Historic Lincolnville has made a concerted effort since 2014 to restore the proper respect and celebrate the authentic history of the residential neighborhood south of King Street. It is a source of great pride for residents and generations of their families.
Lincolnville is one of two Community Redevelopment Agencies in the city. Citizen organizations like Lift Up Lincolnville, the Lincolnville Community Garden, the Civil Rights Museum at the former Excelsior School, and Riberia Pointe, recently rededicated as the Hayling Freedom Park, are all evidence of a gentrified, historically black neighborhood trying to hold on to its roots.
Except for Martin Luther King Avenue (formerly Central Avenue) and Riberia Street facing the San Sebastian River, the city’s zoning codes have managed to protect the residential flavor of these historically significant city blocks from further intrusion by commercial developers with deep pockets and shallow concerns when it comes to historic preservation.
One local operator even offers free historic walking tours in Lincolnville, specifically to promote St. Augustine’s Black heritage and our community’s role in the Civil Rights movement. Improvements will continue to come for minority residents with continued investment and clear focus on Lincolnville’s authentic past.
Unfortunately, some new residents, those with either the money to buy or credit to mortgage their way into Lincolnville, appear not to see the opportunities or choose not to integrate themselves into what is arguably the city’s richest cultural neighborhood with centuries of marketable history.
Historic City News has already received written complaints questioning the judgement of one new resident who sprung an oversize blow-up dragon in their yard for Halloween and who has now replaced the creature with blow-up candy canes, a host of reindeer, Christmas presents, and other garish, over-the-top commercial decorations which many are saying do not represent Christmas in Lincolnville.
“A wooden fire in a pot-belly stove with children, parents and grandparents gathered for a family meal, Christmas caroling around the block after dinner, and a visit to a neighbor who otherwise might be alone — were it not for the good cheer spread by friends who care, all symbolize what Lincolnville Christmas traditions mean to me,” Historic City News editor Michael Gold responded to one reader’s complaint. Gold was born in St Augustine in the 1950’s and, having grown up here, witnessed all the changes that have led us to where we are today.
One reader, who did not realize whose home she was criticizing, spoke freely about the unsightly spectacle on Washington Street at Park. She said in an e-mail that we received this weekend, “It looks like Santa threw up in the front yard. Who wants to see that every day?”
The house is the new home of recently nominated vice-mayor Todd Neville, his wife Heather and their son. When complaints reached the actual mayor, Nancy Shaver, she went to the Planning and Building Department to ask if code enforcement had any experience or jurisdiction with this type situation. Director David Birchim responded that current zoning codes are not sufficient to identify the display as a code violation.
So, let’s understand this. You can’t paint an American flag on the side of your building on a commercial thoroughfare like King Street, you can’t paint your commercial building in art deco style on Anastasia Boulevard, even though it’s not in a historic district, but you can litter your front lawn in a historic residential neighborhood like it was a trailer park with dime store cutouts and Wal-Mart blow-up dolls?
Does that seem right?