St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children ( built in 1898)


The Schoolhouse was relocated! Read more about it view the move  here.






  • The building was built for the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1898 and was used at the educational complex where St. Joseph Catholic Church stands on Loretto Rd.
  • In 1866,  Bishop Augustin Verot, went to his hometown, LePuy, France and recruited 8 women from the congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, whose foundation was in LePuy. In his appeal to them he said, “It is my wish that you understand clearly and perfectly, that it is for the care of the Negroes, and for them only, that I am seeking Sisters of your order for my Diocese.” Bishop Verot was first appointed as Bishop of Florida (1858) and later served as Bishop of Savannah (1861) and then Bishop of St. Augustine (1870).  He is buried in Tolomato Cemetery in St. Augustine.
  • The eight Sisters who were selected and took the call boarded a ship and left France on August 2, 1866. They made their way to St. Augustine where they lived, learned English and started teaching in St. Augustine. Eventually they were teaching in St. Augustine, Mandarin, Palatka, Fernandina and Savannah and their order grew in America.
  • Two Sisters were assigned to Mandarin in 1868, but fell ill and left within a few months – they came back in 1873. They taught black and white children, but not at the same time – in a wooden building that was also used as a sanctuary. Sister Julie Roussel served in Mandarin several times. Sister Julie wrote in her letters in 1868: that there were 27 black children and 51 white. Her remarks on their behavior at the Mandarin school was “What satisfaction these poor children bring us, the blacks as much as the whites! How well behaved they are! We had seen those in St. Augustine to be so troublesome in the beginning that we expected to find those here quite uncontrollable, and on the contrary, I have never seen more quiet children, more obedient, and more desirous of learning; it is truly a pleasure to teach them.” Sister Julie is buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Mandarin. Her stone says “Mother Julia” and is a large cross, but is with many small white crosses of other Sisters (on right side of cemetery, along the path).

Sister Julie

  • The teaching went on and St. Josephs developed to include local students as well as “Academy” students, who were boarders and often from far away. This schoolhouse was built in 1898 and was located behind the academy complex, west of the historic church that is still there. It was known to have been built for the black students, but there is not much written history about it because the records from that time were destroyed in a fire in the 1960s.
  • In 1943, the building was given to Nathaniel Long, a  man who worked at the school, and he moved it down St. Augustine Rd. and utilized it for a variety of uses. This was the “first save” of the schoolhouse.
  • When Mr. Long died in the mid 1990’s, it was sold by Long’s daughter Delores Long Jackson to Dee and Peter Brown who moved it to the south end of Mandarin Rd. on private property. It was restored at that time as it was in great disrepair. This was the “second save” of the schoolhouse.


The Mandarin Museum and Historical Society partnered with Councilman Matt Schellenberg, the Mandarin Community Club and the City of Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department to save the last remaining one-room schoolhouse in Duval County and relocate it to Walter Jones Historical Park in Mandarin. The schoolhouse was built in 1898 as part of a mission established by the Sisters of St. Joseph in Mandarin to educate freed Blacks after the Civil War. The building was originally located on the property of the present day St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

In 2015, in celebration of its 90th anniversary, the Community Club purchased the structure and donated it to the City of Jacksonville.  Former Mandarin Community Club President and Executive Director of the Jacksonville Historic Society Emily Lisska was excited about the opportunity. “The Mandarin Community Club is pleased to have the opportunity to help save this important piece of Mandarin history,” Lisska said.

The organizations raised much of the funds to be able to move the structure to the park and complete major renovations. Eventually, scheduled for Spring 2016,  the schoolhouse will  be open to the public and will contain exhibits about the story of this specific schoolhouse and the African American educational experience in south Duval County from the late 1800s to early-1900s.

The Mandarin Museum and Historical Society managed fundraising efforts for the project.  All of the monies needed was donated, including $50,000 from City Councilman Matt Schellenberg’s District 6 funds for park improvements, $10,000 for the purchase by Mandarin Community Club, the very generous gifts from two members of MMHS, as well as gifts from many others in the community.

We are extremely grateful also  to the Rotary Club of Mandarin for selecting us as their headlining “Laughs for Charity” event recipient in April, 2015. A portion ($16,000) of the monies raised for that event was awarded to MMHS on June 16. In August, $10,000 was also awarded as a matching District Grant from the District Rotary. All of these funds have been designated primarily for the purpose  of interior and exterior tasks and exhibit costs as well as outreach to area elementary schools, offering free school tours to Walter Jones Historical Park and the Store and Post Office.

R. G. White Construction and their preservation construction team worked on multiple repairs, putting in pilings, reconstructing the roof, building a handicapped accessible ramp, two porches and laying sidewalk. Electricity was installed.  We now have a solid and well-done building due to the professional and thorough work of Bob White and his employees

MMHS asked community  volunteers to join our team and help with some of the tasks that were necessary to get the building into shape to place exhibits inside. We also asked Mandarin businesses to help with in-kind donations of some of the equipment and supplies that we did not have.

We are exceedingly grateful to those who helped us with the following tasks in 2015. We could not have done it without them.

  • Drywall repair of inside cracks – THANK YOU to individual volunteers
  • Sacffolding – THANK YOU First Coast Scaffolding
  • Historic building rehab skills to repair the windows – THANK YOU to Jim and Lia Biond for repairing the windows.
  • HVAC Unit and Installation  for interior – THANK YOU to S.E.E.R.S AC
  • Painting prep inside and  outside – THANK YOU Mandarin Council of the JAX Chamber
  • Painting the outside of the building – THANK YOU Rotary Club of Mandarin and individual volunteers

Read about our Grand Opening Celebration, held on April 30th, here.


If you would like to make a monetary donation in support of  on-going expenses of the schoolhouse project, please click the the “donate” button at the bottom of this page, or stop by the museum any Saturday. All donations of services and volunteer time will be greatly appreciated.




A photo of children attending a similar one-room school house which was located on Orange Picker Road.

A photo of children attending a similar one-room school house which was located on Orange Picker Road.

The Mandarin Museum and Historical Society is a registered 501 (c) (3) with experience in maintaining and preserving significant historical structures. We currently operate the Mandarin Museum, the 1876 Webb Farm House, the 1911 Store and Post Office.  The historical society brings history to life through school tours, programs, and community events.