A Saturday on A1A: St. Augustine’s Lincolnville, Oldest House, and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Along A1A are many fascinating sites that make up the Florida Black Heritage Trail. In St. Augustine, heritage trail sites span from 1728 when the Spanish governor allowed runaway slaves from colonial colonies to come to St. Augustine for freedom in exchange for loyalty to the King of Spain and conversion to Catholicism, to the Civil Rights era that brought Martin Luther King to St. Augustine in what is considered “the final stage” leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

St. Augustine and Vero Beach, home to Dodgertown, are two sites near A1A that are listed as part of the United States Civil Rights Trail.

Just north of St. Augustine’s downtown district is Fort Mose Historic State Park, the site of the FIRST African American settlement in what is now the United States. It is also America’s FIRST underground railroad destination.

The visitor center at Fort Mose provides exhibits that tell the story of the first underground railroad site and the first settlement in what is now the United States.
Historical marker explaining the establishment of Fort Mose.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994, Fort Mose has become one of the many must-see places in America’s OLDEST city. Visit the Fort Mose Historical Society website to get more information about monthly and yearly events, including the reenactment of the Battle of Bloody Mose, in which the fort’s black militia along with Spanish soldiers and Native American allies fought off the British in 1740.

For our recent Saturday on A1A visit, we went first to Lincolnville Museum and Culural Center, then walked along Bridge Street to see a few iconic sites, then concluded our day with a short, but traffic-congested drive across the Bridge of Lions for a late lunch at Sarbez!

Established by freed slaves in 1866, Lincolnville’s historic district is St. Augustine’s most prominent African American neighborhood. As St. Augustine was the final focal point prior to the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Lincolnville served as a major location for meetings and planning peaceful protests. Dr. Martin Luther King stayed at various Lincolnville locations.

Our day in St. Augustine did get off to a late start, but an early morning stop in St. Augustine during our 2020 summer drive to the Florida Keys did allow us to enjoy a breakfast at the Blue Hen Cafe before spening a brief time in Lincolnville. On that visit, we visited the Willie Galimore home in Lincolnville.

The Blue Hen Cafe, located in St. Augustine’s Lincolnville just a block away from the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center.
Part of the wonderful decor inside The Blue Hen Cafe. The food is quite tasty also—pretty much made from scratch.
The Willie Galimore home at Lincolnville’s 57 Chapin Street. Galimore, who played football for Florida A&M University and the Chicago Bears of the NFL, was also a civil righst activist who participated in St. Augustine’s part in the movement (1964). Galimore died that year in a car accident.

Galimore, a member of College Football’s Hall of Fame, played high school football at Excelsior High School, St. Augustine’s first black high school. Excelsior High School is now the home of the Lincolnville Museum.

The Lincolnville Musuem and Cultural Center once served black students in St. Augsutine. Excelsior High School, St. Augustine’s first school for black students, opened in 1925 and served students for 40 years.

On our recent visit, our first stop was the museum. The museum does provide a sense of the contributions African Americans made in St. Augustine throughout its 450+ years of history.

The fingerprints of Dr. Martin Luther King following his arrest for protesting at the segregated Monson Motel’s restaurant in 1964. While the motel has since been demolished, the steps in which King was arrested are still there; a plaque marks the place where the event occured.
A window display marks the various churches within Lincolnville, each of which played a role in St. Augsutine’s participation in the Civil Rights movement.
A display showing a childhood photo of Ray Charles, who attended the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine from age 7-15.

The museum is currently going through renovation, especially with its second floor and roof. News4Jax, a Jacksonville-based television station, presented a story on December 10, 2021.

Following our visit to the museum, and with permission of staff working that day, we left our car and walked north on Martin Luther King Avenue to Bridge Street, from Bridge Street to Charlotte Street, and from Charlotte Street to St. Francis Street.

Serving the Lincolnville district is St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church, named after the patron saint of African Americans. Established in 1911, it is part of the Diocese of St. Augustine. It is located at 86 Martin Luther King Avenue.
This house on 81 Bridge Street is one of several that Dr. Martin Luther King stayed at during his visit to St. Augustine. His hosts were Mrs. Cora Tyson and her husband, John. Mrs. Tyson, who is 98 years old, still lives in this house.
At 79 Bridge Street is the ACCORD Civil Rights Museum, open by appointment only. The museum’s website identifies Lincolnville sites that are part of its Freedom Trail, and excellent source for a self-guided tour of Lincolnville.

Our walk took us to a few of the ACCORD (Anniversary to Commemorate the Civil Rights Demonstrations, Inc.) Civil Rights Museum’s Freedom Trail sites. While the museum is open by appointment only, its website provides a listing of its trail sites, each with a marker and cell phone audio tour information.

The ACCORD museum commemorates the efforts and courage of St. Augustine’s black community just prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passing through Congress. The heroic (and as the museum states “sheroic”) actions in the face of severe segregationist retaliations, often violent, are credited with pushing Congress to pass the act into law, especially as national media showed the country and the world the work of St. Augustine demonstrators in peaceful protest while facing intense racist actions.

Continuing our walk on Bridge Street, we came to Dog Rose Brewery; while tempted to stop in for a draft, we stuck to our schedule, not knowing that we would have the opportunity for the brewery’s Lincolnville Lager a bit later.

Before exiting Bridge Street, we came across several Spanish colonial homes, the first two being Canova-Dow and Canova-de Medicis Houses (1840), and Canova-Prince Murat House (1790).

The Canova-Dow and Canova-de Medicis Houses, located at 42 and 46 Bridge Street. These homes, along with the Canova-Prince Murat House at 246 St. George Street, make up The Collector Luxury Inn and Gardens.
The Canova-Prince Murat House.
Prince Napoleon Achille Murat was born in 1801, the Crown Prince of Naples. In
physical appearance, he resembled his uncle, Napoleon
Bonaparte. Murat came to St. Augustine in the spring
of 1824, and quickly became woven into the social fabric
of the community. He joined the Masonic lodge, became
a bondsman of the city treasurer and dabbled in local
politics. While living in New Orleans and Tallahassee,
Murat studied and wrote about the law and government,
publishing A Moral and Political Sketch of the United
States of North America in 1832 and other works. After
unsuccessfully pursuing the Bonaparte inheritance in
Europe in the late 1830s, Murat and his wife Catherine,
retired to their Tallahassee plantation. There, he died
April 15, 1847, at the age of 46 (The Great Floridians Program 2000).

The Canova-Prince Murat House caught my attention when reading about a stay in St. Augustine by famous American poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who while recovering from a bout with tuberculosis as a young man, spent a couple of months in St. Augustine in 1827.

Murat, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, and Emerson, developed an unlikely friendship during their travel to and stay in St. Augustine. Murat was an atheist, while Emerson was a Unitarian minister. From the Marcia Lane article in the St. Augsutine Record, “Ralph Waldo Emerson Came to St. Augsutien for Treatment” (October 23, 2011):

“Local legend has it that the two first met at the boarding house in St. Augustine where they took meals. The building, known for years as Prince Murat’s House, is part of the Dow Museum of Historic Houses, owned by the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach. The pink cottage is at the corner of Bridge and St. George streets.”

The houses are no longer part of the museum but instead are three of nine historic structures within a city block that make up The Collector Luxury Inn and Gardens.

Also among the structures at the Inn are the Howells House and The Well. The Howells House, named after famous writer William Dean Howell, has also hosted writers Mark Twain and Sinclair Lewis. The Well, now used as the Jesse Fish Tavern, was St. Augustine’s FIRST two-car gatage.

Our walk down Charlotte Street brought us to one of St. Augustine’s most famous sites, The Oldest House Museum.

Entrance to the Oldest House Museum Complex. The actual house is in the background.
Our tour guide explains the main room inside the Gonales-Alvarez House, also known as the Oldest House, with history dating back to 1723. Visitors to the house are taken on a detailed, but very interesting tour about the house and gardens.
The main room in the Oldest House features a in-ground firepit, a feature of the Spanish colonial homes in St. Augustine….
while the fireplace, an additional feature to the house, was part of a British extenstion. Four flags have flown over the house, representing Spanish, British, Confederacy, and American occupation of St. Augustine.
Statue locatedwithin the garden area of the Oldest House.

Along with the house and gardens are exhibits related to St. Augustine’s surf culture, the history of Marineland, and other, rotating exhibits.The Tovar House and Fernandez-Llambias House are also part of the museum’s complex. The complex falls under the auspices of the St. Augustine Historical Society, which has been around since 1883. The society acquired the Oldest House in 1918.

The Fernandez-Llambias House, originally built in 1763.

The late morning, early afternoon walkabout, which mainly kept us south of St. Augustine’s Plaza de la Constitución, was a relaxing alternative to visiting the sites, and especially St. George Street’s main thoroughfare, which always draws a large, weekend crowd.

Our drive across the Bridge of Lions on A1A put us in expected traffic; our less than two-mile journey took nearly 30 minutes to complete. Once we crossed the bridge, however, we found our little slice of grilled cheese sandwich paradise—“Sarbez! The Grilled Cheese Capital of St. Augustine!”

Sarbez! Located on A1A/115 Anastasia Boulevard.
The rules.
The menu. Check out the Little Debbie’s snack cakes hanging from the clothes pins.
The restroom.
The homage to the 80’s.
The VHS video wall.
The arcade.

Sarbez! is simply a delightful place to grab a local brew, choose from a long list of grilled cheese sandwich options, and enjoy a 1980’s-style arcade room. The decor is funky, fun, and fantastic! While we drove to Sarbez!—and spent some time trying to find a parking spot, I recommend taking a walk across the Bridge of Lions from the downtown side, especially if parked at the Historic Downtown Parking Facility ($15 per vehicle, per entry). The walk will offer spectacular views of the Matanzas River and St. Augustine’s downtown, with Flagler College in the background.

There is so much to see and do in St. Augustine; this is just one of many ways to plan an itinerary. If traveling down A1A, give yourself a few days to explore America’s OLDEST city.

Happy traveling!

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