Rediscovering Jax: Walter Jones Historical Park
In WJCT's "Rediscovering Jax" series, we're taking a look at the stories behind familiar places. Nestled along the St. Johns River in Mandarin is the Walter Jones Historical Park.
Mandarin Museum and Historical Society Vice President Karen Roumillat is the great-granddaughter of the park's namesake, Walter Jones. She was also our tour guide on a recent stroll down the park's paths.
"Here's where the Jones family lived, and about a mile down the road is the 1911 store and post office where they worked," she said.
Roumillat leads us into a museum full of artifacts, including a part of a porch that belonged to "Uncle Tom's Cabin" author Harriet Beecher Stowe.
It also has items found on the Maple Leaf, a Civil War ship that's still underwater in the St. Johns River. It's the only national historic landmark in Jacksonville.
Artifacts recently loaned to the museum are on exhibit until April, Roumillat says. The items include an old hat, wooden rings and small pieces of The New York Times, and they're well preserved.
Next to the museum sits the old 1898 schoolhouse, which was recently moved here and is now being restored.
Roumillat says one of her favorite things about Walter Jones Historical Park is the natural beauty. Visitors can see the St. Johns River from a boardwalk that leads to a public dock.
She's been working here since the park opened to the public about a decade ago.
"You know, life is funny how it kind of came about," she said. "I've always been, I guess, civic-minded, and I've always enjoyed volunteering, and this is just a perfect fit for me. And I'll probably be here forever. I love it. It's my passion. And I think it makes a difference."
The park is open everyday from dawn until dusk. The museum is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.