AL Lewis Archway: Florida Normal & Industrial Institute

AL Lewis Archway: Florida Normal & Industrial Institute

Historic Building/Landmark

 North Holmes Boulevard, St. Augustine, FL 32084

The Florida Normal and Industrial Institute came to St. Augustine in 1918 originated through a merger of earlier two institutions dedicated to serving former slaves and their descendants. In 1941 the private historically Black school grew to become a four-year liberal arts institution, with its first class graduating in 1945. Students were active in the Civil Rights demonstrations in the city and organized a chapter of the NAACP on campus in 1961. The school’s name changed to Florida Memorial College in 1963. In 1965, with racial violence related to the city’s Civil Rights movement increasing, the college bought a tract of land in Dade County, moving to Miami in 1968.

The final remnant of the institution is the Abraham Lincoln Lewis Archway, named after the first Black millionaire in Florida. Lewis was a businessman and founded the Afro-American Life Insurance Company of Jacksonville, Florida in 1901. He also founded American Beach, a community listed on the National Register and became a prestigious vacation spot for Black people during the segregation period. Lewis paid for the arch’s construction, now located on the corner of Holmes Boulevard and West King Street. Initially on the opposite side of the street, the arch was moved in 2009 and restoration efforts began. The restored archway was officially dedicated in 2011 when Florida Memorial students and alumni gathered to remember the history of the school and honor AL Lewis’s legacy. In attendance was notable alumnus Gerald Eubanks was a Civil Rights activist and author who wrote “The Dark Before Dawn: From Civil Wrongs to Civil Rights,” centered around life as a Black man in 1950s St. Augustine. The beloved NAACP leader passed in St. Augustine in July 2019.

Location Info

AL Lewis Archway: Florida Normal & Industrial Institute

North Holmes Boulevard

St. Augustine, FL 32084