An Artistic Representation of Florida’s First Capitol Building

By Doug Alderson

Replica of First Log Cabin Capitol Building
First Florida Capitol Project Sign

The very first Capitol building of 1824 was a simple affair—a log cabin just large enough to house the territorial legislature of 13 appointed members along with the governor, secretary and judiciary. Construction by enslaved persons brought in by Tallahassee’s first territorial settlers began in spring and it was finished in time for Tallahassee’s first legislative session that November. It was just south of the present-day Capitol building. No designs or depictions of this first Capitol have survived, and some historians maintain that two auxiliary log cabin buildings were also constructed for conducting government business.

            In 1924, for the Tallahassee-Leon County Centennial, boy scouts built a log cabin to commemorate Florida’s first capitol building. Fifty years later, in 1974, Leon County Sheriff Raymond Hamlin and his son built another log cabin to commemorate Florida’s first capitol as part of the Tallahassee-Leon County Sesquicentennial. So, not surprisingly, as the 2024 Bicentennial approached, people advocated for building another log cabin representation of Florida’s first capitol. Chief among the advocates was Sandler Dickson, a local realtor who also served on the organizing committee for the Sesquicentennial. After several months, Frank Terraferma, a prominent lobbyist and local history enthusiast, also took up the cause. He had lived in Idaho for a spell and admired the replica they had built for their first capitol. The major obstacle that Dickson and Terraferma encountered was finding a suitable location for the log cabin. They were confident that funds could be generated to build the actual cabin, if only permission could be granted for a section of public land to be used.

            At the October 9, 2023, Bicentennial History Task Force meeting, retired business executive Bob Knight joined in the effort and momentum started to build. Mayor John Dailey was contacted and he whole-heartedly agreed to champion the 2024 first capitol project!

            As the weeks passed, more details emerged. The building would be an artistic representation of Florida’s first capitol building, a log cabin, not necessarily a replica since the original dimensions of that first capitol are not known. The cabin would be placed temporarily in Cascades Park during the Bicentennial and be ready by November of 2024, in time for the anniversary of Florida’s first territorial legislative session held in Tallahassee in 1824. Interpretive information, displays, and ongoing programming would accompany the cabin.

City of Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey

Mayor Dailey’s first public unveiling of the plan was at the History Task Force meeting on December 11th, 2023, held at WFSU studios. Two draft public service announcements were shown in which the mayor proclaimed: “In our first days, our democracy was born in a cabin on a hill. That democracy has been our guiding light toward a more perfect union. In our Bicentennial year, we have a wonderful opportunity to bring Florida’s first capitol back to life.”

The mayor further outlined the cabin project at a January 17, 2024, Tallahassee City Commission meeting, their first meeting of the Bicentennial year. “We have many stories to tell, great stories to tell, about our history. Some of them are painful and some of them we celebrate. One of the stories we have to tell about our community is how we became the capital of the state of Florida, but before that the capital of the territory of La Florida. We have a rich tradition of building the first Florida log cabin capitol for milestone anniversaries and this year will be no different.” Habitat for Humanity will spearhead the cabin construction so that it will be built by the community, for the community.

So, keep your eyes on Cascades Park near the old Centennial Field for an artistic representation of Florida’s first capitol building. Besides being a great photo opportunity, it will also be a chance to learn more about how Tallahassee became Florida’s capital.

Tallahassee-Leon County Bicentennial Team
L to R: Bob Knight, Sandler Dickson, Kerri Post, Mayor John Dailey, Vel Johnson, and Doug Alderson

To learn more:

First Florida Capitol Facebook page:

Short video (Heritage & Legacy):

Short video (Foundation to Democracy):

Doug Alderson is a Tallahassee-Leon County Bicentennial content provider for Visit Tallahassee and the Chair of the Bicentennial History Task Force. He is also the author of several award-winning books about Florida history and natural history.