From the 1820s to the early 1900s Chattahoochee grew to become a thriving riverboat port where paddle-wheel steamboats once docked and commercial river traffic fueled the town’s growth. A ferry crossing operated until the completion of the Victory Bridge in 1922 connecting not only eastern and western Florida, but St. Augustine to San Diego as a very important link in the development of the Old Spanish Trail highway system. This southernmost transcontinental highway was promoted as “America’s Highway of Romance” with an exotic narrative of missions, forts and Spanish explorers. Its route brought travelers through Chattahoochee and service stations, motels and restaurants benefited from the increased traffic. The paving of the Old Spanish Trail placed Chattahoochee firmly on the map as the East-West gateway on one of the most traveled roads in the state.
In the mid-1970s construction of Interstate-10 was completed through North Florida. Running roughly parallel to US 90, this more direct route runs through the least populated areas of the state and bypasses the urban core of the cities along US 90. One-by-one service stations, motels and other businesses in Chattahoochee that were dependent on travelers and motor traffic closed.
Chattahoochee today is a peaceful community known for its scenery, nature trails, historic sites, quaint business district and oak-lined streets. The City is re-emerging as a unique heritage and ecotourism destination. New efforts are underway to provide for improved interpretation of historical resources as well as the preservation of the city’s unique cultural landmarks. Serene Lake Seminole and the mighty Apalachicola River are a sportsman’s paradise. There are growing numbers of tourists who canoe and kayak from Chattahoochee to Apalachicola. Chattahoochee’s nature trail system is a botanically rich habitat featuring bluffs and ravines near the Apalachicola River. The scenic beauty of rolling hills and deep ravines make Chattahoochee a perfect destination for hiking and biking.
A walk through Chattahoochee evokes feelings of both quiet nostalgia and a restless spirit yearning for a vibrant future. The oldest buildings lining the downtown stand as embattled sentinels. Though many are in various states of disrepair, they steadfastly remain; each having its own story to tell. In 2012 a group of dedicated citizens formed the Chattahoochee Revitalization Project and a year later the city was officially designated a Florida Main Street community. This achievement brings with it a grass roots commitment to revitalization honoring the City’s heritage and promoting economic development through historic preservation, but the real success of the program rests with the community leaders and volunteers who offer their time, expertise and enthusiasm to revitalizing downtown. Community visioning workshops have established several strategic themes of focus: develop historic Main Street district design standards; preserve historic downtown and the city’s heritage; protect the river landing and promote eco-tourism; promote business retention, expansion and recruitment; and foster partnerships.