Scenic Highway Foundation received notification that the Hyer-Knowles Planing Mill Chimney was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The National Register of Historic Places is an official listing of sites and properties throughout the United States that reflect the historic occupation and historical development of our nation, states and local communities. It is maintained by the Keeper of the National Register, National Park Services, U.S. Department of the Interior. To qualify for the national Register the applicant must first qualify in Florida as a Florida Heritage Landmark. This application was filed by Scenic Highway Foundation member and grant writer Mary Gutierrez on March 10, 2009. After approval as a Florida Heritage Landmark, the state recommended the application be sent to the National Register of Historic Places. Notification of the listing was sent to Scenic Highway Foundation May 24, 2012 .
The Old Chimney property is part of a land grant to Emanual Bonifay in 1813. The chimney was built in the mid-1850’s on land acquired by Henry Hyer in January of 1854. It was part of the steam power plant for the “Hyer-Knowles Planing Mill” which was in operation by 1857. The original bricks for the chimney were hand made by slaves in one the nearby brick factories that lined the west coast of Escambia Bay. In March 1862, General Braxton Bragg was evacuating the Confederate forces holding Pensacola when
Confederate Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin ordered the destruction of everything that could be of use to the advancing Union forces. His instructions were to “Destroy all machinery private and public which could be useful to the enemy; especially disable the sawmills in and around the Bay, and burn the lumber”. He set March 10 as the deadline for the demolition. The Hyer-Knowles Mill (except for the brick chimney) was destroyed that night. Local legend has been that the Hyer-Knowles machinery was loaded onto barges in an attempt to save as much as possible. Confederate memos say thunderstorms and large waves swept Escambia Bay that night of March 10, 1863. The Hyer-Knowles machinery on the barges sank to the bottom of the bay. Thus the chimney serves as a physical reminder of the internal struggles of our nation during the Civil War.
Today the property is configured as a “mini” or “ribbon” park functioning as a roadside rest area with parking spaces and brick walkways. It is located on a portion of Highway 90 that is Scenic Highway in Pensacola, Florida. The highway is the first Florida State “Scenic Highway” designated on April 13, 1998 as Pensacola Scenic Bluffs Highway.
A local volunteer group, the Scenic Highway Foundation was formed to manage the Highway. The Foundation is in the process of writing a grant for the restoration of the historic brick chimney in order to stabilize the structure and prevent further deterioration of this historic gem.