Established in 1831, Apalachicola was once the third largest port on the Gulf of Mexico. The city has more than 900 historic homes and buildings listed in its extensive National Register District. Apalachicola was selected as one of America's Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2008. Apalachicola has a strong sense of place. Its vibrant history and rich maritime Our vibrant history and rich maritime culture continue unabated into the 21st Century.culture can be experienced through its working waterfront with shrimp and oyster houses interwoven with eclectic shops housed in meticulously restored turn of the century buildings.
Apalachicola’s first big industry was shipping cotton and it soon became the third largest port on the Gulf of Mexico. By the 1850s, the waterfront was lined with rows of two and three story brick warehouses and broad streets helped to handle the loading and unloading of cotton. Steamboats laden with cotton traveled down the Apalachicola River to town where they were unloaded. Small shallow draft schooners (lighters) then shuttled the cargo to ships moored offshore. The ships then took the cotton to Europe and New England for processing. The port was so prominent that a US customs house was opened in 1821, and the French established a consulate office to monitor their commercial interests.
As the railroads expanded throughout the United States making it more efficient to ship cotton by rail, a new industry took shape in the city. Home to large cypress forests, Apalachicola developed several large cypress lumber mills in the late 1800s. Lumber magnates built many of the magnificent historic homes that still line our streets.
By the end of the 19th century, oysters and seafood became the most important industry. Seafood processing houses offloaded millions of pounds of fresh shrimp, oysters and fish each year. Today Franklin County Franklin County harvests more than 90 % of Florida’s oysters and 10 % of the fresh oysters consumed in the nation harvests more than 90 % of Florida’s oysters and 10 % of the oysters consumed in the nation. Shrimp, blue crab and finfish are also very important commercially, bringing in over $14 million worth of fresh, raw seafood to Franklin County docks annually.
Noteworthy citizens of Apalachicola include Dr. John Gorrie, who during the yellow fever epidemic developed a machine that produced ice to cool his patients. His invention laid the groundwork for modern refrigeration and air conditioning. A contemporary of Gorrie, botanist Alvin Chapman also lived and worked in Apalachicola. Chapman was the James Audubon of his time where flora was concerned. He wrote the monumental Flora of the Southern United States.
Seafood is still an important component of our economy and culture identity. We have at least a dozen acclaimed restaurants that all use fresh, locally harvested seafood (oysters, shrimp, fish and crabs) harvested from the Bay and brought to our docks daily to serve their patrons. Several have been noted in national publications such as Saveur and Gourmet.