A small crowd gathered at Chimney Park on Scenic Highway, in Pensacola, Friday morning as the historic chimney from a 19th century sawmill was entered into the National Registry of Historic Places. Pensacola City Councilman Andy Terhaar addressed the crowd and read a proclamation from the Mayor honoring the designation.
In March of 1862, Confederate Soldiers under the command of General Braxton Bragg looted and burned the Hyer-Knowles Planing Mill as they retreated from Pensacola. The only thing left standing after the rebels fled was the chimney, and it remains standing today. Now the chimney's future is being assured for future generations. Councilman Terhaar remembered that the site "used to be kind of downtrodden" and praised the work of the Scenic Highway Foundation for the work they have done in restoring the site.
The Scenic Highway Foundation is a non-profit, volunteer group that was incorporated in 1996 whose mission statement is to promote, protect, preserve, maintain and enhance Pensacola Scenic Bluffs Highway. They have been instrumental in getting the chimney on the national registry. Mary Gutierrez is an off-board member of the foundation and did most of the leg work is getting the site designated. She said it took more time than expected because the state of Florida usually gets requests for the historic designation of houses and more traditional site. She found out that getting an historic relic like the chimney designated took a lot of back and forth with the state, long before they had to deal with the federal agencies.
During the ceremony, Karen Thompson, the president of the Scenic Highway Foundation read a poem written about the site called simply "The Chimney". It was written by a local poet named E Jonathon Gillette.
Several other officials spoke at the ceremony including Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson, who pointed out that Chimney Park represents both the industrial and natural history of North Florida.
Plans for the completed park were on display at the ceremony. Some of the work is already underway. The Boy Scouts have recently constructed a kiosk next to the chimney where a history of the site will be posted. The restoration of an old foot bridge and the removal of invasive species so only native plants will be on site are also in the planning stages. The foundation is looking for grants or other funding to help jump start that work.