The Beaches Museum & History Park in Jacksonville Beach is turning 40, and the celebration is just getting started.
“We’re going to celebrate all year, because we do have several events throughout the year,” Executive Director Christine Hoffman said. “We’ll have a big focus on our 40th anniversary, but really throughout the year, in everything we do, we’ll be incorporating it.”
While the main building of the Beaches Museum didn’t open until 2006, according to Hoffman, the beginnings of the overall history park date back to the formation of the Beaches Area Historical Society 28 years prior.
“The idea of the Beaches Area Historical Society was presented by Mrs. Jean McCormick, in her home, on Feb. 22, 1978,” she said. “Mrs. McCormick’s intention was to ‘plan a future for our past’ through the creation of a society that would collect, preserve and disseminate material unique to the history of the Beaches community.”
Hoffman explained that, soon after the historical society was founded, the City of Jacksonville Beach received a gift of land from the Florida East Coast Railway under the condition that it be operated as a park. The idea for a historical park was then pitched to the historical society, and the rest was, quite literally, history.
“Once they had the land, they started acquiring buildings on the park,” Hoffman said. “We have the original post office from what was Pablo Beach at the time, we’ve got the Mayport Depot, we’ve got a locomotive train and the section foreman’s house, which would’ve been the residence of the gentleman who was tasked with making sure the train tracks were in repair. Those were the first buildings to come to the park, and then in 2006, they opened the museum, which is the two-story building that we have here now.”
In honor of its commitment to preserving and sharing the wealth of history in Jacksonville’s beach communities, the Beaches Museum & History Park not only offers free admission, but also makes an effort to bring the history to the public.
“We try to bring historic presentations and some of our exhibits out to other locations,” Hoffman explained. “We had (a presentation) recently at the Beaches library, just so people who may not have come into the museum can see some of the history that we have here.”
Currently, the museum has several upcoming events planned, including a concert by Ponte Vedra Beach native Chad Jasmine, a presentation on “The Beginning of the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club” and a new exhibit featuring the works of artist Lana Shuttleworth. For a complete listing of events, visit www.beachesmuseum.org.
“We’re so much more than a museum,” Hoffman said. “We really want to be a cultural and historical hub for the Beaches community, and we’re so thankful for our members and people who support the museum and enable us to do all sorts of programming and educational activities.”