The modern Mandarin Museum, provides 1210 sq. ft. of exhibit space, 230 sq. ft. of collection storage space, and 150 sq. ft. of administrative office space. Here our permanent exhibit “Always the River…” depicts various aspects of Mandarin’s unique history along the St. Johns River through interactive exhibits.
The exhibit is divided into three sections. The first is a timeline of events from Mandarin’s beginnings as a Timucuan village to modern times. The exhibit also contains historical maps and photographs, and explores the various industries of the area, including farming, timber, and citrus.
The second exhibit portrays the wreck and excavation of the Union steamboat Maple Leaf, which sank off Mandarin Point in 1864. The shipwreck site is a significant archaeological find and the only National Historic Landmark in Duval County. The exhibit displays artifacts recovered from the wreck as well as explanations about the techniques in their recovery. Elements include a handcrafted ship model, biographies of some of the people involved, interactive maps, and an interactive educational display where visitors can experience what the excavation process would have been like in the murky waters of the St. Johns River.
The third exhibit highlights the famed author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wintered in Mandarin from 1867 to 1884. Visitors can reflect upon her life and her impact on the Mandarin community.
The Mandarin Museum also has a rotating gallery that exhibits both modern and past artists who lived in or were inspired by the Mandarin community. Featured artists include nationally recognized potter Charlie Brown, fabric artist Memphis Wood, and artist James Freeman. This gallery is presently being used for exhibits related to the Maple Leaf and St. Johns River steamboats.
Right next to the Mandarin Museum is the 1898 St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children. This historic building was once located on the property of present-day St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and was used by the Sisters of St. Joseph for educating black children in Mandarin. Their mission began in 1868 when the first Sister came to Mandarin. This museum features the story of the courageous French Sisters as well as the stories of Mandarin during the post-Civil War period. Highlights include a map that demonstrates locations of similar educational efforts in the south side of Jacksonville after the Civil War as well as information that focuses on the thirst for knowledge that existed in the black population in Mandarin when this schoolhouse existed.
The Mandarin Museum and the schoolhouse are open every Saturday (except Dec. 24 and Dec. 31) from 9-4.