St. Michael's Cemetery is an eight-acre green space
in the heart of historic Pensacola, Florida. Probably in use during
the late 18th century, the land was officially designated a cemetery
by the King of Spain in 1807. Although assigned to the Catholic inhabitants
of Pensacola, people of all faiths have been buried here. The cemetery
is an open air museum that is a testament to the diverse nature of
Pensacola drew immigrants from around the world who came to West
Florida to make their fortunes or seek
adventure. The cemetery is the resting place of captains
of industry, victims of Yellow
Fever epidemics and casualties due to steam ship explosions,
along with those who died in child birth, as infants
and of old age.
Tombstones in the cemetery reflect not only the status
and ethnicity of individuals, but also society as a whole on
the Florida Gulf Coast frontier. There is a strong sense of place
and identity in the cemetery; a feeling of community.
As is often the case in older cemeteries, St. Michael's has declined
over the past 200 years. Vandalism,
neglect, hurricanes and natural
aging have all contributed to the physical decline of the cemetery.
Recognizing not only the historical importance of the site but its
potential as an open air museum in the urban environment, residents
of Pensacola supported a major restoration project at the cemetery.
Geographers from the University of West Florida surveyed the cemetery
using a total station
(a precision survey instrument) and an interactive map was constructed
using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). A database with ancillary
information about the graves and photographs of the grave markers
was also generated and is linked to the map.
Clicking on a grave displays the information about that grave. The
finalized map and database are available to the public on the UWF
In the Fall of 2000, archaeologists began using ground penetrating
radar to establish the absence/presence of unmarked graves and identify
vacant land for possible future development. While the cemetery
will retain its original configuration, the site will undergo a
major restoration of existing walkways, historic plantings, and
the addition of support buildings on the perimeter of the property.
This exciting project has had a positive effect on the urban environment
of downtown Pensacola, providing a tranquil
green zone for citizens. The restoration of St. Michael's Cemetery
is an excellent example of preserving our past to benefit our future.