Civil Rights Memorial will honor local participants in the Movement; “Four Corners” marker to tell about significant historic buildings
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Feb. 24, 2022 – Cascades developer, North American Properties (NAP), and a group of local residents have finalized designs for two historical exhibits and begun preparations for their installation in the Cascades Historical Plaza. The plaza is located at the southeast corner of East Gaines and South Gadsden streets in downtown Tallahassee.
The planned exhibits are the result of a years-long commemoration process. In 2017, NAP began working with a team of local educators, preservationists and activists to uncover the history of the Cascades area. The team, known as the Cascades Historical User Group, collected input from the community, conducted historical research, envisioned potential designs for commemorative structures and mapped the stories they wanted to tell in the outdoor plaza. NAP enlisted Florida State University’s Master Craftsman Studio to design each structure and spearhead manufacturing and installation.
“We knew this property was steeped in history when we purchased it five years ago, and we wanted to find a way to help people see and experience that,” said Shawn McIntyre, NAP’s managing partner for Florida. “We are grateful for our team of community volunteers who devoted a considerable amount of time and energy to ensuring these stories could be remembered by future generations.”
One of the two planned exhibits, the Tallahassee Civil Rights Memorial, will stand on the former site of the Leon County Jail. The jail drew national attention in the 1960s, when a group of civil rights activists held a nonviolent “jail-in” to protest segregation. The exhibit will honor the courageous men and women who led the jail-in, and interpret other key events in Tallahassee’s civil rights history. Built with corten and stainless steel, the exhibit will span one side of the plaza.
A secondary, smaller exhibit in the plaza will interpret Tallahassee’s “Four Corners of History,” a reference to the significant Art Moderne architectural heritage present at the intersection of East Gaines and South Gadsden. The Four Corners exhibit will share the story of the Old City Waterworks, the Caroline Brevard Grammar School (now Bloxham Building), the former Leon County Health Unit and the former jail site. The design and purpose of these structures represent the growing importance of public institutions at the turn of the 19th century.
“These two exhibits will highlight notable aspects of history in a space that was previously occupied by vacant and deteriorating buildings,” said Althemese Barnes, founder of the John G. Riley House and Museum and member of the Cascades user group. “Now the history can live on through the stories, offering residents and visitors a glimpse into the past and deepening their personal connection to our community.”
NAP has given considerable attention to acknowledging the history of the Cascades area since beginning redevelopment of the property adjacent to Cascades Park in 2018. The company started its work by refurbishing the historic county health unit while preserving and showcasing its original craftsmanship and character. NAP also purchased the Old City Waterworks building in 2019 to preserve it for an appropriate use. They are now in the process of selling the Waterworks building to local buyers who plan to open a family-friendly craft brewery there in 2023.
Even the names of the Millstream apartments and Merestone office building pay homage to the past. “Millstream” offers a subtle nod to Tallahassee founder, John Lee Williams, who used the term to refer to the creek that ran along present-day Franklin Boulevard and meandered into what is now Cascades Park. The creek eventually became a stormwater conveyance that was ultimately replaced with an underground box culvert in 2013 to help mitigate flooding on Franklin Boulevard. “Merestone” hints at Florida’s Prime Meridian Marker, which was established in 1824 in present-day Cascades Park. The meridian was once marked by a concrete monument before being replaced with an inset brass plate during park renovations in 2014.
“When people gain some understanding of the past, they begin to see themselves as an extension of that story,” said McIntyre. “That’s what we wanted to do here. We wanted to create a place where people could gather and really feel like part of this community and its history.”
The Tallahassee Civil Rights Memorial and Four Corners exhibit are expected to be installed in the plaza and open to the public later this Spring.
Cascades is a vibrant live-work-play-stay experience spanning a two-block area on East Gaines Street, across from the 24-acre Cascades Park. In addition to generating more than $350 million in economic impact and creating nearly 700 permanent jobs, this transformative urban development honors the area’s rich history through the preservation of the architecturally significant former County Health Unit, the restoration of the Old City Waterworks building, and the creation of a community-envisioned historical plaza. Additional components include market-rate mid-rise residential, retail, office, restaurant and hotel space built to maximize views of the park and the Capitol building, along with pedestrian-friendly paths connecting the development to downtown, a range of public amenities, event space to support performances at the Capital City Amphitheater, and nearly 800 new parking spaces. The Cascades development team includes local, regional and national partners including Nelson Mullins, DAG Architects, Genesis Engineering, NAI Talcor, The Taproot Agency, and Baker Barrios Architects. For more information visit CascadesTLH.com.
ABOUT NORTH AMERICAN PROPERTIES
Founded in 1954, North American Properties (NAP) is a privately held, multi-regional real estate operating company that has acquired, developed and managed retail, multifamily, mixed-use and office properties across the U.S. The company also holds extensive experience developing successful mixed-use projects surrounding public parks, including the Historic Fourth Ward Park in Atlanta and Centennial Park in Nashville. With a full-time staff working out of its Tallahassee office, NAP has invested more than $150 million in large-scale, mixed-use developments in Tallahassee since 2013, specifically in the Gaines Street District. These projects have collectively created more than 800 construction jobs and nearly 200 permanent ongoing jobs, with a total annual economic impact of more than $17 million. For more information visit naproperties.com.