Spending an afternoon at the T. T. Wentworth Museum is like sorting through your grandma's attic. The mish-mosh of artifacts represents one man's life-long obsession as well as a look into Florida's past.
Housed in the Spanish Baroque-style former Pensacola City Hall (circa 1908), the museum offers three floors of Florida history exhibits and interactive displays. As part of the State of Florida museum system, the Wentworth features artifacts from ancient Native Americans through the present. The collection takes you through time as well as through the interests and passions of its founder and namesake, Theodore Thomas "Tom" Wentworth, Jr.
Born in Mobile, Alabama in 1898, and growing up on the Pensacola beach, Tom Wentworth was a businessman, local politician and collector of extraordinary capacity. The story goes that after the hurricane of 1906, young Tom found an 1851 gold coin in the sand, which sparked a life-long passion for collecting historical artifacts. In 1914, at the age of sixteen, he opened his own bicycle repair business. It was here he started to assemble his collection and began displaying items in the bicycle shop's windows.
Recognizing the importance of preserving Pensacola history, Tom collected cannons and helped preserve buildings and historical sites around the city. Over the years, Tom’s collection grew and he built his first T. T. Wentworth Museum next door to his house in 1957. By 1983, the collection numbered over 150,000 artifacts and Tom agreed to donate it to the State of Florida on the condition it would be housed in a permanent location. It was the largest historical collection ever donated by a private individual.
In addition to the eclectic, and sometimes wacky Wentworth collection, the museum houses exhibits on archaeology, local shipwrecks, and Pensacola history. Here is a synopsis of what you'll find there.
- Archaeology, How it’s Done
Native American artifacts, artifact conservation, an explanation of underwater archaeology and an exhibit of the 1559 De Luna Expedition, one of the oldest known shipwrecks in America
- Pensacola Under Five Flags
Spanish, British and French rule, the Confederacy and the United States are all represented through photos, weapons and displays of costumes and fortifications.
- T. T. Wentworth Story
How Wentworth amassed his collection, the story of the museum, the people and times
- Civil War in Pensacola
The first shots fired in the Civil War, Fort Pickens, uniforms and local figures like Delity Powell, Civil War nurse
- T. T. Wentworth Collection
Everything from hub caps, model planes, china and a moose head displayed like they were in the original Wentworth Museum represent a small part of the collection.
- Rotating Exhibits
A variety of exhibits created from the museum’s collections or from traveling exhibits are displayed here
- From Hoops to Hips
Changes in women’s fashions through the ages
Until recently, the Third Floor housed a children's discovery area that has now moved to the new Children's Museum on East Zaragoza Street, leaving space for traveling exhibits.
Because of its five centuries of history, Pensacola has come to be known as the City of Five Flags. First settled by the Spanish in 1559 who controlled the city three times, Pensacola has been under the flags of France, Britain, the Confederacy, and the United States.
Just outside the Wentworth Museum are the remains of the British fortification, Fort George. The archaeological site reveals the size of the fort was over 1000 feet wide and faced Pensacola Bay.
The British held Pensacola from 1763 to 1781 until the Spanish, allied with the rebelling American Colonists, attacked the fort. The defeated British were forced to relinquish control of Florida, the last British stronghold on American soil.
The T. T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum is located at 330 South Jefferson Street in downtown Pensacola, (850-595-5990). The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
Other museums nearby:
Pensacola Museum of Art
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