St. Augustine's Lincolnville Historic District
Originally called Africa or Little Africa, Lincolnville was settled by recently freed enslaved in the marshes of Maria Sanchez Creek just west of St. Augustine in 1866. Largely developed between 1866 and 1930 where the former Yallaha and Buena Esperanza orange grove plantations once stood, Lincolnville is a historic Gullah Geechee community and home to the largest concentration of late Victorian era buildings in the oldest city in the continental U.S.
An 1885 map of St. Augustine showing the location of Lincolnville. (State Archives of Florida)
After the siege of the city in 1702 by English invaders from Carolina, the Spanish authorities built a wall around the St. Augustine to protect it from outside attack. When the northernmost wall was added around 1762, it redefined the city, consuming a long narrow peninsula shaped by the Matanzas River and Maria Sanchez Creek. Just outside of the city, on the west side of Maria Sanchez Creek, plantations called Buena Esperanza (Spanish for “Good Hope”) and Yallaha cultivated oranges on a neighboring peninsula shaped by Maria Sanchez Creek and the San Sebastian River.
The emancipation of the area’s enslaved as a result of the Civil War led to considerable change on this low lying peninsula just outside of the walled city. As early as 1866, a small settlement called Africa, or Little Africa, began to develop on the land of the former Yallaha Plantation. Soon, this “Outside the Walls” community of former enslaved West African descendants (also known as Gullah or Geechee) became known as Lincolnville.
By 1886, Henry Flagler, a former partner of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, had extended his railroad to town, linking St. Augustine with cities along the east coast. Developing ornate hotels and rail operations just north of Lincolnville, Flagler’s investments in the city resulted in continued rapid expansion of Lincolnville. Primarily consisting of wood frame residences, historic churches and maritime related uses, the neighborhood played a central role in the Civil Rights Movement when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a local campaign that contributed to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Home to the largest concentration of late Victorian era buildings in the city, Lincolnville was documented and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Being within walking district of St. Augustine’s tourism epicenter, Lincolnville is a 140-acre walkable neighborhood now challenged by the negative impacts of gentrification and sea level rise.
Next Page: Lincolnville Photo Tour