Apalachicola offers history, beaches and all the oysters you can eat

If you love Florida history, you must visit Apalachicola. Every place in Florida is rich in history, but in Apalach (as its residents affectionately call it) the past doesn’t have to be imagined; it is visible.

Located at the mouth of the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay in the Gulf of Mexico about seventy-five miles southwest of Tallahassee in the Panhandle of Florida, Apalach has a phenomenal number of nine hundred homes, commercial buildings and sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In fact, in 2008, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Apalachicola one of dozens of distinctive destinations in the United States.

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Apalachicola was laid out in the old Spanish colonial design, which featured a large central plaza or park, surrounded by five smaller squares / parks, with blocks and streets laid out on a grid between them. These six squares today, each with its own history, make up the historic district and are central to the city squares walking tour.

Another of the city’s self-guided tours is the History Walking Tour, which features no less than thirty-seven nationally listed historic sites and buildings. The oldest is a former cotton warehouse built in 1837; it is now used as a town hall. The youngest building on this tour is the Post Office, built as a customs office in 1923. The structures built in 86 years between 1837 and 1923 reflect the entire history of Apalachicola.

The town began as a trading post called Cottonton, established during the time of the British occupation, when it was in the English colony of West Florida. (The Apalachicola River is the historic dividing line between the former British colonies of West Florida and East Florida.)

Apalachicola began as a trading post called Cottonton, established during the time of the British occupation, while in the English colony of West Florida.

In 1827, after Florida became US territory, the growing colony was incorporated as the town of West Point. The Territorial Legislature renamed it “Apalachicola” in 1831, and the following year made the city the seat of the new Franklin County.

Whatever its name, cotton remained its activity until after the civil war. After Mobile in Alabama and New Orleans in Louisiana, Apalachicola was the largest cotton port in the United States. By 1837, the river was solidly lined with three-story cotton warehouses of brick and granite.

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Some of Apalach’s old abandoned buildings look like something from William Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, a comparison that isn’t all that strange when you realize that the enclave adjoins the state borders of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. In fact, the 19th-century Apalachicola identified so completely with these cotton-growing states of the Deep South that its citizens strongly supported Alabama’s annexation. Between 1811 (when Florida was still part of Spain!) And 1901, eleven attempts were made to cede West Florida to Alabama, and although it appears that the majority of West Floridians were in favor of the proposal, the deal was never successful.

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After the Civil War (during which the port was occupied by Union troops), in the late 1880s, Greek immigrants introduced the sponge trade to the region. After the turn of the 20th century, the economy flourished with the rise of the lumber industry. And, of course, ever since the indigenous peoples of the region enjoy sipping oysters on the half-shell, commercial fishing, and in particular oysters, has played a vital role in Apalachicola’s economy.

Until recently, Apalachicola Bay was the source of 90% of Florida oysters; it was known as the oyster capital of the world. Apalachicola is still called an oyster city. At its waterfront restaurants, you can stock up on fresh oysters, but the oysters likely come from Texas, Louisiana, or the oyster farms on the bay.

According to the detailed 2018 Shell Game report, published by the Tampa Bay Times, “In 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared a disaster for fishing in the bay, and it has been declining since.

“For almost 30 years, a legal battle has raged over the use of water. In 2013, Florida sued Georgia in the United States Supreme Court. Florida said Georgia is using too much water, leaving too little for Florida. Florida continues to argue that this made Apalachicola Bay increasingly salty, allowing predators to camp in the Estuary Buffet. Whether the court is on the Florida or Georgia side, any decision will likely lead to more litigation. ”

The disastrous effects on oyster beds and oyster farmers of the 1985 and 2005 hurricanes, the BP oil spill in 2010, the pollution of the bay by the oyster farmers themselves, as well as, of course, decades of overfishing, have also played a role in the disaster.

After the Civil War (during which the port was occupied by Union troops) in the late 1880s Greek immigrants introduced the sponge trade to Apalachicola.

You won’t see as many oyster boats or shrimp boats along Apalachicola’s docks as you once did, but the town is still spellbinding for history buffs and photographers. Many of its former warehouses, businesses, and homes are now art and photography galleries, restaurants, and shops, and a few historic Victorian and Edwardian houses are guesthouses, but many older Apalachicola’s buildings stand as time has left them – each the very image of a cover for a Faulkner novel.

For things to see and do, and places to stay and dine, visit www.apalachicolabay.org. A visit to Apalach is definitely a night of two.

Cynthia A. Williams ([email protected])

About Margaret L. Portillo

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