Beaches Town Center is the heart of Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach, where Atlantic Boulevard meets the ocean, twelve miles east from downtown Jacksonville. This inviting, pedestrian friendly area offers many boutiques, fitness centers, restaurants, and two oceanfront hotels in close proximity. Here's a look at one of Jacksonville's top destinations that appeal to both locals and tourists.
Brief History of the Beaches Town Center
Henry Flagler's Hotel Continental was just north of what eventually became the Beaches Town Center. Courtesy of http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~flbakehs/ContinentalHotelAtlanticBeach1900.jpg
In 1900, Henry Flagler completed a railroad branch stretching from South Jacksonville to Mayport. This railroad line allowed coal to be offloaded from the ocean instead of having vessels travel upstream to Jacksonville. Flagler also spent a half million in 1901 building the six-story Continental Hotel. Access to the Continental was provided by Flagler's railroad line, which ran along Railroad Avenue (present day Second Street/East Coast Drive). Considered a money pit, compared to more successful investments in South Florida, Flagler sold the hotel and adjacent property to the Atlantic Beach Corporation in 1913, which renamed the resort the Atlantic Beach Hotel. Unfortunately, the hotel burned down in 1919.
The Beaches Town Center area in 1918. Courtesy of http://www.historicaltextarchive.com/sections.php?action=read&artid=447
With the railroad favoring the wealthy, additional access to the area was needed to encourage future development. The answer to this was Atlantic Boulevard, which opened in 1910 one half mile south of Flagler's hotel. By the 1920s, Dan G. Wheeler faced a dilemma in the vicinity of where Atlantic Boulevard met the Atlantic Ocean. Wheeler's cottage was located where the One Ocean Hotel stands today. Wheeler was manager of Richardson & Conroy in Jacksonville but spent his summers at the beach. To reach Jacksonville, he was forced to walk almost to Mayport to catch the train, despite the tracks being within walking distance of his oceanfront cottage. Wheeler built his own train station in 1922 after being informed that if he had a station, the train would have to stop for him. He named his station Neptune.
On December 14, 1925, the Town of Atlantic Beach was incorporated. The corporate limits were the Atlantic Ocean on the east; Pablo Creek/River on the west; Atlantic Boulevard on the South; 16th Street on the north. That same year, Pablo Beach changed its name to Jacksonville Beach and absorbed Neptune, south of Atlantic Boulevard, with its boundaries. In 1931, following a tax revolt, Neptune seceded from Jacksonville Beach. A year later, the FEC abandoned its beaches railroad line, conveying the right-of-way to the State of Florida. That right-of-way through Neptune at Atlantic Beach became Second Street and East Coast Drive. With no rail service, Wheeler's old station was utilized as Neptune's town hall until a new building was completed in 1935. By 1940, Neptune had grown to a population of 1,363 with a small business district on the south side of Atlantic Boulevard. Today, "downtown Neptune" is known as the Beaches Town Center.
Downtown Neptune Beach after WWII. Courtesy of http://www.historicaltextarchive.com/sections.php?action=read&artid=447
For more information on what the Beaches Town Center has to offer, visit: http://beachestowncenter.com/
Next Page: 2015 Beaches Town Center photo tour