Is St. Augustine neighborhood's rich history being whitewashed?

Residents say they're being pushed out of historically black neighborhood

By Ethan Calloway - Anchor/reporter

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - A St. Johns County neighborhood with a rich history is in the midst of a transformation.

But the changing face of St. Augustine’s Lincolnville neighborhood is raising some concerns and has some asking if history is being washed away.

The neighborhood was established by freed slaves after the Civil War.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously stayed there during the 1960s civil rights movement, but in recent years, it’s seen an influx of new investors, and not everybody thinks that's a good thing.

Signs of change are visible throughout the Lincolnville historic district.

Just down the street from the house where King stayed as a guest in the 1960s, new construction is underway.

McDaniel Mims, who lived in the area on and off since childhood, said he and others have been forced out.

“I see a lot of white people moving in because they’re the ones who got the money. They’re the ones buying up everything,” Mims said. “It’s not like in the '60s.”

New investors have turned many of the homes into vacation rentals for tourists.

Property values are increasing, older homes are being demolished, and some longtime residents are leaving.

“If we lose the heart of that generational person, of the community and the goodness, then we really just lose it altogether,” Lincolnville resident Amanda Dexheimer said.

Dexheimer said she chose to live in the area seven years ago to be a part of the neighborhood’s rich history.

While a lot of the changes happening in Lincolnville are obvious, many of them aren’t so easy to see from the surface.

“As taxes go up, as property values go up -- and surely everyone loves their property increases -- but at what cost, I guess would be the question,” Dexheimer said.

She said she hopes to see history preserved.

Others can’t help but notice how much has already changed since the years King was there.

“They were trying to run us out (back then),” Mims said. “But this time they bought us out.”

Copyright 2018 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.