The Gibson Inn was built in 1907 at the peak of Apalachicola’s reign as a center for lumber and shipping. Originally called the Franklin Hotel, the Gibson was constructed by James Fulton Buck. It was a classic three story Victorian structure with wrap around porches on the first and second floors. Because of its amenities and use of native heart pine and black cypress in the construction of the hotel, it became one of the most luxurious hotels in the panhandle. At the time, the hotel was the only one between Jacksonville and Pensacola to be heated entirely by steam.
As the area’s economy began to decline, the hotel changed owners many times until being sold to the Gibson sisters in 1923. After purchasing the hotel they changed the name to the Gibson Inn. The Gibsons owned the hotel until 1942 when the Army began using it as an officers’ club and billets.
After World War II, the hotel changed owners several more times, and it fell into disrepair. The hotel’s once Victorian elegance was slowly being forgotten until 1983 when Michael Merlo and the Koun family discovered it. They spared no expense restoring the dilapidated structure using timber from the banks of the Apalachicola River and performing chemical analysis on paint chips to determine the correct colors to paint the hotel. The Gibson Inn was put on the National Register of Historic places in 1985 and was reopened that year after a tedious rehabilitation that cost over two million dollars.
The monument across the street was placed in the center of downtown Apalachicola in remembrance of Lt. Willoughby Ryan Marks, who commanded Company C of the 61st Infantry, 5th Division, for showing “extraordinary valor” and sacrificing his life in an attempt to save a comrade killed in the Argonne, a World War I battle fought October 12, 1918.
The photos below show how the Gibson Inn changed over time. For more information about Apalachicola history, please tour our other plaques throughout downtown, visit www.CityofApalachicola.com, the website of the Apalachicola Area Historical Society, and the State Library and Archives of Florida.
Special thanks to Neil Koun, Michael Koun, Mike Merlo, Mark Curenton, David Adlerstein and August Klinke.
51 Ave C
Apalachicola, FL 32320 USA