Pensacola is the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle, and the county seat and only incorporated city of Escambia County, Florida, United States. As of the 2020 United States census, the population was 54,312. Pensacola is the principal city of the Pensacola Metropolitan Area, which had an estimated 502,629 residents as of 2019.
Pensacola is the site of the first Spanish settlement within the borders of the continental United States in 1559, predating the establishment of St. Augustine by 6 years, although the settlement was abandoned due to a hurricane and not re-established until 1698. Pensacola is a seaport on Pensacola Bay, which is protected by the barrier island of Santa Rosa and connects to the Gulf of Mexico. A large United States Naval Air Station, the first in the United States, is located southwest of Pensacola near Warrington; it is the base of the Blue Angels flight demonstration team and the National Naval Aviation Museum. The main campus of the University of West Florida is situated north of the city center.
The area was originally inhabited by Muskogean-speaking peoples. The Pensacola people lived there at the time of European contact, and Creek people frequently visited and traded from present-day southern Alabama and Mississippi and southeast of Louisiana. Spanish explorer Tristán de Luna founded a short-lived settlement in 1559. In 1698 the Spanish established a presidio in the area, from which the modern city gradually developed. The area changed hands several times as European powers competed in North America. During Florida's British rule (1763–1781), fortifications were strengthened.
It is nicknamed "The City of Five Flags", due to the five governments that have ruled it during its history: the flags of Spain (Castile), France, Great Britain, the United States of America, and the Confederate States of America. Other nicknames include "World's Whitest Beaches" (due to the white sand of Florida panhandle beaches), "Cradle of Naval Aviation", "Western Gate to the Sunshine State", "America's First Settlement", "Emerald Coast", "Red Snapper Capital of the World", and "P-Cola".
The original inhabitants of the Pensacola Bay area were Native American peoples. At the time of European contact, a Muskogean-speaking tribe known to the Spanish as the Pensacola lived in the region. This name was not recorded until 1677, but the tribe appears to be the source of the name "Pensacola" for the bay and thence the city. Creek people, also Muskogean-speaking, came regularly from present-day southern Alabama to trade, so the peoples were part of a broader regional and even continental network of relations.
The best-known Pensacola culture site in terms of archeology is the Bottle Creek site, a large site located 59 miles (95 km) west of Pensacola north of Mobile, Alabama. This site has at least 18 large earthwork mounds, five of which are arranged around a central plaza. Its main occupation was from 1250 CE to 1550. It was a ceremonial center for the Pensacola people and a gateway to their society. This site would have had easy access by a dugout canoe, the main mode of transportation used by the Pensacola.
Pensacola is located on the north side of Pensacola Bay. It is 59 miles (95 km) east of Mobile, Alabama, and 196 miles (315 km) west of Tallahassee, the capital of Florida. According to the United States Census Bureau, Pensacola has a total area of 40.7 square miles (105.4 km2), consisting of 22.5 square miles (58.4 km2) of land and 18.1 square miles (47.0 km2), 44.62%, water.The land is sloped up northward from Pensacola Bay, with most of the city at an elevation above that which a potential hurricane storm surge could affect.
As of the census of 2010, there were 51,923 people, 23,600 households, and 14,665 families residing in the city, and 402,000 people in the Pensacola MSA. The population density was 2,303.5 people per square mile (956.8/km2). There were 26,848 housing units at an average density of 1,189.4 per square mile (459.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 66.3% White, 28.0% African American, 2.0% Asian, 0.6% Native American, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 2.3% from two or more races. 3.3% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 24,524 households, out of which 24.6% had children living with them, 39.7% were married couples living together, 16.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.2% were non-families. 32.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.92.
Out of the total population in Pensacola, 45.9% identified with a religion, slightly lower than the national average of 48.3%. Over 48% of Pensacolians who practice a religion identify as Baptists (22.1% of all city residents).] Other Christian denominations include Roman Catholics (9.2% of city residents), Pentecostal (3.8%), Methodist (3.8%), Episcopal (1.1%), Presbyterian (1.1%), and Orthodox (0.3%).
Pensacola is home to a small (0.2% of city residents) but significant Jewish community, whose roots date mostly to German Jewish immigrants of the mid-to-late 19th century. There were also Sephardic Jewish migrants from other areas of the South, and immigrants from other areas of Europe. The first Florida chapter of B'nai Brith was founded downtown in 1874, as well as the first temple, Beth-El, in 1876. Apart from the Reform Beth-El, Pensacola is also served by the Conservative B'nai Israel Synagogue. Paula Ackerman, the first woman who performed rabbinical functions in the United States, was a Pensacola native and led services at Beth-El.
The median income for a household in the city was $34,779, and the median income for a family was $42,868. Males had a median income of $32,258 versus $23,582 for females. The per capita income for the city was $30,556 in 2011. About 12.7% of families and 16.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 26.2% of those under age 18 and 9.2% of those age 65 or over.
Looking for museums in Pensacola? See our list of them here.