Our bed and breakfast is steeped in Amelia Island, Florida history with the three historic homes, Williams House (c. 1856), Hearthstone House (c. 1880’s) and the Carriage House (c. 2004) which today comprise the Inn.
The Williams House’s Place in Amelia Island, Florida History
The Williams House is one of the oldest and most historic homes in the town of Fernandina Beach and has been named a Florida Heritage Landmark Site. Though built in 1856 by a wealthy Boston banker, it was purchased by Marcellus A. Williams in 1858 and it is for him that the house is named. Williams, a highly successful man was born in North Carolina in 1818. He married Emma Wightman and they had nine children.
The Williams House is guarded by its original iron fence, one of the few left standing after the Civil War. The fleur-de-lis detail reflects the French influence in the island’s early history. The beautiful gingerbread design on the veranda was designed by Robert.Sands Schuyler, a famous New York architect. He signed an agreement stating that he would not duplicate the striking design, and it remains unique to this date.
Williams worked for the surveying firm of Lawrence Washington, a nephew of George Washington. The firm was deputized to survey Spanish land grants in the state of Florida. One of his assignments was David Yulee’s railroad from Amelia Island to Cedar Key. Williams was one of the first to befriend the Seminole Indian Nation. Once his surveying days were over, he partnered with Samuel Swann to locate and sell land for the state. In 1865, President Andrew Johnson appointed him Registrar of the Public Lands for the state of Florida. At the time of his death in 1888, Williams owned almost 400,000 acres in Florida. The Williams family occupied this home for over 100 years.
During the time that the Island flew under the flag of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, believed to be a friend of Williams, was a guest in the house on many occasions. It is said that Davis stored some of his furniture and personal effects in the home. During the war, the family moved to Waldo, Florida for their safety. When Union troops occupied Fernandina, they used the Williams House as headquarters. Upon his return to the island, Williams, who had released his slaves, became active in the Underground Railroad, offering a safe house for slaves. Legend has it that there was a secret room that Williams used to hide the slaves. The legend notes that it may have been behind the dining room, in the kitchen or under the house.
The Williams House Today
The Williams House
The Williams house is the original house on the property built in 1856. It has five guest rooms, one on the first floor and four on the second floor. There are twenty-two steps to the second floor. Breakfast is served in the main dining room by Veronica and her staff, with a view of the grand porch on the east and south sides, original wood flooring and the carved wood fireplace. The parlor is a favorite gathering space for guests. It also overlooks the grand porch as well as the north secret garden. The parlor has a fireplace to warm you up in the cooler months. All guests have access to the grand first and second floor porches. The famous 500-year-old live oak in the center of the Great Live Oak Courtyard can be seen from guest rooms with west and south facing windows of the main house. The Williams House has a Keurig coffee station and electric tea kettle with an assortment of teas and coffees, bagged ice, refrigerator and microwave for guest use on the second floor.
The Hearthstone House
The Hearthstone House was said to be built in the 1880’s by Marcellus Williams for his children. It is believed that the house was built only with bedrooms so the children would always come back to the main house to be with family for meals. The Hearthstone House is on the same property as the Williams House, just south of the main driveway. It has two guest rooms on the first floor and two guest rooms on the second floor. There are nineteen steps to the second floor. Each guest room in the Hearthstone House has access to a semi-private porch from French doors in each guest room. The Hearthstone House has a Keurig coffee station, electric tea kettle with an assortment of teas and coffees, ice maker, refrigerator, and microwave for guest use.
The Carriage House
The Carriage House is the newest structure at the Williams House Bed and Breakfast and was built in 2004. There was an original carriage house believed to be in this location. The Carriage house has one guest room on the north side of the first floor. There are scheduled renovations for this guest room in 2022 that will make this guest room fully ADA compliant. South of the Carriage House is the kitchen garden. Fresh herbs and vegetables are grown, by Veronica, in the garden and served at breakfast regularly.
Take a deep breath of history exploring by foot, bicycle or trolley, all the treasures of the island. Soak up the sun on our wide sandy beaches.