The area was originally inhabited by Muskogean peoples. The Pensacola people lived there at the time of European contact, and Creek people frequently visited and traded from present-day southern Alabama. Spanish explorer Tristán de Luna founded a short-lived settlement in 1559. In 1698 the Spanish established a presidio in the area, from which the modern city gradually developed. The area changed hands several times as European powers competed in North America. During Florida’s British rule (1763–1789), fortifications were strengthened.
It is nicknamed “The City of Five Flags”, due to the five governments that have ruled it during its history: the flags of Spain (Castile), France, Great Britain, the United States of America and the Confederate States of America. Other nicknames include “World’s Whitest Beaches” (due to the white sand of Florida panhandle beaches), “Cradle of Naval Aviation”, “Western Gate to the Sunshine State”, “America’s First Settlement”, “Emerald Coast”, “Red Snapper Capital of the World”, and “P-Cola”.
Pensacola does not have a prominent skyline, but has several low-rise buildings. The tallest is the 15-floor Crowne Plaza Grand Hotel, which stands at 146 feet (45 m). Other tall buildings include the Scenic Apartments (98 feet (30 m)), SunTrust Tower (96 feet (29 m)), Seville Tower (88 feet (27 m)), and the AT&T Building (76 feet (23 m)).
Historic buildings in Pensacola include the First National Bank Building.
Cantonment Clinch, a short-lived United States Army outpost, began providing meteorological observations in the 1820s through the 1830s. Observations from the Pensacola area by other sources continued intermittently over the next several decades.
Weather statistics since the late 20th century have been recorded at the airport. The city has seen single digit temperatures (below −12 °C) on three occasions: 5 °F (−15 °C) on January 21, 1985, 7 °F (−14 °C) on February 13, 1899 and 8 °F (−13 °C) on January 11, 1982. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Pensacola has a humid subtropical climate,(Köppen Cfa), with short, mild winters and hot, humid summers. Typical summer conditions have highs in the lower 90s °F (32–34 °C) and lows in the mid 70s °F (23–24 °C)Afternoon or evening thunderstorms are common during the summer months. Due partly to the coastal location, temperatures above 100 °F (38 °C) are relatively rare, and last occurred in June 2011, when two of the first four days of the month recorded highs reaching the century mark. The highest temperature ever recorded in the city was 106 °F (41 °C) on July 14, 1980. The daily average temperature in January is 51.4 °F (10.8 °C); freezing temperatures occur on an average 13.7 nights per season, with the average window for freezing conditions being from December 13 to February 20. Temperatures below 20 °F (−7 °C) are very rare, and last occurred on January 8, 2015,when a low of 19 °F (−7 °C) was seen. The lowest temperature ever recorded in the city was 5 °F (−15 °C) on January 21, 1985.
Snow is rare in Pensacola, but does occasionally fall. The most recent snow event occurred on February 12, 2010. The city receives 64.28 inches (1,630 mm) of precipitation per year, with a rainy season in the summer. The rainiest month is July, with 7.40 inches (188 mm), with May being the driest month at 4.17 inches (106 mm). In June 2012 over one foot (300 mm) of rain fell on Pensacola and adjacent areas, leading to widespread flooding. On April 29, 2014. Pensacola was drenched by at least 20 inches of rain within a 24-hour period, causing the worst flooding in 30 years.