203 South Baylen

Within this somewhat unassuming building holds a rich heritage, both architecturally and culturally.  Built in 1898 by an important Pensacola businessman named Christian Thiesen, this structure is a wonderful example of turn-of-the-century commercial architecture. Besides this building, Thiesen is most well known in Pensacola for building the city’s first high-rise building on the northeast corner of Palafox and Romana streets in 1901.  However, the structure at 203 South Baylen also holds a unique link to Pensacola’s past. 

By the turn of the century, Jim Crow-style segregation was law.  African American businesses were forced from some of the most commercially viable locations in town.  Many businesses simply closed while others adapted to the new social climate by moving into predominantly minority sections of town.  Despite the discriminatory laws, many businesses catering to the African American community flourished—including a newspaper named The Colored Citizen.

The Colored Citizen began publishing weekly out of this building in 1914. Each edition of the Colored Citizen featured a variety of subject matter, from news for and about the local African American community to poetry, short stories, and even a comic page.  When the newspaper began publishing out of this building, a yearly subscription to the Colored Citizen cost only $1.50. As for the content, the paper called for justice and equal rights between the races and took bold stands against lynching and the Ku Klux Klan, a brave move for an African American paper in the Jim Crow south.  Compared to other major African American newspapers of its day, including The Chicago Defender and The Pittsburgh Courier, The Colored Citizen remained a strong advocate for the African American community in the Pensacola area throughout the paper’s life.    

In 1952, The Colored Citizen stopped publishing in this building and ended an important era in the social history of Pensacola that took place in one of Pensacola’s many historic buildings.    

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