A good way to start the day on Wordless Wednesday

Posted in Mississippi Cats | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Henry Flagler’s Ponce de Leon Hotel

Flagler College, the former Ponce de Leon Hotel

What I would not have given to have stepped off the train in 1887 and checked in to the new luxury Ponce de Leon Hotel…and even more so on the morning of Day 8 of the Great RV Camping Adventure 2021! But Day 8 saw me recuperating from 8 days of camp food in the tiny Aliner, with Rosie and Jaime keeping me company while cuz beach combed the salmon pink sands.

Rosie walks the human

By early afternoon, I was up to a jaunt into the historic city of St. Augustine. We parked on King Street and the first thing visible was the former Ponce de Leon Hotel, built by the Florida railroad magnate, Henry M. Flagler between 1885 and 1887.

In 1968, the hotel building was converted to the Flagler College for Women. It is now coeducational. The building was closed to the public while we were there, but there was enough visible to appreciate the grand architecture of Spanish Renaissance style, and the occasional student or faculty member emerged through the entrance gate.

Posted in Florida, Historic Downtowns, Spanish Renaissance | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Anastasia State Park at St. Augustine

Waiting for coffee

The trip across the panhandle from Pensacola to Tallahassee and beyond was memorable in the way you do not want to remember. All road trips can have moments like that and it is generally best to not dwell on them. While I had never been across the Florida panhandle, I had been through the Texas panhandle many times, and the Oklahoma panhandle a few times. Say “panhandle” (or in Mississippi, “Delta”) and it tells me you better get gas before you start because options may be few and fewer. One who has lived in a city all her life might not be as experienced as the country mouse about traveling rural areas, and we will just leave it at that. We overnighted Saturday at a quiet (not) and quaint (not having a bathroom is not my idea of quaint) park which was apparently celebrating the new year early with a loud band, golf cart races, and considerable drunken revelry. Given that the promised “bathrooms near” were padlocked and no one answered the phone at the gate, there was not much revelry in our “no water-no electricity” site.

There was water…it was just so far from the campsite the hose would not reach. Not to worry, I carried water in a bucket at both of my grandmother’s houses, and it was fine. We ate cheese and drank wine for supper and after cuz came down off the ceiling about the bathrooms being actually over a mile away in the dark, and laughing hilariously at things that were in reality not all that funny, we settled in and slept, vowing to get up at first light. I also vowed that I would love to start singing “it’s such a pretty world today, look at the sunshine” at the top of my lungs, but that would probably not have been in my best interest so we just fed the cat and the dog and found the showers/bathroom–you know the one that was a mile away from our campsite.

From there, it was a short drive to St. Augustine and the Anastasia State Park where cuz has reservations for 5 nights. The camp site was on a base of sand (it is on a peninsula by the Atlantic Ocean after all) and shaded by trees and hanging Spanish Moss. We stopped at the Publix on the way through St. Augustine, got ice, fresh supplies, and life looked a little rosier. Don’t let that rosy glow cloud your vision just yet.

Posted in Country Philosophy, Ecosystem, Florida, RV Camping | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Thiesen Building: Pensacola’s first “skyscraper”


Christen Thiesen, a Danish immigrant to Pensacola, constructed the Thiesen building in 1901 and it opened in 1902. Thiesen and his wife, the former Effie Lee Mitchell of Eufaula, Alabama were reported to travel extensively in the northern cities and witnessed the growth of tall buildings. Architectural firm Morgan & Dillon of Atlanta, and local Pensacola contractors Wills & Broughton designed and built the first high-rise with an elevator and steam heat. When it opened in 1902, Kress leased the first floor.

Based on some of the first high-rise commercial buildings in Chicago, the exterior is buff and stuccoed brick with sand painted terra cotta ornamentation. The squared columns supporting the entablature and dentil course between the first and second floors have a history also. At a special meeting of the city council June 29, 1901, the committee:

…disapproved the request for permit to have ornamental stone columns project upon the sidewalk, but recommended that existing ordinances be amended, reducing the required thickness of walls…

The Pensacola News, p. 5

Thiesen’s daughter, Miss Bernadena Thiesen, laid the first brick in the foundation February 21, 1901. When Thiesen opened the building April 1, 1902, he hoisted the colors of the Danish and American flags and held a concert by Wyer’s Silver Cornet Band on the roof garden. Every April 1st thereafter, Thiesen raised the Danish flag to indicate his continued success.

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and underwent renovation 1993-1996. The ground floor is currently available for lease.

Posted in Florida, Historic Downtowns | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Terrezza: Optical Optics

Do you see what I see?

We were due to depart Fort Pickens Campground Saturday morning, and had been able to arrange an appointment to get the vent fan cover replaced on Friday–a half hour job. We had planned to visit the Pensacola Historic District while we waited. Just as we began the downtown exploration, the RV shop called and said they also had to replace the entire fan unit. We walked a few of the blocks on Palafox street, but frankly, it is hard to take photographs while trying to corral a dog. The sign for Terrezza Optical caught my eye. The building itself is a rather nondescript pink stucco–a victim of an unsympathetic renovation. It is a c. 1890 Masonry Vernacular.

The first newspaper item for 113 South Palafox was August 1890 when L. M. Davis Dry Goods store starting running daily advertisements. After his retirement in 1895, H. S. Freeman opened a furniture store in the location in late fall. The 1900s ushered in a lot of transitions for the building, and it housed several stores, including:

  • A. Di Lustro restaurant, 1905
  • Friedman Dry Goods, 1908
  • Boston Shoes Store, 1912
  • London Woolen Mills, tailor, 1915
  • Gundersheimers’ men and boys clothing, 1922
  • La Mode ladies clothing, 1923
  • Extensive remodeling of the building was carried out in 1927 by La Mode
  • Franklin’s Ready-to-Wear, 1938
  • Beverly’s women fashions, 1946
  • Butler’s Shoe Store, 1950
  • Marilyn’s Shoes, 1958
  • Pensacola Gas Service Appliance Store, 1973

In 1983, Broadley’s (unknown business) debt was secured by Patrica Terrezza. In 1993, Dr. Gene Terrezza opened his optometry business in the building and now owns stores in other nearby Florida locations.

I find the “space-age” metalwork anchoring the name to the side of the building interesting–rather similar to Spiderman’s web-shooter. Alas, no descriptions of the significance of the sign design turned up.

Posted in Florida, Historic Downtowns, Ironwork, Modernism | Tagged | 5 Comments

Pensacola Historic District: Saenger Theatre

Do you have a Saenger Theatre in your town? Julian and Abel Saenger of New Orleans founded the business with their first theatre in Sheveport in 1911. New Orleans architect Emile Weil designed several of them including the one on South Palafox street in Pensacola.

It opened in 1925 with 2,250 seats offering “perfect vision afforded from any part of house” (Pensacola News Journal, March 29, 1925, p. 18). The Spanish Baroque architecture was constructed by builder C. H. Turner with tile work by Southern Mosaic Tile Company from Atlanta. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and restored and reopened in 1981.

The new Saenger Theatre has been built in a spacious mood… Lights take on histrionic abilities…the Saenger lights are brilliant actors.

The lighting was described as “the great flash of splendor flooding the theatre’s front” and “gorgeous chandeliers of bronze, art glass, crystal and prism” casting a soft glow over the auditorium. The seats were upholstered in gray leather, aisles covered with velvet, green and gold draperies, with ornamental plaster on walls and ceilings.

The buildings on either side of the 1925 theatre are c. 1880 and c. 1881 Masonry Vernacular according to Cynthia Catellier and Desiree Estabrook (2016 NHRP nomination for the historic district.

Posted in Florida, Historic Downtowns, Spanish Baroque, Theatres | Tagged , | 2 Comments

My magnificent introduction to the Gulf Breeze Dollar Tree

Three perfect little microfiber soft sponges for only $1

I have had my first glass of Betty’s KoolAid. I fell prey to the romance of the Dollar Tree store. On our way to Gander RV in Gulf Breeze, we stopped to pick up some duct tape and foam board to enact an interior temporary repair of the big ole hole in the ceiling from loss of the exterior vent fan cover. I had taken over the dish washing chores for our galley crew and I needed a sponge and rubber gloves. I have always used the Scotch Brite scrub sponge with the cellulose sponge and green scrubber back. I found this little pack of 3 sponges for a dollar and said “that’ll do.” Little did I know these babies were going to turn out to be my new BFF.

Easy to rinse, perfect for the melamine plates she uses in the camper, and no scratches on the acrylic wine glasses, but would also tackle the residue of camp cooking skillets. The Brillo rubber gloves were also a dollar a pair, but more substantial and protective than the typical rubber gloves I use. The heavier material (thicker, and a bit stiffer) also did not fold over at the cuff and get in my way like the others can sometimes do. Both are now in my new kitchen.

Since a post about 33 1/3 cent sponges does not exactly scream “Florida!” I’ll toss in a moon shot over Fort Pickens for dessert.

Posted in Florida, RV Camping | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Fort Pickens Campground and Langdon Beach

Jaime: Is it time for supper yet?

Cuz camps with her dog and cat, which to say the least is interesting in a small camper. However, Jaime is a lovely cat and he took to sleeping with me. He is insistent when it is time to be fed, and cuz is not an early riser. He is like a little miniature lion, and he talks. (Really; you just can’t make this stuff up!) He says hi, hello, no, and by the end of the week, I had taught him to add “I luh you” (Honestly, you can understand him; he can mimic sounds that are vowel like, though I never got him to try any consonants, especially those with the hard sounds.)

Somebody got to feed me now!

If not, he tries to get on your head, and swipes at your face with his paws. Could the lion be toying with his food? I have to admit, I got very attached to him in those two weeks and he slept with me every night.

Langdon Beach was like someone had dumped out the world’s largest salt shaker, and most of the time, the sky was clear blue. Water would shift from an aqua green to blue, and the oranges and pinks of the sun set rivaled those in Texas. Although we planned a sunset on the beach, we never seemed to manage getting back in time, what with the sunset occurring prior to 5 pm, we were always too far away from camp that time of day.

Posted in Ecosystem, Florida, National Park Service, RV Camping | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Road Tripping: What do 2 people in a 13 foot A-liner have in common?

New Orleans to Pensacola: Pit stop 1

Two weeks ago on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, my city cousin called and invited me to accompany her on a jaunt over to Pensacola Beach…a mere 3 hour drive from New Orleans across Mississippi and Alabama to camp. Being the sensible person that I am and in the midst of still a lot of work on the house, I declined. [Enter Rando: Go if you want to. What are you going to do that will not be here when you get back?]. I believe he came to regret that encouragement, but I loaded and booked it to New Orleans Monday afternoon for the Tuesday morning departure.

She has had her A-liner pop-up for a bit over a year now and this would be her first long trip. She had booked in the Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine after the Pensacola stay. I tent camped twice in my life before, and I did not like it one bit. Let’s just say rain and mud was involved both times. But a roof and bed and the open road seemed like a good idea at the time.

Langdon Beach at Fort Pickens Campground

I had to admit that the beach was far more enticing than camping on the banks of the South Concho River at Christoval in Tom Green County, Texas.

Set-up was reasonably uneventful and in no time, we were unloaded and popping up the pop-up and plugging in and hooking up water for the tiny kitchen sink–the only “convenience” in the camper. But, of course, we had also met all the neighbors and discovered the fan vent cover had broken and blown off somewhere between New Orleans and pit stop 1. Said neighbors secured duct tape and we found a heavy duty plastic bag and taped over the now open vent, because of course, rain was predicted.

Betty, I cannot wait to tell you about our shopping trip the following day as we went to Gander RV in Gulf Breeze–it will warm the cockles of your heart.

Posted in Ecosystem, Florida, National Park Service, RV Camping | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Welcome to my kitchen: The menu for today is…

How many in your party? Sorry, there are only two seats at the counter.

With the exception of locating a small table for the dining space, I have pronounced the kitchen complete…well, almost. I am still deciding if I want a couple of shelves over the counter. One of my favorite things is being able to sit at the counter and eat. And, we actually had coffee at the counter this week in reviewing floor plans with the contractor. He is not the one who did the kitchen, so it was a fun encounter to discuss the new features, and he was interested in learning about the art work I have featured over the counter and on top of the glass cabinets.

I have been working on finishing up organizing the linen/special dish pantry. Marie Kondo would be pleased–I am becoming an expert at rolling and spacing, and being able to see at a glance what is where. However, J did request labels on the pantry doors so he knows where things are without having to look in all of them. I showed him yesterday my new “system” and assured him it will become crystal clear shortly–without labels on the doors.

This is my happy place, for which I have abundant gratitude.

Posted in Kitchen Remodel, Mississippi | 29 Comments