Elements of Urbanism: Pensacola

May 20, 2010 7 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville visits Florida's westernmost city: Pensacola

Tale of the Tape:

Pensacola Population 2008: 54,283 (City); 455,102 (Metro - 2009) - (incorporated in 1559)

Jacksonville Pop. 2008: 807,815 (City); 1,328,144 (Metro - 2009) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Pensacola (43,479)

City Land Area

Pensacola: 22.7 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2009)

Pensacola: +10.42%%
Jacksonville: +15.86%

Urban Area Population (2000 census)

Pensacola: 323,783 (ranked 96 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Pensacola: 1,476  
Jacksonville: 2,149.2

City Population Growth from 2000 to 2008

Pensacola: -1,972
Jacksonville: +72,312

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Philadelphia: Pensacola Civic Center (1985) - 20,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet

Connected to Convention Center:

Pensacola: Crowne Plaza Pensacola Grand Hotel (220 rooms)
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

Pensacola: Seville Tower - 141 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet


Fortune 500 companies 2009 (City limits only):

Pensacola: n/a
Jacksonville: CSX (259), Winn-Dixie (306), Fidelity National Financial (366)


Urban infill obstacles:

Pensacola: Surface parking lots greatly limit the overall connectivity of downtown Pensacola.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.


Downtown Nightlife:

Pensacola: Seville Quarter
Jacksonville: East Bay Street


Common Downtown Albatross:

Surface parking lots.

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Pensacola: 72 out of 100, according to walkscore.com (Downtown Pensacola as keyword)
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com

Visual Information

Green = Jacksonville's city limits (current urban core) before consolidation in 1968
Red = Jacksonville's current consolidated city-county limits

Jacksonville's current and original city limit boundaries over Pensacola's land area.

About Pensacola

Pensacola is nicknamed "The City of Five Flags" due to the five governments that have flown flags over it during its history: the flags of Spain (Castile), France, Great Britain, the Confederate States of America, and the United States. Other nicknames include "World's Whitest Beaches" (due to the white sand prevalent along beaches in the Florida panhandle), "Cradle of Naval Aviation" (the National Museum of Naval Aviation is located at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, home of the legendary Blue Angels), "Western Gate to the Sunshine State," "America's First Settlement," "Emerald Coast," "Redneck Riviera," and "Red Snapper Capital of the World."

Palafox Street

Palafox Street is a major and historic north-south artery in Pensacola. It serves as the dividing line for all the city's east-west streets.

Palafox Place

In 1979, the City of Pensacola renamed South Palafox Street between Garden and Government Streets as Palafox Place. This section of Palafox is one of Pensacola's most bustling retail districts, although its significance has waned in recent years as retailers have moved out toward shopping centers and malls.

In British Pensacola, Palafox was called George Street, for King George III. The street is present on the 1812 Pintado plan, where it is labelled Calle de Palafox.

After a February 3, 1892 ordinance by the provisional municipality of Pensacola, the street was paved and streetcar lines were placed by the Pensacola Terminal Company.

The Saenger Theatre, affectionately called the "Grand Dame of Palafox," is a historic theater on South Palafox Street. Since its 1925 opening as a Vaudeville performance hall, it later became a movie house until its closure in 1975. The building was saved from demolition when it was donated to the City of Pensacola and restored, reopening in 1981. Since then it has become a popular concert venue and is home to many of Pensacola's performing arts organizations.

The Escambia County Courthouse was erected in 1887 and was formerly the United States Customs House & Post Office.

Plaza Ferdinand VII is an outdoor garden and park in the Pensacola historic district. It is located on Palafox Street between Government and Zaragossa Streets. It was named after King Ferdinand VII of Spain. The park is dominated by three main features: a fountain (at the north end), an obelisk dedicated to William Dudley Chipley (center), and a bust of Andrew Jackson (south end).

The land on which the park sits was originally awarded by the Spanish throne to Don Manuel Gonzalez for his service. Gonzalez later donated the land to the City of Pensacola.

Historical significance
The cession of Florida to the United States from Spain occurred at the Plaza on July 17, 1821. General Andrew Jackson made a public speech to townspeople, informing them that the land was now the Florida Territory, and that Pensacola would be its capital. General Jackson was later sworn in as first Territorial Governor in the plaza. A bust of Jackson now stands at the spot where he was inaugurated.

Situated in the center of downtown Pensacola, it is adjacent to a number of historic buildings including the T. T. Wentworth Museum (formerly City Hall), the Pensacola Cultural Center and Museum of Art (formerly the Court of Record and City Jail buildings), Escambia County Courthouse, Seville Tower. The Pensacola Opera House, demolished in 1917, sat across from the Plaza on Jefferson Street.

The Plaza was also the site where Leander Shaw was killed by a lynch-mob on July 29, 1908.

It was listed for consideration on the National Register of Historic Places in 1960, achieving the status of Historic Place in 1966. Archaeologists, in 2002, discovered evidence of British structures previously not known to have existed in that area. Portions have been excavated and are on display as part of the Colonial Archaeological Trail.

The T.T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Musuem is a museum of history named for Theodore Thomas Wentworth, Jr.  The building was erected in 1908 as Pensacola's city hall.

Seville Tower, known originally as the American National Bank Building and later as the Florida National Bank Building (1944-1964) and the Empire Building, is a ten-story office building in downtown Pensacola. It is located at 226 South Palafox Street.

The tower was erected in 1910 at a cost of $250,000. It was the tallest building in Florida at the time of its completion, and remained the tallest in the City of Pensacola until 1974. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on 17 November 1978.

Plaza de Luna is a waterfront park overlooking Pensacola Bay. It is located at the southern terminus of Palafox Street, by the Palafox Pier development, on the site of the former Bayfront Auditorium, which was demolished in July 2005 following damage from Hurricane Ivan.

Seville Harbour (formerly called Harbour Village at Pitt Slip) is a complex of offices, restaurants and a marina located at 600 South Barracks Street. Also called Pitt's Slip, it is situated on Pensacola Bay southwest of Bartram Park and north of the Port of Pensacola. The office complex, home to the Fish House and Atlas Oyster House restaurants, is currently managed by the Merrill Land Company. The Seville Harbour marina is managed by the Marina Management Corp., which also runs the Palafox Pier and Bahia Mar Marinas.

Seville Square

Seville Square in Pensacola, Florida is the center of the old settlement of Pensacola by the Spanish after several unsuccessful attempts beginning in 1559. This was the earliest known attempt at settlement on the North American continent. Seville Square and its twin, Plaza Ferdinand VII, were the parade grounds for the Fort of Pensacola established during British rule.

In the 1960's a young group of local preservationists decided to work to restore the older parts of Pensacola. They formed the Pensacola Heritage Foundation, joined the National Trust, created the Seville Square Historic District, registered the district on the National Register of Historic Places, bought and restored with their own labor the historic Clara Barkley Dorr House on the square and convinced the city to restore Seville Square.

Seville Square is a park in historic downtown Pensacola that was the location of a 1752 Spanish outpost known as San Miguel. Under British occupation, it was laid out as a public square in the new city plan by Elias Durnford in 1764.

Seville Square was designated as a public plaza by the Spanish in 1813. Over time, the square experienced the same deterioration suffered by the surrounding neighborhood, but in the last thirty years, has become the community center. The park is a frequent host to concerts and festivals.

A number of historic Pensacola buildings, like Old Christ Church and the Dorr House, face onto Seville Square. It is immediate north of Fountain Park and accessible to Bartram Park across Main Street.

Seville Quarter is an entertainment complex in downtown Pensacola comprised of several "rooms," each with its own theme: Rosie O'Grady's, Lili Marlene's, Fast Eddie's, Apple Annie's, Palace Oyster Bar, Phineas Phogg's and End O' The Alley Bar. The rooms are connected by covered brick alleyways. An open-air courtyard with fountain sits on the north side of the complex. Another building, Heritage Hall, was added in May 2003.

The complex is decorated in a largely Victorian style with furniture and other elements salvaged from historic buildings from Pensacola and across the world.

Random Downtown Pensacola

The 7-story Pensacola City Hall is located at 180 Governmental Center.

The Pensacola Civic Center is a municipal arena in downtown Pensacola owned by Escambia County. With 23,000 square feet of exhibition space, 13,000 square feet of meeting space, and a 10,000-person maximum capacity, it is one of the largest structures in the Pensacola area. Managed by the Toronto-based SMG (which also manages the Saenger Theatre) the Civic Center is the primary home to the Pensacola Ice Flyers and frequently hosts concerts, trade shows, graduation ceremonies and other events.

The Crowne Plaza Pensacola Grand Hotel is a 15-story hotel in downtown Pensacola, between Wright and Gregory Streets on Alcaniz, adjacent to the Pensacola Civic Center. The hotel was built around the L&N Passenger Depot and Express Office, constructed in 1912 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which was restored and now houses the lobby, restaurant, bar and other shops. There are 210 guest rooms in the 15-story tower.

The L&N Passenger Depot and Express Office was built between 1912-1913 as the major passenger station for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad that serviced Pensacola. The depot opened in 1913 and was in service until the last train rolled out of the station in April 1971. The depot was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and became the lobby of a hotel (now the Crowne Plaza Pensacola Grand Hotel) in 1984.

Amtrak suspended service to Pensacola (and the rest of the Gulf Coast) because of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. As of April 2010, it is still unknown whether Amtrak service will be restored.

Port of Pensacola

The Port of Pensacola is an operational deep-water port located on Pensacola Bay. With origins dating back to 1743, it is now one of the City of Pensacola's Enterprise Operations, having been incorporated in 1943 as the Municipal Port Authority.

The present-day Port of Pensacola occupies approximately 50 acres of landfill at the southern terminus of Barracks Street in downtown Pensacola, on the site of the former Commendencia Street and Tarragona Street wharves. The Port has eight berths, 265,000 square feet of warehouse space, and on-dock rail service.

The importance of Pensacola as a port city declined significantly over the latter half of the 20th century with the introduction of containerization to the shipping industry. Other Gulf ports such as New Orleans, Mobile, and Tampa, which can handle containerized traffic, have eclipsed the Port of Pensacola, which cannot. The decline in traffic has resulted in significant, sustained financial losses for the Port. Accordingly, the future of the Port has become a political issue, with groups such as Take Back the Port advocating its closure.

Pensacola streetcar system
The Pensacola streetcar (trolley) system was a public transportation system that was operated by various entities between 1884 and 1932.

In 1928 the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway bought the old dummy line for freight purposes; a bit of trackage still exists on the south side of Main Street between Clubbs and A, where the line curved southwest toward Pine.

The City authorized Gulf Power Company to surrender its streetcar franchise in November 1931;[2] and streetcar service was discontinued the following year.

At its peak, a total of 30 trolley cars carried four million passengers per year (1920).[3] Partially covered tracks and barely concealed right-of way are clearly visible in various places along the former routes, including on West Gadsden Street, West DeSoto Street,[4] and East Jackson Street.

Article by Ennis Davis