Over the weekend Ruth & I participated in a birthday celebration at a local restaurant. I was asked by a woman I was meeting for the first time where I had been recently. My answer was Tallahassee, FL. “Why did you go there?” she asked incredulously. Why, indeed. The true answer was to see its capitol. Florida is one of only 4 states with a high-rise capitol building. It was finished in 1977, 4 years after construction began. It has 22 floors with an observation deck on the top. The view of Tallahassee below is ho hum on all 4 sides. There isn’t much else for the visitor to see in the rest of the building currently except for some facts about Florida, like no point in the state is more than 60 miles from a coast. If you visit the comprehensive state museum a block away, the last thing you want or need is more info about this state. Tallahassee’s official guide, It’s TALLahassee Here , doesn’t even mention it. One distant view of it in the magazine is obscured by a tree. If I return, and I won’t, I’ll skip the official capitol.
Florida’s 1st state capitol was a log cabin for 2 years. The capitol built after that remains and is the 2nd best attraction here after Lofty Pursuits. I learned a lot by touring the Florida Historic Capitol Museum. In 1978 legislators voted to restore it to its 1902 appearance. This involved taking off 2 major structures and finding lots of artifacts, like old bottles. The floor plan that visitors are given to follow during a self-guided tour, divides this restored building in the shadow of the new capitol into strictly restored space, restored space, and adaptive rooms. The only areas that appear exactly as they were before 1902 are the Governor’s Suite, the House Chamber and the Supreme Court. None are unique.
Andrew Jackson was Florida’s first territorial governor. He went on to become the U.S. President who evicted Native Americans from their territorial homelands and made them go to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. The fierce Seminole warrior would have been one of them except for the fact that he was painted by David Yorke much later.
I’ve often wondered why Tallahassee is Florida’s chosen Capital City and now I know that I’m not alone in wondering this. The subject of moving it to another place has come up twice. The first time both Pensacola and St. Augustine, the first permanent European settlement in North America, wanted to be Florida’s capital. It was decided to locate the new capital between these 2 cities.
I didn’t know much about Florida’s position during the Civil War. It became a state in 1845, so it must have been involved in this conflict. This old capitol filled in the facts. Florida was a slave state and was the 3rd to secede from The Union. Most of the 17,000 Floridians who fought in this conflict were on the Confederate side except for 2,000 who supported The Union. 5,000 died. I was surprised to learn that the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, lived in Florida after the Civil War. Back then, most of Florida’s residents lived in the northern part of the state, mostly in the panhandle where Tallahassee is now.
I learned in the Tallahassee guide that this part of Florida has 4 seasons. In fact, the 1899 snowstorm when 2° below zero was recorded was considered a phenomenon. This was the lowest temperature ever recorded in state history. I asked the lady in this city’s tourist center about winters in Tallahassee, and she said they have had a modest fall but no real winter since she has become a resident. The average winter temp is 41° Fahrenheit from December to February.