East Coast Beach History

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by Robert Rush

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Jacksonville Pier in background with cars on the beach and boardwalk in foreground. July 4, 1928. From the collection of the Beaches Museum & History Park.

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Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Bathers on beach with cars, roller coaster, boardwalk in background. Red Cross Life Saving Corps station on left, ca 1929. From the collection of the Beaches Museum & History Park.

Situated in a busy part of Jacksonville Beach are a few beautiful historic buildings that you may have driven past on your dash to the beach but you need to stop and take a few minutes or hours to peek inside. This is home to the Beaches Museum & History Park which opened its doors in 2006.

Here you will find wonderful collections of old photographs of the beach area covering, Mayport, Atlantic, Neptune, Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra and historic Palm Valley. A variety of beach memorabilia such as old post cards, beach chairs, surf boards and film footage, items from the Ponte Verdra Beach Club and more can be viewed.

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Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Induction Day Parade on beach. BPOE lead car with Virgil Deane in front seat left. Parade of cars behind and other cars parked. Boardwalk with Red Cross Life Saving Corps Station to the right. Ferris wheel extreme right. June 19, 1953. From the collection of the Beaches Museum & History Park.

The museum has permanent exhibits and visiting exhibits. The permanent gallery is housed the main building which has a walkway that travels around a rustic cottage. The path allows the visitor to stroll down a photographic memory lane of five beaches communities. Along the way, the visitor gets to see artifacts of a bygone era when the beaches had an entirely different look.

Around the turn of the 20th Century, the beaches area had several large hotels to support the growing tourist trade that flocked to the area, all via the railroad, to enjoy the ocean, the sun, the sand, and the high-class entertainment of the evenings. As cars became more common and the beach more accessible, the need for the railroad lessened, and finally was closed for good. The almost straight as an arrow Beach Boulevard was built on top of where the railroad once ran. Railroading was significant to the beaches development, and its history. The museum has a train depot with a real 1911 train there is also a 1887 chapel that is available for weddings and events.

In later years the beach area had a large boardwalk with arcades and rides such as the Ferris wheel and a large wooden roller coaster that made this the hot spot to visit. Jacksonville Beach had cars parked five or six lanes deep.

Each decade has left its history behind, now preserved and catalogued by the museum for exhibits and shows of the past.

The museum also has a gift shop with unique items. Check their website for upcoming events.

904-241-5657 www.BeachesMuseum.org

Photographs from the collection of the Beaches Museum & History Park

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