Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
A Brief Guide to Florida Monuments and Memorials (University Press of Florida, copyright 2008) is both a guide book and a Florida history lesson. In its 288 pages, award winning travel writer Roberta Sandler takes us on a treasure hunt of monumental trivia from the Northwest Florida gulf coast to the Florida Keys, and offers a glimpse into the people and events that have shaped Florida for over 450 years.
Arranged geographically north to south, the book features 82 monuments and memorials, 13 of them in Northwest Florida which also encompasses the greatest concentration of markers in any of the seven geographic regions. The monuments include statues, stone markers and obelisks from pre-Victorian times to today that tell the stories of Civil War soldiers, entrepreneurs, statesmen, and inventors along with their unique contributions to our society.
Monuments Tell Florida History
Sandler digs deep into Florida history and includes anecdotes that enhance each tale. She begins the journey in Pensacola with the story of Mariana Pingrow Bonifay, an 18th century French-born pioneer and entrepreneur. The monument (located in the center of Garden Street, about one block west of St, Michael’s Cemetery) honors this fiercely independent woman who was instrumental in the early development of Pensacola.
The winding road from Pensacola to Carrabelle passes through Crestview, DeFuniak Springs, Apalachicola, and Tallahassee. Along the way we are introduced to such characters as T. T. Wentworth, Jr., a man whose passion for collecting things led to preserving the historical treasures of Pensacola, and Dr. John Gorrie, the man who invented air conditioning. There’s also William Allen “Uncle Bill” Lundy, Florida’s last Confederate veteran who died September 1, 1957, and Edward Ball, a forward thinking businessman of the 1930s who believed in preservation of the land and waterways.
Veteran's Memorials Not Included
Concentrating on the major and unique, Sandler doesn’t include the many Veterans’ memorials across the state, nor does she include the hundreds of roadside historical markers, but she does include the 1838 Constitution Convention State Memorial in Port St. Joe that marks the spot where fifty-six territorial delegates drafted Florida’s first constitution.
Two monuments not covered in Sandler’s book, but probably should be, are the Possum Monument in Wausau, a tribute to the elusive Southern marsupial, and a new monument to the region, the Three Servicemen South Statue in Veterans Memorial Plaza, Apalachicola, part of The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington D.C. However, the monuments and memorials that are included offer a look into what we value as a society.
Must-Have Florida Travel Guide
As a Florida travel guide, A Brief Guide to Florida Monuments and Memorials is easy to follow and full of useful information. It offers readers and travelers an ‘off the beaten path’ travel experience that leads to intriguing sites and hidden gems most folks pass by and never see. Clearly indexed and with an extensive bibliography, the guide includes nearly 100 black and white Florida photos and addresses and contact information for each of these public monuments.
The only negative is the size and shape of the guide book makes it awkward to hold. Paperback and perfect bound, A Brief Guide to Florida Monuments and Memorials is 5 inches by 10 inches (narrow and tall) and is hard to hold open without breaking the binding. But, you have to break the egg to get to the breakfast inside, so the book is well worth it and a must-have for every Florida traveler.
By Roberta Sandler
University Press of Florida, 2008, $21.95
This book is available in bookstores and through online book sellers. Click on the link above to order from Amazon.com.