Historic Markers Across Florida

First Home on American Beach

Marker ID: FLHM F-880
Location: 5466 Gregg St in American Beach, FL
County: Nassau
Coordinates: N 30° 34.472    W 081° 26.655
  30.57453333    -81.44425
Style: Free Standing **
Waymark: WMQP0P


American Beach was established in January 1935 when the Afro-American Life Insurance Company purchased 33 acres of land with a 1000-foot shoreline. This Masonry Vernacular home was built that year for the president of the company, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, by local African American shipbuilder William S. Rivers. Lewis was Florida's first African American millionaire and his home was the first built on the beach. The resort community attracted thousands of African American vacationers until 1964. The passage of the Civil Rights Acts desegregated beaches everywhere, and the tourist population sought closer or more popular beaches. Later that year, Hurricane Dora devastated the area destroying homes and businesses. Many residents chose not or could not afford to rebuild. In the 1970s one of Lewis' great granddaughters, MaVynee Betsch, lived in this house and, with other property owners, fought to protect the community's heritage from beachfront development. However, rising property taxes and declining health has reduced the population of American Beach's permanent residents. The American Beach Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, with the Lewis house as a contributing structure.

The American Beach Property Owners' Association, Inc.
and the Florida Department of State