Discover African-American history in the West King Neighborhood of St. Augustine, Florida – an emerging design district full of creative businesses.
Zora Neale Hurston is best known as an American folklorist who celebrated the African American culture of the rural South. During Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, the Works Progress Administration was launched to provide funding for researchers, writers, and editors. Hurston benefitted from this program by traveling through Florida, completing interviews, and writing about growing up in the state. Her most famous books include “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” published in 1937, and an autobiography titled “Dust Tracks on a Road”, completed in St. Augustine and published in 1942.
Born in 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama, Zora and her family soon moved to Eatonville, Florida, a rural community near Orlando known as the first incorporated Black township. Cast out of her family home as a teenager, she fought to get an education and became a recognized artist of the Harlem Renaissance movement. Eventually, she made her way to St. Augustine, where she met Pulitzer Prize-winner Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in 1940.
Their relationship was controversial for the time, conflicting with rigid social norms, deeply ingrained prejudice, and Jim Crow laws which were harshly enforced by the state. Despite all of that, Rawlings invited Hurston to be a guest speaker at the all-Black Florida Normal School. She was so impressed with Hurston that she invited her to tea at her husband’s white-only hotel the next day. Rawlings arranged for a bellboy to move Hurston to a private apartment to keep her safe from white guests who could have endangered her.
They mutually enjoyed each other’s company and Rawlings referred to Hurston as a sister. Rawlings stated their friendship forced her to confront and question her own internal prejudices which lead her to fight against racial segregation and injustice.
During her time in St. Augustine, Hurston married at the St. Johns County Courthouse and taught courses at the Florida Normal and Industrial Institute. She also rented a home at 791 West King Street where she completed her autobiography.
In 2003, St. Johns County and the Florida Department of State recognized the home as a Historic Landmark. In 2016 the St. Augustine City Commission named the park on the corner of Ponce de Leon Boulevard and King Street in her honor, complete with a sign documenting her legacy and association with the city.
The Florida Normal and Industrial Institute came to St. Augustine in 1918 through the merger of two earlier 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 founded the Afro-American Life Insurance Company of Jacksonville, Florida in 1901. He also founded American Beach, a community now listed on the National Register that was a prestigious vacation spot for Black people during the period of segregation. Lewis paid for the construction of the arch, 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 dedicated in 2011 when Florida Memorial students and alumni gathered to remember the history of the school and honor A.L. Lewis’s legacy.
Paper Root is a locally owned clothing line specializing in modern graphic tees with high-quality prints. The freedom to create is the cornerstone of this brand, so you can always expect something new and exciting! When collaborating with artists and local businesses, Paper Root’s sole focus is artistry to provide unique options that can’t be found elsewhere. Visit the flagship store on King Street and be sure to check social media for updates on film, comedy, and special events hosted by Paper Root.
Andrew Deming and Rachel Gant are the founders of YIELD, a West King-based independent design and manufacturing company. Since 2012, they have utilized timeless design elements and ushered them to the future with technology. Handcraft remains at the core of their efforts to show beauty and quality are not compromised with sustainable and ethical production methods.
Their designs have been featured in several major publications like Better Homes & Gardens, O Magazine, Interior Design, Architectural Digest, and more.
The Studio HQ is not open to the public, but you can shop home goods, accessories, jewelry, handmade candles and incense, local ceramics, art, and printed goods online.
Eats & Drinks
St. Augustine has several local craft breweries and Bog has a line-up you will definitely want to sample. This neighborhood taproom features Belgian, German, and American-Farmhouse style ales and lagers on a rotating seasonal menu.
For a true St. Augustine experience, ask if the Smoked Datil Ale is on tap and grab a taco from the food truck on site. You can even bring your favorite brew home in bottles or growlers.
Check social media and their official website for events regarding new releases, pairing dinners, and Nights of Pints.
After a day full of exploring, it is imperative that you treat yourself! Sweet City Cupcakes offers over 50 flavors for you to choose from with vegan and gluten-free options available.
In town for something special? Ask Sweet City about custom cakes and cupcakes for your event. If you’re just passing through, stop in the shop and pick a few from the case.
This family-owned and operated bakery specializes in baked goods using traditional techniques and ingredients. They offer a range of global flavors including European-style artisanal bread like French baguettes, German pumpernickel, Italian sourdough, and Challah.
Stop in for quiche, lemon squares, cheese Danishes, and more, all made with local seasonal produce.
Looking for something delicious and nutritious? Buena Onda is the place to be!
The menu serves up vegetarian and vegan breakfast and lunch options with a Latin American twist alongside specialty canned drinks, espresso, plant-powered lattes, and grab-and-go baked goods.
Zora Neale Hurston Memorial Park: corner of US1 & West King Street
Zora Neale Hurston Home: 791 West King Street
AL Lewis Archway: corner of Holmes Boulevard & West King Street
Paper Root: 225 West King Street
YIELD: 25 Palmer Street
Bog Brewing Company: 218 West King Street
Sweet City Cupcakes: 233 West King Street, Suite A
Bakersville Bread Company: 233 West King Street, Suite B
Buena Onda: 224 West King Street