Did you know that the British flag was one of the eight flags that once flew over Amelia Island and that our island was actually named for Princess Amelia, the daughter of King George II? Did you also know that the Victorian era brought about some of our most beloved holiday traditions including lighted trees, gift giving, Christmas cards, and caroling? So what do these two things have in common? With so many ties to Britain and the Victorian era, it seemed fitting that during this special time of year the Dickens on Centre festival was created and that each December our sleepy seaport village is transformed into a spectacular Victorian atmosphere that even ole Ebenezer would love (December 9-12). For a complete listing of all the holiday fun that not only includes the festival itself, but also: Dickens After Dark
, Dickens Illuminated Procession
, Dickens Dining Week
, Run Like the Dickens
, and new this year - Dickens Enchanted Village
, visit Amelia Island Christmas
In the meantime, step back in time and imagine Merry ole Amelia as she was in her Victorian heyday by visiting each of these places in history.
Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach
Located on the northern half of Amelia Island, the city of Fernandina Beach has been honored by the National Trust for its historic preservation and 50-block historic district. Featuring gorgeous Victorian-era architecture, historic “downtown” was once a stomping ground for pirates, Gilded Age millionaires, bootleggers, shrimpers, and other colorful characters. Take a guided or self-guided tour all year round, or for an up close and personal tour, attend the Holiday Home Tour
, December 3 & 4, and see five amazing homes decorated for the holiday season.
Florida House Inn
The Florida House Inn is located in the very heart of Fernandina Beach and is the oldest surviving hotel in the state of Florida. She serves as the matriarch of the historic district and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1857, the Inn was originally constructed as a railroad boarding house and has entertained the likes of Ulysses S. Grant, Jose Marti, Henry Ford, Laurel and Hardy, Mary Pickford and more. In 2010 it was restored into an eclectic mix of vintage charm and southern hospitality making the Inn a very unique bed and breakfast.
On the northern tip of Amelia Island sits Fort Clinch State Park. The sprawling park includes over 1,400 acres of maritime forest, centuries-old oaks, nature trails and gorgeous waterfront views, but the Grand Dame and must-see attraction is Fort Clinch itself. Still standing guard along the Amelia River, Fort Clinch is a 19th
-century brick fortress that offers daily living history interpretations of the life of a Union soldier in 1864. With canons still poised at the ready, visitors can tour the fort and get a peek at what life was like during the Civil War.
The Palace Saloon
Between 1880-1910, Fernandina's docks were among the busiest in the south. Basking in her heyday, she welcomed ships from the far corners of the globe. Of the many saloons that lined the lively streets of the harbour district - and there were over 20 at the time - only one bore the distinction of being the "Shipcaptain's Bar." and that was the Palace. Originally constructed as a haberdashery in 1878, Louis G. Hirth bought the Prescott building in 1903 and replaced shoes with booze and named it the Palace Saloon. The Palace continues to bring folks together. Go ahead, belly up to the bar, and as the bartender slides a mug of suds to you, the ghosts from ten decades past just may join in drinking to your health.
Amelia Island Lighthouse
Few structures in Florida can boast a heritage as long and intriguing as the Amelia Island Lighthouse, the oldest operational lighthouse in Florida whose light can still be seen 16 miles out at sea. In 1820 our lighthouse was built, stood, and shone on Cumberland Island, guiding vessels into the St. Mary’s River and along the Atlantic Coast. Changes in the channel made it so the lighthouse light on Cumberland Island could no longer be seen when entering the St. Mary’s river. Thus, in 1838 for the grand total of $7,500 by Congress, the Cumberland Lighthouse was dismantled brick by brick, shipped across the river, and reconstructed on the northern end of Amelia Island where it still sits today.
First Presbyterian Church
The sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church, organized May 22, 1858, is the oldest church structure on Amelia Island. It rests on land donated by David Yulee who was not only a member of the church but also Florida's first Senator. A few short years after the church was built, worship was interrupted when Federal troops occupied the building during the Civil War and members of the congregation took refuge to the relative safety of the interior of the state. During the war, the sanctuary was also used to house a primary school run by the Freedman’s Bureau. After the war, members regained control of the church and services have been held there ever since. The original bell still calls worshipers to services.
Nassau County Courthouse
Holding court over downtown's Centre Street since 1891 is the historic Nassau County Courthouse, a beautiful two-story red brick building designed in the classic revival style. The courthouse features cast-iron corinthian columns in the front and a massive bell tower and steeple on top, which was used as a fire alarm for many years. The National Register of Historic Places states that the courthouse, the second oldest in Florida, is “unquestionably the finest in quality of detail and workmanship in the state of Florida.” In 2002 the building was carefully restored and renovated.
Amelia Island Welcome Center (The old train depot)
During the last year of the 19th century, the train depot, at the foot of Centre Street, opened to travelers whose paths crossed the Gilded Age glory of Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach. Today, the little brick building provides a unique blend of period detail and modern technology and spotlights the activities and experiences Amelia Island has to offer. History literally surrounds you as you step inside and explore underneath the eight flags that have flown over Amelia Island and learn all about David Yulee, the "father of Florida railroads". Speaking of David Yulee... his statue in front of the Welcome Center is fast becoming one of Amelia Island's most popular places for a photo op.
Pack your bags
and join us for the 7th Annual Dickens On Centre festival
and step back in time to Victorian Merry Ole Amelia.