Off The Beaten Path: Mayport Village
Considered a fisherman's dream, Mayport Village is an authentic old Florida working waterfront located on the St. Johns River two miles east of the Atlantic Ocean.
In Photographs: Mayport Village History
The St. Johns River Lighthouse in 1912. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
The railroad depot at Mayport in 1900. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
Mayport boasted three railroad companies in its history. First to enter was the Jacksonville and Atlantic Railroad, which ran from South Jacksonville east along the Beach Boulevard alignment to Pablo Beach (early name for Jacksonville Beach), Ruby, and Mayport. Originally narrow gauge, purchased by the Florida East Coast Railway and converted to standard gauge, a large coal terminal was developed at Mayport.
The second railroad to enter the village was the Jacksonville, Mayport and Pablo Beach Railroad, a standard gauge line, developed by logging interests in Arlington Heights, initially without a single connection, the JM&P was a comedy of errors. The first train was a family picnic excursion for The Knights of Pythias and their families. It broke down in the hills above today’s Regency Square, and the knights were obliged to push a lone passenger coach back to the Arlington ferry landing. Though the little railroad finally extended from Arlington over the Arlington River through Saint Nicholas to South Jacksonville, it was too late to save themselves from ruin. The laborious JM&P never lived down it’s “Jump Men and Push” moniker.
The last railroad at Mayport came about soon after the Jacksonville and Atlantic went to standard gauge and all of the trackage at the port was consolidated under The Mayport Terminal Company. With the JM&P gone by 1900, the terminal company’s tracks were folded into the Jacksonville and Atlantic. With a great fire claiming the Hotel Continental at Atlantic Beach, and the Florida East Coast conversion of all locomotives to burn bunker fuel oil, the beaches railroads quietly fell into decline. Passenger trains to Mayport ended in the late 1920’s, and the tracks themselves came up in the early 1930’s, but not without one last hurrah.
About 1930, Jacksonville Commissioner Saint Elmo Acosta proposed that the City purchase the railroad and convert the whole line into a component of our electric trolley system. The proposal was set aside for another meeting of the full Commission, a meeting we are still waiting for 88 years later. Source: Robert Mann
Children pose for a group portrait at Mayport in 1900. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
Men stand in front of this building in 1900. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
The Mayport Village waterfront in 1985. Many of these buildings have since been demolished. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
Monty’s Marina during the 1970s. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
An aerial view looking southwest over the US Coast Guard Station at Mayport. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
Mayport docks with docked shrimping vessels in October 1991. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
The Mayport docks in 1979. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
A 1970s aerial view of Parsons’ Restaurant and the St. Johns River Ferry terminal offices. Parsons Seafood Restaurant opened in 1966 at 4578 Ocean Street in Mayport. It was established by former shrimper named Gene Parsons. Parsons sold the Mayport location, which closed in 1992, 17 years later and eventually was instrumental in launching other restaurants like Gene’s Seafood throughout the region. Today, Parsons’ son operates Parsons Seafood Restaurant in Neptune Beach. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
A look inside the Mat Roland Seafood fish house on August 5, 1986. The Mat Roland Seafood Company was started in 1932 by Matias Rolao (right). Rolao was a Portuguese immigrant who shrimped the waters between Fernandina Beach and St. Augustine in the 1920’s. He eventually changed his last name to Roland because it was easier for Americans to pronounce. Located between Safe Harbor Seafood and Singleton’s Seafood Shack, property was eventually acquired and razed by the Jacksonville Port Authority. Today, the third generation of Roland operates a seafood market at 1790 Mayport Road in Atlantic Beach. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
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