Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
May 8, 2019 2:30 p.m.
Directly across the street from the historic Nassau County Courthouse sits the last remaining residence on Centre Street: the Lesesne House. The house, which has been in the same family and used as their residence since 1868, was listed for sale at more than $1.3M … until it wasn’t. It was taken off the market following a discussion on the structure’s future Monday evening.
The future of the Lesesne House (pronounced: Le Sane) was the topic of discussion at a Special Meeting called by the city’s Historic District Council (HDC) on May 6, 2019 at Fernandina Beach City Hall. In addition to HDC members, board members of the Amelia Island Fernandina Restoration Foundation (AIFRF) and Fernandina Beach Main Street joined in the discussion. Amelia Island Museum of History representatives observed the meeting. The current owner’s representative also attended the meeting. It was the first time that so many organizations had formally convened to discuss preemptively the future of a prominent historic building in the city.
Meeting participants were concerned that the next owner might not choose to continue using it as a residence. Under existing zoning (Central Business District C-3) it could become a retail shop, a cafe or restaurant, or any one of the other permitted uses. Although the building’s exterior enjoys protection as part of the Historic District, a future owner would have no constraints regarding changes to the building’s interior.
For a visual tour of the house, see the YouTube video prepared by Fernandina Beach News Leader Editor Peg Davis in 2015.
There were many concerns, fears and questions raised during the meeting, but no agreed upon action. Meeting participants expressed strong support for keeping the Lesesne House a vital part of the city’s history during what may be a critical time of transition for the structure. Many options were discussed for making the house more accessible to the public, whether as a house museum, a special event venue, or offices for a downtown focused non-profit such as Fernandina Beach Main Street. Potential ownership was discussed, but no decision was forthcoming. Several attendees agreed to research related matters and report back at a future meeting.
On Tuesday morning following the joint meeting, participants learned that the property owner had taken the Lesesne House off the market. The owner’s intentions are not clear at this time.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.