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National Museum of Naval Aviation
History Education Program

Home Front - Section III

Map Analysis

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 When we examine the 1938 map we discover that many of the early wooden buildings have been replaced by more modern brick structures with steel joists and cement flooring.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 When we examine the same area on the 1938 map we see that all eight of these stores are gone and have been replaced by the department store, Sears, Roebuck and Company - one store that sells all the items that it took eight to provide in 1903.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."

[click] the button below for maps and directions for this lesson.




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National Museum Of Naval Aviation

1750 Radford Blvd. Pensacola, FL 32508
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