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by Dean DeBolt, August 20, 2003.

Several years ago, part of Alcaniz Street, north of Gregory, was renamed to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The original proposal was to rename the entire street, but there was opposition from changing the name in the historical district. Fortunately, the City Council concurred with keeping the Alcaniz name, splitting the street so it honors both past and recent history. Since the Pensacola Historic Preservation Society maintains the oldest house in Pensacola (circa 1810) on its original site (Alcaniz Street, I began to wonder how did this historical street come into existence? Where did these early Spanish street names originate?

One of their earliest appearances is on the “Plan of Pensacola” (1813), which, as Dr. Bill Coker noted, is the first downtown map prepared by a municipal government for the City of Pensacola. The Spanish Constitution of 1812 first permitted the organization of democratically-elected city governments, and by 1813, Pensacola had a city government of a mayor and councilmen. The 1813 map, found in the Vicente Pintado Papers of the Library of Congress (copies at the University of West Florida Library), shows the town of Pensacola from the water to Romana Street. The three named north-south streets are Palafox, Tarragona, and Alcaniz. Three other street names on the map are significant; these are Intendencia, Zaragoza, Gobierno (Government), and Church Street, although this latter is different than present-day Church Street in Seville Square. Gobierno on the 1813 map is “Gobierno Nueve” or New Government Street.

I would conjecture that these six streets–Palafox, Tarragona, Alcaniz, Romana, Intendencia, and Zaragoza–are the only remaining Spanish street names that we can definitely tie to the original Spanish colony at Pensacola. That makes them very historically significant as symbols of Pensacola’s 300 years of settlement.

And where do these names come from? I’m not sure that we even know, but let’s say they were named for places “back home.” In northeastern Spain, we have the region of Aragon [Aragon Court?!] which encompasses three provinces. Among these are the province of Zaragoza and Teruel. One of the principal cities of Teruel is the town of Alcaniz, which may take its name from the plain, Alcaniz, where it is situated. Another Spanish province is Tarragona whose capital city, Tarragona, is traditionally where St. Paul founded the Christian church in Spain in A.D. 60. One of the major towns of Tarragona province is Reus. Coming back to Zaragoza, this province was besieged by French forces in 1808-1809 during the Peninsular War, and was famed for the heroic resistance of its citizens under Gen. José de Palafox y Melzi. Among the defenders was María Augustín, the "Maid of Saragossa," whose exploits are described in Lord Byron's poem Childe Harold.

If you see a pattern here, it’s because the interweaving of Pensacola’s Spanish street names models a close interweaving of place names in Spain.

I don’t believe this is coincidental and it is a history that should be preserved.