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Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach

Fernandina Beach is a small victorian seaport village, located along the Amelia River in Nassau County, just North of Jacksonville.

Published April 14, 2008 in Learning From      18 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


Fernandina Beach is known as the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry.  The historic district boomed to life in the late 19th century with the construction of the railroad.  However, Flagler's railroad expansions to the south would negatively impact the city's tourism industry.  The shrimping industry and two paper mills on either side of the city's downtown eventually ended up re-boosting the community's economy.


 Centre Street:

Centre Street bisects the 55 block historic district.  Today, Centre Street is lined with a number of quaint shops, galleries and restaurants.









The urban waterfront is dominated by a large marina, the First Coast Railroad, the port, and two large paper mills.


Silk Stocking District:

During Amelia Island's golden age between 1870 to 1910, many wealthy Americans built elegant Victorian homes in the city.  A portion of this residential community, centered around N. 6th Street is known as the Silk Stocking District.






Today, the preserved historic downtown core and urban waterfront is once again attracting tourists.  This highly visited pedestrian friendly destination sets up perfectly for what could be a terminal point of a local commuter rail system that could one day connect communities like Amelia Island with Jacksonville and St. Augustine.

To visit Historic Fernandina Beach, the community can be reached from Jacksonville by heading north on I-95 and East on AIA in Nassau County.

Article by Ennis Davis



April 14, 2008, 04:09:42 AM
First sentence, Nassau is mispelled as Nassua. Otherwise, good article.


April 14, 2008, 08:33:35 AM
My grandfather was a commercial shrimper at mayport for 25 years and used to get his nets fixed at a warehouse one block off the river in downtown Fernandina. It was a family business and one of the few places left that would sew their nets by hand.


April 14, 2008, 09:09:41 AM
First of all, I'm very disappointed that you missed taking a picture of my old house. You were so close too ~hmmph~.

Secondly, I need to relay some architectural information about the houses in some of the pictures...for those that might be interested.  Hey, it's historical in nature, don't worry.

The row of houses that are all built exactly the same (with the exception of the green one that underwent a re-muddle somewhere in the '60s and never quite recovered) in picture #7 under the heading, Silk Stocking District, are known as the Egmont 4.  All four of the houses were built with reclaimed timber from the old Egmont Hotel which stood on the site from 1877-1901, all have the exact same floor plan (originally) and design.  Incidentlly, you also captured another set of houses that are the same (though I'm not sure of any other historic relevance other than their age).  Those are in picture #4 and are located on South 6th St. just after Cedar St., I believe.  There are 3 of them in a row, 1 (the one in the pic) is completely remodeled, the one directly next to it on the right had been remodeled and needs a little work, and the last one, on the corner, was for sale for over $500k the last time I was up there and was being completely gutted.  An old man used to live there and he would sell cold drinks out of a cooler from his front porch to tourists during the Shrimp Festival.  It always smelled like cat pee when I walked by, lol.

About Lulu's...yes, it says "bra" on the sign and no, that's not a typo.  Lulu's got it's name after an ad was published in the paper that WAS a typo.  They were supposed to be Lulu's BAR and Grill and the paper misspelled the ad.  Jay Leno saw it and used it in one of his skits on the Tonight Show and it's been that way ever since.  If you go inside, the walls are decorated with bras.  Excellent food, btw.  I recommend the fish tacos.

Ok, just one more tidbit for everyone.  The Waas house (picture #3 in Silk Stocking District), which appears to be a Queen Anne Victorian, was originally a Carpenter Gothic.  The entrance did not open onto 7th St., but rather, onto Date facing South.  The turret and the large wrap-around porch were added around 1902 making it a Queen Anne.

There were tons of historically significant homes/buildings that were left off, but you can see more of them here,

Also, (I lied when I said one-more-thing), there is an old church somewhere around 3rd and Broome St. (on the North side of Centre) that was recently converted to a house.  It is very much in the Spanish style and is all-brick with a recently added pergola on the front.  It's a great example of historic building conversions that not only take place in large metropolitan areas, but in small places...on a grand scale ;D


April 14, 2008, 09:17:48 AM
What was your old address again?  I took a ton of images that we did not upload.


April 14, 2008, 09:29:35 AM
My grandfather was a commercial shrimper at mayport for 25 years and used to get his nets fixed at a warehouse one block off the river in downtown Fernandina. It was a family business and one of the few places left that would sew their nets by hand.

That place closed a while back and the building had been vacant for a long time.  I think it still is.


April 14, 2008, 09:30:46 AM
What was your old address again?  I took a ton of images that we did not upload.

316 South 6th St.  It's a 2-story Greek Revival, light blue with coral and green accents, and flanked by 2 smaller cottages.


April 14, 2008, 09:35:23 AM
I went down that block and snapped a few images.  I'll scan through those images tonight and upload the image, if I can find the house.  Great neighborhood.


April 14, 2008, 09:40:15 AM
Oh, and I don't know if you got a chance to go outside the historic district and check out Amelia Park.  That's a great example of how a new development can keep the charm of a small historic community with new homes.  It's like it's own little community, complete with row-houses and back alleys to park.  There are no driveways facing toward the roads at all.  It's a really pretty development.


April 14, 2008, 09:59:20 AM
I checked out Amelia Park and the entire coast from Fort Clinch down to the Amelia Island Plantation.  I figured it would be best to split everything up into multiple front page articles over the next few weeks or so.


April 14, 2008, 10:21:16 AM
Well of course I had to share one of my photos of Fernandina Beach! Welcome to Centre Street the way GOD intended it...

Old town is really cool, for many years it sat as the "tail on the dog" in total neglect. By 1970-80 Old Town was downright dangerous. Imagine my surpirse on a recent trip that found Old Fernandina in pristine condition. Some of the streets have been paved, others graded. The old homes are being restored or already are restored. The bluff overlooking the bay frames General Finnegan's (Confederate Hero of Olustee) beautiful home.Some interesting bits and pieces of rail history in this place too. The concourse iron fence from Jacksonville Terminal is or was laying behind the museum. Florida Power kept a unique power plant-rail car near the bridge off the island. I was told that car had the power to juice up an entire trolley operation in Jacksonville or Fernandina Beach, wonder if it's still there??? Also, the box mill on the North of downtown, used two huge steam locomotives until fairly recent history as steam generators for the factory. These giants lasted many years, with pipes coming out of their steam domes, it is unknown what happened to them. The railroad depot is the oldest occupied railroad station in Florlida, and perhaps the Southeastern USA. This same building served the passenger trains of Senator David Yulee's FLORIDA RAILROAD, and saw the feet of Confederate soldiers as they boarded the trains headed for Tennessee and Virginia. Some of the passenger plattform survived until 1970+. Fernandina Beach once had a complete streetcar system, The FERNANDINA AND AMELIA BEACH RAILWAY was modern, electric, and served downtown - beach traffic. Today on Centre Street headed toward the beach, one passes over a salt marsh when about 2/3 of the way  to the beach. Look to the right (SOUTH) side of the road, and you'll clearly see the old streetcar causeway as it crosses the same marsh about a block from the current roadway. The day the perfect the time machine, the best y'all are going to be able to do is say... Hey, I remember him!



April 14, 2008, 10:44:09 AM
Lulu's Bra and Grill sounds interesting....


April 14, 2008, 11:38:06 AM
Lulu's Bra and Grill sounds interesting....

Oh, it is.  Most of the seating is outside and is directly next to the Thompson house (still for sale I belive). It's a very small building about the size of a large 2-car garage.  In fact, I think it used to be a garage...totally serious.  There are only about 6, 2-seater tables on the inside.  They serve cuban-influenced food.  Think Tex-Mex but Cuban instead of Mexican.  I used to love walking down there and getting a huge heaping bowl of black beans and yellow rice with a dollap of sour cream, cilantro, onions & tomato for only $3.

Ock, most of the trolley lines are still in place...they come out when the roads are dug up for construction.  I know along my old street, they did a lot of work in one of the manholes and dug out pavement and you could see the lines.  A lot of really old cast iron piping under the ground too.  Unfortunately, they have gone the route of "reviving" the trolley by incorporating one of those pseudo-trolleys, Polly the Trolly, which is just a car gussied up to look like a trolley ~boo~.  I prefer the horse and carriage option to that.  They would go by my house every evening and I'd watch them from my bedroom window on the second floor.  I love the clippity-clop sound.

Man, you guys are really making me homesick.


April 14, 2008, 12:58:49 PM
The historic district is place that gets overlooked by most Jacksonvillians probably because St. Augustine is just south of here.  There were a number of restuarants I walked past that I would not mind going back up there to tryout.  It would be a good thing for Jacksonville to strengthen the link between it and Amelia Island.


April 14, 2008, 02:14:06 PM
Just found that church conversion on  MLS#45518.  There are interior pics.  Listed for $875k, roflmao.  It was for sale less than 5 years ago for $300k.


April 14, 2008, 10:13:17 PM
Billy Burbank, was the guy that owned the net shop, my grandfather bought nets from billy burbank jr, now it looks like billy burbank III has a pretty successful sports netting business

there is also a film in the folk archives called "fishing all my days" that showcased the shrimping industry. My grandfather has a few segments on it as well as the guy i mentioned above, billy burbank, fernadina is also in the film, you used to be able to stream the video from but i cant get the links to work now.


April 14, 2008, 10:57:19 PM
What was your old address again?  I took a ton of images that we did not upload.

316 South 6th St.  It's a 2-story Greek Revival, light blue with coral and green accents, and flanked by 2 smaller cottages.

I think this image was taken pretty close to 316 South 6th Street.


April 15, 2008, 08:12:17 AM
What was your old address again?  I took a ton of images that we did not upload.

316 South 6th St.  It's a 2-story Greek Revival, light blue with coral and green accents, and flanked by 2 smaller cottages.

I think this image was taken pretty close to 316 South 6th Street.

ROFLMAO!  My house was the one across the street. D'OH!

Funny story, again, about those 2 smaller houses in the pic (the ones in the backdrop).  A great couple from Vermont stayed in the one with the red roof. Both houses are exactly the same but the floor-plans were reversed.  When I would sit on my porch, I would look at them and think, 'before'....'after'...'before'...'after', since one was remodeled and the other wasn't.

In the house that wasn't remodled, lived a old woman and her son and their 50-million white cats.  Those cats were so freakin cute.  Anywho, funny thing about her son, he looked EXACTLY like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.  Not exagerating one bit.


August 12, 2010, 11:16:28 PM
My wife and I went today. Alot of history for sure (along with food, shopping, recreation and scenery). If you go to the Amelia Island Tourist Development building on Centre St. you can pick up several brochures including a self guided walking tour which talks about alot of the buildings in Old City.
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