"OLD TOWN" FERNANDINA, FLORIDA

32034 Fernandina Beach Weather Forecast      Sunrise, sunset; high tide, low tide

 

LOCATION  Latitude = 30°41'19.16"N  Longitude = 81°27'23.49"W

QUICK LINKS

Interactive Map 1811-1821 [When Microsoft Excel opens, click on View>Zoom to magnify image]

Kavanaugh Charette 2005

PowerPoint Presentation on Pilots' Houses in Old Town

Properties for Sale

 

FERNANDINA'S HISTORY. The area now known as Old Town was originally settled by Timucua Indians, who probably chose it because of its high and dry location along the Amelia River and its fertile soil. Later, the Spanish and British recognized these attributes as well as its proximity to the developing United States, its defensible position in the western Atlantic, and because it was close to the gold route from South America to Spain. Old Town was platted by the Spanish in 1811 – the last town platted to the ‘Laws of the Indies’ in the Western hemisphere. (Also Law of the Indies 1573 revision). Other US cities platted to the Laws of the Indies include (in alphabetical order) Albuquerque, NM; Laredo, TX; Santa Fe, NM; and Tucson, AZ *.

The original grid – encompassing some 26 blocks – remains to this day, although some has been lost to erosion by the river and other by the routing of the ‘14th Street extension’ through it. Included in the original plat was the Plaza de la Constitution (Plaza San Carlos) which occupies a full block of green space overlooking the Amelia River and is now administered by nearby Fort Clinch State Park; two blocks are included in the historic Bosque Bello CemeteryOld Town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The street names in Old Town are a refreshing change from the Mains and Broads of other cities; they reflect what was important to people living here in 1811-1821.

The area has borne various names under the eight flags which have ruled Amelia Island. The English named it Egmont City, and the name Fernandina was provided by the Spanish Governor Enrique White who wanted King Ferdinand to set up a ‘court in exile’ here when Spain was invaded by Napoleon. He changed the name as an added, but unsuccessful, incentive! Subsequently, Fernandina’s residents moved to what is now called Fernandina Beach because the railroad sponsored by Sen. David Yulee could only make it to Center Street – it could not cross the salt-marsh to Old Town. Old Town is the place where the name Fernandina was first used. Take a look at John Paul Jones’ article Festive, Fabulous Fernandina Beach for a readable history.

The design that Surveyor George J. F. Clarke (1774-1836) laid down in his 1811 plat is still visible today. Blocks vary in size and consist of eight or ten of the Spanish lots called a peónia (pay-oh-NEE-a). A peónia is 17 varas (46.5 feet) by 34 varas (93 feet) or 4,325 square feet. This was the amount of land that a Spanish foot soldier (a peón) would have received in exchange for his part in the conquest. The ‘long’ side of the peónia runs North-South; on the East and West of each block, peónias are divided in half and are called ‘media peónias’. Old Town today contains about 23 blocks incorporating 146 total buildable lots. A map showing the Old Town Plat is available here. Although the Plat gives ‘Lot Numbers’ to the media peónias as well as to the full peónias, these media peónias are not themselves buildable lots. However, the combination of two adjacent media peónias does provide the equivalent of a full peonia, and is buildable. Commissioned by the City of Fernandina Beach, the University of Florida prepared the Old Town Guidelines to be applied to the development of Old Town. The Land Development Code preserves Old Town’s historic grid and defines the requirements to be met for property constructed in Old Town.

Currently Old Town is undergoing a renaissance. After many years of being overlooked, the area is now recognized as a prime location for people who want to maintain a unique lifestyle within walking distance of their neighbors in a diverse community. Opinions abound as to the building styles to adopt, but all residents agree on the need to establish quality designs and construction and to preserve the unique feeling of community that exists here. Here are some examples of our Old Town architecture – old and new.

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Recent improvements in Old Town include:

  1. With help from Smurfit Stone Container Corporation, and the City, the boundary fence along Garden Street has been cleared of weeds and vines. Smurfit Stone have installed a sprinkler system fed from their well, and they have planted a number of trees - cedars, elms, live oaks, loquats, maples, magnolias, palmettos, and pines. Thank you, Smurfit Stone!
  2. A new Information Box has been added to the sign at the entrance to Old Town on White Street. It contains a leaflet giving some details of Old Town’s history and its unique place in our culture.
  3. The brush on the North sided of Ladies Street has been cleared to provide better views from Old Town to Tiger Point Marina, Egan’s Creek, and the State Park beyond. Thank you, Bill!
  4. Someruelos Street is now open to foot traffic between New Street and 12th Street. We can better mark its path, and clear brush as it meanders past Bosque Bello to provide a pleasant walk for residents under beautiful canopy trees.

Ideas that are being worked on include:

  1. Protecting the Plaza from vehicular traffic. The State Park has a plan to construct a small parking area at the river end of White Street with an informational exhibit.
  2. Building steps down to the water from the river ends of Garden and White streets to provide access without eroding the cliff.
  3. The Peónias Spanish Heritage Inn’ at the Eastern end of White Street.
  4. Preparing for the Viva Florida 500 celebration the weekend of September 27-29 2013.

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George Clarke's dates were obtained from '"A class of people neither freemen nor slaves": from Spanish to American race relations in Florida, 1821-1861' by Daniel L. Schafer (1993), available at www.the freelibrary.com

This Website is dedicated to providing information and links to resources that will help people embrace the ‘Old Town spirit.’ It is privately funded, and receives no monies from the local, state, or federal government.  Please send any suggestions, comments, and requests for additions or inclusions to Old Town Fernandina Website.

 

Last updated:   January 20, 2013