Historic Markers Across Florida

Former St. Johns County Jail

Marker ID: AFT 
Location: Lewis Speedway at Ave A, St Augustine, FL St. Augustine Beach Wade-ins -St. Augustine Beach Pier
County: St. Johns
Coordinates: N 29° 56.426    W 081° 20.183
  29.94043333    -81.33638333
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: WMJ6NT


This building, designed by architect F. A. Hollingsworth, opened in 1953 as the St. Johns County Jail, replacing an earlier jail building on San Marco Avenue that subsequently became a tourist attraction.

A decade later, this building played a prominent role in the civil rights movement, when hundreds of demonstrators were incarcerated here in 1963 and 1964. At one point, the president of the United States was told that if he wanted to keep an eye on the leaders of the civil rights movement, he should look at the St. Johns County Jail. Photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taken here have become some of the iconic pictures of that era. The demonstrations in St. Augustine, under the leadership of Dr. Robert B. Hayling, led directly to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the two great legislative accomplishments of the movement.

Many famous people spent time in this building, including the St. Augustine Four (teenagers who spent six months in jail and reform school for sitting-in at a local lunch counter); Mrs. Mary Peabody, 72-year-old mother of the governor of Massachusetts; author Sarah Patton Boyle; and those who took part in the largest mass arrest of rabbis in American history. A veritable Who's Who of civil rights leaders including Dr. King, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Hosea Williams, Rev. C. T. Vivian, Rev. Andrew Young, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and others passed through these doors.

While many notable people came from other parts of the country, the largest number of those arrested were local residents--the "foot soldiers" of the movement--whom Dr. King hailed as "the heroes of St. Augustine." They displayed extraordinary courage in standing up against racial segregation, and their example helped to change America and inspire the world.

ACCORD Freedom Trail - Northrop Grumman


This marker is part of the ACCORD Freedom Trail.

For more information:
ACCORD - Anniversary to Commemorate the Civil Rights Demonstrations, Inc
NAACP - National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
SCLC - Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Wikipedia - NAACP
Wikipedia - SCLC
Wikipedia - Civil Rights Act of 1964
Wikipedia - Racism
Wikipedia - Racial segregation in the United States