JOHN GORRIE MUSEUM STATE PARK
JOHN GORRIE MUSEUM STATE PARK
P.O. Box 267
Apalachicola, Florida 32320
A young physician named John Gorrie moved to Apalachicola in the early 1800s when it was a prominent port of trade, commerce, and shipping in Florida. Gorrie served as postmaster, city treasurer, town councilman, and bank director. Concern for his yellow fever patients motivated Gorrie to invent a method for cooling their rooms. He became a pioneer in the field of air conditioning and refrigeration by inventing a machine that made ice, and received the first U.S. Patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851. A replica of his ice-making machine is on display at the museum, as well as exhibits chronicling the colorful history of Apalachicola, which played an important role in Florida's economic development. Hours are 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m., Thursday through Monday, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Located on Sixth Street in Apalachicola, off U.S. 98.
A customs office was opened in 1821; and by the time a young physician named John Gorrie arrived in 1833, Apalachicola was already flourishing as the third largest port on the Gulf, harboring ships carrying cotton back to Europe and New England. During his residence, Gorrie served as mayor, postmaster, city treasurer, council member, bank director and founder of Trinity Church.
His most significant work however, was in medicine. During an outbreak of yellow fever, Gorrie's concern for patients ill with the disease led him to develop a method for cooling their rooms. Gorrie invented a machine that produced ice, laying the groundwork for modern refrigeration and air-conditioning. Gorrie died in 1855, unable to market his invention and witness the far-reaching effects of his discovery.
The coming of railroads in the 1850s affected Apalachicola's role in the formerly lucrative cotton trade. The town's dwindling economy was further shattered during the Civil War by a blockade that sealed off the harbor. The economy remained affected until a decade after the war, when a thriving lumber industry developed to revive the town's income. The town rode the crest of the lumber boom until 1930, when the Apalachicola River floodplain was stripped of cypress.
Facing another economic crash, Apalachicola began to capitalize on a readily available natural resource. The bay had been a source of sponges and seafood since the early settlement days, and seafood canning became the town's main industry.
Today, the seafood industry thrives with Apalachicola leading the state in the production of oysters and serving as a chief supplier of crabs, shrimp and fish. The Apalachicola Bay estuaries affect the fishing grounds of the Gulf for 160 miles, and the Apalachicola River with its delicate balance of fresh and saltwater provides a breeding ground for many marine species. With the town's continuing economic stability depending on the protection of the river system, preservation of the river has become an important statewide issue.
Today's Apalachicola is a picturesque setting of charming homes constructed in the 1800s and fishing fleets tied to piers with their daily catches.