Mandarin Neighborhood Tour

November 17, 2008 20 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Mandarin is the southernmost community in Duval County. When the first post office was opened in 1765, the community was called St. Anthony. In 1783 Florida was returned to Spain and St. Anthony was renamed San Antonio.

After Florida was transferred to the United States in 1821, San Antonio was renamed "Monroe", honoring President James Monroe.

The name Mandarin, was first registered in 1830. The named was selected because the Mandarin orange was a major crop in the immediate area.

Mandarin was incorporated as a town sometime around 1841. On December 20, 1841, four residents were killed when Indians raided the village and set many structures on fire.

Mandarin would also suffer during the Civil War with its produce and livestock being taken by Union troops. In 1864, the Union steamship, the Maple Leaf, hit a Confederate mine and sank just off Mandarin Point. After the war, many northerners found the community as an ideal place to relocate to. In 1868, Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, purchased a 30-acre site to live on in Mandarin. Mrs. Stowe would become the state's most important publicist and devote much of her time to the development of the community.

By 1881, Mandarin's population had grown to 1,200 residents. Eleven different steamboats shipped agricultural products stored in Mandarin's wharves to ports along the Atlantic Coast. Several freezes in the 1890's would bring an end to Mandarin's citrus production as the industry moved south into Central Florida.

Mandarin fell into decline until after World War I, when it began to gradually grow as a residential community. The opening of the Buckman Bridge in 1971, would stimulate the growth of sprawl into the area. Despite being engulfed by sprawl development over years, Old Mandarin still retains its rural charm.

St. Joseph's Catholic Church, on Loretto Road, was completed in 1912. At the time, it was the most prominent building in Lorreto, which was just east of Mandarin. Lorreto was named after the Italian city whose basilica is a cherished center for Catholic pilgrims.

The building that is home to the Mandarin Community Club was rebuilt in 1872, for use as the Mandarin School, after a fire destroyed an earlier building on the site. Harriet Beecher Stowe, famed author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin", spearheaded the building project. Black and white children were educated at the school. Mrs. Stowe, a 15 year winter resident of Mandarin, lived on river property across from the school. The school was also used as a site for community meetings and worship services.

The old Mandarin Store and Post Office evokes memories of small town and village general stores across America. It was the hub of village life from the time it opened in 1911 until it closed in 1964. It sold everything from canned goods from South America, to meat, animal feed, fish, cold soda and penny candy. It was a favorite stop for area children because the school bus stopped out front.

The original proprietor and postmaster was Walter Jones. His daughter, Miss Aggie Jones, took over the positions when he died in 1928. Displays include some of the original furnishings and other memorabilia.

The building, which is leased from the Mandarin Community Club, was restored by a grant from the Florida Department of State Division of Historical Resources. The old Mandarin Store and Post Office is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo tour by Ennis Davis