I thought I had a salicious story for you, but after some serious snooping, it appears that I may have led myself down a rabbit hole for this article. You see, in my mind I had a distinct memory of being told that one of Seaside’s recycled buildings was a former brothel. Eager to find out the details, I rushed headfirst into its investigation of its origins. Unfortunately, after asking around, I was unable to find a single person who could corroborate my bordello theory. And I may also have to see a shrink to find out where I got such an idea in the first place.
I did manage to uncover a few interesting facts about the history of Seaside’s repurposed buildings. While this information may fail to titillate, it could prove of some interest to you.
There are at least four civic structures in Seaside that were brought in from elsewhere. The first were three former sharecroppers shacks. They were found on Back Beach Road in Panama City Beach by two enterprising locals, who brought them to Seaside co-founder Robert Davis’ attention. He purchased the plain, forest green houses and moved them to the site where Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant and the Shrimp Shack now stand. Though greatly altered, they still reside there to this day. I was surprised to discover that Bud & Alley’s was not the first restaurant to take up residence in that space. Before it, there was the Shrimp Shack (different from the current Shrimp Shack), then The Seaside Grill and after that, The Bistro. Luckily, none of these businesses lasted very long. Otherwise we might have never gotten Bud & Alley’s.
The third sharecropper’s cabin currently serves as the yoga room behind the Seaside Fitness Center. Its first purpose in Seaside was housing the visiting architects and designers who helped design Seaside during its infancy. In that capacity, it was called the Architects’ Shack. When I pointed out to Donna Spiers of Seaside Community Realty that such a tiny building seemed much too small to house multiple architects at the same time, she replied, “Precisely.” I suppose architects are willing to rough it for the sake of a new project.
The building that houses the Great Southern Café was also brought in from foreign disregard. This structure started off as a house in Chattahoochee, Fla., near the grounds of a state mental institution. It was brought in by Ian and Deborah Ratowski, who placed it on the lot where The Big Pink now resides. Later, when they wished to build a larger house for themselves, they moved their former residence to the perimeter of Central Square. The restaurant that opened there was named Rose’s Cafe. Depending on whom you ask, it was named either after Seaside co-founder Daryl Rose Davis, or else in homage to the Magnolia Grill in New Orleans. Later it became Shades, and then eventually The Great Southern Café.
Perhaps in a later article I will attempt to uncover the history of these buildings before they moved to Seaside. It certainly would be interesting to find out who originally inhabited them, and where they or their descendants reside today. It is strange to consider that the house one lives in might someday be transported many miles away to serve as a restaurant or yoga room for an entirely new generation of people.
Of course, none of these imported buildings exist in their original state. They each have been altered and enhanced throughout the years, so that they bear little resemblance to their original forms. All of this bears the question: when you change a building to the extent that each of these recycled buildings has been changed, does it remain the same building? In philosophy, this thought experiment is known as the Ship of Theseus paradox. It goes like this: if a ship embarks on a journey, and over the course of its voyage, every piece of it is replaced one by one, is it still the same ship when it returns? If you really want to make your head hurt, you can take it one step further, as Thomas Hobbes did. Imagine that every piece of wood that had been replaced on the first ship was later collected and then used to assemble another ship. Now, which vessel would you consider to be the original ship?
But that’s neither here nor there. At any rate, Seaside has always tried to salvage and recycle buildings rather than scrap them. And many buildings that have become institutions were originally designed to be temporary structures, such as the shacks that form Perspicasity. In addition, the building that houses Sundog Books was designed to be moved to the Lyceum Lawn. You will notice it resembles the other structures there. So next time you’re thinking of demolishing that old barn to make room for a new swimming pool, ask yourself, could I turn this shack into a beloved eating establishment?