Mandarin’s history has been marked with events that are of interest on a regional and national level. For instance, in 1864 an event occurred at Mandarin Point that eventually became a National Historic Landmark Shipwreck Site. The Confederates of Clay County sank a Union troop transport ship called the Maple Leaf, which remained buried in the St. Johns until partial excavations in the 1980s. Today, the Mandarin Museum maintains the largest collection of Maple Leaf artifacts on display in the world, part of a permanent exhibition tracing the military, social, and cultural history of the Civil War period.
After the Civil War, world-famous author Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in Mandarin during the winters between 1867 and 1884, having previously impacted America’s view of slavery with her best-selling novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The Mandarin Museum maintains a permanent display with personal artifacts and information on Stowe’s life and contributions to the community, such as her efforts enlist the Freedmen’s Bureau to help fund a school for freed blacks on Mandarin Road.
During the same period as Stowe’s residence, the Sisters of St. Joseph came to America to teach recently freed slaves in northeast Florida, including Mandarin. The Mandarin Museum & Historical Society has restored the 1898 schoolhouse used to instruct African-American students at their school on Loretto Road, the only remaining one-room schoolhouse of its kind left in Duval County. Now located next to the Mandarin Museum in the Walter Jones Historical Park, the schoolhouse has been transformed into an educational exhibition covering the history of the Sisters’ school and Mandarin’s African-American heritage.
Over the years, Mandarin was home to regionally and nationally recognized artists, including potter Charlie Brown, artist Memphis Wood, and wildlife artists Lee Adams and C. Ford Riley. Mandarin Museum & Historical Society has a collection of works by these and other Mandarin artists available for display on a rotating basis.
No other community in all of Duval County can claim these unique and special cultural interests, which are central to our exhibition and educational programming. Mandarin Museum & Historical Society proudly takes on the role as the community’s steward of this extensive, important, and ever-developing cultural heritage.