FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. — Fernandina Beach Main Street in Nassau County is the November 2023 Florida Main Street Program of the Month.
“Fernandina Beach Main Street has been an exemplary Florida Main Street for the past nine years,” said Secretary of State Cord Byrd.
“Not only does the program cherish and celebrate the city’s long and storied history, it provides support that ensures growth in its professional and residential communities for generations to come.”
Fernandina Beach is on the northeastern point of Florida, on the north end of Amelia Island. Ancestors of the Timucuan people lived on Amelia Island for centuries before Europeans and Africans arrived. Since then, eight different countries’ flags have flown over Fernandina Beach, earning Amelia Island the nickname “Isle of Eight Flags.”
In 1858, David Yulee completed Florida’s first cross-peninsular railroad, which connected Fernandina Beach on the Atlantic Coast with Cedar Key on the Gulf of Mexico. With that, Fernandina Beach blossomed into a captivating tourist destination.
Today, it boasts 13 miles of pristine beaches, a picturesque 50-block historic district adorned with Victorian architecture, a calendar filled with year-round historical and cultural events, exceptional dining experiences, and an array of shops and galleries that continue to captivate and delight visitors.
At the dawn of the 20th century, technological innovations such as motorized boats, larger nets, and refrigerated shipping containers allowed large amounts of fresh seafood to be available in places it hadn’t previously been available. Master fishermen and craftspeople came together here, where the ocean and the river met the railroad, and they made Fernandina Beach the birthplace of the modern American shrimping industry.
The city’s celebrated Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival began in 1964 as an annual shrimp boat race. Today, it is a cherished tradition that includes the blessing of the fleet, an art show, musical guests, and pirates of all ages.
In 1973, the revitalization plan for downtown Fernandina Beach recognized the need for a stronger sense of community identity and values. Concerned community members united to preserve downtown Fernandina Beach, the historic and traditional center of commerce.
Their ambitious plan and substantial infrastructure investments successfully revitalized the downtown area, turning it into a sought-after destination for those interested in history, Victorian architecture, and unique shopping and dining experiences.
When Fernandina Beach was first designated as a Florida Main Street District in 2015, it only encompassed 14 blocks in the downtown business district. In 2019, the district boundaries were expanded and now cover the waterfront community redevelopment area along the river, winding east toward beautiful parks on Atlantic Avenue and turning south along a road known since the middle of the 20th century as “The Buccaneer Trail.”
Fernandina Beach Main Street (FBMS) continues to promote economic vitality and historic preservation throughout the Main Street District, using Main Street America’s Four-Point Approach™.
During its nine-year tenure, FBMS has installed downtown wayfinding signs, created a Butterfly Garden next to the Welcome Depot, introduced a Curb Appeal Award, and organized regular networking and educational workshops for local businesses. FBMS also manages the city’s Memorial Bench program and contributes to downtown landscape improvement and streetscape revitalization projects.
FBMS recently announced a Façade Improvement Matching Grant program designed to assist property and business owners with exterior improvements to their buildings. The organization hosts several annual events designed to bring residents and visitors into the historic downtown and 8th Street business districts, including the popular Sip & Shop, 8th Street Pup Crawl, Black Friday Pajama Party, and Island Hop Craft Beer Festival.
The FBMS Executive Director, Lisa Finkelstein, is enthusiastic about the community’s spirit and its partnerships with other nonprofit organizations and the City of Fernandina Beach.
“We are honored to be recognized as the Florida Main Street Program of the Month,” said Finkelstein.
“We plan to continue our work to support local businesses through promotion, information, and advocacy, maintaining a vibrant, business-friendly historic community that is a destination for us all.”
For more information on Fernandina Beach Main Street, visit FernandinaMainStreet.com.
To learn more about the Florida Main Street program, visit FloridaMainStreet.com or follow us on Facebook and Instagram.