Apalachicola Historic Landmarks
APALACHICOLA ICE COMPANY
The Apalachicola Ice and Canning Company was incorporated in 1885. The original stockholders in the company were W. R. Brown, George Whiteside, William T. Orman, W. R. Moore, M. T. Bergan and T. H. Moore. The company built an ice house on parts of wharf lots 18 and 19 in Apalachicola, which are located on the riverfront just south of Avenue D. This two-story wooden structure housed the machinery to make ice and an insulated room to store the ice in. This was the first manufacturing plant in Apalachicola to use the principles discovered by Dr. John Gorrie thirty years earlier to produce ice.
On November 27, 1886, the equipment in the ice house exploded, killing city commissioner Charles A. Glazier, but doing only a small amount of damage to the building. The business continued to operate in this location and expanded its plant as necessary. Eventually the building reached all the way to the property line bordering the Coombs & Company warehouse to the south. A two-story brick party wall was built on the property line separating the two structures between 1913 and 1922.
The Apalachicola Ice Company continued until the mid-1920s. In 1925 the company filed for bankruptcy. Two years later an article in the Apalachicola Times noted that the machinery in the old ice plant was being removed. The only evidence of the structure remaining is the two-story brick wall along the property line.
On the earliest maps of Apalachicola the low-lying area at the mouth of the river was reserved as a public park called the Florida Promenade. Bounded on the southwest by Broad Street (6th Street) and on the northwest by Market Street (Avenue B). Here Franklin County’s first company to leave for service in the Civil War, the Franklin Rifles, were feted by Mrs. D. P. Holland, wife of Franklin County’s state representative. The area was fortified by Southern troops during the early days of the Civil War. The batteries erected here at that time gave the park its current name, Battery Park.
Battery Park was not always used exclusively as a public park. In the late nineteenth century the city leased a portion of the waterfront to the Ruge Brothers, who erected their oyster canning factory upon the parcel. By the early 1900s, however, a general movement of civic beautification swept over Apalachicola. Battery Park was groomed as a park. Seven obsolete cannons and a mound of cannonballs were obtained from Fort Barrancas near Pensacola in 1913 to decorate the park. All but two of the cannons were later scraped. These two were moved from Battery Park to Gorrie Square around 2000.
In 1923 the City donated their old City Hall building to the Philaco Club as a Community House. The two-story frame building was moved onto the northeast corner of Battery Park and stood there for many years, hosting community events. It was in the process of being torn down when it burned in the early 1980s. The current community center was erected in 1993.
The boat basin was dredged in 1954 to house recreational vessels. In the years after World War Two Battery Park has been the home, first of the Harbor Days Festivities, which promoted Apalachicola as a port and encouraged navigational improvements on the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee River, and, secondly, the Florida Seafood Festival.
GUN EMPLACEMENT ON BAY AVENUE
When the Civil War began there were no fortifications or vessels to protect Apalachicola. Local citizens, and people living up the river as far as Columbus, were fearful lest the Union Navy use the bay and river to conquer the region. Military companies were immediately raised, but they had not weapons with which to defend the town.
Pleas were immediately forwarded to the Confederate military requesting adequate armaments to protect Apalachicola. Of course every other city in the Confederacy was making similar supplications. Apalachicola was told that men and weapons would be sent when they were available.
It was about the first of June when two old 32-pounder cannons were forwarded to Apalachicola by the Governor. They were entrenched along the waterfront to protect the town. Later, as more cannons became available more extensive fortifications were thrown up. These efforts were interrupted with the arrival of Colonel Edward Hopkins of the 4th Florida Infantry Regiment. To protect the entrance to the bay a fort was built on St. Vincent Island to guard West Pass. The cannons from Apalachicola were moved to St. Vincent Island leaving the town once again defenseless. Governor John Milton, whose home was near the Apalachicola River in Jackson County, was loud in his protests. He promised to garrison the town with state troops if Colonel Hopkins was just removed.
Hopkins was reassigned and Milton called up state troops to garrison Apalachicola. The fort on St. Vincent was abandoned and all the arms were returned to the mainland, where eight gun batteries erected to protect the town. These batteries would never be called on for their protection though. In early 1862 the state legislature abolished the state troops, leaving Apalachicola without a garrison. The guns and their carriages were evacuated upriver in March 1862, leaving Apalachicola defenseless. Most of the population followed the guns upriver for the duration of the war.
The earthworks on Bay Avenue are the only visible remains of the eight gun batteries the protected the town during the early days of the Civil War.
Work on the Chapman Auditorium Building was commenced in 1931. The cast stone structure was designed by E. R. James to contain eight classrooms and an auditorium. A. D. Lawson from Port St. Joe was the contractor for the new building and also for the renovation of the existing building at Chapman High School. The initial contract called for the completion of the building within 250 days, but construction did not progress as rapidly as anticipated. The School Board took over direct supervision of the work in 1932 with George Marshall placed in charge of construction. Eventually the Depression era Civil Works Administration took over construction of the building. When the Civil Works Administration was phased out, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration took over the project and finally completed it in 1934. The Chapman High School class of 1934 was the first to graduate from the Chapman Auditorium.
This building housed the high school classes at the Chapman School. When the Apalachicola High School was constructed on 14th Street in the 1970s the classrooms were renovated into offices for the Franklin County School Board. The School Board deeded the property to Franklin County in 2009.
The building is the finest example of Art Deco architecture in Franklin County. It is adorned with cast stone details of crabs, owls and pelicans. Above the auditorium stage is an intricate scene in cast stone which includes a depiction of the Chapman Auditorium.
The Chapman Gymnasium was a Works Progress Administration project to expand the facilities for the Chapman School. Work was begun on the Art Deco building in 1939. It housed a music room in addition to the main gymnasium and shower facilities. David Maddox was the superintendent in charge of the construction of the gymnasium.
The building was completed in 1941. The structure is of a much plainer design that the Chapman Auditorium Building, using simple geometric lines in place of the elaborately cast figures on the auditorium. The building has been in continual use as a school gymnasium since it was completed, first at the Chapman School, then at the Chapman Elementary School and now at the ABC School.
The Chapman House at 92 Sixth Street in Apalachicola has long been known as the home of Dr. Alvin Wentworth Chapman, an internationally known botanist of the nineteenth century. It is not know exactly when the house was built. There is a structure on the lot in the 1857 Preliminary Survey of the Mouth of Apalachicola River, Florida by the U. S. Coast Survey. The existing structure is consistent with the style and appearance of an ante-bellum house in Apalachicola.
Dr. Chapman purchased the house in 1874. Other people prominent in Franklin County’s history have also lived in the house. William Lee Popham, who was sentenced to Federal prison in the 1920s for mail fraud in relation to his schemes for developing St. George Island, owned and lived in the house. Over the years the house has been modified. The one-story porch was replaced with a two-story portico. Recently the home has been largely restored to its appearance when it was when owned by Dr. Chapman.
CHESTNUT STREET CEMETERY
The Chestnut Street Cemetery is the oldest burying ground in Apalachicola and is the burial site of many individuals connected with the history and development of the town and area. Approximately 540 marked graves are located in the cemetery, but there are many more grave sites that are unmarked. A variety of tombstones decorate the cemetery, from simple vertical slabs from the 1830s to elaborate marble monuments. A few graves are marked with simple wooden crosses or a blanket of shells with no names. In the 1930s the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy marked the graves of all the Civil War veterans in the cemetery. There are at least 79 Confederate veterans and 7 Union veterans buried in the cemetery. By about 1900 there were no more space remaining in Chestnut Street Cemetery and the City of Apalachicola opened Magnolia Cemetery at the north end of town. The only people buried in Chestnut Street Cemetery after that time were people who had existing family plots in the cemetery. Click here to download a walking tour of the Chestnut Street Cemetery. The self-guided tour will take you about 30 minutes during which time you will discover the rich history, lore and heritage of Apalachicola from more than 100 years ago. The Chestnut Street Cemetery tour is also available online as a geotour with interactive content. Interested in visiting landmarks in Franklin County that have some spooky lore attached to them? Click here!
In 1901 the Sisters of Mercy of Mobile built the St. Mary Star-of-the-Sea Convent on the corner of Bay Avenue and 8th Street overlooking Apalachicola Bay. The building housed the St. Patrick’s Catholic School, which the nuns taught. The two-story structure had porches around the entire building on both levels. This wooden structure burned in December 1929.
Immediately it was replaced with the current brick structure built by H. H. Brown of Dothan, Alabama, who was also the contractor for St. Patrick’s Church. The new convent had five classrooms downstairs and fifteen rooms upstairs. The upstairs rooms, including bedrooms, chapel and dining room, were reserved for the Sisters. The building was completed by June 1, 1930.
The convent school was operated until 1950 when it closed due to declining attendance. The Florida Trust for Historic Preservation purchased the building from the Catholic Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee in 1986 to preserve the historic building. The building was later sold to private individuals who restored the structure as a private residence.
The Cook Building, at 71 and 73 Market Street, was built sometime between 1909 and 1913 by John Cook. The building features a cast iron storefront with the “Cook” name cast into the thresholds. The two-story brick building was divided into two separate stores facing Market Street downstairs with offices upstairs. Over the years a number of different businesses have occupied the building including a furniture store, a dry goods store and the A & P grocery store. The northwestern side of the building became Tradewell’s 5 & 10. Later the Apalach 5 & 10 opened in the corner space. These two stores were referred to locally as the “Old Dime Store” and the “New Dime Store”. The first floor stores retain their original pressed tin ceilings.
COOK INSURANCE BUILDING
This simple frame building with a gable roof at 23 Avenue D was built between 1909 and 1913. For most of its existence it was the home of Cook Insurance Agency, until the agency moved into the Gulf State Bank building in late 2004. The building currently houses a restaurant but retains the rich wood interior that has distinguished it since it was constructed.
FRANKLIN COUNTY COURTHOUSE
By the 1930s the Franklin County Courthouse located on Washington Square in Apalachicola was becoming too small to house all the government offices, and the County Commission began to discuss building a new courthouse. The County applied to the Works Progress Administration for financial assistance to construct the new 3-story structure. Plans were drawn up by Warren, Knight and Davis, Block B2 was acquired as a site, and A. J. Honeycutt Co., Inc. was selected as the contractor. Construction began in 1938 and the building was completed in 1940.
The T-shaped building was built in the Neo-classical revival style. Two Doric columns dominate the main entrance on the west façade. An entablature encircles the entire building but is only decorated with triglyphs and metopes on a portion of the west façade. The lower two floors housed county offices while a courtroom occupied most of the third floor. In addition to the county offices the building also housed the Apalachicola City Hall on the bottom floor.
In 1968 the need for more space was again felt. Norman Gross designed a two story addition on the east side of the courthouse that provided additional office space. Kolmetz Construction Company completed construction of the addition in December 1969.
Less than a decade later, in 1976 the need for expanding the courthouse again was evident. G. Michael George and Associates were retained by the county as architects to design a third floor judicial suite on top of the existing two story addition along with a stairwell and elevator on the east side of the building. A $250,000 grant from the U. S. Department of Commerce helped to pay for the work which was begun in 1978. Whitesell-Green was the contractor for the work. Many delays were encountered in the work, which was not finally completed until 1981.
CRYSTAL ICE HOUSE/APALACHICOLA ICE COMPANY
The Crystal Ice Company was incorporated by E. S. Wefing, Agnes Wefing, H. G. Fannin and Lottie May Fannin in 1924. They built the brick ice house on the waterfront between Avenues F & G around this time. This new competition caused the Apalachicola Ice Company located on Water Street just south of Avenue D to go bankrupt in 1925.
The brick building adjacent to the ice plant to the northwest was the power plant for the City of Apalachicola. Beginning in 1924, E. S. Wefing had a contract from the city to supply electric current to the municipality for twenty years. The two-story portion at the northwest end of the building was where the generators were housed.
In 1926 the Crystal Ice and Power Company was organized with Arthur Corry, J. E. Graves, Sr. and J. E. Graves, Jr. as the original stockholders. They took over the business of the Crystal Ice Company and also of supplying power to the City of Apalachicola. In 1931 the power business was sold to Florida Power in St. Petersburg, and the ice business was sold to the Florida West Coast Ice Company, which was housed in the Power & Light Building in St. Petersburg also.
The power plant was discontinued after transmission lines tied Apalachicola to Florida Power’s electric grid. The ice company continued to operate under various owners, eventually returning to the name Apalachicola Ice Company. In later years the building has housed various seafood businesses. The brick exterior of the ice house was covered with stucco in the 1990s.
The Dixie Theater was opened on April 1913, by Alex Fortunas. The two-story brick structure featured a screen for showing movies and a stage for live performances. The balcony was reserved for blacks and smokers. On the street flanking the entrance to the theater were two 16 feet by 16 feet stores.
The Dixie served as Apalachicola’s premiere entertainment venue for many years. In the 1950s a drive-in theater opened west of town. That and competition from television lead to the demise of the Dixie. It shut its doors in 1967.
For the next thirty years the Dixie sat empty and deteriorating. In the late 1990s Rex and Cleo Partington saw the old theater. Since their daughter was named Dixie, they took the name as a good omen and purchased the building. They had to completely reconstruct the building. The only original portions of the structure are the side and rear walls. The Dixie reopened on July 31, 1998.
FRANKLIN COUNTY JAIL
In 1947 the State of Florida threatened to condemn the 55-year old county jail located on Washington Square in Apalachicola. Under this predicament the county commission began to plan for a new jail to be built behind the courthouse. James Gamble Rogers II was hired to design the structure. Jack Culpeper was the contractor for the building, which was completed in 1949.
The two-story brick and masonry structure facing Leslie Street had offices and living space for the jailer and his family on the bottom floor with the upper floor dedicated to the jail cells.
The most famous incident involving the jail occurred on December 1, 1967. David Edward Barlow and another man were on a crime spree across Florida, stealing cars and abandoning them along the way. They were picked up hitchhiking by an off-duty Marine Patrol officer. Noticing that Barlow had a concealed weapon the officer pulled into the jail when he came over the bridge into Apalachicola. Barlow then pulled his gun on the two deputies at the jail. Pulling the telephone lines out of the wall he took one of the deputy’s personal cars and headed west. Fred Babb, and Apalachicola policeman, noticed the deputy’s car go past with a strange man driving it so he started following it. When Barlow pulled behind a convenience store at Clairmont Street Babb turned in behind him. As Babb was getting out of his car Barlow shot and killed him. Stealing Babb’s police car Barlow headed toward Port St. Joe, where he wrecked and was captured. By the time Barlow was brought back to the jail in Apalachicola a large crowd had gathered at the jail. For his own protection Barlow was hustled out the back door and taken to another jail.
By the late 1980s the State of Florida was again threatening to condemn this structure since it did not meet current requirements for a jail. In response the county commission built a new jail on Highway 65 in Eastpoint, which was completed in 1990. Since that time the jail on Leslie Street has been used for storage.
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
In 1848 the First Baptist Church in Apalachicola was organized with ten members: three whites and seven blacks. Two years later a church building was constructed at 6th Street and Avenue H. After the Civil War the church was repaired and the congregation reorganized.
By the early 1900s there was a need for a new sanctuary. In 1902 the congregation, at that time called Calvary Baptist Church, purchased two city lots on 9th Street, between Avenue C and D, as the site for the new structure. Two years later a new asymmetrical, Gothic revival structure was built on the property by Dave Maddox. The building is distinguished by large Gothic windows on three sides of the sanctuary and a bell-tower on the eastern corner of the building. Originally the tower was crowned by a steeply pitched roof, but this was later removed.
In 1955 a brick veneer educational building was constructed to the northwest of the sanctuary. In 1977 a two-story educational building was built behind the sanctuary.
FIRST METHODIST CHURCH
The First Methodist Church of Apalachicola was organized in 1839. Around 1846 a simple rectangular church building was erected at the corner of what is now 5th Street and Avenue E. This building was consumed in the great 1900 fire that burned most of downtown Apalachicola.
Immediately after the fire plans were made to rebuild the church. The new building was completed in February, 1901, at a cost of $3,500. The Gothic revival wooden building is distinguished by the gable walls that extend above the roof line and a prominent bell tower, which also serves as the main entrance, on the west corner.
In 1965 the two-story educational building was completed. The fellowship hall was added in 1975.
FORT COOMBS ARMORY
At the urging of the local militia company, the Franklin Guards, Franklin County built an armory at the corner of 4th Street and Avenue D. This two-story building with a four-story clock tower was completed in 1898 and destroyed by fire two years later. The building was insured against fire and these insurance funds were used to build a new armory building at the same location.
The new building measured 60 by 100 feet, filling an entire city lot. It was designed by Lockwood Brothers of Columbus, Georgia and built by J. H. Hecker. The brick structure contains a large drill hall that could accommodate the entire company for drilling. There is also a vault to store the weapons, dressing rooms and offices. The exterior of the structure is dominated by a four-story tower. During the Second World War this tower was the lookout station for volunteers scanning the sky for enemy planes.
The building was owned by Franklin County. In 1911 the county sold the structure to the State of Florida who added a 30 by 100 feet single-story addition to the northwest side of the building. This addition contains a kitchen, offices, restrooms, and a company room. The company room features a large fireplace containing shells set into the masonry and the crest of Company E, 106th Engineers, which was the local National Guard unit at that time.
The building is named for James Percy Coombs who was active in the local National Guard unit in the early 1900s. He served as commander of the local company, Lieutenant Colonel in the First World War and Mayor of Apalachicola.
The Gibson Inn was opened in 1907 by L. G. “Jeff” Buck as the Franklin Hotel. Jeff Buck was in the turpentine business and saw the need for a first-class hotel in Apalachicola. He hand selected the trees to provide the lumber for the building. It was built out of premium pine, cypress and black cypress lumber.
The original building had two full floors with a third floor tucked under a mansard roof. With steam heat and electricity the hotel had the latest in modern conveniences. In 1914 the roof was raised to provide a full story for the third floor.
The Buck’s sold the hotel in 1920. After passing through several owners the Gibson sisters purchased the hotel. Annie Gibson Hays and Mary Ella Gibson were already operating a popular hostelry in Apalachicola next door to the Methodist church. Purchasing the Franklin Hotel, which they renamed the Gibson Hotel, allowed them to accommodate their expanding business.
The U. S. Army took possession of the hotel in 1942. After operating it for several months the military returned it to the Gibson and Hays family. They sold the hotel after the war. The hotel and building saw a gradual decline over the years. In 1977 the Florida Hotel and Restaurant Commission closed the hotel as unsafe. In 1983 three investors purchased the old hotel and invested one million dollars to restore it to its former glory. It reopened for business in 1985, and provided the spark for the tourist industry in Apalachicola by providing a destination hotel in the city, attracting visitors from around the world.
GRADY MARKET/THE CONSULATE
J. E. Grady & Co. was established in 1884 as a ship chandlery, providing everything a ship would need to operate. In addition to servicing the boats and ships that called at Apalachicola, the firm also provided groceries, dry goods and hardware to the local market. A 1901 advertisement proclaimed “In fact they keep everything.”
The building that housed the establishment burned in the great 1900 fire, but was immediately rebuilt. The two-story brick building was completed by October 1900. The Downstairs housed the business while upstairs was the customs house and local steamboat inspector along with storage areas for caulking, ropes and canvas.
After operating for 47 years the firm announced that it was going out of business in 1931. After standing vacant for a decade the Apalachicola Ten and Awning Company started a tent factory in the building in 1941 to supply tents to the U. S. Army. In 1951 Corey Hendrickson purchased the property and equipment and produced canvas supplies under the name Apalachicola Manufacturing Company. Later a net factory was housed in the building. The structure was not maintained, and after the last net factory closed the building sat vacant and derelict on Water Street until it was purchased in 1995 by Lee and Kathy Willis. Mrs. Willis is a relative of the original owners. They restored the building with retail space downstairs and a bed and breakfast upstairs.
HOLY FAMILY CENTER
The Holy Family Center was built in 1929 as a Catholic school for the black population of Apalachicola. The mission style building has four classrooms and an auditorium. When the parishioners outgrew their church the school auditorium was converted to a church. The building continued to be used as a school and church until 1964. Afterwards the building was used as a community center until the building became unsafe.
In 2004 the City of Apalachicola obtained the building from the church. With a variety of funds, including $50,000 from the Franklin County Tourist Development Council and $1.5 million from the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, the building was renovated into a Senior Citizens Center. The freshly revitalized building opened in 2012.
Gorrie Square is one of the original city squares in Apalachicola. Located at the intersection of 6th Street and Avenue D the square was never developed as a typical city square – the local streets have always run directly through the center of the square.
Trinity Episcopal Church was built in 1838 facing the square. In 1900 local favorite son, Dr. John Gorrie, the inventor of the mechanical means for producing ice, was honored by the dedication of a monument to his achievement by the Southern Ice Exchange. The white bronze monument was located in the northern corner on what would become known as Gorrie Square.
In 1906 the steel water tower for Apalachicola’s first water system was erected at the center of Gorrie Square since it is one of the highest points in town. After supplying water to the town for 79 years, this tower collapsed during a hurricane in 1985.
In 1956 ground was broken on the southern corner of the square for a museum to John Gorrie. In addition Dr. Gorrie’s remains were transferred from Magnolia Cemetery to the eastern corner of the square. In November 1957, a grand opening and dedication of the Gorrie Museum was held during the Harbor Days festivities. Ironically the one thing the new museum did not have was an air conditioning system. This was not remedied until a year later when a donated air conditioning unit was installed in the building.
The final addition to Gorrie Square was the Apalachicola Municipal Library, which was constructed in 1963.
Lafayette Park, located on the shore of Apalachicola Bay between 13th and 15th Streets, was designated as a public promenade on the earliest maps of Apalachicola to compliment the Florida Promenade, now known as Battery Park, located near the mouth of the Apalachicola River. Lafayette Park, being further from the center of town, was slower to develop. An 1857 map of the mouth of the Apalachicola River does not show any development in the park. By the late 1800s, however, the area had been developed. A pier was built out from the park over the waters of the bay. Twisted live oak trees shaded the grounds. While Battery Park served as the center for many community gatherings and events, Lafayette Park remained a quiet neighborhood park.
In the 1990s the park was improved with grant funding from the State of Florida. The gazebo in the center of the park was constructed, replicating a gazebo that had stood there years before. Brick walkways were added through the park along with upgraded playground equipment and landscaping.
By the late 1800s Chestnut Street Cemetery is Apalachicola was reaching its capacity and the bayside cemetery near Lafayette Park was reportedly being eroded away. The city commission began to discuss the possibility of opening a new cemetery in town. Land was available at the north end of 12th Street, but the city did not have the funds to purchase the parcel. One of the city commissioners, Charles H. Glazier, offered to purchase the property if the city would repay him with interest within one year. The deal was struck and Glazier purchased the property in 1886. Unfortunately he was killed later that same year in an explosion at the ice house, but his widow went forward with the deal and sold the land to the City in 1887.
Other tracts were added in 1888 and 1890. Lots were laid out and sold. The southwest quarter of the cemetery was reserved for the black population. At the center of the new cemetery, where the two access roads intersected, a round plot was set aside for the remains of Dr. John Gorrie, which were moved from the bayside cemetery and remained in Magnolia Cemetery until they were relocated to Gorrie Square in the 1950s. Other remains were also moved from the bayside cemetery along with their tombstones. A 2010 story in the Apalachicola Times identified the earliest original marked burial in Magnolia Cemetery as that of William Theobold who died in 1897.
Enlarged repeatedly over the years Magnolia continues to be an active cemetery.
The two-story Montgomery Building at the corner of Market Street and Avenue E has been one of the premier commercial locations in Apalachicola for over 100 years. The building was constructed in 1910 by Allie Mohr and Joseph Vincent. A previous wooden two-story structure on the site was burned in the 1906 conflagration that leveled this block. After that fire, the third major fire in the downtown area in sixteen years, the City Commission passed an ordinance forbidding the erection of any frame, wooden or iron clad building in the downtown area. Therefore the Montgomery Building was built out of brick.
For years the building housed the Montgomery Department Store on the ground floor. Upstairs were a variety of offices. After the death of Mr. Samuel Montgomery in the 1930s his manager, T. E. Austin, bought the entire stock of the store and opened Austin’s. In 1950 Mr. Austin purchased the building from the heirs of Mrs. Mohr. In the 1960s the Nichols’s store moved into the building and stayed there until they closed in the 1980s. Since then the building has housed a variety of retail stores, a restaurant and a laundromat over the years.
MT. ZION BAPTIST CHURCH
The Mount Zion Baptist Church was organized in the years after the Civil War. Originally the congregation was housed in a wooden sanctuary on the same property located at the intersection of Avenue E and 8th Street. In 1917 George H. Marshall, a prominent local builder, completed the present structure. Built of cast concrete block with a rusticated surface, the Mount Zion Church is a unique structure in Apalachicola. Stepped parapet gable walls face Avenue E and 8th Street, while a crenelated bell tower nestles in the western intersection of the t-shaped structure. Unlike the other churches built in Apalachicola during the first two decades of the twentieth century, the main windows in the Mt. Zion Church are Roman arched, not Gothic. The structure was rehabilitated in 1988 and 2001 with financial assistance from the Florida Department of State.
ODD FELLOWS HALL
The Odd Fellows Hall at 143 Sixth Street was built between 1881 and 1883 as a meeting hall for the local black fraternal order. The period from the end of the Civil War to the First World War has been called the golden age of social fraternities. Industrialization brought people together off the farms and gave them more time for leisure activities. Before radio and television fraternal orders provided an avenue for socialization and a sense of community. Freemasons, Odd Fellows and Knights of Pythias all had local black chapters.
The two-story wooden structure originally had a two-story porch just across the southwestern façade facing Sixth Street. The distinctive clipped gables are known as a jerkin head roof.
The downstairs space was rented out to businesses. At one point a skating rink was located in the building. The second floor housed the meeting room for the lodge. Besides lodge meetings the space was also used by other organizations and community groups as a meeting space. In 1890 the Odd Fellows Hall hosted a meeting of the black sawmill workers when they decided to go on strike for higher wages. During the construction of the John Gorrie Bridge in the 1930 the hall hosted regular dances.
Eventually the local Odd Fellows disbanded and the building fell into disuse. After sitting vacant for several years it was purchased by the City of Apalachicola in 1987 and the structure was renovated into several apartments. The porches stretching down each side of the building were added at this time. The city sold the property in 1998. It is in private ownership today.
Originally this site at the corner of Avenue D and Water Street was the location of one of the three-story brick warehouses that lined Water Street during its cotton-shipping heyday. The building housed the Apalachicola Exchange, an ante-bellum hotel. By 1900 the building had been reduced to two-stories and housed B. F. Hall’s saloon. During the great fire of 1900 the building was reduced to ashes, but it was immediately rebuilt as a one-story brick building to house Mr. Hall’s Oriental Saloon.
There was a growing temperance movement in Franklin County, though, that threatened the existence of the saloon. By the early twentieth century all the surrounding counties had gone dry. Every two years another election would be held on the issue of local prohibition in Franklin County, and at each succeeding election the majority for staying wet got smaller and smaller. B. F. Hall countered this trend with a series of newspaper advertisements produced by Budweiser that featured founding fathers such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. The advertisements were in vain because in 1915 Franklin County finally voted to go dry.
After the closure of the saloon the building housed a succession of different businesses over the years. A soft drink bottling plant occupied the building during the 1930s, to be replaced by a barrel factory that produced containers for shipping seafood. During the 1960s the Econo Wash Coin Laundry was housed in the building. Currently only the four brick walls of the building remain, awaiting restoration.
The Orman House was built in 1837 by Thomas and Sarah Orman. Thomas Orman was from New York State and came south to Florida soon after the territory was acquired by the United States from Spain. He engaged in business on St. Andrews Bay and later moved to Jackson County, where he owned a plantation. In 1834 he sold his land in Jackson County and moved south to Apalachicola, where he engaged in business. He was very successful and three years later finished his large house on a bluff overlooking Scipio Creek and the Apalachicola River. The two-story Greek Revival structure is one of the grandest houses in Apalachicola. Porches on the first and second floors wrap around the northeast and southeast sides of the house. Although the square columns are not ornamented, the entryway is surrounded by elaborate molding with carved corner blocks and a central panel with carved foliage. The doors are flanked by sidelights and surmounted with a transom.
During the Civil War, according to local legends, a nail keg was placed on the roof to warn Confederate soldiers that it was unsafe to enter town because Union sailors from the blockading vessels were in the city.
The Orman’s only son, William T. Orman, lived in the house until his death in 1888. His only daughter, Sarah Orman, lived there until her death in 1952, outliving two husbands. After her death the house passed on to relatives who continued to own the property until 1994, when it was sold and restored. After operating as a bed and breakfast for a few years the Orman House was purchased by the State of Florida in 2001 and established as a state park.
POPHAM’S BUILDING ON WATER STREET
William Lee Popham was a charming rouge. A poet and author of dubious quality, he was also a minister, but he gained lasting fame as a smooth-talking real estate developer. He first came to Franklin County in 1916. Enchanted with the possibility of developing St. George Island, his dreams grew to include developing a community on the island that could support itself by cultivating oysters in the bay. To process, can, and warehouse the promised glut of oysters William Lee Popham hired Adolph Maddox in 1923 to build a two-story, 61,000 square feet building on wharf lots 7 and 8. The wooden building covered with metal siding was built on pilings that extended out over the water. The two-story central section of the building was distinguished by four gabled bays. Spelled out in oyster shells on the building was “POPHAM OYSTER FACTORY NO. 1”.
Even as the building was under construction, Mr. Popham was facing legal problems. The U. S. Post Office was investigating whether he had used the mails to obtain money illegally from investors. In 1925 Popham was found guilty and served a term in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta.
The large building on the riverfront remained in Apalachicola. In 1935 the first John Gorrie Bridge crossed the Apalachicola River just to the south of the building. Over the years it had various uses. It was a lumber warehouse and a marine works before being purchased by the City of Apalachicola.
The Apalachicola Post Office was established in 1829. In the early 1920s the post office was located on the first floor of the Masonic Hall, located on Commerce Street between Avenue D and Avenue E. The building is till distinguished with the title “POST OFFICE” stamped in the concrete of the sidewalk in front of the structure.
There were several federal agencies that had offices in Apalachicola at this time: the post office, the customs office, the weather service, and the inspector of steamships. In 1914 Congress passed a bill authorizing the construction of a single building to house all of these agencies under one roof in Apalachicola. The First World War intervened and it was not until 1922 that the contract was awarded to Devault & Dietric Construction Company of Canton, Ohio to build the structure at the corner of Avenue D and Commerce Street. Although the cornerstone has the date of 1922 on it the building was not completed until the following year.
The building was built in the Mediterranean revival style. It is a brick structure with a stucco finish. The roof is of barrel tiles. The first floor of the building houses the post office, while the second floor contains offices. These were used by the various federal agencies present in the town at the time. Over the years these local federal offices have been phased out or relocated. The last federal agency to move out of the upstairs was the weather service. It moved to a building at the Apalachicola airport in the mid-1970s, taking their weather radar, which stood behind the post office building on Commerce Street, with them. The foundation blocks of the radar tower can still be seen at the corner of Commerce Street and Panton Street.
The Raney House was built by David and Harriet Raney in1838. The original structure was built in the Federalist style, but it was remodeled prior to the Civil War in the Greek Revival style with four fluted Doric columns on the front porch facing Market Street. A detached kitchen protected the main house from the heat and danger of fire associated with the cooking fire.
Mr. Raney was a merchant receiving cotton from upriver planters and selling it to Northern and European buyers and importing merchandise from the North and Europe and selling it to upriver planters. The Raneys raised six children to adulthood in the house. When Mr. Raney died in 1881 the house was left to the two surviving daughters. They sold the house in 1914 to Dr. J. S. Murrow who built his medical office on the northeast side of the house, facing Avenue F. When Dr. Murrow retired in 1939 he sold the house to Irene Tucker who operated it as a boarding house until her death.
In 1972 the Raney House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1973 the City of Apalachicola purchased the property and began the process of restoring it to its appearance when the Raney family lived in it. Dr. Murrow’s addition was demolished as was a bathroom addition. The newly restored house was dedicated in 1979. It is operated as a house museum today.
Before the Riverside Café was built at the corner of Water Street and Avenue G the People’s Ice Company plant stood on the site. S. E. Rice, Jr. leased the property in 1905 and incorporated the People’s Ice and Cold Storage Company in 1907. The business was not successful though and was closed by 1913.
The Nichols brothers purchased the property in 1914, and sometime around 1920 the Riverside Café was erected on the corner. The local story is that the building is part of the original wooden Chapman School. When the new three-story brick school was constructed in the 1917 the wooden building was cut up and sold off. Part of the building became a restaurant on 6th Street neat St Paul AME Church operated by John Lavontas, a Greek immigrant. The structure was moved from that location to the corner of Water Street and Avenue G, where it became the Riverside Café, still operated by John Lavontas, who was more familiarly known as John Ida.
The depot of the Apalachicola Northern Railroad was directly across Avenue G from the restaurant, providing a steady stream of customers. Sometime before 1931 a poured concrete building was built in the space between the Riverside Café and the Nichols Economy Cash Store. This became the Ladies Tea Room. This was reserved exclusively for ladies.
When people stopped traveling by train the Riverside Café found itself no longer at the center of life in Apalachicola. It closed down and has remained vacant ever since.
NICHOLS ECONOMY CASH STORE
In 1914 the brothers John and Constantine Nichols, immigrants from Trikkeri, Greece, purchased two lots on the south side of Palmetto Street (Avenue G) between Water Street and Commerce Street. Located directly across from the depot of the Apalachicola Northern Railroad, the lots offered a great opportunity to serve the people arriving and leaving on the trains. Immediately after the purchase the brothers began construction of a building at the corner of Commerce and Palmetto Streets. The two-story wooden structure had retail space downstairs and living space on the second floor.
The brothers were operating the Owl Café around the clock at the time. Seeking more regular hours John opened the Economy Cash Store at this building. His brother Constantine moved to North Carolina to work in a restaurant with a relative. The Economy Cash Store thrived, supplying groceries, dry goods, notions and patent medicines. People from up the river arriving on the train in Apalachicola to take care of business would frequently stop in at the Economy Cash Store and place their order before heading into town. Then they would pick up the order on their way back to the station to board the train home.
The Economy Cash Store operated here until the 1960s when John’s sons moved the business to a brick building downtown. The building sat vacant and deteriorating until recently. It is currently being renovated.
Although its exact date of construction is unknown, the brick Sponge Exchange on the corner of Avenue E and Commerce Street predates the Civil War. It is shown on an 1857 survey of the mouth of the Apalachicola River prepared by the U., S. Coast Survey. The single-story building has three doors but no windows. Two of the doors open on the northwest façade toward Avenue E while the third doorway is located on the northeast side of the building. The doors were all originally semi-circular brick arches. The northern most door facing Avenue E was altered at some point with a concrete lintel to enlarge the opening, but the original configuration has been restored.
The building was mostly used as a warehouse in the past. In 1874 Herman Ruge acquired the structure. He was involved in the local sponge industry, and it is probably from this period that the building acquired its present name. Photographs show the street in front of the Sponge Exchange being full of sponges. Because of its brick construction and metal roof the building survived the 1900 fire that destroyed most of the other buildings downtown. It is one of the oldest surviving commercial structures in Apalachicola.
ST. PATRICK CATHOLIC CHURCH
The original sanctuary of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church was constructed in the mid-nineteenth century at the present site at the corner of Avenue C and Sixth Street. This original structure was replaced by a new sanctuary just before the Civil War. On the morning of Monday, December 10, 1928, the building was damaged by a fire. Although the church was not consumed in the flames it was decided to proceed with building an entirely new sanctuary. The existing structure was repaired and moved to the southeast portion of the church property and utilized as a fellowship hall.
Under the guidance of Father Michael J. Keyes the present sanctuary was constructed in 1929 by F. E. and H. H. Brown of Dothan, Alabama. The building was designed by Cary and Dowling from Mobile, Alabama. The walls are brick covered in stucco with cast stone trim. The architects selected a mixture of Early Italian and Romanesque styles for the building, making it a unique structure for Apalachicola. Mass was first held in the new church on Sunday, January 26, 1929, and building was officially dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Toolen, bishop of Mobile, two weeks later.
By the 1980s the building was showing its age. A new roof was installed in 1986. Through a combination of grants and funds raised by the local congregation, the church was completely renovated inside and out, and on April 17, 1994, St. Patrick’s Church was rededicated by his Excellency John M. Smith, the bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee.
ST. PAUL AME CHURCH
St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized shortly after the end of the Civil War. Two lots on the corner of Avenue I and Sixth Street were purchased by the congregation and a wooden church building erected. In the early 1890s this building was replaced with another wooden sanctuary, built with the assistance of a loan from the Cypress Lumber Company.
In 1913 work began on building the current church. George H. Marshall was the builder. Due to the need to raise funds construction stretched over nine year, not being completed until 1921 at a total cost of $21,000. The Gothic revival style building is built of red brick with red mortar. Two towers of unequal height frame the southeastern façade. The entry doors in the towers are surmounted with Gothic transoms with Gothic windows in the walls. Above each doorway and at the apex of the gable on the southeast façade are bull’s eye windows.
The building has survived two fires, in 1951 and in 1986, which caused extensive damage. After each fire building was repaired and continued in use by the congregation.
TRINITY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Trinity Episcopal Church was the first church organized in Apalachicola being formed in 1836 after Rev. Fitch W. Taylor held services in the town during the fall and winter of the previous year. In 1837 Trinity Episcopal Church was incorporated by an act of the territorial legislature. That same year work was begun on a sanctuary to house the congregation. The building was prefabricated in White Plains, New York from white pine and shipped down to Apalachicola where it was erected on the current Sixth Street site with wooden pegs. The building was completed in 1838.
Construction was funded by the sale of pews in the church. The large, rectangular building has three large windows on each side of the sanctuary to flood the interior with light. Large wooden, louvered shutters protect the windows. The front of the church, facing Gorrie Square, has a recessed porch behind two Ionic columns. The stenciling on the ceiling inside the sanctuary is original. A small, open bell tower surmounts the metal roof. During the Civil War the bell was donated to the Confederacy, but a new bell was
In 1921 the church was remodeled. The floor was also replaced at this time. The chancel was recessed and a stained glass window was added to it. Two additional stained glass windows were added beside the 1921 window in 1923. In 1972 Trinity Episcopal Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1840 the congregation purchased an organ from Henry Erban, a prominent New York organ builder. This organ was replaced by another Henry Erban organ in 1859. Although replaced with a more modern organ in 1922, the 1859 organ remained in the sanctuary. It was restored in 1974-75.
The structure is still in use by the congregation today. To assist in the cost of maintaining the 175 year old sanctuary the Trinity Episcopal Church sponsors a home and garden tour every year to raise funds for building maintenance.
Wefing’s Marine Hardware has been serving Apalachicola since 1909. Between 1913 and 1922 the business moved into a brick building located at the corner of Water Street and Avenue F. The one-story brick building uses cast iron columns and lintels to support the store front, as was typical with commercial structures in Apalachicola at that time period. The business supplied everything necessary for the vessels that called Apalachicola home or were just passing through the area. As the business grew additional space was added to the north and the west of the existing brick building.
In the early 2000s Wefing’s Marine moved to a new location in Eastpoint where they would have more space for storage of the boats they had for sale, a new line of business introduced by new owners. Currently the building houses the Honey Hole Liquor Store while retaining much of the original signage from Wefing’s.
APALACHICOLA WATERWORKS BUILDING
After the fire of 1906 that burned two city blocks in the downtown area, the City Commission actively pursued installing a public water system in Apalachicola. That fire was at least the third major fire in the downtown area over the past sixteen years. Immediately afterwards the city fathers began the process of hiring contractors to construct the new water system.
W. C. VanFleet was hired to drill the well and Robert J. Aiken was the contractor hired to lay the 3 ½ miles of pipe for the system. The single-story brick building on Live Oak Street ((5th Street) was built to house the well and the associated pumping machinery There was a brick ground reservoir and an elevated steel water tower located in Gorrie Square at the intersection of Broad Street (6th Street) and Centre Street (Avenue D).
Although it no longer houses any equipment for the water system the building survives as a visual reminder of the first water system in the city.
SAWMILL FOUNDATION AT CYPRESS LUMBER COMPANY
The Cypress Lumber Company was the largest saw mill in Apalachicola and a mainstay of the local economy for over forty years. It was located along the banks of Scipio Creek at the north end of Market Street, although at the time it was in operation Market Street did not extend that far north and the mill site was access from Avenue M. This site was the location of a saw mill many years before the Cypress Lumber Company came into existence. Prior to the Civil War Thomas Hutchinson had a saw mill at this location. After the war Col. Archibald B. Tripler built the Pennsylvania Tie Company mill on the site. The mill passed through several hands after going bankrupt before being purchased by the Central Florida Mill and Lumber Company in 1880. Three years later Albert T. Stearns purchased the property and organized the Cypress Lumber Company. Mr. Stearns was a prominent lumberman from Boston and was instrumental in introducing cypress lumber to northern markets.
By the 1920s the vast stands of cypress and pine along the lower Apalachicola River had been cut. The Sheip Lumber Company purchased the mill site and operated the mill to cut thin sheets of wood for cigar boxes. The mill also cut specialty lumber for furniture making. It finally closed in the 1940s.
The concrete foundation is the only physical remains of the once vast industrial site. Still visible are the bolts protruding from the top of the foundation which were used to fasten the steam engine down.
SAWMILL FOUNDATION AT BAY CITY
The Bay City Saw Mill Company was incorporated in 1909 and built a sawmill on Poorhouse Creek north of Apalachicola. Albert Elijah Silverthorne, a wealthy lumberman from St. Louis, Missouri, was the major stockholder in the company. From docks along the creek sawn lumber was shipped down the Apalachicola River to ships waiting in the bay, which transported the lumber to northern and European markets. The large masonry foundation is the base for the steam engine that powered the saw mill.
SAWMILL FOUNDATIONS AT ABERCROMBIE BOAT RAMP
The Abercrombie Boat Ramp at the north end of bluff Road is located on the Apalachicola River at an area known as Old Woman’s Bluff. There has been a settlement at “the Bluff” nearly as long as Apalachicola has been in existence and the area has been the site of several sawmills. Monroe, Clary & Co. had a sawmill on land leased at the Bluff in 1882. This mill operated under the ownership of D. M. Munro until the 1890s. In1897 three investors from North Carolina formed The Apalachicola Lumber Company and built a mill on the Bluff. This company had an agreement with Coombs & Co. to manage the mill for them.
The concrete structure on the riverbank just upstream from the boat ramp is the foundation for the steam engine that powered one of these sawmills. The reciprocating motion of the steam engine required a solid foundation to prevent it from shaking itself to pieces. Visible in the top of the concrete are screws that anchored the engine to the concrete. The gap between the two concrete piers is where the wheel of the engine would have turned, driving the belts that transferred power to the saws and equipment in the mill building.
Inland about 75 feet is another engine foundation. This one is made of brick and stone and probably dates from an earlier time period. Like the foundation on the riverbank, this brick and stone foundation has screws protruding from the top to fasten down the steam engine and a gap between the two portions of the foundation to provide clearance for the rapidly spinning wheel.
At low tide the remains of the pilings that once supported the sawmill buildings and docks are visible along the edge of the Apalachicola River.