The community of Brownsville is among Pensacola’s most remarkable neighborhoods. Begun around the turn-of-the-century, Brownsville has served as the home and place of business for several generations of Pensacolians.
First noted as being organized in 1908, Brownsville was begun as a community for working class families to own their own homes and raise their families, away from the cramped boarding houses and deteriorating rental property available to them in the dense urban core of established Pensacola.
The neighborhood was located in the newly developed western area of Pensacola, close to the upscale Englewood subdivision, streetcar lines, and Kupfrian’s Park, where many recreational and sporting events were held in the early 20th century. The community was one of the first in Pensacola that offered each family lot a sizeable yard.
The name Brownsville comes from Lucius Screven Brown. Born in 1874, Brown was a prominent Pensacolian who had a long career in real estate, banking and insurance.
Brown began building wood-frame, shotgun-style homes west of downtown Pensacola in 1908. In historical accounts, his Norwegian business partner, Haakon Paulsen Sr., called the neighborhood “Brownsville” until the name stuck.
Brown would go on to serve on the Pensacola City Council and as assistant postmaster. He led the effort to pave Cervantes Street and Mobile Highway in 1912 and extend public water lines. This modernization intensified the residential building boom in Brownsville.
During the first half of the 20th century, Brownsville was home to a variety of successful family owned and operated business enterprises, and served as the gateway to Mobile, Ala. via Mobile Highway long before Interstate 10 and I-110 were constructed.
In the 1940s and 50s, Brownsville had become a bustling community and hub for commerce thanks to being intersected by the only local road between Pensacola and Mobile. The community became so prominent that an effort in 1955 to annex the community into the City of Pensacola to provide increased public services came to a referendum, which ultimately failed.
Beginning in the later 1950s and through the 1980s, Brownsville began its decline.
Over the decades, with the advent of shopping malls dotting suburban Pensacola and the opening of the interstate highway system, Brownsville stores were forced to close, drawing families away.
Today, more than a century after its founding, current residents of Brownsville have hope the community can thrive again with reinvestment returning back to the areas within and surrounding downtown Pensacola.
Enjoy these historic photos of Brownsville from the early 1900s through the 1950s.
Downtown Brownsville, Fla.
Brownsville Cycle Co.
The Brownsville Cycle Company was located at the intersection of Cervantes and North P streets, across the street from where the Elbow Room Pub & Lounge stands today. A used car dealership and gravel parking lot has since replaced the historic building.