Pensacola, FL – “The City of Five Flags

Pensacola is the county seat of Escambia County. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 56,255. Pensacola was the capital of Florida before Tallahassee became the capital.

Pensacola’s location on the Florida Panhandle makes it vulnerable to hurricanes. Major hurricanes which have made landfall at or near Pensacola include Hurricane Juan (1985), Hurricane Opal (1995) [which Carol worked with our son], and Hurricane Ivan (2004) [which Carol and I worked].

Hurricane Ivan devastated the Pensacola area, either damaging or destroying a large number of homes and businesses. Particularly hard-hit were the areas around Perdido Key (http://perdidochamber.com/index.html) and Pensacola Beach (http://www.visitpensacolabeach.com.) Many of the area’s bridges sustained structural damage and the hurricane disrupted public schools in Escambia County for nearly a month.

Some of the devastation on Pensacola Beach. The pure white sand looks like snow.


Pensacola is nicknamed “The City of Five Flags” due to the five flags that have flown over it at various times in its history: the flags of Spain, France, Great Britain, the Confederate States of America, and the United States. It was the first settlement of Europeans in what is now the Unites States. It was founded in 1559 by Don Tristan de Luna and his party of Spanish settlers. However, the settlement was destroyed by a major hurricane shortly afterwards, and was abandoned. For this reason, many people instead regard St. Augustine, Florida as the first permanent European settlement in what would become the United States. The City of Pensacola, however, still occasionally refers to the area as “America’s First Settlement” in advertisements and travel brochures.

The city and its bay were named after the Panzacola indians, a tribe that lived near the bay when the Spanish arrived. The name was changed to Pensacola to make it easier to pronounce for the Spanish. Despite the original settlement’s destruction, the name was preserved and used when the area was re-settled during the 17th century.

The Naval Air Station Pensacola is located southwest of Pensacola in the community called Warrington, which is home to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team and the National Museum of Naval Aviation. (See http://naval.aviation.museum/intro.html )

The Pensacola area is home to three historic U.S. forts, Fort Pickens, Fort Barrancas, and Fort McRee, as well as Barrancas National Cemetery (see http://www.cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/barrancas.asp. For information on the forts see http://www.nps.gov/guis/extended/FLA/History/Forts.htm. Fort Pickens was completed in 1834. It holds the distinction of being the only Southern fort not to be captured by the Confederacy in the Civil War. When Florida seceded from the Union on January 10th, 1861, remaining Union forces in the city evacuated to Fort Pickens. The Confederacy then held Pensacola until abandoning the city in May of 1862.

From 1885 to 1887, the famous Apache Indian chief Geronimo was imprisoned in Fort Pickens, along with several of his warriors and their families. Fort Pickens is now a part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore (see http://www.nps.gov/guis/extended/home.htm) and as such, is administered by the U.S. Park Service.

Final Note: For more photos of Hurricane Ivan, see http://www.al.com/weather/hurricane/ivanphotos/ and for damage to Pensacola’s Alabama neighbor, particularly Orange Beach, visit http://w ww.gulf-shores-alabama.net/hurricane-ivan.html.

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