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History’s Highlight About the Castillo baseball diamond A photo contributed by Fred Whitley in the Saturday February 20 Report shows a baseball diamond north of the Castillo in a vintage photo. We wondered was this the north green of today’s Castillo or is this the area across today's Castillo Drive where the Huguenot Cemetery and visitor center sit? Historical Society Senior Researcher Charles Tingley writes, “This photo was taken from an upper window of the San Marco Hotel (built 18885). It was taken prior to the extensive landscaping of the Fort Green circa 1890. “I know of three other photos of baseball on the Fort Green and numerous newspaper accounts. See Mr. Flagler's St. Augustine by Tom Graham page 178. The earliest account I could find was 1867 and the last in the second decade of the 20th century. “Steve Roberts who is chief of interpretation at the fort is working on a small exhibit on the subject.” Tingley shared a Library of Congress photo. “If you blow it up it shows a game underway. “In the photo the San Marco Hotel takes center stage. On the right is the winter residence of W. J. Warden (aka Castle Warden) and the three-story building on the left was Mason's Bakery on the NW corner of Tolomato Lane and St. George Street.” Tom Rahner noted, “The Huguenot (Protestant) cemetery was established because of the yellow fever epidemic beginning in 1821 and therefore pre-dates the photograph by more than four decades. It does look too deep (compared to today’s fort green), but The National Park Service offices now occupy a considerable swath of the green on the east side of San Marco Ave., which also was not a multi- laned thoroughfare at the time of the photograph. The Ponce de Leon Celebrations in the first quarter of the 20th century had the really big events on the green with hundreds of “Indians,” “Spaniards,” horses and mock villages as well as sizable grandstands, Etc., with plenty of room to spare.
Cathedral Festival COVID won’t stop the 36th Annual Cathedral Festival on the Mission Nombre de Dios grounds Friday February 26 to Sunday 28, but safety protocols will be in place, including temperature checks, spacing, sanitizing and Plexiglass shields on all booths. Food, music, midway rides and the famous Sunday shrimp dinner and super raffle with $10,000 grand prize. Tickets $5, under 10 free. Hours Friday 5-10:30 pm, Saturday Noon-10:30 pm (Fireworks at 9 pm), Sunday Noon-9 pm.
Spring event permits OKd   Organizers must follow an 8-page CDC event checklist The City Commission Monday approved lifting a year-old moratorium on special spring events at Francis Field, but with the requirement that event organizers submit a compliant plan with the 8-page document prepared by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The list of traditional events has shrunk. Move Rhythm and Ribs to third weekend in October. The Celtic Festival and St Patrick's Parade in March and Easter Parade in April will not be part of the 2021 spring events list. Also, Drake's Raid and the Lion’s Seafood Festival will be cancelled. Following a report from City Manager John Regan that the COVID positivity rate is dropping and “Solomon Center is vaccinating in one day what other counties are doing in a week,” commissioners voted the approval. Commissioner Roxanne Horvath with the majority but had noted, “I feel that the spring is too soon. I know the artists are suffering but we’re a unique tourist destination. We have people coming in from all over the place. If we could get herd immunity by July it’s worth it me to not do the spring events.”
Commission okays Lightner Museum garden redesign This renovation will honor the legacies of Henry Flagler and Otto Lightner Museum Director David Bagnall City commissioners Monday approved amending the city’s agreement with the Lightner Museum Trustees to give up one parking space in the renovation of the garden area behind the museum, but not before some discussion on that parking space loss. The space loss was reduced from two to one parking space after calculating restriping of the parking lot. Commissioner Nancy Sykes-Kline noted a 2012 study that showed one on-street parking space valued at $20,000 a year in revenue to businesses. “One parking space can be very important to economic revitalization,” she said, “and there’s also spillover parking into neighborhoods.” Mayor Tracy Upchurch responded, “I’ve never made a decision about whether I go to a community about a parking space. I expect the community to provide that space and direct me to it.” Museum Director David Bagnall and associate Elijah George of design consultants Marquis Latimer + Halback presented the garden design with assurances the space would be open to the public during normal museum hours.
February 24 2021
Commission will revisit sailing club land donation The City Commission will intervene in a youth sailing club land donation that went awry. Dr. Stanley Paris, who proposed to commissioners in 2019 donation of property to the city, rezoned to government use and leased for a youth sailing club, says he wants to return to that plan after a change of Yacht Club leadership pursued a private club and zoning. “They presented an application to the Planning and Zoning Board for the management and use of that property under an exception as a neighborhood recreational facility.” City Attorney Isabelle Lopez explained to commissioners Monday. “A majority of board members didn’t feel that the facility being proposed was truly a neighborhood recreational facility.”  The matter will return to the commission with the original plan for a youth sailing club or passive park.
Shelter director says funding ‘will go a long way to help’ Judith Dembowski, Executive Director of the St. Francis House and Port in the Storm, assured commissioners Monday potential grant dollars from a $42 million  Small Cities Community Development Block Grant ‐ Coronavirus “will go a long way toward helping” unsheltered homeless in the community. Commissioners endorsed the first step in qualifying for funds “being made available through a competitive application process to local governments to prevent, prepare for, or respond to the coronavirus pandemic,” as described by Grant Administration Coordinator Cory Sakryd. “Eligible applicants may apply for a minimum of $200,000 and a maximum of $5,000,000 without a match requirement,” he said. Dembowski  told commissioners, “We are working on a property we are trying to complete that will add 39 beds, and we have over 200 people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in our community. Getting these grant dollars can help these persons.”
Inland Harbor extension OKd to April 26 meeting Designers for the Sebastian Inland Harbor Planned Unit Development will return to the City Commission April 26 with revisions for a more exciting design. Commissioners approved the extension despite Mayor Tracy Upchurch’s urging, “it’s cleanest to vote this down at first hearing. When they come back it will be a whole new presentation.” The developers’ request for approval of a planned unit development amendment has been stalled on the first of two commission readings following a recommendation by the Planning and Zoning Board to deny.
Public session for Fish Island Preserve The City will host a socially distanced public meeting to seek input for Fish Island Preserve on Thursday, March 4, at 7 pm in the Alcazar Room at City Hall. The session will include the natural and cultural resources of Fish Island Preserve and the draft management plan and seek public comment.  The management plan draft and meeting agenda are at  Public comment will continue to be sought by email to through Friday March 19. The public comments will be compiled and appropriate changes made to the management plan to be sent to the state’s Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) for their review and approval.  This meeting will be streamed live on    Questions? Contact Land Management Coordinator JB Miller
Virtual Back history exhibit produced “The African American community has a rich and complex history in St. Johns County that sometimes is overshadowed by our Spanish roots,” says Clerk Historian Susan Parker. “Leveraging the (County) Clerk’s vast archives can bring to light some surprising and enlightening stories from our past.” In commemoration of Black History Month, the St. Johns County Clerk’s office with Parker has created a virtual exhibit focusing on events involving local Black residents through recorded documents in the county’s deed books. “The history of our county is a tapestry of individuals and families all seeking to build their lives,” says County Clerk Brandon Patty. “Our office is charged with recording and maintaining significant life events, like those found in the exhibit, and we’re honored to be able to share these important documents with the public.” The clerk’s office began recording documents when Florida became a United States territory in 1821. Residents would bring their original documents to the clerk’s office to be recorded, the clerk would enter the information verbatim and return the original document to its owner. Dr. Parker located records showing that free Blacks purchased, sold, and mortgaged property and enslaved Blacks who were bought, sold, and mortgaged.
Fort Mose launching Flight initiative    Interactive, educational signage will bring trail to life In celebration of Black History Month, Fort Mose Historic State Park has partnered with Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) and The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida to launch a self-guided educational tour experience along the Flight to Freedom Trail, bringing to life the rich history of the park year-round. Inauguration ceremonies are Thursday, Feb. 25 at 10 am at Fort Mose. New, interactive educational signage along the ¾ mile trail will allow the annual reenactment to be experienced year-round.