Mystery of Chattahoochee’s lost gunpowder magazine

The Apalachicola Arsenal Museum is being developed in a surviving gunpowder magazine at Chattahoochee, Florida.

The ongoing development of a historic gunpowder magazine as the Apalachicola Arsenal Museum is one of a series of major cultural efforts underway in Chattahoochee, Florida.

Other projects include the restoration of a prehistoric Indian mound, the development of a self-guided tour of historic points of interest at River Landing Park, the revitalization and beautification of the downtown area, recently-completed historic properties inventories and more!

The gunpowder magazine was part of the Apalachicola Arsenal, a U.S. Army manufacturing and storage facility used from the 1830s to the 1860s and primarily during the Second Seminole War. Named for the Apalachicola River, the arsenal originally included barracks, officers’ quarters, an armory, workshops, storage facilities, a sutler’s store and two external gunpowder magazines. See the photo at the top of the page for an idea of the original appearance of the complex.

The restoration of one of the magazines for use as a museum and conference center raises an intriguing question. What happened to the other one?

Examining exhibits inside the restored gunpowder magazine. The historic structure was originally a small part of a much larger complex.

The second gunpowder magazine no longer stands. This in itself creates something of a mystery as the surviving magazine features 30-inch thick walls and massive brick vaults. It would take considerable effort to destroy it.

Parts of the historic arsenal complex were demolished during the late 1950s and early 1960s to allow for the construction of newer buildings on the campus of the Florida State Hospital. Only the Officers’ Quarters, Guard Room and part of one of the workshops still survive on the site of the main four-acre complex, while the surviving magazine stands down the hill and away from the site of the central arsenal complex.

The gunpowder magazines were built apart from the rest of the arsenal to prevent the possibility of a massive human disaster in the event of an explosion. The arsenal was surrounded by a strong brick wall but was never really intended to serve as a fort or defensive structure so there was no worry on the part of the designers about keeping gunpowder stored where it would be easily accessible to soldiers.

The second gunpowder magazine had long since vanished from the landscape before several of the other arsenal buildings were dismantled. This has led to a bit of a mystery over what could have happened to it!

The answer appears in the time-faded pages of the Pensacola Journal.

The newspaper reported that the magazine was destroyed by a series of fires in June 22-27, 1920:

Pensacola Journal
June 30, 1920

Learn more about Chattahoochee’s great nature park and trail system:

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