|Historic Waterfront Cruise
This tour will cover some of the rich history of Apalachicola and its past and present connection to the river—from its beginnings as an internationally recognized port for cotton and timber; as a river town graced by paddle wheelers during the age of steamboats; and as the home of our world-renowned oyster industry, seafood industry, and sponge trade. Once common throughout Florida, working waterfronts have all but disappeared due to development, with seafood industries being replaced by waterfront condos and the like. On this cruise, you’ll see historic waterfront landmarks, shrimp boats, seafood houses, oystermen bringing in their harvest, and vestiges of the cotton era in the city’s historic district. We will also explore the history of some of the many interesting landmarks near the waterfront that are culturally significant.
Occupied by Native Americans for thousands of years, the word “Apalachicola” is thought to have meant “people on the other side of the river,” or “land of the friendly people” or “allies.” The word came from a branch of the Creek Indians from the Carolinas who later settled along the Chattahoochee-Apalachicola River system. The name in historic records is “Apalachicoli,” so the current name is a slight variation of that used by the Native Americans. The Indians used the river for travel and trade in their long canoes, also crossing the bay to Franklin County’s four barrier islands to access oysters and other resources.
Originally a trading post called Cottonton, then incorporated as Westpoint in 1827, Apalachicola’s residents petitioned in 1831 to have the name changed back to the original one given by the earlier Indian inhabitants. At that time, Florida was still a Territory, not gaining statehood until 1845. In these early days of Apalachicola’s history, this was frontier country, with occasional reports of conflicts with the few remaining Indians in the river valley, and even a report of a panther in town.
The Apalachicola River is formed 107 miles upstream by the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers. The Chattahoochee River is over 400 miles long and originates at the base of the Appalachian Mountains in North Georgia. It forms the southern half of the Alabama-Georgia border. The Flint River is 344 miles long and originates just south of Atlanta. The creation of a port at Apalachicola was due to the shipping of cotton from Georgia and Alabama, the leading cotton producing territory in the world, to New York, Liverpool, and other foreign ports via the Apalachicola River and the Gulf of Mexico. The city development plan was modeled after Philadelphia, the model city of its time, in 1835. The city was laid out in a rectangular shape with wide streets, an open square located near each of its four corners, and a larger park at the town's center. Wharf lots were laid out along the riverfront, with warehouse, commercial, and residential districts further west.
During the cotton era, the atmosphere changed from that of a frontier town to a busy, cosmopolitan, and prosperous port town. Wealthy Northern cotton merchants built stately Victorian homes. Cotton bales cluttered Water Street, while draymen, stevedores, cotton merchants, sailors, and residents went about their business. Seafarers from around the world came ashore from their vessels, where they found bars, hotels, cafes, a bowling alley, a Masonic lodge, coffee shops, barbers, shops, a library, churches, and ships chandleries.
After the cotton era waned, the city reinvented itself many times using the available resources and its ideal location for shipping and maritime economies.
To learn more about Apalachicola’s fascinating history, please peruse our exhibits and library, and visit these other local points of historical interest: The Raney House Museum, The Orman House State Park, and the John Gorrie Museum. The Chapman House Museum will be opening soon. The Apalachicola Municipal Library is an excellent source for historical and genealogical information. There is a walking tour brochure of historic Apalachicola, as well as an Apalachicola Museum Trail map, available for free in our gift shop. Sit back, relax, and enjoy our Historic Waterfront Cruise on the largest river in the Southeast, the Apalachicola.
Our next door neighbors are part of Apalachicola’s authentic working waterfront. Leavins Seafood opened in 1972 and employs a staff of over 75, with drivers delivering to wholesale food distributors from Key West to California. Grady Leavins established the country’s only Oyster Industry Lab in Apalachicola, a partnership with the University of Florida. Leavins’ Frosted Oyster is a patented product growing in popularity across the restaurant industry due to its unique ability to maintain the natural flavors and nutrients of the wild harvested oyster without harming taste. Leavins Seafood is an example of a local business based on an historic industry that also embraces modern technology. Commercial oyster harvesting has taken place in Apalachicola Bay since 1837, using small sailing vessels. The actual process of harvesting the oysters, using long handled tongs, remains the same today. For a time, oyster dredges were used on public oyster beds, but the Franklin County Seafood Worker’s Association supported a ban on this unsustainable harvesting practice.
Popham Oyster Factory
William Lee Popham, the famous "Oyster King," was the first developer of St. George Island during the late 1910s and 1920s. He was also preacher, poet, novelist, lecturer, politician, and promoter. A colorful and controversial character, he had some legal troubles and spent some time in jail. This historic building is now part of the Maritime Museum, and will be renovated to provide additional space for antique boat displays and our popular Wooden Boat School.
Next to the Popham Building, you see the Golden Ball, a classic wooden boat undergoing restoration. This process will serve as a demonstration project of the Maritime Museum, in partnership with the City of Apalachicola and the Florida Communities Trust Stan Mayfield Working Waterfront Program.
The Golden Ball is a shallow-draft leeboard ketch designed by the renowned naval architect L. Francis Herreshoff, and built in 1962. Herreshoff (1890-1972) is remembered for his classic yachts with graceful lines. His legacy includes designing for the Navy during World War I in addition to his racing and cruising yachts. He also designed kayaks, canoes, and other small craft, and was the author of numerous articles and books, including The Complete Cruiser.
As our second Herreshoff boat, Golden Ball will complement the museum fleet well, as the slightly smaller, more agile counterpart to our flagship Heritage. She measures 46 ½ feet overall, 40 feet, 9 inches on the waterline. With a draft of just 2 feet, she is ideal for the shallow waters of Apalachicola Bay. In fact, she was specifically designed for sailing on Florida's west coast. Golden Ball will be used for sail training and excursions throughout the coastal communities of Franklin County. She was donated by Jaime Canfield.
The John Gorrie Memorial Bridge is named for an esteemed local resident who was granted the first U.S. patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851. Dr. Gorrie’s efforts to manufacture ice, refrigeration, and air conditioning were inspired by a desire to aid victims of yellow fever, a mosquito borne disease that once plagued residents of southern climes. Prior to 1935, Apalachicola and Eastpoint were connected only by private boat or the Wing Ferry. The original John Gorrie Bridge included a rotating section to allow the passage of ships with tall masts. When it was dismantled to allow for construction of the current bridge, it became an artificial reef offshore of St. George Island. The current bridge was opened in 1988 and is part of the Big Bend Scenic Byway. In the distance, to your left, you can see the St. George Island Bridge. This 5 mile long bridge is the third longest in Florida. The island was reachable only by boat until 1965 when the first bridge was built. The existing structure was completed in 2004. The bridge came 300 years too late for the survivors of the French shipwreck Le Tigre. Trapped on the island with few tools, provisions, or survival skills, they resorted to cannibalizing an African slave before managing to build a raft to reach the mainland. They then had to travel on foot to the nearest European outpost—the fort at St. Marks, 60 miles to the east. The captain’s account of the ordeal was published in French and English and became an international best seller. Ironically, Le Tigre means “tiger” in English, which was the name used not only for jungle cats, but also Florida Panthers until the early 1800s. As the survivors trekked along this wild stretch of coast, the fears that tormented them most were hostile Indians and the panthers they heard calling at night. There are more than 100 shipwrecks in Franklin County.
Mouth of the River
During the cotton era, paddlewheelers brought cargoes of cotton from the fertile fields in Georgia and Alabama down the Gulf of Mexico for shipment to New York and Liverpool. Before extensive roads and rail lines, the river was the highway of travel and commerce. Oyster beds, sandbars near the mouth of the river, and the shallow bay made it difficult for the large ocean-going vessels to enter the port. Instead, they would anchor out near Dog Island and St. George Island, and smaller vessels would ferry the cargo out to them. The pass in between is called East Pass and was marked by the Dog Island light, a red beacon which shone continuously. The pass between St. George Island and St. Vincent Island is called West Pass and was marked by the St. George Light, which was originally located on Little St. George Island and cast a yellow, intermittent beam. On the entire North Florida Gulf Coast, there were only five lighthouses to guide 19th century sailors, so the passes were easy to identify after dark. West Pass was considered more treacherous, as St. George and Little St. George were separated by a narrow, shifting passage maintained by hurricanes. In 1957, the Army Corps made it permanent with Bob Sikes Cut.
As the third largest port on the Gulf, after Pensacola and Mobile; a major part of the lifeblood of the Southern economy; and an entry point into the heart of the South and the Southern Naval ship building and iron works operations upstream at Columbus, GA, Apalachicola was the first port on the Gulf to be blockaded by the Union. Despite the occasional successes of blockade runners, the blockade put a stranglehold on commerce and created dire conditions and food shortages for the civilian population.
Ten Foot Hole
Apalachicola's Battery Park Boat Ramp and Marina, known locally as "Ten Foot Hole." The big anchor pictured here is one of 16 located in Apalachicola. Many are in the immediate downtown area. Archaeologists believe that they originate from 19th and 20th century ships that were part of the various maritime economies that have occurred in Apalachicola’s history, and that most of them were brought to Apalachicola after being caught in shrimper’s nets. The design of each one is different, and offers clues to the anchor’s age and country of origin. Research is underway. See how many you can find as you walk around downtown.
Prosperous local businessman John Ruge, involved in the oyster industry in the late 1800s, deeded part of his land in his will to the City for this park, which was part of the original city plan. Eight Civil War cannons obtained from a fort near Pensacola, once stood here. During World War II, all but two of them were removed and used in the war effort. The remaining two are now at Gorrie Square.
Battery Park is the home of the annual Seafood Festival, which draws thousands of visitors each year. It is the oldest maritime event in the state. In 1992, archaeologists found artifacts representing several Native American cultures on this property, from 1,000 A.D. to the 16th century.
The Gibson Inn is located at the foot of the bridge. Originally known as the as the Franklin Hotel, it was built by James Buck in 1907 of native heart pine and black cypress hand-picked from his property on East Bay. This building is an example of Florida "Cracker" Architecture. This was the style of wood frame structure used widely in the 19th and early 20th century in Florida, utilizing metal roofs, raised floors, high ceilings, center hallways, and large wrap around porches to take advantage of cooling breezes. A widow’s walk and cupola adorn the tin roof. Soon after opening, the inn became known as a first class luxury hotel and was the only one between Pensacola and Jacksonville heated entirely by steam. This photo was taken in 1918.
During World War II, the government temporarily took over the structure as an officer’s club. The $4 per day price for a room and all you can eat meals was so popular with soldiers that it threatened to bankrupt the operation. The inn later fell into disrepair but was restored by the Gibson sisters and reopened in 1985. It is now on the National Historic Register of Historic Places, and is one of the few inns on the list that still operates as a full service hotel.
Across the street from the Gibson stands a memorial to Lt. Willoughby Marks, who lost his life in World War I while trying to save a comrade at the Battle of Argonne, in France.
Apalachicola Maritime Museum
The museum was re-founded in 2007 by George Kirvin Floyd, to celebrate and preserve the maritime history of Apalachicola in a hands-on learning environment with active sailing program and adventure programs, boat-building, restoration and educational programs. Be sure to check our website and sign up for our newsletter for event invitations and information on our wooden boat school, lecture series, and more.
The museum is housed in an authentic part of Apalachicola’s working waterfront. The Kimball Lumber Company complex used to stand on this site. It was part of a sprawling complex of lumber mill operations that dominated the waterfront in the late 1800s to early 1900s. The decline of the cotton economy in the post-Civil War south had slowed the traffic of steamboats on the river. At the same time, new railroad lines diverted cargo shipments from the river system to the port at Savannah, Georgia. These two factors combined to end the era of Apalachicola as a thriving cotton port.
Arriving in Apalachicola in 1878, James Coombs was instrumental in building a new economy based on a different resource: the plentiful supply of cypress and pine. Lumber harvested in the river basin was transported by boat, or fastened into rafts and floated down the river to the saw mills at Apalachicola and Carrabelle.
By the turn of the century, one of Apalachicola’s saw mills had become the largest in the South, and large quantities of lumber were loaded onto schooners for transport to domestic and international markets. Such ships could carry as much as 250,000 feet of lumber. Hewn logs were exported to Europe and South America, railroad ties to Mexico, and sawn pine lumber and shingles were sent north. New Orleans was a major market for cypress. Lumber became one of Florida’s leading exports. The industry also supported other businesses, such as ships chandleries, which supplied hardware, groceries, and other necessary supplies to the vessels and crews coming in and out of the port.
Our strategic location for maritime industries is also a vulnerable place during hurricane season. One of the most catastrophic storms in our history made landfall after dark on October 10, 1894 and left in its wake two dead, a six-foot storm surge, destroyed docks, streets lined with dead fish, houses with roofs blown off, and a tattered community. Apalachicola being such a prominent lumber port, the story was covered in the New York Times:
Local commerce came to a halt as one of Apalachicola’s major enterprises Murat’s Wholesale Fish Company along with other fish houses and oyster factories laid flatten, while thousands of rotten fish littered the streets.
Kimball Lumber Company reported the greatest loss. Five barges loaded with lumber owned by the company and moored at East Pass, were tossed about and lodged in the marsh two miles north of the city. Both floating lumber and timber churned by winds from the vicious storm, shattered downtown businesses to destruction, while soft mud and brush lined their floors and shelves. The storm caused $20,000 worth of aggregate property damage, with Kimball receiving the bulk of the loss totaling $10,000.
The supply of lumber was thought to be inexhaustible, but this industry was gone by 1930 when the river valley had been stripped of its cypress trees.
The site of the Maritime Museum was next home to a shrimp processing house, commercial seafood harvesting being the next major industry to drive Apalachicola’s economy. The original wooden structure was destroyed in a storm in the 1970s, and was replaced with the metal building that stands today. It was renovated in 2011 to create museum-quality exhibit space.
Big Towhead Island
To your right you see Big Towhead Island just across from the Maritime Museum docks. A “towhead” is a low island or shoal area. This island was once home to a local family, and the remains of their house can still be seen today.
Italian immigrants Joseph and Madeline Taranto opened their own seafood house in 1923. They employed more than fifty oyster shuckers. Oysters and shrimp were packed into wooden barrels, and shipped on ice to New York by train. Their son ran the business until his retirement in 1990.
The boat pictured here is Gloria in 1935. She was designed and built by Sam Johnson, an Apalachicola boat builder for the Tarantos. Wooden boats are still used in the modern shrimping and oystering industries.
Comment on Greek influence?
One block off the waterfront is our Post Office, constructed in 1923 to also serve as a customs house for the Apalachicola’s bustling international commerce. It has a basement, which is an unusual feature for Florida structures due to our high groundwater table. It also has a mysterious underground tunnel connecting it to a building across the street, the purpose of which is unknown.
The Owl Café
Serving Apalachicola since 1908, the Owl Cafe was opened by brothers John and Constantine Nichols with savings from their work in the oyster industry. The restaurant was open around the clock, with rooms available upstairs. It had a soda fountain and kerosene driven ice cream machine. A popular dish was baked whole loaf, which consisted of oysters and sauces baked into the center of a loaf of bread. The original structure burned and was rebuilt. The name was inspired by the Owl logo on a cigar box. This landmark remains a favorite dining establishment for locals and visitors.
The Oriental Saloon – corner of Ave D and Water St
This is the former site of one of the approximately 70 brick and granite warehouses that once stood along the riverfront. The original structure was built in 1835 and was known as the Apalachicola Exchange. After the decline of the cotton era, it was used as a boardinghouse and tavern. The Oriental Saloon, owned by Mr. B.F. Hall, operated here in the late 1800s until the catastrophic fire of 1900, which destroyed dozens of downtown buildings including that one. The remains were torn down and a new structure built. By 1905, “the Old Exchange” tavern was in business. In the 1930s, this was a Nehigh Soda Bottling Plant. In the 1940s and 50s this was a barrel factory, with the barrels being used to ship seafood on ice via railroads.
These docks have been used to moor vessels from our home waters and around the world for almost 200 years.
An historical marker here tells the story of When Cotton Was King of the Apalachicola economy:
History records the first shipment of cotton to leave this Port, arrived New York, 1822. Beginning 1836, forty-three, three- storied brick, Cotton Warehouses and Brokerages lined Apalachicola's waterfront. Their granite-columned facades caused Apalachicola to be known as "The City of Granite Fronts." Cotton receipts were over 55,000 bales per year. By 1840, 130,000 bales of cotton annually left this Port. Foreign and coastwise shipments amounted to between $6,000,000.00 and $8,000,000.00 yearly. Corresponding amounts of merchandise were received for transportation into the interior. Apalachicola was the third largest Cotton Port in the United States. The Apalachicola Board of Trade, 1860, in a resounding memorial to Congress, stated: "We are the great depot of the State. We do more business than each and every portion of the State put together. This year we have done $14,000,000.00 worth of business." In that year $13,000.00 was refused for a Water Street lot. Between 1828 and 1928 two hundred and four "Sidewheelers" and "Sternwheelers", Queens of the River, plied this waterway. Long Live The Apalachicola!
On the night of June 28, 1942, there was a massive explosion in the gulf, 25 miles south of Apalachicola. Orange flames could be seen from town. The HMS Empire Mica, carrying a full load of high octane aviation fuel, had been torpedoed by a German submarine. Sea Dream, Willie Fred Randolph's boat, together with R.J. Heyser's Countess were primary boats involved in the rescue of 14 survivors of the Empire Mica tanker sunk by German submarine on June 29, 1942.
The Sea Dream, a local pleasure craft designed and built by Willie Randolph and Allie Camp. She was leased by the government for duty during World War II and was one of the boats dispatched to search for survivors when the British vessel Empire Mica was torpedoed by a German submarine near Cape San Blas at 1a.m. on June 29, 1942.
The Sea Dream assisted the Countess, another local boat, in transporting the 14 survivors to the city dock here in Apalachicola, where the townspeople were waiting. The survivors were loaded into vehicles and taken to the armory, where they were cared for by local doctors and nurses and other members of the community before being transported to the hospital in Panama City. One of the survivors later died from his injuries. The other 32 who were on board lost their lives at sea. Since she was loaded with 11,000 tons of fuel, the Empire Mica burned for more than 8 hours before sinking. Her remains now rest in 115 feet of water, 20 miles south of Cape San Blas. Many locals still remember this event that brought the war so close to home.
Note the palm trees lining Avenues D and E. These are sabal, or cabbage, palms. It’s called the cabbage palm because Native Americans ate the cabbage-like leaf buds as hearts of palm. This is the State Tree of Florida because they are widespread throughout the state. It is one our State Seal and State Flag. The state flag flies in the center of Riverfront Park, as well as the City of Apalachicola Flag. The emblem on our City Flag, adopted in the 1950s, features an anchor, which symbolizes our maritime heritage.
The Grady Building
Originally built in the 1880’s, this brick structure was rebuilt in 1900 after a massive fire that destroyed most of downtown. J. E. Grady & Co. served as ship chandlers and merchants, especially supplying the cargo ships and steamboats moored at the Water Street docks. A 19th century flyer advertised, “Disbursing agents, ship chandlers, and merchants. Importers of Liverpool salt. Agent for Lloyds of London. Quality and prices guaranteed. All goods delivered free on board vessel. Masters of vessels would find it to their interest to call.”
The second floor once housed the offices of the Captain of the Port, U.S. Customs, and The French Consulate. The French Consulate was there to oversee the interests of French citizens who shipped timber and other goods from the port. Several French wine and champagne bottles have been excavated from Apalachicola’s waterfront that date to the territorial era.
According to local legend, when Dr. John Gorrie was working to complete his ice machine, he confided his trials and tribulations in his friend, the famous botanist Dr. Alvin Chapman. The Bastille Day celebration was coming up at the French Consulate, and the ships scheduled to be delivering ice from up North were delayed. Soon there was a citywide wager as to whether or not the champagne at the celebration would be chilled. Dr. Gorrie prevailed, and the champagne was indeed chilled.
Dr. John Gorrie (1803-1855) was an early pioneer in the invention of the artificial manufacture of ice, refrigeration, and air conditioning. He was granted the first U.S. patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851. Dr. Gorrie moved to Apalachicola in 1833 after earning his degree in Fairfield, New York. Motivated by a severe yellow fever epidemic in the summer of 1841, Dr. Gorrie and his predecessors felt the fever was caused by heat, humidity and decaying vegetation. He sought to effect a cure by introducing an element of cold in the form of refrigeration. Dr. Gorrie noted, “Nature would terminate the fevers by the changing of seasons.” In May 1844, he constructed the refrigeration that received the patent. This mechanism produced ice in quantities but leakage and irregular performance impaired its operation. He served as a physician of the Marine Hospital Service, Postmaster, Mayor, and founding vestryman of Trinity Episcopal Church. Dr. Gorrie was honored by the State of Florida with a statue of him placed in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. Visit the John Gorrie State Museum at Gorrie Square to learn more.
During WWII the building housed the Apalachicola Tent and Awning Company. The company had a government contract to sew 3,000 pyramidal canvas tents for the armed forces, and employed many locals, including women. In 1942 the apprehension of German saboteurs in Jacksonville, Florida prompted the War Department to send a letter to the tent company instructing them to make security upgrades. The fear of Germans coming ashore in Apalachicola was very real.
Grady family descendants restored the building in 1985 which is now The Grady Market. The second floor is now luxury vacation suites called The Consulate, referencing the French diplomatic presence. Champagne bottles from the era have been found in Apalachicola.
Only two of the city’s dozens of brick cotton warehouses remain, and they can be seen here at the corner of Water Street and Avenue E. Both are now owned by the City. The one on the left, built in 1838, houses the Center for History, Culture, and Art. It was originally three stories high and was one of 43 brick and granite cotton warehouses built by Irish labor. After the decline of the cotton economy, the structures housed retail businesses on the ground floors. The Herman Ruge and Sons Ship Chandlers and Provision Merchants operated in this building during the lumber era. Designed to be fire proof in construction, most of the warehouses were destroyed in a catastrophic fire in 1900 that burned 71 buildings across six city blocks.
Here you can see the trader’s canoe on display, a 52-foot long vessel discovered in the spring of 2006 in the waters of the Apalachicola River. Dugout canoes represent an ancient Native American technology that was adapted and modified to meet the needs of the Spanish, British, and Americans who occupied Florida. The canoe dates to between 1750-1800.
This shrimp boat of classic design was built by local Greek American Demo George. It was named in honor of the Greek Prime Minister. The former cotton warehouse is now the location of City Hall.
Looking West, one block from waterfront. Built in 1840, this brick building is one of two original sponge warehouses. By 1895, over 100 men made their living in the short-lived but profitable Apalachicola sponge industry. In 1879, Apalachicola had 16 sponge vessels. The larger vessels would put out to sea for four weeks or more and carried several dinghies or small rowboats. The sponges were taken by “hooking.” The hooker sat in the bow and scanned the water for sponges. The oarsman than moved the boat into position, and the hooker used a long pole with a sharp-pronged tool on the end to bring up the sponges. Later, early diving technology was used. Once the larger vessel had a full cargo it returned to port. Local buyers sold several different species to San Francisco, St. Louis, Baltimore, and New York.
13 Mile Seafood Market
This was formerly the site of the 19th century T.W. Bamberger oyster canning factory. 13 Miles Seafood is owned by Buddy Ward and Sons. Four generations of the Ward family have harvested oysters, shrimp, and fish from Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico for over 50 years. The name “13 Mile” comes from the location of their seafood house 13 miles west of town.
Founded by Elgin Wefing in 1901. Wefing’s was originally a Ford Motor Company dealership. Wefing’s was well known as the place for marine supplies for Apalachicola’s growing commercial fishing industry. It was the first Johnson Outboard motor distributor in the Florida Panhandle. In 2004, the business moved to Eastpoint. Mr. Wefing led the local Coast Guard Auxiliary unit that assisted in patrols during World War II. The fleet of vessels included the locally owned Sea Dream, which aided in the rescue of survivors of the Empire Mica. The building now houses retail shops.
Crystal Ice House
Founded in 1923, Serviced the seafood industry – EXACT LOCATION AND PHOTO? OTHER ICE AND POWER PLANT?
Built in 1838 by Thomas Orman, a cotton commission merchant, the wood for this home was cut to measure in New York and shipped to Apalachicola during the early 1800s where it was assembled on the high bluff overlooking the broad estuary and bay of the Apalachicola River. The house features details of both the Federal and Greek Revival styles: wide heart pine floorboards, wooded mantelpieces, and molded plaster cornices. Some of the framework is heavy cypress tree trunks held together with large maritime hawsers and wooden pegs. This antebellum home was used for both business and social gatherings. Orman was a cotton merchant and businessman in Apalachicola from 1840 to the 1870s. He helped the tiny town become one of the Gulf Coast's most important cotton exporting ports during the mid-19th century.
At the time that it was built, the property was separated from the river by only marsh. Change in the river course, and the importation of fill dirt, made the area between the Orman House and the waterfront buildable.
During the Civil War, Mrs. Orman warned of the presence of Union forces in town, who came ashore from time to time from the blockading ships, by placing a barrel, more specifically a nail keg, on her roof. She would also place a couple of boards there to make it look like she was doing roof repairs. Confederate troops on furlough would know to avoid town or risk capture, and merchants would be warned that goods they may be bringing for sale were at risk of being confiscated.
It was said that the house could be seen from 4 miles away in any direction.
The Chapman Botanical Garden is named in honor of Dr. Alvan Chapman, who not only practiced medicine in Apalachicola from 1847 until his death in 1899, but also was a renowned botanist. He described many plant species in the Apalachicola area. His most notable accomplishment was publishing Flora of the Southern United States. Apalachicola is an ideal location for naturalists, as the Florida Panhandle is considered to be one of the five richest biodiversity hotspots in North America.
Three Soldiers Detail
Just off the waterfront is Veterans Memorial Plaza. The centerpiece of the plaza is a detail of the Three Soldiers bronze sculpture at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., made from part of the original molds. It was dedicated in 2008 as an expression of gratitude to the living, fallen, and missing veterans of the Vietnam War and all of our nation's wars.
Raney House – CONDENSE THIS SECTION
Insert history… The Raney family were early settlers of Apalachicola and were part of the cotton trade… etc etc style of house, marker, Historical Society.
Revenues from the cotton trade built several fine mansions, including the Greek-Revival Raney House, completed in 1838 by David Greenway Raney. Raney made his fortune in the cotton trade, and served two terms as mayor.
According to local legend, it was at the Raney House that several women of Apalachicola gathered to sew the regimental flag of the Confederate unit … which had a white silk background with seven starts representing the first seven states to secede from the Union. This flag is now on display at the Museum of Florida History.
David and Harriet Raney had three sons who served in the Confederate forces. One son, David G. Raney, Jr., was a marine officer aboard the C.S.S. Tennessee which was captured by Union naval forces in the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. David was captured but escaped and made his way back to Confederate lines.
During the 1830's, when the cotton port of Apalachicola was rapidly expanding, David G. Raney built a rather plain, Federal style house at this site. Around 1850, a two-story portico and other features of the then popular Greek Revival architectural style were added to that structure. Raney, a native of Virginia, was a prosperous merchant who was prominent in many of the town's civic affairs. His eight children grew up in this home. A son, George Pettus Raney (born in 1845), served in the Confederate Army and then returned to Apalachicola to practice law until his election to the Florida Legislature in 1868. Later, George P. Raney served two Florida governors as Attorney General before becoming first a justice of the Florida Supreme Court and then its Chief Justice, a position he resigned in 1894. He practiced law until his death in 1911. Legend related that ladies of Apalachicola met in the Raney House at the beginning of the Civil War to sew a battle flag for local Confederate troops. Legend also says that Franklin County troops were mustered out of service at the Raney House when the war ended. The Raney House in listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Members of the Raney family lived in the house until 1914. The City of Apalachicola purchased it in 1973 and established the Raney House Museum which exhibits furniture, documents and artifacts of the 19th century.
The Raney House Museum is at 128 Market Street at the corner of Avenue F in historic downtown Apalachicola. The Museum is operated by the Apalachicola Area Historical Society
Scipio Creek Marina
Apalachicola’s largest marina facility. Scipio Creek Marina is a family-owned business --- history? This was formerly the site of a dry dock operation called Franklin Shipyard, where boats were hauled out for maintenance and repair using a marine rail.
Kirvin Oyster House
Dates? 1940s- 1960s
Bay City Packing Company
This seafood business stood on the present site of The Water Street Hotel. It was owned and operated by Joseph Messina in the late 1800s – early 1900s and was one of the first canning plants for seafood. The Pearl brand was named after his daughter. In 1915, the company shipped canned shrimp to Boston and other distant markets. It also harvested caviar from the large schools of sturgeon once came here to spawn upriver each spring.
St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge Office and Visitors Center
The St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge headquarters and visitors center has displays and information about this remote island at the west end of Apalachicola Bay which is only accessible by boat. The island has a rich history spanning thousands of years of Native American usage through the 19th century introduction of exotic game species. The Asian Sambar Deer, weighing as much as 1,000 pounds, still roams the island. The Refuge also conducts a successful breeding program for the endangered Red Wolf on the island. You can sign up for our trip to St. Vincent to experience this remarkable place for yourself.
Scipio Creek Mooring Basin
Locals call this commercial boat basin the “Mill Pond” because this is where logs were rafted in prior to going to the saw mills during the bygone days of the lumber industry.
The large oyster shell mounds you can see here are used for reseeding of oyster beds. Juvenile oysters require a hard substrate to attach to in order to complete the life cycle. Discarded oyster shells can also be used in place of gravel in driveways.
An old rail bed nearby is a remnant of the lumber operation. It is now the site of the River Ramble Trail, part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Just north is Turtle Harbor, where Native American artifacts from 1,000 years ago have been found.
Notice the many shrimp boats docked here. The industry was founded by a Sicilian immigrant sometime around 1900. By the 1920’s, Florida shrimpers had shifted their primary base of operations from Fernandina Beach to Apalachicola.
Cypress Lumber Co
This was one of several lumber companies whose operations at one time spanned almost the entire waterfront from the mouth of the river to Scipio Creek, during the lumber boom from the late 1880s to the 1920s. The boat pictured here was later lost during a hurricane off Cape Roman with eight crew aboard.