In 1950, a company called Lewis Point Properties Inc., based in Jacksonville, bought a piece of land. They expanded their land holdings from the north bank of Moultrie Creek to almost where SR 312 is today. This marked the beginning of the development of the St. Augustine South neighborhood. Back then, this area was mostly a marshy forest along the Matanzas River.
In 1954, they started building houses in the area, and the St. Augustine South neighborhood really began to take shape. The land was purchased and divided into lots by a company called Florida Speaks Corp. from St. Petersburg. Photographs (see below) from 1954 show the land being cleared and prepared for development.
Brochures from that era advertised St. Augustine South as the perfect solution for winter vacations and retirement. They highlighted the wonderful Florida sunshine and the fact that each lot was priced at only $250. These lots were all 40 feet by 100 feet in size. When people wanted to buy a lot, they had to get at least two, but no more than five lots, with a minimum of three lots required for corner homesites.
At that time, people could buy these lots by mail order without ever seeing the property in person. They only needed to put $25 down and then pay $5 per month. This was how the St. Augustine South community began to take shape.
The St. Augustine South Improvement Association (SASIA) came into being after a community meeting in November 1957 and was officially incorporated on December 11, 1957, with 55 members. The primary goal was to make improvements to the neighborhood. These proposed improvements included better streets, enhancing park areas, ensuring police and fire protection, installing streetlights, managing garbage disposal, organizing mail delivery, numbering houses, and cleaning up vacant lots.
In January 1958, during a SASIA meeting held at a neighbor’s house, it was decided to start a garbage collection service, which cost participating homeowners $1.25 per month. There was also discussion about selecting a location for a community center. Joseph Bains, a resident homeowner and the owner of Bains, the company responsible for building many homes in the South, offered to design the building. SASIA members with construction skills would build the community center, while others would contribute funds and materials. However, the two potential sites for the community center were in the Shore Drive greenway and had already been deeded to the County.
House delivery of mail in the South began in April 1958. That same year, the first complaints about speeding on neighborhood roads were documented. SASIA brought these complaints to the County Commissioners, who agreed to install speed limit signs. Additionally, SASIA took steps to create a sanitary district to comply with county regulations, which would provide the neighborhood with County fire protection. A dedicated firehouse, known as Firehouse Number 5, was established on St. Augustine South Drive until 2019 when it moved to a new location at 3360 US-1. The old Firehouse Number 5 in St. Augustine South was demolished by the County, and in 2021-22, there were discussions about the future use of that property by Parks and Recreation.
After 1958, historical records for St. Augustine South are missing for several years, so information relies on newspaper clippings from sources like the St. Augustine Record and personal recollections of the SASIA President from that time, which were documented years later. In 1964, SASIA was in discussions with the County Commissioners regarding zoning for the subdivision. A County hearing on the zoning resolution was held at the end of May. This was necessary after the developer relinquished approval of building plans to ensure that new homes complied with building standards, lot sizes, and setbacks. St. Johns County established zoning for the South on May 28, 1964, making it the third County area to be zoned. A Zoning Inspector, who lived in the South, was appointed. From that point, deed restrictions were no longer applied to new homes, as the standards were determined by County Zoning.
Several lots were donated on Royal Road to SASIA for a community center, initially referred to as the “community house,” and now known as the SASIA Clubhouse. More lots were purchased with donations from residents, totaling 12 lots, or nearly one acre of land. In 1963, with assistance from other community members, Joe Bain built the clubhouse at a minimal cost. Local businesses donated facing bricks, lumber for the interior, insulation, baseboards, flooring, and kitchen equipment. Residents contributed window drapes and plants for the garden. Later, the clubhouse was extended to provide additional storage. The current residents in the South continue to benefit from the early residents’ generosity in terms of time, materials, and cash donations to the Community Clubhouse and grounds at 709 Royal Rd. SASIA maintains a close collaborative relationship with St. Johns County Parks and Recreation. Parks and Recreation acquired the land south of Martin Road, adjacent to the east of the SASIA property. The County Picnic Shelter and access walkway are situated on SASIA land, and the SASIA Clubhouse’s septic system is on County land. Parks and Recreation also helps maintain the SASIA grass when they tend to the grass on their property.
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