Collections

Mayport East Coast Railway Depot

This c1900 building stood in Mayport as the terminus point for the Florida East Coast Railway spur line to Mayport. Mr. Henry Flagler bought the Jacksonville and Atlantic Railway, expanded it to standard gauge and extended it to Mayport.

The spur line was in operation from 1900 to 1932. The upper portion of the building is the freight room. The double door on the front allowed for freight to be off-loaded directly into the room with double doors on the back for pick-up. The lower portion of the depot housed the stationmaster’s office and waiting room.

After the rail line ceased operation to Mayport this building was used as part of a home and a bar and restaurant. It was moved from the port area in Mayport to the end of Pearl Street, and then to the Beaches Museum in 1981.

Beaches Museum Chapel

We have moved the St. Paul’s By-the-Sea/Beaches Chapel, one of our Oldest Historical Structures on the Beaches, to the Beaches Museum. The chapel was moved on June 17, 2012.

The chapel is now available for events. We have had weddings and other meetings in the chapel. If you are interested in renting the chapel for a Jacksonville Beach Wedding, you may contact us for the full details.

The chapel has a rich story at the beaches. The location at the history park is its fourth location at the beaches, and its fourth “official” move. The chapel was moved twice while at its second home (once to turn it 90 degrees). The chapel started out at Second Avenue and Second Street South when it was built in 1887 in Pablo Beach (Jacksonville Beach now). In 1952, it was moved to 11th Avenue North and Fifth Street in Jacksonville Beach (previously Pablo Beach). In 1960, it was turned to face Patricia Lane. In 1970, the chapel was moved to 610 Florida Boulevard in Neptune Beach. Beaches Chapel built up around the small building, and finally the chapel was moved June 17, 2012 to the Beaches Museum.

Timeline Beaches Museum Chapel

St. Paul’s By-the-Sea/Beaches Chapel

  • 1886
    • No church at beaches
    • Episcopal services held at Murray Hall Hotel
    • Hotel guests & Pablo Beach residents raise $800
    • Architect Robert S. Schuyler contacts JJ Daniel, Pres of Atlantic RR to give land for building site
    • Additional $800 raised
  • 1887
    • St. Paul’s By-the-Sea dedicated So. Second St.
    • One of the oldest churches & one of the oldest buildings at the Beaches
    • A mission church (no regular priest of its own)
    • Vacant only two years: 1904, 1923 (excellent memories of 1923 period in Times Union article July 18, 1970)
  • 1925
    • Church services are provided year round; previously only in summer months
    • Church probably acquires it first own bell after year round services are offered; previously, probably used a bell from the railroad.
  • 1940
    • Church officially becomes a parish
  • 1952
    • Church building moved from Pablo Beach/Jacksonville Beach to North 11th Ave at 5th Street (a few years later turned to face Patricia Lane and enlarged by splitting in half and adding a 24 foot section in between)
  • 1967
    • New St. Paul’s By-the-Sea dedicated replacing use of the small chapel
  • 1952-1970
    • Somewhere between these times, the belltower was removed, believed to be damaged by fire.
  • 1970
    • 1887 Church moved for 3rd time after Vestry voted to give building to Central Christian Church at the Beaches for $1.00, and located it at Florida Boulevard at 5th Street, Neptune Beach
  • 1974
    • Name changed to Beaches Chapel
  • 2004
    • Letter including moving operations costs re BAHS
  • 2007
    • June 24 – Original bell used on this Sunday service after installation in the Memorial Garden. The bell had been in storage since the 1970s when the chapel was moved. Inside the bell, a casting date of May 10, ’01 is found.
  • 2012
    • June 17th – Chapel moved to Pablo History Park
    • July – Belltower Reconstruction begins
  • 2013
    • January – Belltower Reconstruction complete
    • Feb – Chapel repainted
    • April – Patio and Sod laid
    • October 20 – Official Inauguration Ceremony

Learn More

East Coast Railway Foreman’s House #93

1900 Pablo Beach Florida

The Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) constructed this 1 ½ story, wood frame structure in 1900 at Jacksonville Beach (then known as Pablo Beach) as a residence for their section foreman. The house was originally located on the northwest corner of Railroad Avenue (now Beach Boulevard) and 6th Street North (one-block west of its present location).

From 1915-1922, Hershel Smith, the Section Foreman whose history is best known, lived in the house with his wife Ethel and their two daughters, Lynn and Jane.

The two bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen and attic floor plan was used by the Florida East Coast Railway Co. from Northeast Florida to Key West. All their structures were painted colonial yellow, including #93. This house had no indoor plumbing or electricity while used by the FEC. Water was drawn from a pitcher pump in the back yard (see sample pump in the back hall). A stove in the front room and probably one in the dining room heated the house. Cooking was done on a wood stove in the kitchen.

In 1933, after the railroad was no longer in service to the beach, William T. Brown purchased the house at auction for $60. Mr. Brown moved the structure to First Street South in Jacksonville Beach. Plumbing and electricity were installed after 1933 (when the house was no longer used by the Florida East Coast Railway). In December 1978, Mr. Brown offered the house to the Beaches Area Historical Society. He documented that the house was Florida East Coast Foreman House #93 and that it was constructed ca. 1900. It was moved to Pablo History Park in 1979.

An engineering report of 1916 shows the value of the house as $997. In 1913, $590 of remodeling was done, and in 1923 a porch was added at a cost of $115, resulting in a total estimated value of $1,702 for the house.

None of the furnishings are original to the house or the families that lived there.

The Museum

Step back into time. Experience the lives of early river pilots and fishermen, travel down back roads with hardy pioneer settlers, stroll the veranda of a gilded-age seaside resort, frolic on the boardwalk and reminisce about days gone by.

Experience the world of our Beaches pioneers for yourself at the Beaches Museum. Enjoy the interactive, informative, and intriguing look at the area’s heritage through exhibits and firsthand accounts designed to bring the rich history of the Beaches communities to life.

Our First Coast shores enjoy a deep and diverse heritage. Travel back to the past and get to know the people and events that shaped our area at the Beaches Museum.

The museum building houses our exhibits, archives, museum store, and offices. The first floor has two exhibit rooms; one houses the permanent exhibits (Pritchard Gallery), and the other houses our temporary Exhibits (Dickinson Gallery). Our temporary exhibits change periodically – generally every 2 or 3 months, usually with a period in between where there is no temporary exhibit.

Palm Valley

Travis Hayman and Two Deer

Travis Hayman pictured with two deer he killed with one shot in Palm Valley on December 26, 1935

Long before the first Spanish settlers arrived, there was an Indian village in what we call Palm Valley today. Several Indian mounds have been uncovered revealing points, pottery and human skeletons. Early Franciscan missionaries constructed a mission in the area called The Nativity of Our Lady of Tolomato.

By 1703, Don Diego Espinoza had settled in what is today the Palm Valley area. His vast ranch and the surrounding territory was known as Diego Plains. In the 1730s, the ranch was fortified to protect its inhabitants from Indian attack. By 1739, Great Britain and Spain were at war and trouble was brewing for the Diego Plains settlers.

British General James Oglethorpe was commissioned to harass the Spanish settlements south of the colony of Georgia so the Spanish governor fortified the Diego farmhouse which was already being called Fort San Diego. After Oglethorpe’s failure to capture St. Augustine, the Spanish military abandoned Fort San Diego, but other inhabitants moved into the area, living off the land and the cattle.

Cracker Landing

Cracker Landing on west side of Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in Palm Valley; dredging the canal, April 1916

In 1908, a canal was dug through Diego Plains connecting the San Pablo River to the north with the Tolomato River near St. Augustine to the south. This intracoastal canal made access to the valley much easier for the residents that had settled in this area. In addition to raising cattle, they farmed, logged, and sold palm fronds to religious groups. The many palm trees growing in the region led some of the settlers to decide on the name Palm Valley for their community.

Prohibition turned some of the valley residents to another source of income – moonshine. The abundant water supply and deep woods areas in the valley were ideal for the concealment of illegal whiskey distilling. The moonshine industry thrived even after the Volstead Act was repealed in 1933, but the rising price of sugar finally brought the illegal whiskey industry to an end.

Deputy Sheriff Everett Heaney

Deputy Sheriff Everett Heaney destroying illegal Still and Equipment in Palm Valley, ca 1955

Palm Valley remained a quiet area of the Beaches, between A1A and U.S. 1. There were many farms where produce and livestock were raised. The development of the Beaches has also affected Palm Valley. Today most farms in the valley have disappeared, opening the land for luxurious residences overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.

Ponte Vedra Beach

Historic Buckman & Pritchard Sand Plant at Mineral City, ca. 1922

Historic Buckman & Pritchard Sand Plant at Mineral City, ca. 1922

Ponte Vedra Beach has enjoyed a rich 400-year history, with a different flare than the other Beach communities. Since the establishment of St. Augustine by the Spanish in 1565, and the founding of Fort Caroline by the French to the north in 1564, soldiers have traveled the sands of Ponte Vedra Beach vying for a foothold in Northeast Florida.

This area has been rich in rattlesnakes, alligators, mosquitoes, and minerals. The National Lead Company mined for minerals in the sand for years, and at that time there were as many mules as people in Mineral City.

Original Ponte Vedra Country Club

Original Ponte Vedra Country Club – 3-story log cabin, 1935

When it became less profitable to extract minerals from the sand, the National Lead Company brought in the Telfair Stockton Company to begin a real estate development of the site. Since the area was being developed for an affluent clientele, one of the first tasks was to change the name from Mineral City to something with a little more widespread appeal. An article on Ponte Vedra Beach, Spain, and its claim to being the birthplace of Christopher Columbus (inaccurate), swayed the decision. The name Ponte Vedra Beach was chosen. The last vestiges of the mining past were obliterated, the slate cleaned, and Ponte Vedra Beach was on its way!

Benny P. Buza, Jr., O.D. and J. Gallagher, members of U. S. Coast Guard in Ponte Vedra, August 15, 1943

Benny P. Buza, Jr., O.D. and J. Gallagher, members of U. S. Coast Guard in Ponte Vedra, August 15, 1943

The remoteness of the Beaches was still a problem. The developers offered initial buyers deep discounts to encourage development and a small, existing golf course was greatly improved. As residential development increased, the State of Florida completed the road from Jacksonville Beach south to St. Augustine, opening the last segment of the East Coast Scenic Highway. Ponte Vedra Beach was in the conceptual stage in 1928 when the owners of the land actually set up plans for serious development of the area as a resort.

By 1942, National Lead Company sold its interest in Ponte Vedra Beach to the locally driven Ponte Vedra Beach Corporation. The community rapidly developed into a year-round resort community with a substantial permanent population. Today, Ponte Vedra Beach is considered one of the most luxurious recreational and residential locations in the country, offering over 153 holes of golf, 60 tennis courts and miles of fabulous and famous white sand beaches.

Ponte Vedra Beach Timeline

Jacksonville Beach

Cars On Beach

Classic Cars on Jacksonville Beach, 1955

Ruby, Pablo Beach, or Jacksonville Beach – no matter what it has been called, this special place has been the hub of Beaches life since the early days of the 1880s. This was the beach for fun and festivities, of the railroad, and the beach that set the tone for the development of the other beaches. This is the Famous Beach.

In true Florida style, Jacksonville Beach began here with the dream of development: to turn this “oak scrub beach” into the tourist and entertainment hub of the Atlantic Coast. Beginning as a tent city for a few hardy souls, Jacksonville Beach has become a business, resort and residential community able to thrive on change and recognize adversity as an opportunity.

American Red Cross Volunteer Life Saving Corps Station

American Red Cross Volunteer Life Saving Corps Station, 1940s

In 1884, William and Eleanor Scull set up their tent home at the beach to help survey the area for the coming railroad. Eleanor opened the first general store and post office on the beach, thereby bestowing the name Ruby on the area. The little community grew. In 1899, Henry Flagler purchased the faltering Jacksonville & Atlantic Railroad, converting it to regular gauge and spearheading the development of the area. Some 20 years later, the boardwalk had become a major attraction and the Beaches population grew. Racing, aviation, dancing, eating and frolicking in the waves became hallmarks of Jacksonville Beach!

Jacksonville Beach Pier Boardwalk

Historic Boardwalk and pier, July 4, 1928
Boardwalk and pier, July 4, 1928

Today, the sense of community is very strong here as Jacksonville Beach experiences growing pains. The city is growing vertically with old landmarks being replaced by modern cement “sand castles” and an influx of new residents. The atmosphere is still warm and friendly as a small town would be. The Jacksonville Beach welcome is still strong after some 110 years. Old friend or new friend, we are glad you are here.

Jacksonville Beach
Jacksonville Beach Timeline

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 & History Park
381 Beach Boulevard
Jacksonville Beach, Florida 32250