A new conference center and future museum was unveiled in a ceremony Wednesday, November 20, on the grounds of the Florida State Hospital (FSH) in Chattahoochee.
The well-attended ceremony commemorated a 16-year effort to renovate and make new use of the historic Apalachicola Arsenal Powder Magazine that dates back to 1830 and the early days of Florida’s statehood.
The renovation was made possible through Historical Preservation funding grants that were matched by in-kind work by Florida State Hospital and ARAMARK staff, assisted by inmates from the Department of Corrections. The unveiling summarized and celebrated those efforts with a ceremony that included tours and a video presentation of the renovation effort, both narrated by recently-retired FSH purchasing director Jim Barineau of Quincy.
First dubbed the Mt. Vernon Arsenal, the Apalachicola Arsenal was used as an arms depot during the Second Seminole Indian War, as a staging area by Confederate troops, and then from 1865-1869 by the Freedman's Bureau. It was used briefly as a penitentiary until 1876, when the Florida Legislature converted it to a mental health treatment facility.
The Department of Children and Families oversees the hospital, which is the oldest mental health facility in the state and largest employer in Gadsden County.
Several special guests made congratulatory remarks following a welcoming by hospital administrator Marguerite Morgan including: Sally Cunningham, State Director of Mental Health Treatment Facilities; Gadsden County Commissioner Gene Morgan; State Senator Bill Montford; State Representative Alan Williams; State Representative Marti Coley and State Representative Halsey Beshears.
Jim Barineau (l) and Faye Alcorn are honored with a resolution by Gadsden county commissioner Gene Morgan.
“This is a special place for all of Florida,” stated Senator Montford of the effort made by the community to renovate the old arsenal. “I don’t think you can replicate this anywhere.”
Rep. Alan Williams echoed Commissioner Gene Morgan in saying that the facility wasn’t only a place to remember the past but also a place to plan the future.
In a special recognition, Commissioner Gene Morgan presented a resolution passed by the Gadsden County Board of Commissioners honoring former hospital administrator Faye Alcorn and Jim Barineau for their hard work and leadership in bringing the restoration project to fruition.
FSH Administrator Marguerite Morgan said the conference center could immediately be reserved for business meetings during normal hospital hours and the museum will be developed over time with an auxiliary to oversee it. She said a cannon ball had been donated by local historian Grady Turnage of Chattahoochee, who also assisted in the restoration of the arsenal. Also donated was a portrait of James Pierpoint Innis McClellan, who served in the Confederacy at the arsenal, by great-great grandsons Charles and Mark McClellan and Bill Bridges.