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Panama City History, Florida

Located in the north-western part of Florida, Panama City is the capital of the Bay County and a popular vacation spot on Emerald Coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Panama City, Florida is not to be confused with Panama City, Panama and it also represents a distinctive entity from Panama City Beach resort. Its mild climate and clear waters, as well as its relatively small community, make Panama City an ideal destination for those who want some peace and intimacy.

Panama City History – The Foundation of Panama City

Panama City’s history is unique among the US cities, as only few of them were originally destined as a vacation spot. The first cabins were built around 1830 by settlers from Alabama and Georgia. There were three cabins which formed the nucleus of the future city, and they belonged to S.L. Slade, J. R. Irwin and G. B. Thompson. During the 19th century, the settlement was known under different names: ‘Floropolis’, ‘Park Resort’ and then ‘Harrison’. In 1905, a Chicago investor named G. M. West bought some land around Harrison and decided to change the town’s name into Panama City. With the contribution of G.M. West, Panama City got its major institutions: a post office, a jail, a school, a newspaper and a small port. The town was incorporated in 1909 and became the countryseat of Bay County in 1913. Much of the economic activity of Panama City in that period evolved around Harrison Avenue, which is still considered today as the centre of the city.

Panama City History – Panama City in the 20th Century

By 1930, Panama City was already a busy trade center, counting several banks and churches, and equipped with electricity and phone service. It even had its first sky-scraper, the Dixie-Sherman Hotel, whose construction was finished in 1926. This fast development was a consequence of the Florida Land Boom that characterized the second decade of the 20th century. The situation changed with the beginning of World War II, when the US government started to build war ships in Panama City and established here the Tyndall Air Force Base.

Just as in other Florida cities like Fort Lauderdale and Pensacola, the presence of military played a decisive role in Panama City history. In the second half of the century, Panama City developed around these military institutions and managed to make a name in the break-bulk cargo industry. In 1957, the municipality celebrated the inauguration of a new marina. Most of the city’s historic centre was renovated in 1999, as part of the ambitious Streetscape project.

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