During the Civil War, St. Andrews was a strategic supplier of salt to the Confederate troops, which made it a target for the North. Many raids were made in the area by Federal troops, and eventually the town was destroyed in 1863.
Lambert Ware visited the area in 1877, and then returned in 1879. His brother Francis joined him in 1882, and they operated Ware Mercantile and Ware’s Wharf, on the present Harbour Village and St. Andrews Marina sites. The town flourished again with salt, fishing, boat building and shipping along the gulf coast. About this time, the St. Andrews Bay Railroad, Land, and Mining Co., locally known as the Cincinnati Company because they were based in Cincinnati, Ohio, advertised mail-order real estate with this descriptive:
“The loveliest location in all Florida. In a land where the genial climate of a winterless round of years will reward your every effort with the most bountiful harvests; where the summers are joyous seasons of refreshing breezes and invigorating nights of cool and healthful slumber; and where the winters are but bewitching contrasts to the summers in heightening and intensifying the delicious pleasure of a life in the fairest land the sun ever blessed with it’s genial kiss. There is but one Florida, and St. Andrews Bay is it’s brightest jewel.”
In the beginning, lots approximately 25 feet by 82 feet were sold for $1.25. Later the price escalated to $8 per lot in “St. Andrews by the sea.” The scheme finally busted, but not before some of the buyers decided they really liked the area and stayed.
In 1908, St. Andrews incorporated for the first time. It continued to grow in the early 1900s and became a popular port on the coast. The SS Tarpon traveled between Mobile and Appalachicola, stopping like clock work in St. Andrews, delivering beer, flour, and other supplies. One could “set your watch” by the arrival and departure of the Tarpon, and it was this persistence of her captain, and the fact she was overloaded, that led to her demise. He pushed her on through a storm to be on time, but she sank off Panama City Beach in 1937. The site is now an underwater archaeological preserve. Click here to take an underwater tour of the site where the SS Tarpon sank in 1937 and still rests at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
Other towns had grown up in the area, one of those being Panama City, which annexed St. Andrews, and three other small towns in 1927.
Panama City became an important port, and was used for building ships (and later dismantling them) during World War II. Movie Star Clark Gable, who enlisted in 1942, was stationed here during that time and patronized local restaurants in St. Andrews. Charter Boats, restaurants, and shops in St. Andrews were bustling with people in the mid-1900s. The community was a “destination.” The center of attention shifted as Panama City Beach opened up to traffic. In the 1980s, commerce in St. Andrews took a sharp dive as the business community left for the new destination in Panama City Beach.
The Panama City Commission recognized the need to revitalize St. Andrews. In 1989, St. Andrews was designated as a Community Redevelopment Area. In 1997, St. Andrews joined the inaugural Waterfronts Florida Program. That, and a variety of grants from the State of Florida, in the form of cash and technical assistance, were used as the tools for revitalizing St. Andrews into a sustainable waterfront community. The redevelopment process has been an innovative, successful partnership between the city and the citizens.