Downtown Victorian Past
Downtown Victorian Past
Architecturally, downtown Fernandina is a time capsule locked in a period covering the last 25 years of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th, and provides a very good idea of what the town’s buildings and homes looked like in its “golden days.”
Saloons were a big part of turn of the century life in Fernandina. The Palace Saloon, built in 1878 as a haberdashery, became a saloon in 1903 and is considered Florida’s oldest continuously operating saloon. Unfortunately, it was severely damaged by fire in February 1999, but has since been restored and is open for business.
Further up Centre St. on the north side, you’ll find a building with three large stars worked into the brickwork on the second floor level. This was the Three Star Saloon, built in 1877 by William Marson who was known to like to sample his merchandise. His daughter sold it after his death on the condition that alcoholic beverages would never be sold there again. It has not been a saloon since.
You’ll find two examples of turn of the century “government” architecture on Centre St., the courthouse and the post office. The Nassau County Courthouse, built in 1891-92, is one of the finest surviving Victorian courthouses in Florida and is the oldest county courthouse in continuous use. The stately Post Office and Customs House across the street was built in 1910. It was
designed in the style of the Medici Palace in Florence. On the second floor of the Post Office you can see a fully restored courtroom which served the area early in this century.
Right next to the Post Office is the Lesesne House, one of the oldest houses on the island, built
in 1860. It has the original floors that were laid with dowels not nails.
Two other structures of architectural interest are: The Tabby House at Ash and 7th which was built in 1885 of tabby, a mixture of oyster shells, cement and lime used by the early settlers on the island, and the Villa Las Palmas at 304 Alachua St., an imposing structure of massive proportions which was built in 1910 by a prosperous lumberman for his much younger bride.
Downtown Fernandina is also the location of The Florida House, considered one of the oldest
tourist hotels in Florida. It was built by the railroad in 1857-59 and was patronized by wealthy visitors through the turn of the century.