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Historic Spots

Amelia Island FL

American Beach

Located on the southern end of Amelia Island, American Beach was begun when the Afro-American Life Insurance Co. purchased land in 1932 to start a resort community for its employees to enjoy. During segregation, American Beach was one of the few beaches on the East Coast open to African Americans. In its heyday, it was a vacation hot spot. Ray Charles, Zora Neale Hurston and Hank Aaron are among the icons who frequented the beach.  The National Park Service owns the 8.5 acre sand dune at American Beach, known by locals as NaNa, as part of its Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve.

 

Callahan FL

Callahan Train Depot

Callahan was named after Daniel Callahan, a prolific railroad contractor who built Florida's first cross-peninsular line through the area. Today, one mile of that historic rail bed still forms the center of the historic area of the town.  The Callahan train depot at Dixie Avenue and U.S. 1 is home to the West Nassau Museum of History. Century old brick commercial buildings stand on the north side of the railbed.

 

Fernandina Beach FL

Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach

The Downtown Fernandina Beach Historic District has been the hub of shopping, dining and nightlife on Amelia Island for almost 200 years. The neighborhood surrounding Centre Street still reflects the island’s “golden era” with well-preserved Victorian architecture. This 50-block area of homes, businesses and public buildings, including the beautiful historic Nassau County Courthouse, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also home to the Palace Saloon, the oldest continually operating bar in Florida, and the Florida House Inn, the oldest surviving hotel in the state.

 

Amelia Island Museum of History

The Amelia Island Museum of History is a treasure house of information about Amelia Island’s storied history. It has an extensive collection of artifacts and memorabilia from every era in the history of the famous “Isle of Eight Flags.” Located in the historic county jailhouse in downtown Fernandina Beach, the museum twice daily presents a one-hour overview of Fernandina’s amazing history. Museum docents also offer guided walking tours. Learn about Fernandina’s history as the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry at the Fernandina Beach Shrimping Museum at the downtown marina. 

Amelia Island Lighthouse

The Amelia Island Lighthouse is Florida’s oldest lighthouse and the only one from the Territorial Period that has survived without major rebuilding. First constructed on nearby Cumberland Island in Georgia, the tower was dismantled and rebuilt on Amelia Island in 1838. The lighthouse uses a rare Third Order Fresnel lens installed in 1903. Fernandina Beach assumed possession of the lighthouse in 2001.

The Fernandina Beach Parks & Recreation Department offers tours (patrons are not allowed to climb the lighthouse stairs) at 10 a.m. the first and third Wednesday of the month. Call (904) 277-7350 for reservations and fees. The lighthouse grounds are open to the public from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

 

Old Town Fernandina Beach

First settled by the Timucuan Indians, the Old Town Historic District on the north end of Amelia Island is still laid out on the original street grid platted by the Spanish in 1811. The original site of Fernandina, it was named after the Spanish King Ferdinand VII. Today, it is a quiet residential neighborhood of old homes and shade trees. There is a stunning view of the Intracoastal Waterway from the bluff where the Spanish Fort San Carlos once stood. Located off North 14th Street in Fernandina Beach, the neighborhood also is the home of the Bell House, a private residence also known as the “Pippi Longstocking house” after it was featured in a 1988 film.

Fort Clinch State Park

Fort Clinch State Park in Fernandina Beach is home to a historic military fort built in 1847 on a site that had been continuously occupied by various military troops since 1736. It provided a safe haven for soldiers during the Civil War, and was briefly occupied by Confederate troops. In 1933, it was restored and is now a state park. Costumed re-enactors give visitors to the fort a first-hand look at life there during the Civil War during the first weekend of each month.

 

Hilliard FL

Scott’s Landing & Kings Ferry

Two boat slips in west Nassau County -- one at Scott's Landing on the western edge of Ralph E. Simmons State Forest and one at the small hamlet of Kings Ferry -- provide access to the St. Marys River and its rich history.  The Kings Ferry slip is in the heart of an historic area that dates back to Revolutionary times when huge ships sailed up the St. Marys and traded goods with the early pioneers and native Americans. Stones and rocks used for ballast by those sailing ships still line the shady banks of the river. Years later Kings Ferry became a thriving saw mill town where Nassau’s timber was loaded aboard those ships and carried to far away markets. Hundreds of pilings that once held those loading piers jut up from the river bottom and stand as a testament to the once vibrant river town.

 

Yulee FL

John Muir Ecological Park

The John Muir Ecological Park, located just west of the Yulee Post Office on Florida A1A, is the metaphorical meeting point for two fascinating historical characters. The park offers a scenic walk on 485 feet of boardwalk with built-in benches and four sheltered observation areas. The walk ends on the railbed of David Yulee's 1861 Florida Railroad, the first line to connect the east and west coasts of Florida. The park is named after Sierra Club founder John Muir who walked through along the railroad in 1867, an experience he later recounted in his 1916 book “A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf.”

 
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