Pensacola Historic Building Inspires Films
A building in Northwest Florida has played many roles — in life and on the big screen. The Old Sacred Heart Hospital, originally known as Pensacola Hospital, was Florida’s first Catholic hospital when it opened in 1915.
Today it houses a school, several restaurants, private offices and a community theater. The building is also attracting students at Florida State University’s film school, where it has spurred creativity and been transformed into a morgue, urban loft and now, an insane asylum.
The Late Gothic Revival building is a landmark in Pensacola, standing grandly on one of the city’s main thoroughfares 12th Avenue. One of the most advanced health care facilities of the time, the former Sacred Heart Hospital once attracted doctors from all over the state. Today, visitors feel the magnificence of the stone building as they walk up the wide staircase and through the Gothic arched entrance and elaborate Tudor-style, wooden entry doors. For graduate students at FSU, the building seems to possess the same kind of power, calling three different classes to film there.
“Stories about the Old Sacred Heart Hospital have been passed down from class to class, so the entire FSU film school is aware of its great features and unique character,” said Tom Roush, film commissioner for the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. “It has been scouted by every class for the past five years.”
“We have so many diverse locations in Pensacola that inspire the imagination of creative people and evoke different feelings to each individual,” added Roush. “Our beaches have inspired Fox’s drama ‘Prison Break,’ the thriller ‘Jaws 2’ and the black comedy ‘Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell.’”
The film“3 A.M.,” shot in 2003, portrayed Old Sacred Heart Hospital as a morgue and “Lamia,” shot in 2004, featured the building as an artist’s loft. “Asylum,” which will be shot in the building for six days this spring, will portray the building as an insane asylum in a psychological thriller produced by graduate student Andrew Bartels and directed by Frederick Snyder.
FSU is one of the top five film schools in the world. The master’s program produces five films per year. Though the films range in length from 15 to 20 minutes, they are shot on 16mm film with the option of 35mm film with a full crew, professional gear and quality production values, just like a mainstream studio feature. “3 A.M.” and “Lamia” earned several awards after screening at numerous film festivals across the country.
The Old Sacred Heart hospital is owned byTower East Group, Inc, whose principal owner is Stephen F. Ritz. Ritz bought the building in 1980 to rescue it from disrepair and abandonment. His family and friends have spent years cleaning the 86,000-square foot building. Using early photographs as a guide, they worked tirelessly to restore the architectural treasure. Thanks to their hard work, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, the only hospital in the Panhandle with that distinction.
For more information about the Pensacola Bay Area or the film commission, call the Pensacola Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 874-1234 or (850) 434-1234 or go online to www.VisitPensacola.com.