Wednesday, June 19, 2013



Florida Trust for Historic Preservation Bike Tour of Lincolnville


On a sunny day in May, the Florida Trust and the Citizens for the Preservation of St. Augustine partnered to sponsor a bicycle tour of the historic neighborhood of Lincolnville in the City of St. Augustine, FL.

Florida Trust Annual Meeting Tour Description



Lincolnville was the first St. Augustine neighborhood to be approved for designation as a National Register District, approved for designation in 1991.   Lincolnville was founded shortly after the Civil War by emancipated African Americans from the area.  It was originally called "Little Africa" but was later renamed in a reference to President Lincoln.  It is composed of over 500 structures with the largest number of 19th and turn-of-the-20th century Victorian houses in the City.  Today it has become one of the City's most interesting restored areas with many of the two-story Craftsman style and one-story Shotgun style houses lovingly restored.  The Florida Trust chose to feature Lincolnville's restoration activities by organizing a bike tour during its May, 2013 Annual Meeting  held at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine.

The tour was led by Barry Myers, a curator at the Lightner Museum, and a long-time resident of Lincolnville.
Barry, tour leader, and Friederika
Participants rented bikes from the St. Augustine Bike Rentals and were off on a three hour tour with a surprise ending.  In addition to biking around the old streets of the neighborhood, Barry had arranged for us to tour the interior of five Lincolnville houses.
St. Augustine Bike Rentals
So lets begin our tour.  Barry takes us south on Riberia Street along the San Sebastian River, the location of the boat building industry and many other early industrial establishments.  First on the right is the old Sola Carraba Cigar Factory, adaptively restored today as an office building. 
Sola Carraba Cigar Factory















Next on the right is the former city ice plant presently being restored to become the city's first liquor distillery.
 
Turning left on Bridge Street we encounter Lincolnville before it was Lincolnville.  The Yallaha Plantation house on the right was one of two orange plantations operating here before any of the residential development happened. "Yallaha" means orange in the Seminole language.  The other orange plantation was Buena Esperanza at the southern end of Lincolnville. Yallaha is currently a private residence.
Yallaha Plantation House


We next turn right on shady Sanford Street.  The bright yellow house on the left reflects the yellow paint used by Henry Flagler's railroad company.  Many of Flagler's railroad employees built the Victorian houses still standing in Lincolnville. 

On the left, still standing, is the deteriorated Sister's of St. Joseph School.  The Sisters left France right after the Civil War to teach St. Augustine's freed Black children.  Today, many St. Augustine families send their children to the Cathedral Parish School, still taught by the good Sisters of St. Joseph.  The State of Florida granted funds to stabilize the old school building but an adaptive reuse is needed to save this beautiful historic structure.
Sisters of St. Joseph School
St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church
On the same property with the school, we come upon  St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church.  This church served the historic Black Catholic community, here since the time of the Spanish.  Today the church serves all Lincolnville Catholics as the neighborhood gentrifies.

We take a small detour down Kings Ferry Way to see two nicely restored shotgun houses which together form a little compound with a courtyard between, an interesting way to expand a small property.  These two shotgun style houses were restored by the Elaine H. Darnold, Inc. Construction Company which specializes in historic restoration.
Shotgun Courtyard



Turning on M. L. King Ave. we come to the infamous M and M Market building.  This former corner market was renowned as a drug distribution point (not the legal variety).  The City purchased the building to remove the blight on the neighborhood and is now looking for a suitable adaptive reuse.
Former M and M Market
Turning on Bridge Street, we encounter several buildings associated with St. Augustine's significant role in the civil rights demonstrations of the 1960's.  On the right is a house with a Freedom Trail historic marker, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. slept; and, on the left is the Trinity United Methodist Church, both locations associated with the movement.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. slept here 
Trinity United Methodist Church


Turning right on Washington Street, another church important in the Civil Rights movement comes into view, St. Mary's Missionary Baptist Church.

In the early 20th century, Washington Street was the major commercial district for the African American community.  With desegregation, most of the African American-owned establishments along Washington Street declined.  One that remains to this day is the Elks Club, still an active community establishment with its own historic marker in red.
Elks Club






















Mr. Butler's house

 A noted African American business man, Frank R. Butler, lived in this house on Washington Street.  Mr. Butler established Butler Beach on Anastasia Island, the only beach open to African Americans during the days of segregation.












Demolition of Lincolnville's old houses is a constant threat, with demolition by neglect impacting many.  Lincolnville has become a desirable place to invest as vacant lots become locations for infill housing.  One of the better examples of new housing that fits into the Lincolnville style is this new house on Washington Street.

New house


Excelsior School
Returning to M.L.King Ave., we encounter a commanding structure, the Excelsior School.  This was the public elementary and high school for African Americans living in Lincolnville before the end of school segregation.  Today it is the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center which houses exhibits on the Civil Rights Movement in St. Augustine.

Replacement with inappropriate balcony railing
Continuing South on M.L.King Ave., we ride by two examples of recent renovation, one well done and the other with certain issues.  The first house to the left has replaced the balcony rail with a higher version to meet current codes.  Another restored house on the right has also rebuilt the balcony rail higher but has added two removable spans so that the integrity of the original is not lost.

Addition of appropriate balcony railing




















An outstanding example of restoration in Lincolnville is St.Cyprian's Episcopal Church on the right side heading south on M.L. King Ave.  During segregation this Episcopal church served an African American congregation.  It had fallen into disrepair but was sensitively restored in the 1990's and today St. Cyprian's is again an active parish.  It serves as a community focal point providing community-based programs in the arts, health care and education.

St Cyprian's Episcopal Church

Another house associated with the civil rights movement on M.L.King Ave. is known as the "Civil Rights House".  Dr. Robert B. Haling, a local dentist, lived here in 1964.  He is known as the father of the Civil Rights Movement in St. Augustine. 
Dr. Robert B. Haling's house

The bikers next proceeded to Oneida Street, one of the prettiest streets in Lincolnville.  Here we began our house tours.  The first house toured was a large house on the Maria Sanchez marsh, a house with a name: Villa Rosa.  This large frame house from the late 19th century was originally built by one of Henry Flagler's protegees.  It was recently completely restored by John Valdez and Associates, one of the City's most accomplished historic restoration companies. The house is filled with mahogany and wood inlays and has a restored tower to view the beautiful marsh and Intracoastal Waterway in the distance.
Villa Rosa













View from Villa Rosa Tower



















The next house we had the privilege of touring was a late 19th century Victorian being lovingly restored by the owner, Meg.  The rear of Meg's house has a kitchen which had been a separate building from the main house but was moved and attached to the house structure later.

Meg's house
Rear kitchen added to Meg's house




















Another approach to rehabilitation is Rosamond's house on South Street.  Her small bungalow from the early 20th century has been completely gutted and beautifully modernized in the interior but maintains the original exterior.

20th century bungalow
Backyard of bungalow



















As a contrast, the comfortable Richardson family home, has been in the family for several generations, with ongoing improvements over time.
Richardson family residence
The last house we toured was really a small museum inside.  This modest one-story 1920's frame house on Lake Maria Sanchez was restored to period perfection inside, even to the wall paper and appliances in the kitchen.  It was like stepping back into the 1920s.
1920s house on the lake



1920s sink

1920s stove




















That completed our tour of the five Lincolnville houses, each representing a  different approach to restoration.  We thanked Barry for a most insightful tour of one of St. Augustine's most interesting neighborhoods and a great laboratory to view historic preservation in action.

Text and photos by Toni Wallace.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

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