Seville Square has been at the heart of Pensacola’s community life since the British first laid it out as a public square in the 1760s at the site of an earlier Spanish town. It was designated as a public plaza in the early 1800s under renewed Spanish rule.
Over the centuries, and like the neighborhoods around it, Seville Square fell into disrepair. By the 1950s much of what is now the Seville Historic District was an unkempt slum. But led by visionaries like Mary Turner Rule Reed, Pensacolians had begun to reconnect with their history and restore historic buildings and locations. They also established the Pensacola Heritage Foundation.
In 1966, Pensacola’s newfound enthusiasm for its history sparked An Evening in Old Seville Square, a community party sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and the Junior League, and marked by music, games and1890s-era costumes in a restored Seville Square. The popular event grew from there, peaking in 1972 in a two-day festival that drew a reported 50,000 people.
The event’s future seemed assured.
However, costs were rising, as were problems with aging infrastructure in the park; Reed married and left Pensacola, and there was no Seville evening in 1973. And while the rebirth of the Historic District and the interest in local history continued through the efforts of the Heritage Foundation and other groups, An Evening in Old Seville Square remained dormant except for a special event in 1981 related to The Galvez Celebration, commemorating a major battle between British and Spanish forces on the area now known as North Hill, in 1781.
But in 1988, Jim Tanck, Jim Green and Red Vickrey championed rebirth of the event as a series of free summer musical concerts, and sold the idea to a reluctant Pensacola Heritage Foundation board. The cautious group, protective of the original event’s name and public reputation, approved it under a new moniker: Evenings in Olde Seville Square.
According to an unofficial history, the first of the reborn events, in June 1988, drew 479 people. The next week’s attendance nearly doubled, and attendance climbed year after year as momentum built during a 25-year run featuring more than 350 concerts. Series attendance topped 100,000 for the first time in 1996, and surpassed 150,000 by 2001.
The series was marked by a number of special events, including Christmas and July 4 concerts. Organizers say the single-largest attendance — 18,700 people — came for the Evenings in Olde Seville Square on Sept. 18, 2001 … one week after the terrorist attack to be known forever as 9/11.
In 2012, the Pensacola Heritage Foundation, once again straining under the cost and volunteer effort of running the free concert series, announced the end of Evenings in Olde Seville Square — unless a new sponsor could be found.
In early 2013, a new non-profit organization — Events Pensacola — formed to continue the concert series. It received the blessing of the Pensacola Heritage Foundation, which granted it use of the iconic name, Evenings in Olde Seville Square.