Historic City News readers will recognize the name “Charles Ferdinand Hamblen” as a man who was as important to the construction of modern day St Augustine as Henry Morrison Flagler, David Paul Davis, or Dr Andrew Anderson, Jr, and the other investors and railroad tycoons of the 1800’s.
In fact, Flagler could not have accomplished the development of the Model Land Company plan without Hamblen; who supplied the entire community with hard goods and soft line merchandise from his warehouse and General Store downtown.
The Hamblen Mansion was sold to DP Davis as an office for his early 1900’s construction of Davis Shores. CF Hamblen was the major supplier to Dr Anderson who was appointed by Flagler to oversee the construction of both the Ponce de Leon and Alcazar Hotels.
The Hamblen Warehouse on Artillery Lane was converted by Fred Green into a museum featuring a collage of antiquities built largely from merchandise offered for sale in the authentic General Store.
Hamblen Hardware, the surviving retail business owned by Fred’s brother, Bill Green, was the oldest continually operating hardware store in Florida; until KC and Gail Kramer, who owned the store since 1995, finally retired and closed earlier this year.
The history of Hamblen and the Oldest Store Museum can still be enjoyed for generations to come thanks to Historic Tours of America; the operators of Old Town Trolley of St Augustine.
General Manager Dave Chatterton told Historic City News editor Michael Gold that since the company acquired the collection from the Green family, they have been busily identifying, cataloging, and preserving the vast assortment of antiques. A large part of the collection remains in the Historic Tours warehouse. Plans are to rotate significant pieces from the warehouse to the store from time-to-time.
The company acquired three local buildings; relocated them to their headquarters at the site of the Authentic Old Jail, and now operates the Oldest Store Museum Experience from a building that was once the home of Herbie Wiles Insurance on Ponce de Leon Boulevard.