North Florida Land Trust (NFLT) was recently presented with the 2018 Historic Preservation Award at a ceremony held May 3 at the Jacksonville Main Library Auditorium. Presented by the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission, the award recognized NFLT’s work in acquiring and preserving the 1898 Spanish American War Gun Emplacements, the last remaining fort in Duval County.
“We are grateful that we were chosen to receive this award, but we could not have saved this fort without the help of the entire community,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT and a Ponte Vedra resident. “We share this honor with our contributors who made this possible, including the City of Jacksonville, the Delores Barr Weaver Fund, an anonymous donor who matched up to $39,000 in donations and to all those who helped us raise the money to save this important piece of Jacksonville’s history.”
NFLT partnered with the National Park Service in 2015 to serve as the acquisition and fundraising partner to save the 1898 Spanish American War Gun Emplacement, the only remaining military installation in Jacksonville out of a total four that once acted in defense of the river. Fort Caroline, the first fort in Jacksonville, was constructed in 1564 by French Huguenots and was later taken by the Spanish and renamed Fort San Mateo, according to NFLT. That fort’s exact location is unknown, but it is believed that changes in the river left it submerged. An English fort was later constructed in 1778, according to NFLT, and was likewise lost when man-made changes to St. Johns Bluff caused considerable erosion along the marsh. NFLT representatives said a Confederate Earthworks was also built in 1862, but it has since been buried and now lies underneath a residential development.
NFLT led the campaign to purchase the 1898 fort from an individual who had acquired it at a tax deed sale with plans to destroy it and build a house. NFLT acquired the fort in 2016 and will be turning it over to the National Park Service, which plans to add it to the Fort Caroline National Memorial as a public access park. NFLT’s campaign to save the fort assures that the only fort in Duval County will remain intact and become a critical addition to the National Park Service’s interpretive and community education outreach programming.