Tucked into the southwest corner of St. Augustine, just past some of the historic city's most notable landmarks, is a neighborhood filled with Victorian homes and steeped in history.
Lincolnville started life as Little Africa, a plot of land where freed slaves gathered to build homes and put down roots. It was renamed following Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.
"Blacks were not allowed to move freely about the city except to go to work," said Regina Gayle Phillips, executive director of the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center.
But the neighborhood flourished. Residents opened restaurants, movie houses, real estate companies, grocery stores, dance halls, etc., and prospered, establishing a strong middle-class neighborhood. But along with the rest of the country, residents of Lincolnville became fed up with the Jim Crow laws and began organizing marches and sit ins. Dr. Martin Luther King frequently joined demonstrations with community members like Henry Twine, the head of the local NAACP, and dentist Dr. Robert Hayling.
"Dr. King was arrested in St. Augustine," Phillips said.
As was Twine's wife, Katherine, numerous times. The jails were overcrowded, Phillips said, and holding pens were constructed from chain-link fence to contain the overflow.
"(Katherine) had a sombrero she took with her wherever she went. She used to say she takes her shade with her because she never knew when she'd be arrested," Phillips said. "The hat became iconic. It's in the Civil Rights museum."
Events that took place in St. Augustine during that time were pivotal in bringing about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation.
Today, the neighborhood offers much to explore, both old and new. It has become home to many artists and students of Flagler College. The Anniversary to Commemorate the Civil Rights Demonstrations (ACCORD) has placed historical markers at notable sites throughout the area, and the Florida Humanities Council developed an app of walking tours that leads users to various points of historical interest. Visit these places to get a taste of the past and a flavor for the present.
Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center
The museum is a great place to start, as it is located in the former Excelsior School. This was the "colored school" from 1902 until 1928. Many of St. Augustine's notables were educated here, including NFL star Willie Galimore and civil rights leaders Henry and Katherine Twine. The museum includes exibits about life in the neighborhood and presents living history events.
ACCORD began in 2002 after Katherine Twine's death, to commemorate contributions to St. Augustine's civil rights movement. The museum was established in the former dental office of Dr. Robert Hayling, where many of the movement's planning sessions were held. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., attended several of them. It's also the beginning of the ACCORD Freedom Trail, which as markers posted throughout the community to tell the story of civil rights in St. Augustine.
Hayling Freedom Park
This park on Riberia Street honors Dr. Hayling's contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. It covers nine acres with gorgeous views of the San Sebastian and Matanzas rivers. On one end are the Let Freedom Ring Chimes—stationary chimes that can be played by visitors and are surrounded by granite and marble—and the Emancipation Proclamation Obelisk.
Before heading out to explore the historic trails, stop by the Blue Hen Café. Open for breakfast and lunch, it serves up southern cooking like biscuits and gravy and chicken biscuits. You can also try the blue crab quiche and barbecue pulled pork and grits.
Located in one of the oldest houses in Lincolnville—built sometime between 1865 and 1885—this upscale restaurant serves dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients, like the seafood plateau that includes East Coast oysters and Mayport shrimp; and chicken sourced from Jacksonville's Black Hog Farms, served with Swiss chard, pearl onions and roasted grape tomatoes.
If you visit in November, stroll through Lincolnville during Porch Fest. More than 40 local musicians perform from six picturesque front-porch stages throughout the neighborhood. Snacks and drinks are sold at the Corner Market. Don't forget the lawn chairs.
This fall festival celebrates the neighborhood's heritage with food, live music, dancing and family acitivies in Eddie Vickers Park. About 20 percent of the neighborhood's residents have been there since the '50s and '60s, and some will share their life experiences with visitors.