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Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site Celebrates Reopening

Arcadia Mill Archaelogical Site

After being closed for renovation for the past six months, the Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site will hold a Grand Reopening this weekend. The celebration is part of Florida Archaeology Month festivities.  

The historic Arcadia Mill was one of the largest early American industrial complexes in Florida, with operations that included a water-powered sawmill, lumber mill, bucket and pail factory, and cotton textile mill.

The company was open for business primarily between 1828 and 1855. Arcadia Mill Site Manager Adrianne Sams says the site was used on a limited basis during the Civil War, but remained unoccupied for most of the next 100 years.

“It was saved through historic preservation efforts in the 1960s, and today it functions as a public archaeological site that is owned by the University of West Florida and managed by UWF Historic Trust,” said Sams.

For some time, the site has needed improvements. The renovation project required the mill site to shut down, which they did beginning last fall. The large scale construction project, started in September 2014, included the building of a new bridge over Pond Creek. The

new bridge replaced the popular old swing bridge for safety and ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliance.

Additionally, there’s a new boardwalk connecting all the way up to the nature trails on site.

Sams says the closure also provided an opportunity to work on some other projects.

“We took this time to reorder all of our signage with a new logo, with a new “you are here” map so people can navigate the site. We’re also working on a next exit history project. So, we were fervently working on that, too; all to kind of have it ready to unveil to the public for our grand reopening,” Sams said.

For those who’ve never been to the Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site, or will be returning post renovation, Sams takes us on a bit of a virtual tour.

First, the new boardwalk system will allow visitors to traverse a good part of the industrial complex.

“You’ll be able to see the outer framing of the saw mill that’s still submerged in Pond Creek. The boardwalk will take you around the remains of the brick textile mill. We have a swamp walk where we talk about the flora and some of the animals you can see at Arcadia Mill,” said Sams.

“And, our bridge will cross Pond Creek unto a brand new boardwalk that gives a whole new perspective. You can see the damn, earth and ironstone damn. You can see that much clearer. You can also see the blowout area where it was blown up during the civil war. You can also see some of the flumes that we have.”

With so much to see and do, visitors should expect to spend at least an hour or more working their way through the historic site, which includes an outdoor Discovery Pavilion and working replicas of the mill technology. There’s also a Visitor Center and Museum that includes an exhibit and classroom space.

Adrianne Sams has been Site Manager at Arcadia for the past five years, and says because of ongoing efforts to improve the historic and educational experience for visitors, awareness and traffic have increased. Not surprisingly, much of the traffic is from the Santa Rosa, Escambia and Okaloosa school districts.

Sams and her staff have put together a wide range of educational programs for every grade and age. School field trips typically are conducted at 3 different stations, to include a boardwalk tour and activities at outdoor discovery pavilion. And, of course, there’s class time to focus on projects that could be archaeology, history, or science based.

This weekend, the entire family is invited to attend the Grand Reopening of the Arcadia Mill Archaeological

Site. The event is open to the public and will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We’re thrilled to host the public to see our progress that we’ve made. We’ll have site tours continuously throughout the event. We’ll have vendors and demonstrators, so it’ll be a really fun day,” Sams said.

For the reopening festivities, parking and trolley service will be available at the nearby Pensacola State College Milton Campus. 

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.