Neighborhoods: Atlantic Beach

Metro Jacksonville takes a look at the sunny side of the ditch, in a community entrenched in history, with a recent flair for modern homes and neighborhood compactness. Join us as we stroll down this part of the beaches, known by the locals as "AB", where "everyone knows everyone" is no exaggeration.

Published October 18, 2011 in Neighborhoods -

Atlantic Beach is an easy, pleasant area to navigate - whether by foot, bike, skateboard, or car (a last choice), whether for going from point A to point B or for pure leisure. Bounded my a handful of the traditional numbered streets running perpendicular to the beach and a bevy of beach-themed street names running parallel leading down to the beach access', the city is the northernmost of the Jacksonville Beaches communities. It is made up of mostly single-family homes sitting independently along the streets, family-oriented subdivisions, and waterfront condominiums. With the outermost edge of the city running off Mayport Road, it is home to a diverse group of people from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Incorporated among the heavily neighborhood aspect of the area, are public parks, schools, an entertainment district, and tourism spots. With small town charm, AB is ideal for passing through, or deeming it your final destination.

History of Atlantic Beach

Henry Flagler opened the Continental Hotel on June 1, 1901. This massive wooden yellow hotel was 47 feet by 447 feet with a six story rotunda and five story wings. The dining room could seat 350. There were 186 sleeping apartments (later 200) and 56 baths. The hotel contained other buildings such as servants’ quarters, a bowling alley, a power plant, water works, pier and a railroad depot.  The Continental would burn to the ground in 1919.

Atlantic Beach was a small seaside community around 1900 when Henry Flagler, builder of the Florida East Coast Railway, built the Mayport branch of the railway and erected a station just north of the former Atlantic Beach City Hall (Now Adele Grage Cultural Center).

The Continental Hotel, with approximately 300 rooms, was built soon thereafter on a tract of land lying between the depot and the beach. The land surrounding the hotel was subdivided and sold for summer homes. Promotional activities to attract tourists included auto races on the beach and air shows and the area experienced considerable growth.

In 1913, the railroad sold most of the land to the Atlantic Beach Corporation, headed by Ernest R. Beckett, which began paving streets, installing lights and water and sewer lines. However, during World War I, people were afraid to come to the coast and the Atlantic Beach Corporation went into bankruptcy. After the war, land began to sell again and the settlement began to grow. The Town of Atlantic Beach was incorporated in 1926 and the Governor appointed Harcourt Bull, Sr., as the first Mayor.

A tract of land was purchased from the railroad and was developed as the Town Park and became the site of the first Town Hall. The building burned down in 1931 and a new Town Hall was built in 1932 at 716 Ocean Boulevard. The first Charter was adopted in 1929, and in addition to the Charter officials, the town had one additional employee. The town continued to grow and by 1940 there were 38 employees and a taxable value, after the homestead exemptions of $1 million dollars. A new Charter was adopted in 1957 making Atlantic Beach a city.

Much of the development in the city has been residential, with single-family homes accounting for most of the developed land areas. The city is nearing build-out with less than 10% of the incorporated land area being undeveloped.

Today, Atlantic Beach is a mostly residential community whose approximately 14,000 citizens enjoy an enviable quality of life.

Full History:

The former Atlantic Beach railroad station.

Many of Atlantic Beach's historic residences were built as summer homes in the vicinity of the Continental Hotel.

W.H. Adams, Sr. purchased the former Continental Hotel site and developed the 50 room Atlantic Beach Hotel in the 1925.  The City of Atlantic Beach constructed the adjacent concrete bulkhead in 1933 and 1934.  In 1964, Hurricane Dora would devastate the hotel and adjacent pier.

Historic images courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

Residential Atlantic Beach

This residence at 47 11th Street was built by lumberman Robert H. Paul in 1902.  The original occupant was John G. Christopher, former owner of the great Murray Hall Hotel at Pablo Beach.  Christopher used the house to entertain guests and it evenutally gained a reputation as "a party house."

This house at 1163 Beach Avenue was built by Robert H. Paul in 1902.  Paul's Lake City sawmill supplied the majority of the lumber for the Continental Hotel.  The lumber for this house was barged down the St. Johns River, and then thrown overboard into the ocean in front of the homesite, allowing the lumber to float ashore.

This stretch of homes beachside between 5th and 7th Streets are all over 100 years old.

And again.

An infill development on Ahern Street near the Beaches Town Center.

Diverse Architecture

The homes in AB are each unique, and several design styles are incorporated in this residential area. Some old-school beach style one-level homes, some very modern and updated. Here's a look at various houses along the four roads closest to beachside: Beach Avenue (1st from the beach), Ocean Blvd. (2nd), East Coast Drive (3rd), and Seminole Road (4th), as well as the short stretch of Ocean Grove Drive. The feel is very enclosed, very homey, and extremely close and peaceful. It is very much the epitome of a laid-back suburban beach community.

Front view of one home, hidden down a long private road.

Beachside view of the same home.


A strip of colorful townhomes adjacent to a beach access.

Each beach access is heavily landscaped with beautiful accents for recreational walking.

The beach access at 10th St. leads to a concrete boardwalk and pier.

The concrete bulkhead and sidewalk are all that remain of the former Atlantic Beach Hotel site.


Bike paths line most of the roads, with the main one winding down Plaza Road. This is a view looking towards Mayport Rd.

Jack Russell Park includes a soccer field, basketball court, baseball field, and other amenities, as well as a large open-area playground.

The park is situated adjacent to, and somewhat integrated with City Hall, and both the fire and police stations. The fields are to the left of this photo, and tennis courts and a skate bowl sit in the background.

Practice and community tournaments take place here very frequently.

Oceanside Rotary Skatepark, known by the locals as the "AB Bowl."

Across from the park.

The notorious intersection at Plaza, Seminole, and Sherry roads.

Bull Memorial Park at the corner of Ocean and 7th St.

The Adele Grage Cultural Center on the park's site offers space for special community events.

The park portion has a tennis court, playground, amphitheater, basketball court, and picnic tables.

School & Town Departments

City of Atlantic Beach Police & Fire

The two city departments, along with City Hall, are all adjacent to one another off Seminole Rd.

City Hall in the background, with the police segment sitting to the immediate right and left of this photo.

The fire & rescue services of AB are in conjunction with the Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department.

Atlantic Beach Elementary School

Beaches Town Center

This shopping and dining district is an inviting, compact, mixed-use area, with a strong point of walkability. Restaurants include local favorites, with rich ties to the neighborhood, including Ragtime Tavern (Folio Weekly's Best of Jax 2011 winner for "Best Restaurant in Jacksonville"), Caribbee Key Island Grille & Cruzan Rum Bar (the beachiest, umbrella-drink place in town), Sun Dog, Pete's Bar (full of new and old legends alike, your classic pool hall bar and Folio's "Best Bar When You're Out Of Work"), and Lemon Bar. New and joints liven the place up, like Poe's Tavern and soon-to-be M Shack, and make it a spot for all to enjoy. Ritzier establishments make for a nice dinner date or social gathering, including Ocean 60 (voted a top restaurant numerous times), Mezza Luna, and the Azurea Restaurant & Lounge inside One Ocean Resort. It's rounded out with boutiques, fitness spots, yogurt & coffee shops, and Folio Weekly's Best of Jax 2011 "Best Smoke Shop" winner Island Girl Cigar Bar, with nightly live music coming from all directions. An Art Walk is held in the square every third Thursday of the month from 5-9; this month marks the events fourth anniversary.

A calendar of events can be found here:

Exterior view of One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa.

The AB lifeguard station sits to the right of the hotel in an eccentric narrow building.

One Ocean and the tower looking from beachside.

Article and photos by Sarah Gojekian.

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Metro Jacksonville