January 6th marked the 150th anniversary of the capture of the facility by the Colonel William Gunn and the Quincy Young Guards. It was the first military encounter of the Civil War in Florida and was done under the direct orders of Governor Madison S. Perry. Because of this distinction, the arsenal holds a unique place in the history of both Florida and the nation. Please click here to read a detailed account of the seizure.
Although some key portions of the original complex still survive, large portions of the main arsenal compound were demolished years ago. This has led to some misunderstanding over the years as to the nature of the 19th century facility.
|Armory Building and Tower|
When completed, the facility consisted of an array of buildings arranged around the outsides of a compound that covered four square acres. These structures were connected by a wall that stood 9 feet high and measured 30 inches thick. There were gates on the east and west sides of the quadrangle.
On the south side and occupying much of the south wall stood the main armory building, which was fronted by an octagonal tower that one impressed 19th century writer said reached to a "dizzying height." It was likely the tallest building in Florida in the antebellum era.
The west wall connected a series of buildings, the most impressive of which was the Officer's Quarters which still survives. A beautiful structure surrounded by wide verandas that continued both inside and outside of the wall, it had been designed to provide luxurious accommodations for the commanding officer and his family.
|Modern Building built over Arsenal Structure|
At the time of its seizure by the Young Guards, this main complex was considered by most people to be the "arsenal." The structures included, in addition to the armory, tower, officer's quarters and guard room, a barracks for enlisted men, workshops, storage buildings and other buildings.
In addition to this main compound, the arsenal also had three external buildings located down the hill and a short distance away. One of these, an external magazine, survives today and is called "the arsenal" by many local residents, even though it was actually located outside the main compound. The other two structures - a second powder magazine and a building that served unknown purposes - no longer exist.
Despite the demolition of many of its buildings during the mid-20th century, the arsenal remains a landmark of Florida history. The Officer's Quarters, guard room and external magazine survive, as do portions of the original wall and parts of some of the other structures.
If you would like to learn more about the arsenal and its history, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/arsenal1.