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The Artisan: A Look At The Past And Future Of 400 S. Palafox St.

400 S. Palafox Street, now known as the Artisan building, sits on the corner of Palafox and Main Street in Downtown Pensacola. Although it is bordered by streets, it was once waterfront property. Jacquelyn Wilson is archivist for the University of West Florida Historic Trust. Ballast left by ships importing goods from Pensacola was deposited to create man-made land for further construction.

The water's edge used to be right there almost outside of the building.

“The water’s edge used to be right there almost outside of the building,” Wilson said. “Originally, what is now Main Street was the water’s edge. The land was built up to the south of there over time. This was done intentionally, reclaiming land for them to build on.”

The building was originally constructed by Lewis Bear in 1892 on the site of the former Market House.

“Upstairs was the jail at that time and the bottom level was a fish market. The Market House served as an unofficial meeting place for the city representatives,” Wilson said.

The Lewis Bear Company operated in the building until 1958, when it was purchased by Oscar Willenzik, who ran Restaurant Supply Company. The building suffered damages in 2004 from Hurricane Ivan and was closed in 2007 after Willenzik’s death. Andrew Rothfeder is a partner with Studer Community Development group, which purchased the building in 2012.

“This little area of Palafox, just between Zaragossa and Main, we specifically have a certain type of tenant that we want to be in here so that they’re synergistic, so that the tenants sort of work together, so that the same customer for one of the stores is the same customer for the rest,” Rothfeder said.

Another one of the tenants will be Mainline Art House. Mikel Traffanstead is its director.

“It seemed there was not a true retail gallery downtown,” Traffanstead said. “There are two co-ops, which provide something different from a true retail gallery. We researched it, seeing that there did used to be some downtown before Hurricane Ivan. Since then, some of them never reopened. And so, our thought was to go back in and start exploring putting one in.”

Traffanstead said the gallery will focus on displaying contemporary and modern art by artists who are not represented within 50 miles of downtown Pensacola, such as Mikaela Sheldt and Carleton Haack.

“Primarily she works in portraits of people. They get up to like twelve feet sometimes, maybe one person’s face or a torso, but it’s this massive drawing. She works a lot in oil. Carleton Haack is an alumni of UWF. He does a lot of different sculptures. A lot of it is very abstract, very avant-garde, gold plated truck parts to a brain missile,” Traffanstead said.

More information about the Artisan is available at www.artisanpensacola.com.

Katya Ivanov, WUWF News