The T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum is a must-visit in Pensacola. It’s not the biggest museum in the world by a long shot, but there’s incredible Pensacola history and heritage on display inside, plus some all-around curiosities.
The museum’s digs are themselves a historic landmark: a Mediterranean Revival-style building that served as Pensacola City Hall from 1907 until 1985. From the red tiles of the roof to the porch and second-story arcade, it’s quite a stunner.
The museum’s permanent collection is founded on that of Theodore Thomas Wentworth, Jr., a businessman, and politician who acquired all sorts of artifacts and oddities over many decades. He was displaying some of his eclectic collection as early as the 1920s, made major contributions to Pensacola’s historic preservation, and opened a formal museum in the late 1950s.
In the 1980s, he donated his huge and wide-ranging holdings to the State of Florida: the origin of the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. State Museum, which serves as a worthy tribute to a man dedicated to preserving the past.
The museum’s permanent exhibits include The City of Five Flags, which tells the story of Pensacola’s history from its indigenous culture through colonial chapters under multiple European powers, the action it saw during the American Civil War, and its modern development. Many of the artifacts on display in this fascinating gallery hail from Tom Wentworth, Jr.’s stockpile.
You’ll also find a charming recreation of the iconic Trader Jon’s establishment, a Pensacola bar run for nearly a half-century by Martin “Trader Jon” Weissman. Trained as a paratrooper, Weissman was quite the character, known for sporting mismatched socks and setting shifting, on-the-spot drink prices—a practice that came to be known as “Tradernomics.”
Weissman was his own avid collector of Naval and aviation memorabilia, which he displayed at Trader Jon’s: a regular watering hole for service members calling Naval Air Station Pensacola home and the inspiration for “TJ’s” bar in the Richard Gere film An Officer and a Gentleman.
At the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. State Museum, you’ve got the opportunity to experience a bit of the Trader Jon’s atmosphere: the next best thing to having actually gone to the bar, which closed in the early 2000s. (Weissman himself had ceased operations in the late ‘90s shortly before his death; Trader Jon’s was purchased and reopened in 2000, but the new incarnation was short-lived.)
The museum also houses a number of temporary exhibit galleries, so there’s always something new and intriguing on display here.
From precious historic artifacts and photos of Pensacola’s early days and an impressive share of Blue Angels memorabilia to miscellaneous curios gathered by the institution’s namesake, the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. State Museum packs a lot of variety into a relatively small floor plan. If you have even a passing interest in the history and culture of Pensacola, you’ll be glad you paid a visit!
– Your ticket to the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. State Museum also affords you access to the other museums and historic sites within the Historic Pensacola Village complex, including the Pensacola Children’s Museum, and you’ve got a full seven days to enjoy them. It’s a fair amount of bang for your buck, in other words. You can also purchase a combo ticket that adds admission to the Pensacola Museum of Art to the mix—well worth it!