Serving time aesthetically
On the visual arts side, the Pensacola Museum of Art displays art in jail cells in the Spanish-revival former city jail, and the Quayside Art Gallery, the largest co-op gallery in the Southeast, displays the work of its more than 200 members in a two-story 1873 brick building that was once the headquarters and social center for the Germania Steam Fire Engine and Hose Co.
The former county jail, built in 1911, has also been converted to cultural purposes to house the Pensacola Cultural Center, where the Pensacola Little Theatre presents plays on a stage where prisoners were once held. The Porta Bello restaurant is in the atrium, which formerly served as the prisoners’ exercise yard.
“Seville Quarter is really popular with groups,” said Lee. “There are seven different rooms with different entertainment in an old warehouse from the 1800s. The architecture is amazing. You don’t think of going to a nightclub and looking at the architecture. But people are amazed.
“They even have coffee and beignets for breakfast. You can go any time of the day.”
The lobby, lounges, shops and meeting rooms of the Crowne Plaza Pensacola Grand Hotel were part of the 1912 Louisville & Nashville Railroad passenger depot. Many of the original building’s details were carefully preserved in the renovation into a hotel.
McGuire’s Irish Pub, an early-20th-century New York-style Irish saloon located in a 1927 firehouse, has more than 550,000 one dollar bills hanging from the ceiling and walls, a tradition begun when one of the owners got her first tip, one dollar, more than 30 years ago and tacked it to the back of the bar for good luck. Patrons still sign bills and tack them to the ceiling and walls.
Area’s top attraction
The National Museum of Naval Aviation doesn’t have dollar-bills tacked to the walls, but it does have an impressive collection of more than 150 historic aircraft and thousands of personal memorabilia and artifacts tracing 100 years of naval aviation.
“It is one of the top tourist attractions for groups in our area,” said Coppels. “It reaches out to so many different types of groups.”
Among the historic aircraft are the NC-4 flying boat, the first plane to fly across the Atlantic, and a SBD Dauntless that flew in the Battle of Midway during World War II.
The newest area of the huge museum, which has nearly 350,000 square feet of displays, is Hangar Bay One, which contains post-World War II-era planes, such as the A-7 Corsair II that flew over Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.
The museum also has an Imax theater and the Cubi Bar Cafe, which replicates the bar area of a famous officer’s club in the western Pacific.
And no trip to Pensacola would be complete without at least a few minutes on its beaches. Take off your shoes and walk through the soft sand — actually fine-grained quartz that originated as granite in the Appalachian Mountains millenniums ago — and listen to the squeaking sound that locals call “singing” or “barking.”
Coppels said even groups that do not place a high priority on staying on the beach or spending a lot of time there still want to see it. She said the miles of beach are easy to reach, and there are many shopping and dining opportunities along the oceanfront.