Bagdad Historic District
BAGDAD VILLAGE HISTORIC DISTRICT
NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES - SANTA ROSA COUNTY, FL
The Bagdad Village Preservation Association welcomes visitors to tour Bagdad's Historic District. Touring the village will introduce a few highlighted sites that give a glimpse into Bagdad's history as a mill town.
Introduction to Historic District:
In the early 1800s, abundant stands of Long leaf yellow pine lured Joseph Forsyth and his partners, Andrew and Ezekiel Simpson into a prosperous sawmill business. Located on Pond Creek, Arcadia Mill thrived in producing lumber goods as one of the main industries in Santa Rosa County. The mill expanded by adding a bucket factory, a silk worm filature operation, and a textile mill producing cotton cloth.
In 1840, Forsyth and his partners moved their sawmill facilities from upper Pond Creek downstream to a more strategic location where Pond Creek empties her waters into the Blackwater River. It is here that the Village of Bagdad developed as a lumber mill community.
From 1840 to 1939, prosperity touched many of those in Bagdad who derived an income directly or indirectly from the lumber and shipping industries.
Eventually the glorious stands of Long leaf pine were stripped from the land bringing an end to the lumber industry. Without the foresight of replanting the trees, Bagdad and the other sawmill communities met their fate as they lost this most valuable resource.
The years following the close of the mill brought Bagdad Village to the present. The mill sold their properties and family life continued on. Housing for military was in demand which transitioned Bagdad into a residential community.
(Above) The Bagdad Inn opened in 1913, entertaining dignitaries from all over the world who traveled to the mill for business.
The structures that remain today in the Bagdad Village Historic District are dated back to 1847. Bagdad's lumber industry carried the village through five eras:
FORSYTH & SIMPSON ERA, 1840 -1855
Bagdad Village consisted of a small commercial center on Thompson Street. Here, the commissary, small stores, barber shop, and post office where originally located.
Streets were given names of mill owners or after their family members. The houses were positioned on these streets in a class arrangement.
E. E. SIMPSON ERA, 1855 -1866
The size and architectural style of each structure in the Village of Bagdad was an indication of the wealth of its owner.
As the first years of the Civil War began, the lumber mill and shipyards continued in their prosperity. A major Union advance occurred however, bringing about the withdrawal of Confederate troops from
the area. To prevent assets from falling into Union hands, all industry was destroyed by the Confederates during Beard's raid. Two homes still remain from this period as most of the village inadvertently caught fire from drift of sparks during the raid.
(Left) The Thompson House is among the oldest and best- known houses in Bagdad. It is an example of Greek Revival architecture and is believed to have been built between 1858 and 1860 by Benjamin W. Thompson.
(Above) This Frame Vernacular style antebellum house was owned by James Edwin Creary and his wife, Ella. Creary was one of six partners in the E. E. Simpson Company. The home is adorned with ornamental porch brackets and a porte-cochere.
SIMPSON & COMPANY ERA, 1866 -1903
The Village of Bagdad quickly recovered following the Civil War. As the mill expanded, Frame Vernacular and Creole Cottage dom-inated this era's architectural styles.
(Right) The unique architectural design of the First United Methodist Church was drawn by Charles H. Overman, part owner of the Bagdad Mill. This 1883 Gothic Revival style structure was fitted with oil lamps and a huge wood-coal heater. These were replaced in 1909 when the sanctuary was wired for electricity supplied from the mill.
(Right) Built before 1900, this Double Pen style home illustrates how popular rural vernacular building styles were adapted and utilized by the lumber company builders. These cottages evolved from single room log cabins, adding an additional room (pen) alongside, thus creating a home that was two rooms wide and a single room deep.
(Left) This home is among several Creole Cottages in the Village. The Creole Cottage, also known as the Gulf Coast Cottage, is a specialized form of the Frame Vernacular which is thought to be from the West Indies. No other Creole Cottages are found east of the Village of Bagdad.
STEARNS & CULVER COMPANY ERA, 1903 -1923
This era brought about the construction of larger homes along Forsyth Street to accommodate the superintendents of the mill. The homes were mostly Frame Vernacular styles but were given local names: the Bagdad Saltbox, the Four-square, and the Double House.
(Above) This Double House dates to 1912 and is one of six built in Bagdad. The 'townhouse' accommodated two families. Each side was a mirror image of the other having two rooms on the upper floor, three rooms on the lower, and a side entry.
Other unique styles of Frame Vernacular were built in the Village including a Shingle Style house and a Dutch Colonial Revival which is rare for North-west Florida.
(Left) This is a rare example of a Shingle Style home, built by Elzear Forcade in 1919. Asymmetrical forms below balance the butt shingle details (Above) covering the upper floor .
BAGDAD LAND & LUMBER COMPANY ERA, 1923 -1945
During this era, more homes for company superintendents were built along Main St. as the Village expanded. Bagdad adopted both the larger and smaller versions of the Bungalow style while Frame Vernacular continued to be influenced by new building trends.
(Left) This Frame Vernacular style cottage illustrates the continued adaptation in building features. It was built by the Bagdad Lumber Company and features a hip roof with a gable detail above the porch.
(Right) This side-gabled Bungalow style home was built for mill superintendent E. C. Work. The two-story home features a grand porch with wide overhanging eaves and an upper dormer banded with windows.
The Shotgun House, a sub-type of Frame Vernacular, was built to house the mill employees. Most of these are found on Church, Limit, School and Water Streets and have been expanded to accommodate growing families.
(Left) The Shotgun House is typically one room wide and several rooms deep. The front door was offset and opened into a hallway running the length of the building. The Shotgun style homes in Bagdad lack the hallway, thus each room is entered from doorway to doorway.
Beyond Church and Simpson Streets was housing for the African-American workforce. Many of the buildings date from the late 1800's to the early 1900's. The most significant of these is the New Providence Missionary Baptist Church which began construction in 1874 and was finally complete in 1901.
(Right) Formerly New Providence Missionary Baptist Church, the Bagdad Village Museum is constructed of Heart Pine lumber hauled from the old Bay Point Mill. It was built by newly freed slaves and free African-Americans in 1874, and served as a school for African-American children in the early years.
The building was made of heart pine and is believed to be the oldest African-American in existence in Santa Rosa County. It was built during a very important era in the history of African-American religion in Florida. This was a time when African-American communities were just beginning to establish themselves and function independently.
After replacing their church in 1987 with a new building, the congregation of New Providence Missionary Baptist Church donated the original historic structure to the Bagdad Village Preservation Association.
The building was moved to Church Street and now serves as the Historic Bagdad Village Museum. It sits alongside a Shotgun House known as the Milligan House which was also donated to the Museum and serves as an auxiliary building.