Educator on the Spot
Join our educators as they explore historical sites and items of interest around Tallahassee.
In front of the R.A. Gray building stands a tall column and a row of brass plaques. Dedicated on June 6, 2005, Florida’s World War II Memorial honors all those who served in the armed forces.
The 17 feet high pillar is an exact replica of the Florida Pillar at the National WWII Memorial in Washington D.C.. Resting on the top are two wreaths, one of wheat – symbolizing the bounty of the homefront’s agriculture; and one of oak – symbolizing the United States’ industrial strength. The wreaths hang over a hollow center – a representation of the more than 4,600 Floridians who gave their live in the service of their country.
Each of the 67 plaques represent a Florida county, and they honor the more than 248,000 Floridians who served in the conflict, both at home and overseas. They depict the sacrifices and contributions of local Floridians to the war effort.
One of the inscriptions reads: "We must remember their indomitable spirit, exceptional commitment, and willing sacrifices in this war which preserved today’s freedoms."
One block from Tallahassee City Hall and the Florida State Capitol, Gallie Alley is part of the original Tallahassee downtown. Gallie Alley is an L-shaped alleyway off College Avenue and Adams Street. The alley backs up to Gallie Hall, named for the merchant who owned the hall when it was built in 1874. A theatre and 400-seat auditorium was located on the second floor of Gallie Hall, called the Munro Opera House, which was the only public hall in Tallahassee during the late-1800s. Guest Registers from the nearby City Hotel reveal that acting troupes would travel to Tallahassee and stay at the hotel during their shows at the opera house. One of the most successful American performers of the nineteenth century, General Tom Thumb and Company, performed here in 1876.
Throughout the past 150 years, the alley provided service access to the theatre, general stores, bakery, grocers, stables, clothing stores, and other retail stores that have come and gone from this block. Its usage has gone from horses and wagons on an unpaved lane to bicycles and delivery vans on the brick pavement. The biggest changes to the alley came in the 1980s, when Gallie Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places and restored to its 1890s appearance. This is when the alleyway was paved with the intention for becoming a downtown gathering space.
While Gallie Alley is still a utilitarian space for Downtown, it has a connection to the arts that continues into the 21st century. The Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority continues to sponsor local artists to use Gallie Alley as their canvas. Currently the alley contains murals by twelve different artists, like “Thank A Woman Today” by Ellice Cothern and “Black Water Bird” by Noelle Stillman, both art students with Florida State University.
USS Tallahassee Bell
The bronze bell of the USS Tallahassee stands proudly in front of City Hall.
Originally USS Florida, the monitor was built in 1898 and launched in 1901. Monitors were ships that sat low in the water, some having a freeboard of only 3 feet, and usually carried one or two very large main guns. The idea being to carry the biggest gun, while providing the smallest target. Monitors served as coastal defense as they were no match for ocean waves.
Monitors performed well for coastal defense and were unsuited for the larger waves of the ocean. Even in calm waters, the ship’s bow was completely awash when underway. This limitation was not seen as an issue in 1900. The Navy had only recently begun to build up a deep ocean navy with victories in the Spanish-American War, staking a claim to global sea power with the Great White Fleet in 1907.
For several years, the ship trained US sailors and even held a place of honor at the 1906 Fleet Review alongside the newest battleships. In 1907 and 1908 she saw the most action, participating in ordnance experiments. The first proved the safety of superfiring turrets. A layout with the guns placed in a line, with one shooting over the other. Some believed that firing the top gun would damage the one below. To test this, one of Florida’s 12” guns was removed and set up on top so it was within a few inches of the turret’s roof and then fired. The test was successful.
The 1908 tests were more explosive. The turret survived a direct 12” hit from the USS Arkansas, testing the armor; the new lattice mast withstood 6 direct hits, proving its battle-readiness; and despite a 140 square foot hole from a torpedo, improved anti-torpedo blisters and bulkheads proved the ship could remain afloat and return to port under its own power. After repairs in July 1908, the ship was renamed to USS Tallahassee so the state name could be used for a new dreadnought battleship.
The Tallahassee then continued as a test platform until conversion into a submarine tender in 1914. She served in the Caribbean until re-assigned to the Canal Defense Force in 1917. She continued this job through World War I, earning a Victory Medal.
After the war Tallahassee returned to normal duties, was finally decommissioned on March 24, 1922, and then scrapped. As with many Navy ships, several items were kept, such as this bell. Navy bells remain the permanent property of the US Government and the Dept. of the Navy, and are often provided on loan to namesake cities, universities, or museums. The city of Tallahassee originally accepted the bell on an indefinite loan in late 1959. In 1966, the bell was installed behind the then Tallahassee Area Chamber of Commerce at 100 N. Duval Street. The bell remained there until September 11, 2010 when it was moved to City Hall.
Indian Heritage Tableau at the R.A. Gray Building
“A Walk In Time” – Bradley Cooley and Bradley Cooley Jr.
Florida’s Indigenous history is represented in bronze in downtown Tallahassee.
At the corner of Pensacola and Bronough alongside the R.A. Gray Building are statues that depict the indigenous peoples of Florida. The series is titled ‘A Walk in Time’ and was created by Bronze By Cooley, a father-son artist team based in Lamont, Florida. In designing these statues, the Cooley’s consulted with Miccosukee and Seminole leaders to ensure an accurate and respectful depiction.
The statues were first sculpted in clay and then the molding process began. After much work, molten bronze was poured into the final molds. The pieces were then cleaned and finished for assembly. Over a three-year period each statue was dedicated on March 15.
The first group installed in 2005 is titled ‘Movin’ On.’ It shows a Miccosukee family of the 1930s. The family is clothed in the elaborate patchwork clothing of their tribe. The father leads, carrying a large sack of belongings on his back. The mother wears a hairstyle unique to Florida’s indigineous women that shades her face. This group was made possible with funds from the Miccossukee Tribe of Indians of Florida.
The next, installed in 2006, is titled ‘Seminole Family.’ This family of the 1830s is shown as concerned and watchful as this was the era of the Seminole War. Their clothes are made from leather, fabric, and other materials that were traded from French Canada all the way to the Caribbean. For generations, their culture and beliefs have been passed down through the children by way of larger than life stories and legends. The group was made possible from funding from the Seminole Tribe of Florida
The final group, installed in 2007, is title ‘American Royalty.’ The scene is taken from watercolors made by Jacques Le Moyne, a French artist who visited Florida in the 1560s. The statues show a King, Queen, and servant from around that era. Each figure has tattoo patterns all over their body and they are wearing items that denote their status. Highly valued pieces of copper jewelry are prominently worn, it is a material not found naturally in Florida. This group was made possible from funding from W.R. Bobby Floyd and Bronze By Cooley.
Explore some of our staff's favorite artifacts from the Museum's collections
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