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Neptune Beach

Petes Bar 1948

Historic Pete’s Bar – First Street Neptune Beach, 1948

Neptune Beach lies between Atlantic Beach to the north and Jacksonville Beach, its parent tract, to the south. Eugene F. Gilbert bought the 180 acre parcel which became Neptune Beach from the State of Florida for the sum of $1.25 an acre in 1884. The first subdivision map was filed one year later.

As with all the Beaches communities, the development of the railroad is integral to its history. Dan Wheeler had a cottage near the shore, however he worked in Jacksonville.

Mr. Wheeler rode the train back and forth to work, but since the train would not stop at his house, he rode all the way to Mayport and had to walk back home. He learned that the train would have to stop if there were a station so, determined to end his daily walks, he built one, and named it Neptune.

Mrs. Evelyn Corbin Hunter

Mrs. Evelyn Corbin Hunter, Postmistress Neptune Beach Post Office, standing at the door of the post office at 210 Magnolia, 1948

In the early 1930s, the area of Neptune Beach was still a remote and sparsely populated section of Jacksonville Beach. Residents of the area felt they were not receiving adequate return of services for their taxes and they voted to secede from Jacksonville Beach and create the separate community of Neptune Beach. On August 11, 1931 this determination made Neptune Beach a separate political entity.

Neptune Beach is a quiet residential community that does not encourage commercial development or industry, neither has it adopted the commercial entertainment enterprises.

The community is resident focused, whose seaside location is mainly for the enjoyment of its own citizens. It boasts the largest park at the Beaches. Important to its traditions, Neptune Beach is proud that many of its homes have stayed in the same family for generations.

Mr. John E. Gilbert and another man

Mr. John E. Gilbert and another man pictured with four cylinder Franklin no. 15. Mr. Gilbert won a silver trophy for racing at 80 miles per hour, 1906

Atlantic Beach

Florida East Coast Depot

Historic Florida East Coast Depot at the Continental Hotel in Atlantic Beach, 1901-1902

Although intimately associated with rail magnate Henry M. Flagler’s Continental Hotel, Atlantic Beach has a long history of its own.

It is believed by many scholars that the first permanent, year-round Native American settlement in North America was located at what is today Atlantic Beach near the mouth of the St. Johns River in 3,570 B.C.E. The abundance of food and the benign climate encouraged successive native cultures such as the Timucua to settle in the area as well.

The research that established this date has since found similar sites in Florida that date approximately to the same time. Therefore, the Atlantic Beach site should still be considered “one of the oldest” permanent, year-round native American settlement sites in North America.

The Continental Hotel

Classic Fun at the Continental Hotel, 1907

While the tourist industry in Atlantic Beach remained the focus for the area during the early 1900s, the completion of Atlantic Boulevard in 1910, connecting Atlantic Beach with south Jacksonville, allowed for a prosperous residential community to grow. The citizenry eventually changed from a seasonal population to full-time residents creating a year-round town peppered with architecturally significant homes.

The Town of Atlantic Beach incorporated in 1926 with the governor appointing Harcourt Bull as the first mayor. The hotel business continued to bolster Atlantic Beach. Tourism provided employment and supplied essential infrastructure such as electricity, which was provided to the community by the Atlantic Beach Hotel, successor to Flagler’s Continental Hotel until 1938.

Stewarts Bar & Grill

Historic Stewarts Bar & Grill, owned by Alex T. Stewart at 171 Atlantic Blvd.

Mayport

Historic Mayport Coal Wharf, 1900

Mayport is French by birth, Spanish by upbringing, but decidedly American with the United States Naval Station Mayport dominating the present day community.

On May 1, 1562, French Admiral Jean Ribault sailed into the Rivère de Mai, later named the St. Johns River, claiming all before him for his motherland, France. From that day forward, Mayport and environs saw several hundred years of power struggle with control alternately being held by France, Spain, England, Spain again and, finally, the United States.

Historic St. Johns Lighthouse, Mayport, Florida, 1900

Historic St. Johns Lighthouse, Mayport, Florida, 1900

By 1827, with governmental intervention relating to river pilots on the treacherous St. Johns River, the population of the existing fishing community increased, and a lighthouse was constructed.Called Hazzard on early maps and documents, the settlement became known as Mayport Mills, homage to the French naming the river after the month of May.

The following year, the United States acknowledged the land grant awarded by Spain to the Dewees family. In 1841, part of the Dewees Land Grant was sold to David Palmer and Darius Ferris who laid out the plat for modern Mayport. In those days, lumber was king in Mayport Mills and the “white gold” was brought by boat, cart or raft to the mills.

Buccaneer Trail Ferry

Historic Buccaneer Trail Ferry at Mayport, FL

As railroads pushed deeper into the South, the importance of Northeast Florida was recognized. The extension of the Florida East Coast Railway to Mayport in 1900 spurred the growth and economy of the town. Coal powered trains were able to load coal directly from the docks; the old hazardous mouth of the St. Johns River had been tamed by jetties, built by the government, reaching miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Mayport was a two way traveling town: lumber and naval stores were carried away by schooner while settlers, tourists and health seekers were carried in by steamboat.

In 1913 Elizabeth Starke bought a 375-acre estate she called Wonderwood. The estate was later acquired by the federal government to establish a naval station on its site.

When the trains stopped running in 1932, Mayport returned to its roots, fishing and shrimping. The community continues to coexist with US Naval Station Mayport, a military base established prior to World War II and one of the largest and most sophisticated military bases in the world. Today, what was once an historic, picturesque fishing village is giving way to modern development like all the other communities at the beach.

Beaches Museum
381 Beach Boulevard
Jacksonville Beach, Florida 32250