A Splendid Reminder of Fernandina’s “Golden Age”
One of the best ways to get a sense of yesteryear Florida is to stay in one of Fernandina’s historic homes of the Victorian era, the B & B inns of the downtown historic district. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our recent stay at the elegant Hoyt House mansion circa 1905 (as well as the night we spent aboard the innkeeper’s yacht docked at the Fernandina Harbor Marina). This article includes 3 photo galleries (the inn, the yacht, and scenes of Fernandina Beach).
Experience downtown Fernandina Beach, the heart of Amelia Island, chosen by Southern Living magazine as one of the South’s “Best Small-Town Getaways” — a town that makes one “feel welcome for a weekend or a lifetime.” Fernandina was also selected by Coastal Living magazine as a “Best Little Beach Town.” If you wish to explore the less commercialized, small-town Florida reminiscent of simpler days past, head to the Sunshine State’s northeast coast. (Click photo gallery below to browse 27 photos of Hoyt House mansion…)
Located on the last sea island in chain that begins in South Carolina and ends with Amelia Island at the Florida-Georgia border, the Hoyt House sits within Fernandina’s downtown historic district with hundreds of homes and buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, like a time capsule.
This Victorian-era seaport prospered during the “Golden Age” of the late 1800s, and has been recognized by the National Trust For Historic Preservation, previously selected as one of the “12 top vacation destinations in the United States for historic preservation.” The distinguishing characteristics of such places are: “An authentic visitor experience by combining dynamic downtowns, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, cultural landscapes, and a strong commitment to historic preservation and revitalization.”
FRED HOYT’S LEGACY LIVES ON TODAY — HISTORIC HOYT HOUSE, SPLENDOR INSIDE AND OUT
A prime example of “Golden Age” splendor, the 10-bedroom Hoyt House mansion is one of the treasured inns of the downtown historic district that will help guests slip into the slower pace of island time and the small-town experience. With its comfortable rooms, excellent gourmet breakfast, attentive innkeepers, and engaging social hour for cocktails and mingling, my inclination is that the folks who stay once at Hoyt House will be back again next time they visit Amelia Island.
Walk the floorboards and gaze out windows of an early entrepreneur, Fred W. Hoyt, one of Fernandina’s most impressive citizens of bygone days. A former school teacher, newspaper editor, church Deacon, grocer and ship chandler, Hoyt also founded the First National Bank of Fernandina. He first arrived in Fernandina in 1879 from New Hampshire and built the Chandlery building that sits at the corner of Centre Street and North 2nd. Twenty-five years later he built his magnificent home completed in 1905. It’s nice to see that his legacy lives on, and guests in contemporary times can enjoy and appreciate his family home where he lived with wife Kate and three children.
Back in Hoyt’s time, Fernandina was a Florida tourist mecca with steamships from New York transporting wealthy northerners here weekly. The city’s “Golden Age” was one of “social splendor,” a time when many of the fabulous historic homes still standing today were built. The early 1900s to around 1920 was also a time when innovative Fernandina shrimpers improved upon methods to catch these delectable crustaceans — why the city is considered the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry in America. While on Amelia Island, be sure to taste Fernandina’s wild-caught shrimp, another delicious aspect of this historic beach town.
GRACIOUS HOSPITALITY, FOOT-FRIENDLY FOR SIGHT-SEEING, FUN BIKE RIDING EXCURSIONS
A lovely, welcoming home exuding turn-of- the century Old Florida elegance, get a glimpse of history “up close and personal” and enjoy the hospitality of the Hoyt House innkeepers, Myrta and Deborah. A restful place to unwind, the atmosphere is casual and relaxed. Hoyt House is located at the doorstep of Centre Street, the main artery of the Fernandina historic district that leads to the riverfront. Yet, hop on bicycles or walk across the island 2 miles along sidewalks all the way to arrive at Amelia Island’s gorgeous beaches. It’s a perfect home base from which to venture out to explore all Amelia Island has to offer – history, Atlantic beachfront, coastal nature, and golf, too. (Hoyt House article continued on page 2, see also the yacht photo gallery…)