North Florida Land Trust turns over Spanish American war fort to National Park Service

North Florida Land Trust turns over Spanish American war fort to National Park Service
Displaying the 45-star American flag are Keith Holt, Chris Hughes, Jim McCarthy, Adam Hoyles, Lake Ray, Lake Ray IV.

North Florida Land Trust officially turned over ownership of the 1898 Spanish American War Fort to the National Park Service Dec. 14, 2018 at the National Park Service’s Jacksonville headquarters. 

Special guests invited to join the ceremony to mark the occasion included Lake Ray IV, who presented an antique post flag to NFLT President Jim McCarthy, who then presented it to NPS Superintendent Chris Hughes. The flag had 45 stars, which was the official United States flag between 1896 and 1908 and would have been the type that flew over the 1898 Spanish American War Fort. 

“It was a pleasure to be able to help save this important piece of Jacksonville’s history and we are so thankful for all of the support we received,” said McCarthy. 

Representing the Delores Barr Weaver Fund, which was instrumental in funding the purchase of the property, was Susan Datz Edelman, vice president of strategic communications, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. Weaver offered a $100,000 challenge grant toward the $400,000 purchase price of the property, bought at a tax auction and originally slated for new development.

City funding in the amount of $162,500, secured by City Councilman Tommy Hazouri, and many other generous donations from throughout the community, including a $39,000 match donation from an anonymous donor, helped secured the grant. 

NFLT served as the acquisition and fundraising partner of the NPS. The preservation made sure the only actual fort in Duval County remained intact to become part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. “This was a yearlong-plus journey to acquire this property and we are excited to now be able to hand it over to our partners, the National Park Service,” said McCarthy. “A special thanks and a lot of credit goes to our Land Protection Director Marc Hudson. His interest and passion for history really drove the project and he worked closely with the National Park Service to make it a success.”

“We are grateful for the partnership with the North Florida Land Trust and for their help to save this piece of history,” said Chris Hughes, National Park Service superintendent of Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. “Obtaining ownership of this historic property really is a feather in the cap of the National Park Service and a huge accomplishment for the citizens of our country. Now our work starts to assess this 120-year-old fort, which has been in a state of disrepair. Our hope is to eventually allow responsible public visits to the site while making sure it remains unimpaired for future generations.”

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.

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