46 Sixth Street
Apalachicola, FL 32329
P.O. Box 267
Apalachicola, FL 32329
|Sunday - Monday, Thursday - Saturday||9 AM - 5 PM|
except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
museum admission fee
General Admission: $2
Children under 5: Free
Sandy Madsen, Park Ranger
Willie McNair, Park Ranger
Welcome to John Gorrie Museum State Park! While visiting historic Apalachicola, let Ranger Willie McNair interpret the local history and contributions made by famous resident Dr. John Gorrie. Plan a visit to the other areas managed by the Florida Park Service; The Orman House, Chapman Gardens, and the Three Soldiers Detail. They are also located in Apalachicola and St. George Island State Park is just across the bay.
A young physician named John Gorrie moved to Apalachicola in the early 1800s when it was a prominent port of trade, commerce, and shipping in Florida. Gorrie served as postmaster, city treasurer, town councilman, and bank director. Concern for his yellow fever patients motivated Gorrie to invent a method for cooling their rooms. He became a pioneer in the field of air conditioning and refrigeration by inventing a machine that made ice, and received the first U.S. Patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851. A replica of his ice-making machine is on display at the museum, as well as exhibits chronicling the colorful history of Apalachicola, which played an important role in Florida's economic development.
The coming of railroads in the 1850s affected Apalachicola's role in the formerly lucrative cotton trade. The town's dwindling economy was further shattered during the Civil War by a blockade that sealed off the harbor. The economy remained affected until a decade after the war, when a thriving lumber industry developed to revive the town's income. The town rode the crest of the lumber boom until 1930, when the Apalachicola River floodplain was stripped of cypress. Facing another economic crash, Apalachicola began to capitalize on a readily available natural resource. The bay had been a source of sponges and seafood since the early settlement days and seafood canning became the tow's main industry
A true citizen of Apalachicola: Arriving in 1833 and remaining until his death in 1855, Dr. John Gorrie, a brilliant physician and inventor, developed a refrigeration unit used to cool the rooms of yellow fever patients. His machine laid the groundwork for modern refrigeration and air conditioning and was the first patented ice machine.
Yellow Fever was a mysterious, vicious disease that claimed up to 70 percent of its victims. Symptoms began with shivering, high fever, insatiable thirst, savage headaches and severe back and leg pains. In a day or so, the restless patient became jaundiced, turning yellow. In the terminal stages, patients spit up blood, blood temperatures dropped, pulse faded and the comatose patient, who was cold to the touch, would die in eight to 10 hours. Victims were buried as quickly as possible. Areas were quarantined and yellow flags flown. Gauze was hung over beds to filter air, handkerchiefs were soaked in vinegar and garlic was worn in shoes. Bed linens and compresses were soaked in camphor and sulfur was burned in outdoor smudge pots. Gunpowder was burned and cannons were fired. When it was over, cleaning and fumigation began.
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