A month-long celebration of Apalachicola’s rich legacy of shotgun houses will kick off Sunday with the opening of a fascinating photography exhibit devoted to the students and teachers at Holy Family Mission School, the Catholic institution school that once flourished in the heart of the Hill neighborhood.
An opening reception at 4 p.m. at the now restored Holy Family Senior Center, followed by a talent show at 5 p.m. will mark the event. Like all the events throughout the month, the entire community is invited to attend, and it is free.
The exhibit of more than 40 photographs taken of Holy Family students and teachers in the 1950s and 60s is one of the many events sponsored by PEARLS (Preserving and Embracing Apalachicola’s Rich Legacy of Shotguns).
Organized by Save Our Shotguns (SOS), a new non-profit organization, PEARLS is a multicultural event that aims to heighten awareness and appreciation for traditional mill workers’ houses. To fund the month-long celebration, SOS received a $5000 matching seed grant from the Florida Humanities Council and a $2000 grant from the Tourist Development Council.
SOS President Creighton Brown said he was grateful and excited to receive this support. “I’m hopeful that this marks the end of a steady loss of our historically significant structures,” he said. “The shotguns, four-squares, and other deteriorating or abandoned houses speak to the very soul of generations of our city’s workers.”
Brown said the group is instructed by the successful Save-Our-Shotguns model in Louisville, Kentucky, and Home By Hand in New Orleans, Louisiana.
“Like those places, we have a large inventory of houses in need of reawakening as well as local folks who could benefit enormously from owning them,” he said.
“Our hands-on board and neighbors, all non-paid volunteers, share a vision of a revitalized Hill community,” Brown said. “We are seeing this excitement expressed in other efforts incubating in town. These combined energies, focusing on renewal, are encouraging.”
During its almost 50 years of existence, the Holy Family Mission School was served by one order of nuns, the Holy Family Order of New Orleans, and several orders of priests. Edmundite priests ran the Mission from 1959 to 1968 and the photographs in the month-long exhibit were taken during that time.
The unknown photographer had a good eye and captured community life at the school with sensitivity and heart. Many people pictured are still alive today, and they will no doubt enjoy finding themselves and their friends in these old photographs.
Today the Society of Saint Edmund Archives, located in Vermont, preserves over 100 photographs of the Apalachicola Mission, and they can all be viewed online. With the help of local residents LaRaela Gunther and Pam Richardson, 43 photographs in the collection have been printed on 18-inch x 24-inch canvas and hung on the walls of the old school. Many people in the community have helped to identify former students and teachers.
Throughout the rest of the month, the gallery will be open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m., with the exception of Sundays, April 16 and 30.
Because of the non-profit status of SOS, contributions of funds or saleable items to the organization provide tax advantages to donors.
SOS has a website saveourshotguns.org, and a Facebook page. Brown may be reached at 413-717-0936.