Panel explores Pensacola, Florida's 450-year history as a succession of physical, social, and cultural frontiers for native, European, and American communities struggling to exploit the land, sea, airspace, and peoples of the northern Gulf of Mexico.
For the past 450 years, Pensacola, Florida, has served as a physical, social, and cultural frontier for successive waves of native, European, and American communities seeking to exploit the northern Gulf of Mexico. The region's natural environment and strategic location made it a vital pawn for imperial powers during the first two hundred years of colonization and settlement. While nineteenth-century political and economic changes radically remade Pensacola's cultural landscape, the burgeoning port remained a frontier on the edge of an expanding nation. Civil War turned Pensacola into a military frontier, as northern forces held the port's key coastal fortification in the heart of the Confederacy. Pensacola became a different type of military in the twentieth-century as the "birthplace" of modern American naval aviation. More recently, innovative work in community education and engagement in coastal heritage has remade Pensacola into a frontier for emerging trends in historic preservation, public history and archaeology, and community outreach. This panel brings together scholars working in multiple disciplines—archaeology, history, and historic preservation—to explore the evolving frontier character of one specific region over the course of 450 years. Papers examine visible and invisible frontiers through case studies that address Pensacola communities and environments from local, regional, national, and global perspectives.