When the Florida Territory was annexed to the United States, it welded together the Spanish colony of East Florida and the British colony of West Florida, an unwieldy political union. The first session of the new Florida Legislative Council met on July 22, 1822 in the old British colonial capital of Pensacola. It took the lawmakers from the one-time Spanish capital of St. Augustine 59 days to get to the meeting. For the second session held in St. Augustine the western legislators managed to make the journey around the peninsula in 28 days. Clearly this was not going to continue.
At that second session it was agreed to site a new territorial capital somewhere in the middle of the two towns and the spot chosen was an abandoned Apalachee Indian settlement called Tallahassee, roughly translated as “old fields.” In 1824 the third session convened in a crude log building here. But the arrangement was agreeable and a town materialized in the Florida wilderness. America’s foremost man of letters, Ralph Waldo Emerson, paid a visit in 1827 and reported, “Tallahassee, a grotesque place, selected three years since as a suitable spot for the capital of the territory, and since that day rapidly settled by public officers, land speculators and desperados...”
Tallahassee developed into a center of the cotton trade and in 1834 Florida’s first railroad, the Tallahassee-St. Marks, was constructed to bring cotton to the Gulf of Mexico coast, 30 miles to the south. The first trains moving down the tracks were pulled by mules. By 1845, when Florida officially entered the Union a Greek Revival capitol building was ready. Tallahassee would be the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi not to be captured during the Civil War but the post-war years brought a greatly reduced role for the town as cotton center. By the end of the 19th century Tallahassee had settled into a role as a government and education center with two schools, the Florida State College for Women and the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes, operating near the Capitol.
For the first half of the 20th century Tallahassee remained a small southern town where most everyone lived within walking distance of the Capitol and decisions were made on spending projects hundreds of miles away in the exploding cities along the coasts. There was even a movement in the 1960s to move the state capital down the peninsula to the newly bulging population centers. Instead lawmakers opted to stay put and spend some of the state’s tax dollars on the capital city. The 1960 population of 89,000 has since doubled to over 180,000.
The first order of business to pump up Tallahassee in the 1960s was to erect a new capitol building and that is where we will start our walking tour, to see what that original log cabin from 1824 has wrought...
Old Florida State Capitol
400 South Monroe Street
The fits territorial state capitols were log structures, the last of which was torn down in 1839 for construction to begin on this brick building that was completed in 1845, months before Florida entered the Union as the 27th state. The building seen here harkens back to a 1902 Italian Renaissance makeover by South Carolina architect Frank Milburn, who added the lavish 136-foot high copper and glass dome. In 1923 Jacksonville designer added two wings and dressed the interior in marble. The large wings to the north and south ends, used as House and Senate chambers, came along in 1936 and 1947. The building is open to the public with some restored rooms and a museum on Florida political history.
STANDING ON MONROE STREET, FACING TH EOLD CAPITOL, WALK TO THE LEFT AROUND TO THE BACK OF THE BUILDING.
Florida State Capitol
Apalachee Parkway and Monroe Street
After periodic additions to the 1845 State Capitol building by 1969 it was determined that a new building was needed to house the government of America’s fastest growing state. Plans submitted by New York architect Edward Durell Stone calling for a 22-story, 331-foot tower, America’s fourth state to utilize a tower treatment for its capitol, were approved and construction completed in 1977. Stone’s design was deemed “new Classicism” as it blended with the existing capitol that was retained and rehabilitated. The price tag was $22 million with another $2 million used to landscape the plaza. Two domed legislative offices on the wings complete the complex.
ACROSS THE STREET IS...
Supreme Court Building
500 South Duval Street
The Florida Supreme Court moved out of the Capitol Building in 1912 and into the Neoclassical digs in 1948. Architects James Gamble Rogers II of Winter Park and Yong & Hart of Pensacola provided the Greek Revival design fronted by a Doric portico and capped by a classical dome. The building was raised with cast concrete walls and is generously appointed with marble on the interior.
FACING THE SUPREME COURT BUILDING TURN RIGHT ON DUVAL STREET. TURN RIGHT ON PENSACOLA STREET AND FOLLOW IT AS IT BENDS TO ITS CONCLUSION AT THE INTERSECTION OF ADAMS AND JEFFERSON STREET.S
300 South Adams Street
Punctuating a short block of older structures, the Tallahasse City Hall opened in 1983. The award-winning design was provided by Mack Scogin, Chief Designer for the Atlanta architectural firm of Heery & Heery.
225 South Adams Street at Jefferson Street
Scottish-born merchant Alexander Gallie migrated from Virginia to Tallahassee in the 1850s. By 1873 he was prosperous enough to construct this two-story brick building for his grocery store. The second floor he converted into a performance space that remained the town’s only “opera house” until a new theater was constructed in 1910 and it closed. After many years standing as a windowless hulk the building was completely rehabilitated in 1981, including bringing back the two-story iron galley.
WALK UP ADAMS STREET.
The Governors Club
202 1/2 South Adams Street
The core of this building was built in 1926 as the home of Leon Lodge #5, a fraternal organization of the International Order of Odd Fellows that traces its origins back to 1848. That building was two stories, with the ground floor used for retail shops. In the 1980s the property was purchased by the invitation-only Governors Club, chartered in 1982. A third floor was added and the retail space converted to a grille and the whole affair was fronted by a covered balcony for additional dining space.
TURN RIGHT ON ADAMS STREET AND WALK TO THE NEXT INTERSECTION AT MONROE STREET.
200 South Monroe Street at College Street
Matthew Lively constructed this building in 1875. In the 1890s it was the location of Leon’s Bar, which catered to a rough crowd, the kind of clientele that led the City of Tallahassee to outlaw the sale of alcohol in 1904. Not all of Leon’s regulars seem to have dispersed however, some are said to haunt their old watering hole still.
ACROSS THE STREET ON THE SOUTHEAST CORNER IS...
201 South Monroe Street at College Street
Esteemed Atlanta architect William Augustus Edwards, who kept busy creating buildings for the University of Florida and Florida State University, designed this low-rise brick office building in 1927 with classical detailing. The original tenants were the Exchange Bank and the Midyette-Moor Insurance Company.
TURN RIGHT ON MONROE STREET.
Tin Front Store
214 South Monroe Street
Look up above the modern storefront to see a remnant of 19th century Tallahassee when commercial buildings often were covered with pressed metal ornamentation, a quick and inexpensive technique to add styling to a vernacular structure.
TURN AND WALK NORTH ON MONROE STREET, CROSS COLLEGE STREET AND CONTINUE TO PARK AVENUE. TURN LEFT AND FOLLOW THE PATH UNDER A CANOPY OF LIVE OAKS THROUGH THE PARK IN THE MEDIAN. ON YOUR RIGHT IS...
United States Courthouse
110 East Park Avenue
Before Tallahassee was the state capitol of Florida it was the county seat of Leon County. A county courthouse was located here between 1838 and 1879. After that the Leon Hotel set up shop in 1883 and remained until the building burned in 1925. This combination Federal courthouse and post office was constructed in 1936 with $318,000 in funds from the Works Progress Administration, one of 72 such buildings constructed to provide jobs during the Depression. New York architect Eric Kebbon, noted for his work on more than 100 public schools, designed the limestone structure with a blend of Beaux Arts and Neoclassical styles. Inside are a set of eight murals depicting Florida history painted by Hungarian-born Edward Ulreich who won a competition for the commission. The post office moved out in the 1970s but the building is still court space.
First Presbyterian Church
102 North Adams Street at Park Avenue
Constructed between 1835 and 1838, this is the oldest building in Florida still being used for its original purpose. At least the religious purpose; the Greek Revival church was also a place of refuge from Seminole attacks and rifle slots were built into the foundation. They have been covered up on the outside. The Presbyterians organized on November 4, 1832.
Trinity United Methodist Church
120 West Park Avenue
Ministered to by circuit-riding preachers lays claim to being the oldest religious organization in Tallahassee, a mission started on the fourth Saturday of September in 1824. The current sanctuary, with a semi-circular Doric portico, was constructed in 1964.
100 North Duval Street at Park Avenue
This Greek Revival structure is the oldest building in downtown Tallahassee, constructed by William “Money” Williams as both the office for his newly chartered Bank of Florida and a home for his family. With ten kids he had to build it big. Your eye will be drawn to the quartet of massive white columns fronting a two-story portico but look past to the unusual brickwork. The bricks are laid with five courses of stretchers and an entire course of headers. The windows are also graced with brick keystones. Despite its pedigree, The Columns had a date with the wrecking ball when it was rescued by the Chamber of Commerce and moved off Park Avenue to this location. The Chamber stayed in the restored mansion for 40 years before moving on.
St. James Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
104 North Bronough Street at Park Avenue
Although no longer in use by the congregation this is the oldest African American church still standing in Tallahassee. The black members of the Methodist Episcopal Church purchased the property in 1853 but did not receive clear title until 1868 when they organized formally as the St. James Colored (now Christian) Methodist Episcopal. This was the third building for the congregation, erected in 1899 and remodeled in 1948 to its present-day Gothic Revival configuration.
TURN RIGHT ON MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. BOULEVARD AND CROSS THE STREET TO THE CEMETERY.
Old City Cemetery
Martin Luther King Boulevard between Call Street and Park Avenue
This is the oldest public cemetery in Tallahassee. When it was established by the Territorial Legislative Council in 1829 the burial ground was located outside the town, beyond a wide cleared area that was designed to discourage Indian raids. All of Tallahassee’s earliest residents ended up here, although the cemetery was segregated by race and religion. Most of the early graves were marked by simple wood headboards that have disintegrated over time; the earliest marked grave belongs to Daniel Lynes, whose marble tablestone is assumed to have been shipped down from New York.
WHEN YOU ARE FINISHED EXPLORING THE OLD CITY CEMETERY, CONTINUE ON MARTIN LUTHER KING BOULEVARD TO CALL STREET.
St. John’s Episcopal Cemetery
northwest corner of Call Street at Martin Luther King Boulevard
This is another territorial-era cemetery, established as a separate burying ground for members of the St. John’s Episcopal Church in 1840. Those members included governors and political bigwigs and Prince Achille Murat, the eldest son of the King of Naples during the First French Empire. Murat was related to Napoleon by blood, George Washington by marriage and a friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He settled in eastern Florida in 1823 when he was 22 years old on a 2,800-acre plantation in St. Augustine and two years later bought a chuck of central Florida east of Tallahassee that he called Lipona Plantation. The prince served as a territorial mayor of Tallahassee and was the frontier town’s postmaster for over ten years. He died in 1846 and his wife Catherine, a great grandniece of Washington, followed him to the cemetery in 1867.
TURN RIGHT ON CALL STREET AND WALK THREE BLOCKS TO SEE THE CHURCH THAT GOES WITH THE CEMETERY.
St. John’s Episcopal Church
211 N. Monroe Street at Call Street
St. John’s is the mother church of the Diocese of Florida, founded as a mission parish in 1829. This Gothic-style brick church was consecrated in 1888 after the original meetinghouse that had stood for 42 years burned in 1879. The church, Carter Chapel, the parish hall and administrative and educational buildings surround a tranquil inner courtyard known as Eve Henry’s Garden which provides a quiet respite from a busy Tallahassee day.
CONTINUE ON CALL STREET INTO THE RESIDENTIAL PARK AVENUE HISTORIC DISTRICT. TURN RIGHT ON GADSDEN STREET.
118 North Gadsden Street
George Perkins, descended from one of the town’s earliest settlers and merchants, built this house in 1903 and re-did it in 1926. It displays elements of the Colonial Revival movement higher up (small Palladian window in the gable, balustrade above the porch) and traces of the midwestern Prairie style (expansive porch on beefy pillars). Perkins was a lawyer and land developer, the land on which the Capital City Country Club was built in the southeastern part of the city was his.
LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts
125 North Gadsden Street
LeMoyne was founded in 1963 with the goal of creating a fine art gallery and venue for art education activities for the citizens of North Florida. The organization settled into this location and restored an antebellum house from 1854 for exhibition space and offices. The complex now includes a Victorian home from 1904 and a sculpture garden.
AT PARK AVENUE TURN RIGHT AND WALK UP INTO LEWIS PARK.
Tallahassee May Oak Stump
Lewis Park, Park Avenue at Gadsden Street
The Tallahassee May Day Festival, one of the oldest annual celebrations in Florida, was held under the May Oak, one of the city’s stateliest trees, from 1844 to 1974. The festivities included a May Pole dance for young women and concerts. In 1974 the event was expanded to a larger Springtime Tallahassee festival and moved. Unable to stand after all that partying, the great tree collapsed on August 9, 1986.
CONTINUE WALKING THROUGH LEWIS PARK ALONG PARK AVENUE.
317 East Park Avenue
This Gothic-flavored house was constructed in 1838 by George Proctor, described as “a free man of color, a master carpenter and builder.” Proctor built several of Tallahassee’s most important early houses.. Proctor eventually purchased and married a slave woman named Nancy who bore him eight children. Proctor left Tallahassee in 1849 to go to California and chase gold. He never returned to Tallahassee and in his absence his family was sold back into slavery.
311 East Park Avenue
Ohioan Harry O. Wood constructed this picturesque Colonial Revival house in 1904 as a winter retreat. The symmetrical massing is highlighted by fanciful window treatments and a splendidly detailed porch. From 1924 to 1946 the house served a manse for the First Presbyterian Church.
301 East Park Avenue
The Knotts were the last of many prominent families that lived here, including three Florida Supreme Court justices. The house was constructed in 1843 by attorney Thomas Hagner and was about half its current size. The house served as temporary Union Headquarters in 1865, where Brigadier General Edward McCook announced the Emancipation Proclamation. Its most interesting resident may have been Dr. George Betton in the 1880s. Betton helped his carriage driver, William Gunn, become Florida’s first African-American doctor. William Knott, a state treasure, purchased the house in 1928 and added the classical Doric portico rising to a broad pediment enclosing a fanlight. The last Knott family member died in 1985, leaving the house in thehands of the Historic Tallahassee Preservation Board. It was restored to its 1928 appearance and opened to the public in 1992.
209 East Park Avenue
David S. Walker was a Kentuckian who moved to Florida in 1837 at the age of 22 to begin a career in law. He entered politics in 1845, winning election as a state senator to the first session of the Florida State Legislature. He would go on to serve as Mayor of Tallahassee, as a Florida Supreme Court Justice and after the Civil War, as the eight governor of the state, appointed by President Andrew Johnson to guide Florida through military occupation during the Reconstruction era. Walker was a strong advocate of education, founding public schools in Tallahassee and the town’s first library in 1884. he died in 1891 and this Renaissance Revival library constructed in 1903 was named in his honor. It remained Tallahassee’s library until 1976.
WALK BACK A FEW STEPS TO CALHOUN STREET AND TURN RIGHT. CALHOUN STREET WAS KNOWN AS “GOLD DUST STREET” DURING THE TOWN’S FIRST BOOM PERIOD IN THE 1880S. ACROSS TENNESSEE STREET (IN THE OTHER DIRECTION) MANY DISTINCTIVE HOUSES REMAIN. CONTINUE TO APALACHEE PARKWAY. ACROSS THE STREET IS...
Union Bank Building
219 Apalachee Parkway at Calhoun Street
The Union Bank of Tallahassee took its first deposits around 1830 and this building was erected in 1841. It stands today not only as Florida’s oldest surviving bank building but as one of the very few Federal-style structures to be found anywhere in the state. Chartered to help finance local cotton plantations, it ultimately closed in 1843 due to the Seminole Wars, unsound banking practices, and the Panic of 1837. After the Civil War, the bank reopened as the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company for emancipated slaves but it has spent most of its life in a variety of roles including church, feed store, art house, coffee house, dance studio, locksmith’s shop, beauty shop, and shoe factory. The building was moved here from the center of the business district in 1971 and has operated as a museum since 1984.
TURN RIGHT ON APALACHEE PARKWAY AND WALK ONE-HALF BLOCK BACK TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT AT THE CAPITOL COMPLEX.