The Santa Rosa Tourism Development Council will place 10 new markers around the county during the next several years to highlight one of area's biggest assets: its history.
The first historic marker was unveiled at a private dedication ceremony at the Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site on Friday afternoon. Arcadia Site Manager Adrianne Sams and University of West Florida President Judy Bense spoke at the event.
Sams said Arcadia was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. Today, Arcadia is a 37 acre archaeological site that is owned by the University of West Florida and managed by West Florida Historic Preservation, Inc.
The new marker highlights some of the Mill's history, which dates back to 1817. Arcadia Mill was the first and largest water-powered industrial complex in northwest Florida and originated as part of a Spanish land grant of approximately 680 acres.
The marker reads, "Between 1828 and 1855, the Arcadia industrial complex developed into a multi-faceted operation that included a railroad, two water-powered sawmills, a bucket factory, shingle mill, textile mill and an experimental silk cocoonery... In the late 1980s, efforts were made by the Santa Rosa Historical Society and the University of West Florida helped to save a portion of the Arcadia Mill site from modern development."
Arcadia is the first of the 10 markers to be dedicated. Each is expected to cost approximately $2,000. The $20,000 grant for all 10 markers is funded through the TDC.
"This is a way to get more historic information out," said Vernon Compton, chairman of the TDC. "Tourism Development Council is supporting this because history in our county is one of our big assets."
The markers will be focused on a variety churches, public buildings, area transportation and commerce in Milton and Bagdad.
"What we found is people are drawn to Milton and Bagdad because (they are) very authentic," he said. "We've worked with historic groups in Milton and Bagdad to find the locations and come up with the wording (for the markers)."
The other nine markers have not yet been made, but the TDC has been working with several historic groups to come up with wording to spark visitors' interest in each location. The official list of the 10 locations is still in the process of being approved through the historic preservation board and the appropriate organizations.
The Blackwater River Foundation, West Florida Railroad Museum, Main Street Milton, Santa Rosa Historical Society, Bagdad Village Presevation Association, Bagdad Waterfront Florida Partnership and the Arcadia Mill Site/ University of West Florida have all collaborated on the list.
"Hopefully more people spend more time in the area doing research and learning," he said. "What we've learned on the tourism side is the more you make that available - through historic markers, brochures - the better. We're sharing history."
Arcadia Mill, 5709 Mill Pond Lane, is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Guided tours, group tours, educational programming and public outreach are offered at the site. For more information call 850-626-3084 or email firstname.lastname@example.org