Amelia Island Museum of History
233 South 3rd Street
Fernandina Beach, Florida
Monday - Saturday
10:00 am to 5:00 PM
Learn about Amelia Island's history from well-versed docents while you take a walking tour through the historic district (National Register of Historic Places) of Fernandina Beach, Florida. The museum is noted as Florida's first oral history museum. The location of the museum is somewhat unique, being housed in the former, antiquated Nassau County jailhouse.
The guided walking tours of Fernandina's historic district are generally offered Monday through Saturday at 11:00 am and at 2:00 pm. (Other group tours also available by special reservation.) From September through June on Thursdays and Fridays at 3 pm, take the "Centre Street Stroll," a guided walking tour which ends with complimentary tea in an outdoor courtyard.
The "Centre Street Stroll," focuses on the main street of the historic district in this enchanting little Victorian seaport. Highlights include the courthouse, the old-fashioned post office, and St. Peter's Episcopal Church.
Either during or after the Centre Street tour, be sure to duck into the Southern Touch boutique on Centre Street. Apart from being an adorable little shop to browse, you won't want to miss the original, intricate tin ceiling in this establishment.
Please call the museum at (904)261-7378 to confirm tour dates and times.
Rich and Colorful Past Spans Fifty Centuries
Article provided by Deon Jaccard
Executive Director of
Hidden beneath the sandy soil of Fernandina Beach lie the residues of earlier lives that form a
continuous trail of human activity through fifty centuries into the past. Forts, missions, and village
sites speak eloquently of the flow of people who were drawn to this island's harbor in canoes,
rowboats, rafts, sailing ships, steamships and modern vessels as consistently as ocean waves rolled
to the beach.
The same serene harborside sunsets we see, glowing over uninhabited Tiger Island were known to
aborigines, explorers, settlers, merchants, foreign traders, slavers, smugglers and pirates.
By 1602, 112 of the Island's Indian residents were living under the care of a Spanish priest in the
vicinity of Old Town. For the next 100 years, missions would shelter three Indian groups, offering
them spiritual promises and thin physical comfort as they succumbed to diseases introduced by
Archaeologists have located the remains of Indian villages on the island and have probed the
depths of human habitation to 2,000 B.C. in two prime locations: the bluff at Old Town on the north
end and the point at Harrison Creek to the south.
In prehistory, St. Johns People and their Timucuan descendants enjoyed the shellfish abundance in
the marshes of Napoyca, as the Indians called the Island at the time Europeans arrived in 1562.
The British of Carolina warding off an anticipated French/Spanish union, depopulated Amelia
Island, (which Georgia's founder, James Oglethorpe, named for George II's daughter Princess
Amelia) in a fiery night raid on the Spanish mission Santa Catalina de Guale on November 4, 1702.
Smoke would darken Amelia's woods, driving away burned out residents three more times during
the 18th century. Amelia was a strategic morsel, lying as the Island did on the fringes of the
American Revolution; serving as host to British evacuees in 1784, whose home were destroyed by
bandits; and prior to the arrival of French revolutionaries in 1795, when homes were burned by
order of the Spanish Governor to prevent their being used by the enemy.
The nineteenth century was no calmer. Three groups of insurgents seized Fernandina between
1812 and 1817, and Federal occupied the town throughout the Civil War.
But probably none of Fernandina Beach's human dramas exceeds in appeal the tale of our dynamic
impresario, David Levy Yulee, whose vision for the Island's only town, with its coveted deep,
spacious harbor still affords it widespread acclaim. Listed on the National Register of Historic
Places, the fifty square block of historic district, a surviving Victorian Seaport, burst forth with 19th
century energy, responding to Senator Yulee's rousing plan. Here was to be Florida's coming out:
the terminus of a cross-state railroad, supplying a conduit between the nations of Europe and east
coast states with rise of the Gulf of Mexico.
Although the "Golden Age" of the little metropolis faded by 1910, there would be a new 20th
century surge of innovation and activity. In 1902 Mike Salvador, a local shrimp fisherman, moved
the process offshore for the first time, pulling a haul seine behind a power driven boat and began the
modern shrimping industry.
Tiny Amelia Island's legacy is heroic this sliver of green in the sea so prized that several nations
have tried to claim it. Amelia Island is the only place in the United States where eight different flags
have flown: French (1562-1565), Spanish (1565-1763), English (1763-1783), Patriots (1812),
Green Cross of Florida (1917), Mexican (1817), Confederate (1862), and the American Flag