Thanks to the generous contributions of many in the community, North Florida Land Trust is now the owner of the 1898 Spanish American War Fort. The papers have been signed and an important piece of Jacksonville’s history has been saved. Once the restoration is complete and the fort is turned over to The National Park Service, it will be added to the Fort Caroline National Memorial as a public access park. The preservation will make sure the only actual fort in Duval County remains intact and it will be a critical addition to the National Park Service’s interpretive and community education outreach programming.
“We started this campaign about a year ago to buy the fort from an individual who had purchased the property at a tax deed sale and had planned to destroy the fort to build a house,” said Jim McCarthy, Executive Director of NFLT. “We are so proud to be a part of this community that banded together to help us save the fort. Many thanks go out to all our donors including the City of Jacksonville, the Delores Barr Weaver Fund and an anonymous donor who matched up to $39,000 to get us to the purchase price.”
The City of Jacksonville allocated $162,500 to save the fort and early on, the Delores Barr Weaver fund offered a $100,000 challenge grant to help NFLT reach the $400,000 needed to purchase the property.
“The Spanish-American Fort is a treasured piece of North Florida history, one that could not be duplicated if the land it sits upon were to be developed,” said Delores Barr Weaver. “So many people in our area want to protect the natural beauty we enjoy along our riverfront, and I believed that a challenge grant to encourage their generosity would pay off. I’m delighted that with the City of Jacksonville’s help, and the willingness of other donors, the Spanish-American Fort will be preserved once and for all.”
The remaining money was raised through donations from the community, including $5,000 raised by 100-year-old Genevieve DeLoach who asked for donations from her friends and the community in lieu of gifts for her 100th birthday party.
The 1898 Spanish-American War artillery battery fort was one of four forts on St. Johns Bluff that acted in defense of the river and is the only one that remains. The first, Ft. Caroline, was constructed in 1564 by French Huguenots. It was later taken by the Spanish and renamed Fort San Mateo. The exact location is not known, but it is believed changes in the river left it submerged. An English fort was constructed in 1778 and was likewise lost when man-made changes to St. Johns Bluff caused considerable erosion along the marsh. A Confederate Earthworks was built in 1862 and has been buried. It now lies underneath a residential development.
Wayne Hogan, a local attorney and contributor to the fort preservation, said, “Near Fort Caroline, and across the river from the important Civil War-era enclave of Pilot Town, the Spanish-American War Fort presents a key link in the military history of the St. Johns River as it reaches the Atlantic Ocean at Mayport. When it’s history and it’s important, it should be preserved; I’m glad this will be.”
About North Florida Land Trust
North Florida Land Trust is a non-profit organization who serves as a champion of environmental protection in Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam, and St. Johns counties. NFLT was founded in 1999 and has protected thousands of acres of environmentally significant land including land at Big Talbot Island, the River Branch Preserve, Pumpkin Hill State Park, Moccasin Slough, along the St. Mary’s River and other valued natural areas in Northeast Florida. NFLT is funded largely by private and corporate contributions and works closely with private landowners and other public agencies at all levels of government, not-for-profit partners, and foundations. For more information, visit www.northfloridalandtrust.org.