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The Saltbox on Zaragoza

Many a mile I have walked, traversing the streets of historic Downtown Pensacola. Like an aficionado of fine art sauntering down exhibit aisles, curiosity piqued, eagerly anticipating the next great work to marvel, I gazed upon historic building after historic building in wonder of the fascinating stories they could tell.

My fervor for historic architecture began when I was an undergraduate student at the University of West Florida. I was a history, philosophy, and art history triple major; I loved it all. While completing an historic architecture-related project for an art history course, I took to the streets of Downtown Pensacola having never explored the area before, despite the fact that I was born and raised in North Santa Rosa County. Long story short, those streets became my stomping ground.

Then, one day, I happened upon a real beauty, positioned starkly close to the sidewalk on which I strolled. I don’t know what it is about the Julee Cottage, but something just draws me to it–history aside, I just love the building. Quaint. Humble. Pleasant. Picturesque. These are all descriptors my mind conjures while gazing upon this magnificent structure. Offset only slightly from the charming brick sidewalk, this delightful saltbox-style cottage is only made more appealing by its gorgeous landscaping. I could drone on and on about its aesthetic appeal; nevertheless, as the old adage goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Then, there’s the history, and in this realm, the Julee Cottage reigns supreme. Constructed between 1790 and 1808, most historical records indicate it was most likely raised between 1804 and 1808. It was around this time that Julee Panton, a “free woman of color,” purchased this cottage and myriad other properties in the area. Anecdotal accounts bedded in Pensacola traditional folklore suggest Julee, despite being a “free woman of color,” actually purchased slaves herself. But, why? Thankfully, Julee’s intentions for making such transactions were virtuous. It’s believed that Julee purchased slaves, allowed them to work for others to earn money to repay their debt, and then set them free!

I just love stories like these, and learning more and more about the rich history of the Julee Cottage only made me grow fonder of the darling structure. Today, the Julee Cottage is quite active, serving as one of many unique and interesting components of historic Downtown Pensacola’s self-guided tours. I encourage you to visit the Julee Cottage for a glimpse into the life of a working-class, African-American family during a fascinating time period in American history–Reconstruction. Tickets and additional information are available at the Tivoli High House, located directly across the street from the Julee Cottage, at 205 E. Zaragoza Street.

Happy history, my friends!

Pensacola Treasures

Reflections of a reluctant author…

When the marketing person from my publisher first contacted me about joining a group of authors to write a blog, I was both intrigued and a bit intimidated.  I recently published a photo book of the cottages in the Pensacola Historic District, and consider myself primarily a photographer – the writing provided background and context for the photographs.  So to be given a task meant for “real writers”,  in the company of “real authors” was a bit frightening.  What do I have to write about?

I was instructed to write about what I’m interested in & passionate about.  So here you will find my musings on photography, Pensacola historic districts and preservation, first time “authorship”, and anything else that happens to be on my mind…

So, on my mind today:  Having just launched the book, many people have asked “How did you come to write (again, using “write” as a loose term) this book?”  And they mean – why this subject?  Well, the photos came first…

Although Pensacola is my hometown, I moved away in my early twenties and came back six years ago.  In that span of time Pensacola has made some drastic changes (for the better) that led me to spend a lot of time downtown (New shops! Good restaurants!)  My love of shopping & eating eventually led to walking around the Seville area for exercise, and awareness of the differences between downtown Pensacola and the homogeneity of the New Tampa neighborhoods from which I had recently come.

At first it was a bit disturbing – above ground electric lines (ugghh), unkept yards (What? no neighborhood covenants?)  But the more I looked, I began to see the things that did not exist in New Tampa – the beautiful patina of old wood, decorative scrollwork on turn of the century homes, … HISTORY, charm!  So after snapping the first photo of a beautiful cottage, I became enamored with these older homes.  I developed a love for the aesthetic of these cottages and their surroundings.  In time, I had accumulated about 60 photos of really cool historic, charming dwellings.   

And around that time I began to notice some older buildings being demolished to make way for new development.  It occurred to me that eventually some of my beloved cottages could suffer the same fate.  A quote I ran across once came to mind:

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.”  -Baba Dioum    

So with the hope that others could share my appreciation for Pensacola’s oldest neighborhood, I decided to move forward with the concept of the book “Cottage Charm in Historic Seville”.   

The Pensacola Historic District is a place that continues to engage me visually, and I love learning more about the folks that built the early dwellings in the neighborhood.  In this blog I will touch on these topics.  For me, the most fulfilling part about publishing this book has been hearing from people who have an association with one of these cottages.  If you have any info on early residents from the district I would love to hear from you!

 

For more information about Cottage Charm in Historic Seville go to:  PensacolaTreasures.com and PensacolaTreasures1821 on Instagram

Sharon can be contacted at [email protected]

A Walk Back In Time…

Shortly after moving back to Pensacola I began walking through the Pensacola Historic District a few times a week.  Exercise was my excuse, but mainly I do it because I’m fascinated by the architecture and surroundings.  Shade is supplied by a canopy of sprawling live oaks.  The landscape is dotted with stately old magnolias, Seville orange trees (those bitter oranges brought here by the Spanish), and cabbage palms mixed with overgrown gangly azaleas in reds & bright pinks.  Bees buzz through flowering vines draped across rickety pickets, alongside meandering butterflies and past the occasional cat lolling on a front porch… nothing like the typical manicured neighborhoods I’d become accustomed to, & way more interesting.  History is apparent everywhere – in the landscape and the architecture.

Developing over a 200 year period, this neighborhood features a diverse collection of period structures – from grand homes built for the Who’s Who of the time, to tiny Creole Cottages and shotgun houses built as rentals for the working class.  The details fascinate me… beautifully patinated raw wood fences, delicate jigsaw appliqué, turned balusters, and decorative brackets…I’m most impressed by the simplest cottages trimmed with all the details.  I love that someone cared for their tiny home so much to embellish it that way.

It’s quiet here.  Even though all manner of construction (and a bit of destruction) is happening just blocks away.  The cats don’t care (nor the birds or butterflies).  The pace here is slow and lazy, contemplative and inspirational.

Walk with me for just a block…notice a few highlights:  starting in Seville Square (called “the Green” in that era), look west to see Old Christ Church, circa 1832, one of the oldest buildings of worship left standing in Florida.  Next door is a beautiful example of post civil war Greek Revival architecture, circa 1871.  This home was built for the family of Clara Barkley Dorr (daughter of Charles Barkley) after the death of her husband, a local lumber executive.  Look north to see some of the larger homes in the district, most built in the mid 19th century – one of them a Baptist Parsonage, another belonging to William Anderson who served as mayor in 1893; and the Steamboat House, circa 1857, a unique home considered an excellent example of the “Steamboat Gothic” style of architecture.

Turn right onto Government street… looking to the right you’ll see the pink restaurant now called Dharma Blue, circa 1880.  A few homes down on the left is St. Michael’s Creole Benevolent House, circa 1895, which served as a meeting hall for Pensacola Creoles of Spanish-Negro descent.  Many of the modest homes on this end of Government belonged to Creoles who were predominately barbers and musicians, one of them housing the nephew of Salvador Pons, who was mayor in 1874.  Looking again to the right, notice a very simple tin-roofed home known as Susannah’s Cottage, circa 1800.  On the 1820 census she was listed as simply “Ma Susana, age 40, single negro washer woman”.

Turning right onto South Florida Blanca, you’ll notice two very similar homes side by side.  Sporting beautifuly weathered unpainted wood siding, they were built for brothers who were sea captains, one of whom died after being swept off his ship in a storm (yes, there are ghost stories about that!  I’ve heard it referred to as “the Boo Radley”)  At the end of Florida Blanca, with a great view of the bay sits the Barkley House, circa 1812.  One of the most notable homes of the time, the Barkley House was a hub of social and political activity in that era, as it’s owners played host to Pensacola’s most prominent citizens.  I could go on, but you get the picture (love those photography puns!)  These details are tiny fragments of the history contained in the 36 blocks that make up the Pensacola Historic District.

This neighborhood represents the aesthetic and cultural essence of Pensacola.  It’s as much of an attraction as the T. T. Wentworth Museum or the Pensacola Museum of Art.  It’s a living, breathing museum.   Something we should nurture, be proud of, and share with visitors.  So check it out – take a walk sometime…

 

For more information about Cottage Charm in Historic Seville go to:  PensacolaTreasures.com and PensacolaTreasures1821 on Instagram

Sharon can be contacted at [email protected]

The House On Lot 23

House on Lot 23

The history of Pensacola is rich and enduring, indeed. Known as the “City of Five Flags,” Pensacola has been under the control of five nations since its inception in 1559–Spain, France, England, the Confederacy, and the United States. Consequently, various architectural influences are evident in much of Pensacola’s historic architecture. During the Third Spanish Period (1781-1821), the Isaac Wright House–a modest cottage that has long piqued my interest–was constructed at what is now 431 E. Zaragoza St. in historic downtown Pensacola.

This quaint cottage, as one might expect from a structure initially built approximately 200 years ago, is somewhat shrouded in mystery. A plaque posted next to the front door indicates the house was built in the 1790s. However, there has been contention about the interpretation of historical documents, land deeds, and court records. Leora “Lee” Sutton (1917-2018), prolific Pensacola historian, conducted research on the Isaac Wright House and exposed key discrepancies. Sutton’s research revealed that—contrary to information provided in the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) regarding Pensacola’s purported oldest remaining building, which indicates the house located at 431 E. Zaragoza Street is situated on Lot 21 and is associated with Carlos Baron—the Isaac Wright House is in fact located on Lot 23, and no discernable historical records indicate an association with the aforementioned Baron.

During the early 19th century, land deeds were not required to be recorded at the Escambia County Court House, making historic architectural research in Pensacola a bit difficult. Miss Sutton, however, worked closely with Herschel Richards, who purchased the Isaac Wright House in 1944, to fill in the gaps created by inadequate land deed record keeping. Mr. Richards possessed deeds dating back to 1846, when Don Francisco Moreno (1792-1882)–prominent Pensacola banker, politician, and businessman–owned the cottage. Through her efforts, Sutton was able to recognize an apparent error in HABS records—records that associated this iconic property with Lot 21 and a man named Carlos Baron.

Without rehashing the long list of property ownership, I will say this: even a cursory glance of historical documentation related to the Isaac Wright House will reveal that being an historian is much like being a detective. History is not always as it seems. What is clear may not be true. Historians must piece together artifacts much like a puzzle, and, in the same vein, the final product cannot be contrived—the pieces cannot be forced. The mysteries of history are what fascinate me and going to the archives and getting my hands dirty, so to speak, is exciting. Give it a try; you may very well fall in love with history as well.

Sources:

Leora Sutton to Mr. Newton, Dr. Schaeffer, and Linda Ellsworth, May 22, 1970, Pensacola Historical Society.