A year-long campaign to save Jacksonville’s only substantial original fort – the 1898 Spanish American War Fort – and make it a part of the National Park Service’s interpretive and community education outreach program, ended in early November 2016 having achieved its $400,000 goal, thanks to an anonymous donor who agreed to match up to $39,000 to raise the final amount needed.
The North Florida Land Trust (NFLT), the acquisition and fundraising partner of the National Park Service on this project, had a year-long purchase agreement with the owner, who bought it from a tax auction as a real estate investment.
“We really needed donors to come through and give us the final push to save the fort,” said Jim McCarthy, NFLT Executive Director. “We are so grateful to those that have pledged to get us closer to where we need to be to purchase the property – various private citizens who wish to remain anonymous, the City of Jacksonville, the Delores Barr Weaver Fund and the Jaguars Foundation – and those final donors who came forward to save this wonderful piece of Jacksonville history.”
There was a lot of neighborhood concern when it was learned the new owner had intentions of clearing the land and building a home there, according to Marc Hudson, NFLT Land Protection Director, who was the first staff member to review the property. That’s when NFLT was asked to step in and try to raise money to preserve the historically significant fort. They’ve been working hard to do just that.
“We are absolutely excited about it,” said Hudson. “A lot of people don’t realize that there have been five different fortifications on the bluff, with the four preceding forts lost to history.”
By saving the Spanish American War Fort, Jacksonville’s significant role in this war will continue to live on. The purchase was completed Nov. 3, and the fort will be donated to the National Park Service as part of the Fort Caroline National Memorial as a public access park about a block away from Fort Caroline’s Ribault Monument.
Those interested in donating to preserve the Spanish American War Fort should send their donation marked for the “Fort” to NFLT, 2038 Gilmore Street Jacksonville FL 32204 or donate online at www.northfloridalandtrust.org.