Category Archives: First Coast History

Foto Friday

Did you know that Jacksonville once had a system of underground tunnels connecting the downtown Banks?

This immense vault is located under the Atlantic National Bank Building.

Vault

Historic Springfield Tour Of Homes

154 East 4th Street in Historic Springfield

154 East 4th Street in Historic Springfield

The Springfield Historic District, located just North of downtown Jacksonville, was the living area for the wealthy and famous at the turn of the century.  But later, the area fell into disrepair and neglect, as families moved further away from town.

Thanks to an active group of urban pioneers, the community survived, and that sense of pride is strong as homeowners are restoring the historic homes and returning to live in the city.

154 West 5th Street

154 West 5th Street

Springfield is blessed with unique homes and architecture, plentiful parks, tree-lined streets and sidewalks, and proximity to Downtown amenities.  Each year, select homeowners open their homes for the tour.  This year marked the 37th year of the Historic Tour of Homes, and eight properties were featured.

Tapestry – the Cultural Threads of First America

Tapestry exhibitHappy 450th birthday, St Augustine! 

Established in 1565 when Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived with 800 colonists, St Augustine is America’s first city.  Tapestry – the Cultural Threads of First America is the Commemoration signature exhibition that shares the story of how three intertwining cultures – Spanish, African, and Native American – came together to form the foundation of the American culture.

This beautiful exhibit features authentic objects, original documents and interactive elements that can be enjoyed by all ages.  One of the featured items is a large-scale replica of the San Pelayo, Menendez’s flagship – a gift from the city of Aviles to St Augustine in honor of the celebration.  There is also a citywide passport program that connects visitors with important historical sites throughout St Johns county.

The exhibit is FREE and located at the Visitor Information Center, 10 West Castillo Drive in St Augustine. For more information, call 904.805.1053 or visit their website.

 

Historic One Room Schoolhouse

February has been a busy month for the Mandarin Museum and the Mandarin Community Club as the oldest existing one room schoolhouse was moved from a private location to its new home on the grounds of the Mandarin Historical Park.  The schoolhouse was built in 1889 as part of a mission established by the Sisters of St Joseph to educate the freed blacks after the Civil War and was originally located on the property of the present St Josephs Catholic Church on Loretto Road.

Historic One room Schoolhouse

One room Schoolhouse at the Mandarin Historical Park

The next step is restoration, and to date over 90% of the funds needed have been raised.  When completed, the schoolhouse will be open to the public and will contain exhibits about the story of this schoolhouse and the education of African-Americans post Civil War to the mid 1950s.

We are grateful to our two Mandarin community organizations, City Councilman Matt Schellenberg and the City Of Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department for this team effort.  Look for updates in future articles.  It’s not too late to be a part of this community project.  Help is needed with cleaning, painting and minor repairs; and monetary donations are always appreciated.  If interested, please call the Museum at (904) 268-0784.

Meet the Maple Leaf Divers

The Maple Leaf was a luxury cruise vessel, commissioned into service as a Union cargo supply ship during the Civil War.  On April 1, 1964 the ship struck a submarine torpedo in the St. Johns River and sank off the coast of Mandarin Point.

Maple Leaf Divers

Steve Michaelis & Keith Holland outside the Mandarin Museum

Finding and retrieving the Maple Leaf had been a lifetime dream of Dr. Keith Holland, who with several friends founded  St Johns Archaeological Expeditions Inc.   After days of searching, the divers located the ship under 8 feet of silt and recovered over 3000 objects.  They relinquished their rights to the artifacts to keep the collection intact.

Now, through the end of the year, you can view the collection at the Mandarin Museum at the Walter Jones Historical Park on Mandarin Road.  Come on Sunday, August 17th or Saturday, August 30th between 11:00 and 4:00 to meet several of  the divers.  Hearing their stories about finding the ship, the difficulty of working with the silt and debris, and the steps necessary to preserve the artifacts, truly bring this exhibit to life!

The National Park Service has said the Maple Leaf is the “most important repository of Civil War artifacts ever found”, and the wreck has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Read a Good Book about Jacksonville’s Past

Freezing days – rare for our fair city and drizzly, rainy weather – not so unusual.  What better time to stay home and curl up with a good book!  Here are two that I have enjoyed recently:

Books about Jacksonville, FLDorothy Fletcher is a long-time Jacksonville resident, retired school teacher, Florida Times-Union columnist and  author.  Her books bring fond memories of our city back to life.

Remembering Jacksonville By the Wayside captures life in Jacksonville in the 50s and 60s; it includes letters and recollections from locals.  Lost Restaurants of Jacksonville highlights some of our finest restaurants that now exist only in memory.  Remember dining and dancing at the George Washington Hotel?  World-class entertainers at The Thunderbird?  Morrison’s Cafeteria downtown where there was “no waitin’ on the main floor”?

If you are younger or newer to our city, I believe you will find Dorothy Fletcher’s writing both interesting and entertaining.  If you’ve been here a while, as I have, these books will bring back fond memories long forgotten!

Foto Friday – Fuente de los Canos de San Francisco

This fountain is located outside the St. Augustine Visitor Center near the Old Spanish Trail  marker featured in last week’s Foto Friday.

Masks

Did you know that St. Augustine has a sister city in Spain?  It is Aviles, the birthplace of Pedro Menendez, founder of St. Augustine in 1565.  Throughout the twentieth century, the two cities have maintained close ties and exchanged gifts.  The masks on this fountain were presented to St. Augustine in 2005 by the City of Aviles.  They are reproductions of the 6 faces that serve as water spouts for the municipal fountain in the San Francisco neighborhood of Aviles.

Foto Friday – Old Spanish Trail Historic Marker

As many times as I have been to St. Augustine , last weekend was the first time I noticed this historic marker, located just outside the Visitor Center.

Old Spanish Trail Historic Marker

Here is the inscription:

IMG_0387Old Spanish Trail Zero Milestone

St. Augustine, Fla to San Diego, Calif

Erected and dedicated by The Exchange Club of St. Augustine   A.D. 1928

 

Foto Friday

This barn was built from re-used lumber in 1876 for Col. William Webb.  Photo taken at Mandarin Historic Park in Jacksonville, Florida.

Foto Friday

           Ribault Column

French explorer Jean Ribault claimed this area for France when he erected a column along the bank of the St. Johns River in 1562.

Fort Caroline National Monument Jacksonville, Florida