Hyer-Knowles Planing Mill Chimney
Constructed in 1854 by Henry Hyer, and Peter Knowles local lumber manufacturers and merchants, this planing mill was one of many such mills built in the Pensacola area prior to the Civil War. This steam powered mill was designed to produce shingles, railings and other types of wooden products. This steam powered mill and its brick chimney (made by local brick manufacturer James Gonzalez) represented the Gulf Coast's industrial belt. During the Civil War the mill and chimney were destroyed, albeit partially, when Confederate forces abandoned Pensacola. Today what remains is part of Chimney Park, designed to memorialize Pensacola's early manufacturing and a major part in the coast's industrial belt.
Backstory and Context
From 1861 to May 1862, the Confederacy held onto Pensacola while under pressure and fire from Union held coastal forts and the Union blockade. The commander of the region, Braxton Bragg, was forced to abandon Pensacola and its defenses as Union forces came closer by land and sea. In the process of evacuation, CSA Secretary of War, Judah P. Benjamin, gave express orders to destroy the mill and all other forms of machinery deemed useful to the Union. This mill had its vital equipment sent to barges to be used elsewhere while the mill and chimney's were set ablaze. The barges and equipment sunk during a storm, while the destroyed mill was left untouched for almost two decades.
In 1881, a Manuel F. Gonzalez, bought and rebuilt the mill and chimney. The mill stayed in operation until the 1920s. During that time, the railroad came to the area with the construction of the Bohemia Station of the Pensacola & Atlantic Line. The community of Bohemia grew around the mill and station. WIth the closing of the mill, the community shrank (to later become a suburb of Pensacola). However, the Scenic Highway was constructed along the Gulf Coast and through Pensacola to bring in more tourists and have them see and learn more of the area's history. The highway ran next to the mill's remains. The chimney suffered damage during a 1935 lighting storm.
During the 1980s, efforts began to turn the remains of the mill into a park. The efforts bore fruit right away and today anyone can enjoy the park, the scenic view of the ocean and the remains of this important mill and chimney.