Monday, May 31, 2010

American Beach



Located on northeast Florida's Amelia Island, American Beach is a dreamy stretch of 200 acres that was established as a beach resort for African Americans in 1933, during the Jim Crow era when most beaches were segregated. American Beach remains an undeveloped historical gem, brimming with cultural history. The very first thing that caught my eye on the beach was the bottle tree above, glistening between two palms.


Bottle trees are a hallmark of Southern gardens but the tradition reaches back further, centuries ago in the Central African nation of the Congo.  Bottles were slipped onto tree branches to catch spirits trying to enter a house. This tree shows the customary sea green and "haint blue" bottles that whistle like captured ghosts when the wind blows.



The other thing that immediately grabbed my attention was this swirling 60 feet sand dune called Nana, a West African term for  great mother.  Nana is the tallest sand dune in the state of Florida and is protected as the state's last undeveloped dune system.



Unlike most resort towns, American Beach displays a charming, uncommercialized impression.  The pearly-sand beach is pristine and quiet and the streets are unpaved and lined with palm trees, flowers and wild garlic, pictured above.



Historical houses that in American Beach's heyday, hosted luminaries like Zora Neale Huston, Joe Louis, Ossie Davis and Mary McLeod Bethune are another hallmark. This notable house above is constructed of coquina, a substance made from the crushed shells on the beach mixed with concrete.




Newer houses like this one, built in 2004 and called Turtle Dreams  because of the turtle theme in every room, are being constructed as weekend getaways for families who continue American Beach's legacy as as a welcoming  beach community steeped in culture and tradition.

14 comments:

A Cuban In London said...

Besides the beautiful pictures, what I enjoyed the most was that morsel of historical/cultural lesson you gave me about the origin of the bottles on the bottle-tree. I've seen it before in photos and never figured out what it was about. Thanks a lot. :-)

Greetings from London.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

What a wonderful little place!

Fly Girl said...

Cubano, I knew you'd appreciate that history.

Jean-Luc, it really is.

eden said...

Beautiful photos of a beautiful place. The bottle tree is just amazing. Never seen like that before and thank for sharing information about it. I love all your beautiful photos. You always take good pictures.

Have a nice day!

Fly Girl said...

Eden, thanks. I'm not a photographer but I try to get good pix.

Catherine said...

wow - this looks a fascinating place to visit - what an interesting slice of history and I have never seen or heard of the bottle trees - interesting and thankyou...

Andy said...

This place look wonderful. I seen a picture of bottle trees before but did not understand it until I read your post. Thanks for the information!

Fly Girl said...

Catherine, bottle trees are typically only seen in the American South, they are an interesting sight in front yards and gardens.

Andy, I'm glad you learned something from my post. Thanks for dropping by!

Cate said...

Big dunes there! Great post, you've taken an unassuming place into something of interest, now that is good writing. I'll be putting American Beach on my list.

Fly Girl said...

Cate, thanks so much!

Stephen Bess said...

Thanks for sharing this. I've never heard of this place.

Fly Girl said...

Stephen, many people haven't heard of Amelia island but it's the southern most sea island. American Beach is very well known in Florida and with HBCU alumni but outside of that, it's not very visible. I'm hoping that I can change that!

Wendy said...

I love the bottle tree and the story behind it.

Fly Girl said...

Wendy, bottle trees are very picturesque!