopped by to marvel at its beauty. The Simpson home was considered to be a “stamp of the antebellum days.” The Pensacola Journal reported that the estimated damage was around $7,000. In today’s dollars, the cost would total to roughly $131,000. The Simpson family lost numerous valuable heirlooms to the fire. By July 1935, the Simpsons had built a new home using materials they could salvage from the fire. The Simpson home, which is now interpreted at the Arcadia Homestead, is a modest Depression-era bungalow. Within a year of living in the new home, Anna’s husband passed away. Losing a home filled with family heirlooms to a devastating fire and then grieving the death of a loved one are two very traumatic events to cope within a short amount of time.

Anna Simpson decided not to let her losses define her. Anna was an artist and used her talent to better the Milton community. Anna was hired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), one of FDR’s New Deal agencies, to teach art classes to the children of Milton. As an art instructor, Anna taught her students different drawing techniques. She also hosted art galleries where her students' work would be displayed. Anna’s experience during the Great Depression serves as a reminder that no matter what hardships we experience; we can overcome them. To honor Anna Simpson’s time as an art educator, we will be implementing a new art activity at the Arcadia Homestead. Our younger guests will be able to learn more about the Great Depression by drawing. Each month, we will have a different drawing prompt that corresponds to the 1930s.

We are looking forward to reopening! Next time the quarantine blues get to you, remember that if Anna Simpson can power through her struggles, so can you! History can be comforting. Be sure to document your experience with this pandemic. Years from now, people will want to know how we overcame this mess. We will be the ones they seek inspiration from down the road! Until then, remember to adhere to all social distancing guidelines, wear masks, and wash your hands! The Arcadia staff is looking forward to seeing you all very soon!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Hospitality Views: Theme Parks

Brittney Anderson
Posted: 4/29/2020

As we all know, theme parts are the ‘BIGGEST’ attractions in the hospitality industry. Many times, because of theme parks, it allows close hotels, restaurants, and stores to thrive. Because of the impacts of COVID-19, theme parks around the world have temporarily closed their doors. Even Disney has had to close up shop in order to take the proper precautions that have been mandated. In fact, for the first time in history, The Walt Disney Company, has closed every single Disney theme park around the globe. Most theme parks in the United States, such as Six Flags, Busch Gardens, and SeaWorld put out statements that they would close through the end of March. As we all know that quickly had to change till the end of April. While government officials are about to start opening more businesses in order to keep the economy afloat, I do not personally see theme parks being able to open very soon, let alone May 1st.

When theme parks do finally get to see the light of day, I believe things will be very different. For example, rides will be at limited capacity, and a lot more hand sanitizer will be dispensed. But that could only be the beginning. It will be very important for our industry and the economy that we get to open up these beloved parks soon; however, we must take the proper precautions to stop the spread of this virus, that has no doubt already made history.