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Florida’s ‘brightest jewel’

It’s a fine summer day in 1898 along the St. Andrews Bay waterfront,

Zadie Ware, well-dressed postmistress of the little Florida Panhandle town of St. Andrews Bay, relaxes in the shade, sitting on a wharf strewn with shells.

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Ware, the wife of a prominent businessman, must have loved the outdoors. Her image is found in the Florida State photo archives in a host of scenes, many beside the water or on a boat.

And speaking of boats, that’s Capt. “Hawk” Massalina, one of the best-known of the local fishing and tour skippers, maneuvering his graceful yawl Massalina (named after himself) around the dock. An expert boatbuilder and sailor, Hawk was an area fixture for years in the late 1800s, plying the bay in a variety of his own boats.

A century ago, St. Andrews Bay (now part of Panama City and called St. Andrews) was a busy waterfront town of several thousand people, known for its deep-water harbor and fair weather. Ware’s husband, Lambert, was one of two mercantile brothers who helped

revive the town after the Civil War. The town, a strategic salt-producing center, was the site of an 1863 battle that left much of it destroyed. Arriving in 1879, they founded Ware’s Mercantile and Ware’s Wharf, effectively renewing the waterfront.

Twenty years later — at the time this picture was taken — St. Andrews Bay was home to schooners and square-rigged ships in coasting and international trade, as well as a fleet of commercial fishing boats. But the growing number of charter fishing vessels and tour boats, restaurants and shops reflected growing tourism. The little Florida town was catching on. As the travel brochures put it: “There is only one Florida, and St. Andrews Bay is its brightest jewel!”

Zadie and Hawk no doubt would have agreed.

This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue.