Museum of Naval Aviation
History Education Program
Home Front - Section III
Throughout the twentieth century "downtown"
areas of cities across the United States experienced many
changes. Pensacola, like many other towns, was greatly affected
by the technological advancements and urban growth patterns
of the twentieth century. By examining the modified Sanborn
Fire Insurance Maps we are able to see how various developments
affected one city block between the years 1903 and 1938.
This time period encompasses the golden age
of the "downtown" areas and many cities such as
Pensacola enjoyed a large amount of expansion and modernization.
The square block bordered by the streets South Palafox, West
Intendencia, South Baylen and West Romana is a prime example
of how changing technology and the needs of an expanding population
shaped the structure of the downtown landscape.
By examining the two provided maps we are able to gain a better
understanding of how downtown Pensacola evolved architecturally
to fit the needs of a growing and modern city. Through our
utilization of this square block as a microcosm of the entire
city we are able to better our understanding of advancements
made in buildings through the use of brick, steel and cement.
In 1903 we see many wooden buildings with wood flooring and
joists (supports) as well as manual hoists instead of electric
elevators. These elements are based directly on the architecture
and technology of the nineteenth century. When we examine
the 1938 map we discover that many of the early wooden buildings
have been replaced by more modern brick structures with steel
joists and cement flooring. The addition of electric elevators,
steel supports and wired-glass skylights, coupled with cement
and tile floors, are key features of the modernization of
downtowns in the first half of the twentieth century.
The greatest signs of a changing downtown are the addition
of two major elements. First, in 1903 we notice that facing
onto South Palafox are eight small individual stores with
solid walls separating each one. These small stores sell such
goods as shoes, tools, home furnishings, clothing and kitchen
utensils. When we examine the same area on the 1938 map we
see that all eight of these stores are gone and have been
replaced by the department store, Sears, Roebuck and Company
- one store that sells all the items that it took eight to
provide in 1903. The second and most telling sign of technological
advances affecting downtown areas occurred along West Intendencia
and the interior of the block. Notice the buildings with the
large Xs on the tops. Some are marked "Stables"
and one is also marked "Carriage No. 2." All eight
of these X marked buildings are used either as stables for
boarding horses or as storage for their food, harnesses and
other goods needed in the care and maintenance of the animals
(liveries). Next examine the 1938 map and notice that the
structures that were marked "Stables" and "Carriage.
. ." in 1903 are now gone and most of that area is now
marked "Auto Parking."
the button below for maps and directions for this lesson.