Fernandina’s Palace Saloon and Budweiser Clydesdales

A memorable day in Fernandina Beach was when the world famous Budweiser Clydesdales pulled their red wagon along Fernandina’s historic Centre Street downtown.

A memorable day in Fernandina Beach was when the world famous Budweiser Clydesdales pulled their red wagon along Fernandina’s historic Centre Street downtown. And the town turned out to watch the spectacle. The Palace Saloon, said to be “Florida’s oldest continuously-operated drinking establishment,” sponsored the Clydesdales’ Fernandina event.

Clydesdales Get Ready To Pull Wagon (Photo: Fernandina's Central Park 11-16-2012)
Clydesdales Get Prepped To Pull Wagon (Fernandina’s Central Park 11-16-2012)

Before their grand prance along Centre Street, tractor-trailers had parked a few blocks east at Central Park on Atlantic Avenue, where the horses were unloaded and prepped.

According to Anheuser-Busch, “When it comes time to travel to an appearance, the horses and the famous red, white, and the gold beer wagon are transported in 50-foot tractor-trailers. Cameras mounted in the trailers are connected to monitors in the cabs that enable the drivers to keep a watchful eye on their precious cargo during transport. Air-cushioned suspension and thick rubber flooring in the trailers ease the rigors of traveling.”

A Moment in Time

There’s history and lore about The Palace Saloon’s connection with Adolphus Busch (co-founder of Anheuser-Busch) and the Prohibition Era.  Here we share some interesting tidbits.

Clydesdales Pranced Centre, Fernandina Beach, Palace Saloon photo
Clydesdales Near Palace Saloon (Photo from archives, Nov. 16, 2012)

Fernandina Flashback

It was a memorable day in Fernandina when people waited along Centre Street in anticipation of the arrival of these special horses (November 16, 2012). The Clydesdales have a magnetic force. Their iconic Superbowl ads go down in history as some of the very best, beloved by football fans, often touching an emotional note.

We’d be remiss, however, not to mention how the Budweiser dalmatian “Brewer” was also a tremendous hit in Fernandina Beach.

Budweiser's Dalmatian Named "Brewer" in Fernandina Beach Photo by Amelia Island Living eMagazine
Budweiser’s Dalmatian Named “Brewer” in Fernandina Beach (Photo Nov. 2012)

After all, Fernandina is a very dog-friendly town. People can bring man’s best friend to the beach, pet-friendly hotels, plus various downtown restaurants and bars, to enjoy outdoor patios with their pooches.

A canine with regal air, Brewer had such poise passing by crowds gathered downtown, as the red Budweiser wagon rolled by.

According to Anheuser-Busch, “Dalmatians were known as coach dogs because they ran between the wheels of coaches or carriages and were companions to the horses. Since the 1950s, Dalmatians have traveled with the Budweiser Clydesdales hitch, perched atop the wagon proudly seated next to the driver.”

Fernandina Prohibition Era

On the “eve” of the start of Prohibition, the day before, The Palace Saloon is said to have recorded sales of $60,000 in a single day. Today, that would be like the Palace ringing up $767,313 one day sales.** It was the Volstead Act (passed Oct. 28, 1919, A.K.A. The National Prohibition Act), that enforced the Eighteen Amendment “which forbade the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating beverages.” America went dry as of January 17, 1920. Prohibition was repealed thirteen years later in 1933.

The Dalmatian & Horses Connection

Did you ever wonder why dalmatians are firehouse dogs? Well, this dates back to the time of horse-drawn wagons used by firemen.  Firehouse dalmatians would bark to warn people in the streets to get out of the way of the wagon. They’d run beside the horses, apparently keeping other dogs at bay that might spook the horses along the way. Dalmatians were a comfort to the horses and are said to have also been a deterrent to thieves attempting to steal fire equipment or the horses themselves.

Adolphus Busch & Palace Saloon

Caryatid (Female Carving), Accents The Palace Saloon's Bar
Caryatid (Female Carving), Accents The Palace Saloon’s Bar

The Palace Saloon’s centerpiece, a 40-foot bar, is said to have been designed with the help of no other than Adolphus Busch himself (co-founder of Anheuser-Busch). Louis G. Hirth, who was apparently acquainted with Busch, bought the Prescott building and renovated the inside space, creating the Palace Saloon in 1903. German craftsmen were hired to carve the bar from English oak and black mahogany. Pictured, one of the bar’s two caryatids (female figurines).


** About the modern day sales calculation: The U.S. dollar value of one day alcohol sales (buying power estimate calculated in November 2017, using U.S. Dept. of Labor Bureau of Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator with data through September 2017). One US dollar in January 1920 had same buying power as $12.79.