Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
June 13, 2016 12:37 p.m.
Neither heat nor humidity nor passing trains could spoil the jubilant mood of those participating in the dedication of the replica train platform at the Centre Street Depot Sunday afternoon. As the Nassau Community Band played upbeat tunes and marches, local residents and curious tourists began drifting over to the platform, where Amelia Island Fernandina Restoration Foundation President Adam Kaufman presided over a dedication program.
Fernandina Beach Mayor John A. Miller and Board of Nassau County Commissioners Chair Walter “Junior” Boatright each delivered remarks lauding the public private partnership that provided the necessary funding for the construction of the train platform. The depot restoration and the building of the train platform could only be made possible by several parties coming together to underwrite the project: Nassau County via the Tourist Development Council; the City of Fernandina Beach; and the Amelia Island Fernandina Restoration Foundation.
Local attorney Arthur I. “Buddy” Jacobs delivered the keynote speech. As a founder of the Amelia Island Fernandina Restoration Foundation in 1972, Jacobs credited many local citizens and elected officials by name who, over the early years, waged a successful campaign to focus attention on the need to save historic buildings in Fernandina Beach. He spoke about the hours of effort that were devoted during the 1970’s to obtaining the grant to revitalize Centre Street and the financial support in terms of matching funds provided by local Centre Street merchants. Jacobs credited the constant presence at Fernandina Beach City Commission meetings of Restoration Foundation President Suzanne Davis Hardee and Foundation member Mary Agnes White as key to winning city support for early preservation projects.
Jacobs acknowledged the presence of Mary Agnes White, the only other founding member of the Foundation in attendance.
Jacobs stressed that the people responsible for so many accomplishments—the Centre Street improvements, the creation of the nationally recognized Historic District, saving the Historic Courthouse from destruction, etc.—for the most part worked in the background. They took satisfaction in being able to save elements of Old Fernandina for the enjoyment of many today and into the future. He exhorted a new generation of leaders to carry on that tradition.
Restoration Foundation President Adam Kaufman in an unscripted moment invited Adrienne Burke to join him on the platform. Burke, who currently directs Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP) in Jacksonville, until recently had served as Community Development Director for the city of Fernandina Beach. As such, she worked diligently to promote historic preservation in the city through educational efforts and assistance to individuals and groups seeking to restore or rehabilitate historic structures. Kaufman presented Burke with a framed print of the depot in appreciation for her efforts during her tenure with the city. The depot print was one of a limited edition of prints commissioned by the Restoration Foundation in its early days to raise funds for historic preservation efforts. Burke expressed her surprise and appreciation, reminding the audience that she still lives in Fernandina Beach and hopes to continue her involvement in local historic preservation.
Kaufman delivered concluding remarks before inviting Buddy Jacobs and Mary Agnes White to unveil the bronze marker containing the dedication of the new train platform replica to the people who founded the Restoration Foundation in 1972.
Following the ceremony, which was attended by many current and former elected officials from the city and the county, audience and band members were invited inside the depot for refreshments.
The cost of the train platform was approximately $100,000. Nassau County through the Tourist Development Council contributed one-quarter; the city of Fernandina Beach contributed another quarter. The Amelia Island Restoration Foundation matched their contribution with $50,000 and also paid for the cost of the dedication plaque.
For more information on the Restoration Foundation, visit their website www.ameliarestoration.com.
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.
Thanks to all involved in the addition of the platform as well as to all those past and present working to preserve the history of Fernandina Beach.