The legacy of Apalachicola’s most famous inventor, a man whose statue represents the entire state in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C., just got a nice makeover in his hometown.
At a small celebration Friday afternoon, dignitaries from the Florida State Parks system, together with Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson, snipped the ribbon at the 60-year-old John Gorrie Museum State Park, on Gorrie Square, at Sixth Street and Avenue D.
After an intro by Josh Hodson, park manager at Dr. Julian Bruce St. George Island State Park, which administers the museum, the small gathering heard from Warren Poplin, bureau chief for District 1 of the park system’s Division of Recreation and Parks.
He said the original aim of the construction project was to modernize the building, dedicated in 1958 as one of the first two museum buildings erected by the Florida Park Service, while maintaining its historic characteristics, since it qualifies due to its age.
The project enabled the building to improve handicap access to the restrooms, and to boost energy conservation by replacing outdated fluorescent lighting with modern low-voltage LED track lighting and add ultraviolet protective film to the windows to better protect artifacts.
The project also enabled the state to update the exhibits celebrating the accomplishments of the man credited with inventing the earliest precursor to air conditioning in 1851, exhibits which hadn’t been updated in more than 40 years.
“Although the core story continues to focus on Dr. Gorrie and his contributions, the role of the museum plays in the Apalachicola area hasn’t changed,” said Poplin. “We were able to refine the whole experience by improving the visitor flow and adding new, changing exhibits for new ways to tell stories at the park, while maintaining some of the original exhibits.”
Chuck Hatcher, assistant director of the Florida State Parks, followed with comments that thanks the city for supporting the park over the years..
“Having good relationships with our communities is important to us and we appreciate the team effort for drawing people to Apalachicola,” he said. “We were so excited to be able to make improvements to this site and look forward to new ways to connect with the community to get folks interested in these ‘cool’ stories.”
In his remarks, Johnson called the grand reopening “a monumental occasion for the Franklin County community” and said the museum “has played a crucial role in the preservation of our local culture through careful documentation and artifact preservation.”
He recounted how Gorrie has fallen upon his discovery as part of his humanitarian effort to treat the outbreak of yellow fever in the early 1800s, with a mechanism to cool the rooms of patients fevered from the disease.
“That discovery set the course of modern civilization and caused Gorrie to be known worldwide as the father of refrigeration,” said Johnson, noting that the city had nominated Gorrie in 2014 to become one of the first six inductees into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame.
He closed by recognizing the park service for its dedication and show of commitment, to the state and county, and to “preserve the legacy of Dr. Gorrie for the inspiration of future generations.”