The Amelia Island Museum of History provides visitors with an overview of the island’s history, starting with its Native American occupants and continuing through modern times. The museum is located in the former Nassau County jail.
The Ancient Spanish Monastery, officially St. Bernard de Clairvaux Church, was originally built in the Spanish town of Sacramenia in Segovia in the 12th century and named Santa María la Real. It was closed some time between 1836 and 1840 during the reign of Isabella II of Spain and as a result of the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizábal. William Randolph Hearst purchased the structure in 1925 and was subsequently dismantled and shipped to the United States. However, as a result of an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease in Segovia, the 11,000 crates containing the historic monastery building were quarantined in New York. Though he planned to relocate it to his Hearst Castle in San Simeon, because of Hearst’s financial difficulties, the building remained in storage in New York. Raymond Moss and William Edgemon purchased the building in 1952, a year after Hearst died. The building was re-assembled on a plant nursery north of Miami.
The Clermont Citrus Tower first opened to visitors in 1956. It took 13 months, roughly $300,000, five million pounds of concrete and 149,000 pounds of reinforced steel to build the tower. Counting its antenna, the tower reaches over 500 feet above sea level, making it the highest observation point in the Sunshine State. At one point, more than 500,000 people visited the tower every year. However, the 1964 extension of the Florida Turnpike provided a waste route for motorists and the tower’s popular among travelers began to wane. Then, that roadside oddity called Walt Disney World opened. The rest, as they say, is history.
Located off of Interstate 75 in Ocala, Florida, the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing features an amazing array of cars and vintage engines Garlits has rebuilt for display. Garlits’ impact on the sport is immeasurable. He was the first driver to officially surpass a number of speed marks, including hitting 270 mph on a quarter-mile track and 200 mph on a 1/8-mile track. Artifacts that help tell the story of drag racing’s history are featured throughout. Highlights include the Swamp Rat I, the car Garlits raced when he set his first world record; the Swamp Rat 14, the first rear engine car Garlits built; and the Swamp Rat 34.
The Fernandina Beach Marine Welcome Center & Shrimping Museum gives visitors to Amelia Island a quick overview of the shrimping industry and its impact on the region. The Amelia Island Museum of History began running the museum after the city of Fernandina Beach approached the museum in 2010. The small museum, located on the waterfront in downtown Fernandina Beach, includes information about the shrimping industry and the families who played a vital role in its development. Theor efforts helped make the state “the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry.”
Construction on Fort Clinch started in 1847 after the Second Seminole War on a peninsula near Amelia Island’s northernmost point. The only battle at the fort, named in honor of General Duncan Lamont Clinch, a leader in the First and Second Seminole Wars, happened during the Civil War. In 1862, Union troops recaptured the fort after Confederates seized control of the structure. The state of Florida bought the fort in 1935. Today, the fort is part of the 1,100-acre Fort Clinch State Park, which opened to the public in 1938.
Mallory Square is a plaza situated on the waterfront in Key West’s historic Old Town just west of the northern end of Duval Street, facing the Gulf of Mexico. It hosts the nightly “Sunset Celebration,” considered one of the city’s main tourist attractions. Every night, hundreds of tourists flock to the square — or one of the adjacent watering holes — to watch the sunset. The celebration includes arts and crafts exhibitors, street performers, and food carts. Adjacent to Mallory Square is the city’s cruise ship port, which opened in 1984. However, cruise ships must depart before the nightly sunset celebration.
The Manatee Observation and Education Center is located on the waterfront in downtown Fort Pierce, Fla. The environmental education and wildlife viewing center opened on Nov. 1, 1996, in time for Manatee Awareness Month. The mission of the Manatee Observation and Education Center is to promote understanding and responsible actions for the protection of the Treasure Coast’s fragile ecosystems and their inhabitants. It does that through exhibits and an outdoor viewing platform where visitors can watch manatee.
Dr. Charles Bressler-Pettis conceive the idea for the Monument of States in the dark days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Bressler-Pettis wrote to governors and asked them to send stones for a monument; they obliged. The 40-foot-tall monument is topped by a 562-pound bald eagle made of concrete and was built using stones from all 48 states (at the time of its completion). Bressler-Petti also included stones he and his wife collected from other places. The structure, dedicated in March 1943 and located at the corner of Monument Avenue and Johnston Street, contains 1,500 rocks from all 50 states and 22 countries. A number of parties, including tourists, governors, a prime minister and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, also donated stones to the cause. While it can’t be confirmed, a human skull is also alleged to be included in the mix. Interestingly some of Bressler-Petti’s ashes are said to be buried in the monument.
The Old Town Fernandina Historic Site is the original location of the city of Fernandina Beach. The village was laid out north of the modern-day town on a low bluff overlooking the Amelia River in 1811 and expanded in 1821. The settlement was near Fort San Carlos, which was erected in 1816 and abandoned about 1821. When the railroad built to the area in the 1850s, it was unable to construct to the site of Old Town Fernandina and instead terminated at present-day Fernandina Beach. In 1853, the city relocated to its present-day location. Some buildings stand in the Old Town section, but none date to the original settlement.
The Overseas Highway is a 113-mile-long highway carrying U.S. Route 1 through the Florida Keys to Key West. It was largely built on parts of the former Overseas Railroad right-of-way, an extension of the Florida East Coast Railway to Key West Extension completed in 1912. The 1935 Labor Day hurricane heavily damaged and partially destroyed the Overseas Railroad. The Florida East Coast Railway was financially unable to rebuild the destroyed sections and sold roadbed and remaining bridges to Florida, making it a famous drive between Miami and Key West.
The Seven Mile Bridge is perhaps the most famous bridge on the 113-mile-long Overseas Highway through the Florida Keys to Key West. The Florida East Coast Railway build the original bridge, initially known as the Knights Key-Pigeon Key-Moser Channel-Pacet Channel Bridge, from 1909 to 1912 as part of its Key West Extension, also known as the Overseas Railroad. Following the 1935 Labor Day hurricane, the railroad, financially unable to rebuild the route, sold the remaining bridges to the government, which reworked it as a highway. A newer bridge, constructed from 1978 to 1982, replaced the original span, which largely remains in place.
The Southernmost Point Buoy is a concrete buoy that ostensibly marks the southernmost point in the continental United States and is a popular photograph for tourists. The buoy, which sits at 18 feet above sea level, was established in 1983 at South and Whitehead streets. Cuba is about 90 miles south of the point, but the exact distance is disputed, as is the southernmost point claim. The southernmost point was initially marked with a small sign before city officials erected the buoy in 1983. Hurricane Irma damaged the paint job in September 2017, but the original artist, with support from the city of Key West, refurbished it.
The Palace Saloon claims the title of the oldest bar in Florida and the last American tavern to close during Prohibition. Josiah Prescott built the structure, which opened in 1878 as a haberdashery. But, Louis G. Hirth purchased the structure in 1903 and converted it to the Palace Saloon. The establishment was apparently a favorite haunt of famous socialites, including the Carnegies and the Rockefellers. On the eve of Prohibition began, the bar apparently reported $60,000 in bar receipts, supposedly the most profitable day for the establishment. The establishment survived the dry era as an ice cream parlor until 1931 when the booze began flowing again,