Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings
Ownership and Administration. City of Pensacola.
Significance. This plaza is the site of the formal transfer in July 1821 of West Florida from Spain to the United States. The basis for the transfer was the Adams-Onis Treaty (July 1819), which Spain did not ratify until February 1821. In the treaty Spain agreed to cede East and West Florida in exchange for U.S. assumption of $5 million in claims of its citizens against the Spanish Government.
On March 12, 1821, Gen. Andrew Jackson was commissioned as provisional Governor of East and West Florida, which the United States planned to combine into one territory. He dispatched Col. Robert Butler, his adjutant, to act as his representative in accepting the transfer of East Florida at St. Augustine, and he proceeded to Pensacola to accept that of West Florida. Both Jackson and Butler encountered delaying tactics on the part of the Spanish Governors, but the transfer of East Florida took place first, on July 10, at Castillo de San Marcos, in St. Augustine.
On July 17 the transfer of West Florida occurred at Pensacola. On the morning of the ceremony, Jackson met the Spanish Governor, Don Jose Callava, on the steps of the Government House, located on the site now occupied by City Hall, and the two men entered the plaza. After passing between lines of American and Spanish troops, they stood at attention. While the 4th Infantry band played "The Star-Spangled Banner," the Spanish royal standard was lowered to half-staff and the U.S. flag raised to a level with it. Then, as the U.S.S. Hornet, in Pensacola Bay, fired a 21-gun salute, soldiers lowered the Spanish flag and raised the Stars and Stripes to full staff. After the ceremony Jackson set up a provisional government for Florida; divided it into Escambia and St. John's Counties; and designated Pensacola and St. Augustine, respectively, as the two seats of government. In 1822 Congress created Florida Territory.
Present Appearance. The present square is only a remnant of the original one, laid out by the British in 1765. In 1802 a large part of the original square was subdivided and sold as building lots. In 1935 the Pensacola Historical Society erected in the square a monument commemorating the transfer of the sovereignty of West Florida.
NHL Designation: 10/09/60
Last Updated: 29-Aug-2005