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Land Trust Begins $400k Fundraising Push To Preserve Jacksonville Fort

A Jacksonville conservation group is calling on Northeast Florida residents to chip in for the cost of preserving a Spanish-American War fort.

The North Florida Land Trust has staked its claim to the old ruins with a one-year land lease.

Now, the property’s owners want hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete the sale. 

On Friday evening, the North Florida Land Trust’s Mark Hudson stood on top of the Spanish-American War outpost.

“What we’re looking at is the mounting position for what would have been two 8-inch artillery pieces and a munitions bunker,” Hudson explained.

The stone ruins sit on a steep hill called the St. Johns Bluff on Fort Caroline Road.

Credit Ryan Benk / WJCT News
The view of the St. Johns River atop the fort -- a perfect vantage point to defend against Spanish ships.

Built in 1898, the fort was supposed to be the launch point for a planned invasion of Spanish-controlled Cuba. A swashbuckling, gun-running, privateer and Jacksonville Sheriff — Napoleon Bonaparte Broward — was leading the charge. 

But those plans never came to fruition, and Jacksonville’s role in the war was minor.

In the larger of two candlelit armory rooms, Hudson says the fort has sat largely unbothered for 110 years.

“The current owner was at a tax deed auction, saw it come up as basically a St. Johns Bluff view property and put a bid on the site unseen, not even knowing the fort was here,” Hudson said.

If the North Florida Land Trust can raise $400,000 by November, it can purchase the site outright and transfer it to the National Park Service.