PANAMA CITY — A new exhibition at a downtown gallery shows that a vibrant downtown has been the goal of city planners, business owners, residents and politicians since way before the recent efforts to revive and renovate the marina and adjacent blocks.

"With all of the focus and energy on our downtown, I think visitors will enjoy these images that show the area vibrant and full of life," said photographer Bonnie Tate-Woodby. "They remind us how downtown was at the heart of Panama City. Even the early photos of unpaved roads are full of possibility.'

Tate-Woodby's business, The Light Room, is hosting "People and Places: A Candid History of Downtown," an exhibit of photographs from the Bay County Public Library's local history department. Most of the photos center on Harrison Avenue and surrounding streets, businesses, people at work and play over the last 100-plus years.

Laura Moree, head of Local History and Genealogy at the library, put the show together and included lots of background information on each location.

"This exhibit is important because it showcases the history of everyday residents working and relaxing in downtown throughout the past hundred years," Moree said. "I hope it will provide an interesting perspective for the downtown area's evolution while also inspiring others with the importance of preserving Panama City's stories."

The exhibit opened March 14 and runs through March 31. The Light Room invites community members to an open house to celebrate the exhibit from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, March 17.

Along with the changing streetscape, the images show the activity of daily life, memories of work and leisure, and the many businesses contributing to the heartbeat of downtown over the last century.

"I love all the photographs, but one of my favorites is a 1902 picture of City Park, now McKenzie Park," Moree said. "This picture, which reminds me of a painting, invites the viewer to not only gaze at the scene, but also to participate with it. For example, what is the bearded gentleman pointing at and what is he saying to the woman?"

The Light Room is located at 306 Harrison Ave., Panama City. For more information, call 850-818-0475, email, or visit the website,

For more historic photos of the area, visit the Local History Department at the Bay County Public Library, 898 W. 11th St., Panama City. Or visit the website,