Lewis Museum to Reopen, Grandly, on American Beach

Historic A.L. Lewis house at 5466 Gregg St., American Beach before and after demolition.

After a two-year hiatus, the A. L. Lewis Museum at American Beach, formerly the American Beach Museum, will host a grand opening on Sat., Oct. 15, from 12-5 p.m. The community is invited to attend the event, which will include live music, theatrical performances, food vendors, and more.

To mark the occasion, the museum will unveil a new celebratory exhibit entitled, “Recreation and Relaxation Without Humiliation: The American Beach Story.” There will also be descendants of A. L. Lewis in attendance to honor the momentous event. 

“The past two years, we’ve been engulfed in research and digitization uncovering new facts and unearthing rich stories of struggles and triumphs,” said Carol J. Alexander, Executive Director and Curator of the museum.

Visionary A. L. Lewis, president of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, and its Pension Bureau created the African American resort of American Beach in 1935 when Florida’s beaches were segregated.

The vision of acquiring the beach was to provide African Americans with, in Lewis’ words, “recreation and relaxation without humiliation.” Thus, the new exhibition focuses on his journey founding American Beach.

Visitors will experience unique stories through photographs, artifacts, videography, narration and documents from the archival collections of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company; visionary leader, A. L. Lewis; preservationist MaVynee Oshun Betsch, “The Beach Lady;” and Historic American Beach and intergenerational American Beach residents.

Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole is an A.L. Lewis Museum at American Beach board member, a recent resident of American Beach, and a descendant of A. L. Lewis, and is excited for the grand opening.

“October 15 will be a celebratory day for all of us who live in the historic American Beach community,” she said. “As a great-granddaughter of A. L. Lewis, the sister of the Beach Lady, and a board member of the A. L. Lewis Museum, I am proud to present the new exhibit as we reopen our museum. These exhibits tell the story of A. L. Lewis’ vision to establish this community.