Apalachicola Sponges in St. George Island FL – Resort Vacation Properties The Forgotten Coast is home to a storied history of the sponge industry. In the late 1800s, a fleet of 16 ships called Apalachicola home, and seasoned sailors would strap on brass helmets and lead boots to harvest the region’s most profitable crop. After being harvested, the sponges were taken to the Apalachicola Sponge Exchange, where buyers would inspect and then bid on the sponges. From there, the sponges traveled across America, all the way from San Francisco to New York City. The thriving industry came to a halt in 1939, when over-harvesting and red tide led to a complete ban, and it was not until 2007 that sponging was again allowed in Apalach.

The demand for sponges today is notably different; Apalachicola Bay sponges are a niche product, often shipped to spas or companies with a “green” focus that value the renewable aspect of natural sponges. And the local company has a deep respect for this deep sea treasure—they make an effort to help protect the reproduction of sponges by always leaving three inches (the length needed for the sponges to regenerate) and squeezing the reproductive spores of the sponges while underwater.

Almost as storied as the sponge industry is today’s Apalachicola Sponge Company. The owners, Jerry and Joyce Garlick, are longtime residents of and contributors to the area—Jerry was a postal worker until 1995, and Joyce spent years working in the local seafood industry.

In 1995, they opened an antique business in the original Sponge Exchange building. Soon after, they looked into expanding into the natural sponge business. The rest, as they say, is history! Jerry is now the only sponge broker on the Florida Panhandle, and his company sells sponges all across the country. Visitors to the area are welcome in their store, now located in the historic Zingarelli Building across from The Owl Cafe in downtown Apalachicola. One of the most important (and enjoyable) missions of Jerry, Joyce, and the whole Apalachicola Sponge Company family is education about sponges. Apalachicola sponges, as stationary creatures, play an important role in gauging the Gulf’s health in addition to lending themselves to a multitude of eco-friendly uses!

You can learn more about the Apalachicola Sponge Company or make online orders at their website, or visit their store at 14 Avenue D, Monday through Friday from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.

It’s hard to beat the fishing on St. George Island. Its location as a barrier island four miles off the mainland gives fishermen the unique opportunity to fish Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico in the same day, if they so choose. And each has its advantages—the Bay is home to more than 100 species of fish, while the Gulf gives opportunity for surfing and offshore fishing along the white sand beaches.

This love of fishing spans the Forgotten Coast region, and locals are proud to include children in our favorite sport. After all, fishing offers children a variety of life lessons, from patience and decision-making to the concept of the circle of life. Many charters, which make fishing hassle-free by including the required licenses, rods, reels, bait and tackle, welcome children. Some are even for children only!

A great way to celebrate the young angler in your life can be found just across the Bay in Eastpoint. The 17th Annual Fisherman’s Choice Youth Fishing Tournament will be held on June 10th, bringing together 200 children ages 16 and under to fish for both fresh and saltwater species. Entry is free and includes a free t-shirt. After the tournament, everyone is invited to attend a cookout at Fisherman’s Choice, the title sponsor and Eastpoint’s premier hunting and fishing supply store.

 

While artists have long painted outdoors, it was not until the mid-19th century that the practice became popular enough to be given a proper name—plein air painting. Since then, the tradition has become a style in and of itself; a painter sets off into the world to capture its beauty at that very moment. This tradition is naturally quite popular in areas blessed with natural beauty, including Florida’s own Forgotten Coast.

For ten days in May, the Forgotten Coast will celebrate the tradition of plein air painting with the 12th annual Forgotten Coast En Plein Air Invitational, when more than 20 nationally acclaimed artists and several hundred art enthusiasts come together for daily artist demonstrations, workshops, art sales, and a series of public receptions.

One of the world’s most prestigious plein art events, the festivities span over 100 miles along the coast from Carrabelle to Mexico Beach and place particular focus on the Forgotten Coast’s unique local culture—the people, places, and stories behind the plein air paintings.

Of course, activities are not limited to the experienced painters! Novices can partake too, with the festival’s Painting Stations, which offer a unique, one-on-one experience with Florida’s Finest Ambassadors and include all necessary supplies. To book your appointment, click here.

And if you fancy yourself more of a spectator, there are plenty of events to enjoy. The demonstrations will be held at a variety of locations and times, giving the artists ample opportunity to capture a variety of different lighting, including darkness! There are also a variety of receptions, “Lunch and Learn” lectures, and Collector’s Forums, but be advised reservations are required and spots are filling up fast!

The Forgotten Coast En Plein Air Invitational begins May 5 at 8:00 A.M. and lasts until May 14 at 5:00 P.M. For more information, such as a schedule of events, please visit their website today!

Located in the middle of the Island, the Cape St. George Lighthouse has become an iconic landmark for St. George Island and the Forgotten Coast as a whole. This defining piece of architecture has a history just as remarkable as the views offered from its summit.

The Island’s original lighthouse was built in 1833 on the western tip of St. George. However, its location was difficult for ships coming from the east to see, so in 1846 it was determined that a new location would be sought out. The following year, Congress appropriated $8,000 to build a new lighthouse two miles to the southeast, repurposing many of the materials from the 1833 lighthouse in the process.

The second light would only last three years. After it was destroyed by a hurricane, construction began on a third structure—a lighthouse “built to last,” with a new location further inland and a foundation of pine pilings driven deeply into the sand in addition to cement walls made tapering from four feet at the bottom to two feet at the top. And last it did—for 153 years.

The next century brought change throughout the world and eventually to the Island’s little lighthouse; in 1949 the Coast Guard replaced the Fresnel lens with an automated light, eliminating the need for lighthouse keepers. Later in the century, the lighthouse bore the brunt of some devastating hurricanes. Hurricane Andrew changed the landscape of the St. George by reclaiming a large part of the surrounding beach in 1992, and three years later, Hurricane Opal moved the lighthouse from its foundation, giving it what would temporarily become its signature lean.

The community rallied around its beloved landmark, raising over $200,000 and restoring it to its former glory by 2002. However, by the spring of 2005, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico had once again reclaimed the structure. In October of that year, the lighthouse collapsed into the Gulf, ending its sesquicentennial watch over the Gulf of Mexico.

Thanks to the efforts of the St. George Lighthouse Association, a reconstruction occurred at the center of the Island. The St. George Lighthouse we know today opened in 2008, followed by a museum and gift shop in a replica of the Keeper’s House in 2011. You can now climb to the top of the lighthouse any day of the week except Thursday from 10 AM (Noon on Sunday) until 5 PM, or join in on the monthly full moon climb.

John Gorrie St. George Island

Good ole’ John Gorrie making Floridians cooler since 1844!

Down St. George Island Florida way, winter weather sets in a little later. We’ve spent many a Thanksgiving meal in short sleeves with the AC blasting to combat the effects of the big turkey roasting in the oven along with everyone’s favorite Apalachicola oyster stuffing. In neighboring Apalachicola, folks know all about John Gorrie—even dedicating a square of town, a state park, and a museum to his memory.

Dr. John Gorrie is regarded as a pioneer in the realms of ice making and refrigeration. Those of us who spend our Thanksgivings beachside know all too well that without air conditioning and ice, this time of year would be a lot less about making family memories and a lot more about trying to stay cool on the coast.

These Florida folks need to cool down!

Gorrie relocated down to Apalachicola in 1833, bringing with him a host of knowledge and experience regarding everything from medicine to finances. As a young physician, Gorrie realized that the yellow fever epidemic plaguing the region seemed to be exacerbated by the patients being unable to drop their body temperatures. He began tirelessly searching for a way to cool the rooms these patients were in.  He even eventually gave up his medical practice to dedicate all his time pursuing a solution.

In 1844, Gorrie came up with the plans for the first ever air conditioner.  It was a device run on ice that then pumped out cooled air. In 1851, he received a patent for mechanical refrigeration, which laid the foundation for what would become modern refrigeration and air conditioning. While Gorrie was unable to witness the fruits of his labor due to a lack of widespread interest and investment at the time, we now recognize his contribution to the development of refrigeration as an integral part in creating the comforts of air conditioning that we now enjoy today.

Local boy done good.

Apalachicola honors John Gorrie and his dedication to bettering the lives of his patients with the John Gorrie Museum State Park, located at 46 6th Street. A replica of Gorrie’s ice machine can be found within the museum.  A statue bearing his likeness is on-site and visitors can pay their respects in person, as Dr. Gorrie’s gravesite buried just across the street from the museum building.

For more information about the John Gorrie Museum State Park or to plan a trip to honor the man responsible for the comforts of air conditioning we have today, visit the John Gorrie Museum State Park website here.


Resort Vacation Properties of St. George Island Florida makes it their mission to champion their community by sharing the old fishermen tales, the area’s mysterious history, the hidden beauty spots along the Forgotten Coast, and highlighting the wonders of this incredible beach island enclave.  St. George Island is a short 80 miles east of Panama City, along the sparkling Gulf Coast of Florida.  We hope you’ll check out our rental properties should your travels ever bring you our way.