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.

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6 Responses to Thiesen Building: Pensacola’s first “skyscraper”

  1. Betty says:

    What a beautiful building! And a very interesting history. The bike stand seems out of place. Perhaps it could be painted to match the color on the windows and all the trim (red.) Too bad nobody asked me. 😉 Seems like the ground floor would make a good restaurant with all those windows. Side note – There are two typos about the April 1 opening. I only mention as the “held a concern” sentence threw me just for a bit. Thought there was an issue with the flags. Please feel free to edit this part out if you choose to correct it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzassippi says:

      No need to edit your comment; correction keeps us humble. 🙂
      Actually, when I wrote the post, I corrected those two errors after preview, but apparently forgot to “save” before I hit publish. That whole sentence was a bit of a bear for some reason. The blue bike did sort of stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. I think it was part of the street art along South Palafox, which was indeed a lovely street!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love a beautifully proportioned building such as thing. Lovely lines and interesting architectural touches.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. janebye says:

    Funny, I love the blue bike. That’s the kind of thing I notice when I am out taking pix. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzassippi says:

      I noticed it immediately from across the street!. They also had a lot of blue bicycles (or blue-green) in several locations in both Pensacola and St. Augustine. Maybe it is a cultural thing? Riding bikes on the beach, and in the towns, was clearly a big thing. I kind of wished I had rented one for a ride. Cuz has an old-fashioned one, with a basket on the front for when she takes Rosie for a ride. 🙂


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