American Beach Neighborhood Planning

American Beach, located on the south end of Amelia Island in Nassau County, Florida, has the distinction of being one of the few remaining beach resort communities in the nation developed specifically by and for African-Americans. Developed by the Afro-American Life Insurance Company in 1935, American Beach was until the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act one of the few beaches in the Southeast available to African-Americans. Even with the increased availability of beach resort opportunities for African-Americans, American Beach continued to survive during the 1960’s and 70’s as a distinctive beach community composed predominately of single family beach cottages. (Source: Historic Building Survey of American Beach, 1998)

American Beach is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Starting in 2018, Nassau County PEO staff have been working with the American Beach community to help preserve the unique character of the community.






Evans Rendezvous 

Planning staff is working with members of the community, as well as the County Facilities Department, on future Evans Historic Imagerevitalization plans for the Evans Rendezvous.  

American Beach became popular with Jacksonville-area residents, but thousands of people from across the Southeast and country visited American Beach. Notable visitors included Mary McLeod Bethune, Cab Calloway, James Brown, Ray Charles, and Zora Neale Hurston. As the community grew, it included homes, rental cabins, small motels, and affiliated commercial sites. One of the most popular and enduring commercial buildings was the Evans Rendezvous, an oceanfront restaurant, bar, and entertainment venue. Says Marsha Dean Phelts, author of The American Beach Book of Homes, “To say Evans' Rendezvous was the most frequented spot on American Beach understates its popularity and impact on this resort community.” Remembered by visitors as the "heartbeat and synergy" of the community, the Evans’ was a 200-seat establishment, serving food and drinks and home to musical entertainment and dancing. Started in 1948 by Willie Evans, Sr., the Rendezvous operated continuously until 2000, when it closed.

In 2004, with assistance from the Trust for Public Land and the Florida Communities Trust, Nassau County obtained ownership of the Rendezvous site for purposes of creating an American Beach Historical Park. Since 2004, initial restoration work has been completed on the structure. After this initial rehabilitation work was completed, no further plans were put in place to continue the project. 

A management plan for the property was executed in 2005 that restricts the uses of the site. Specifically, the plan requires continued public access to the beach, protection of the beach dunes, use of Evans for public interpretation, recreation and social event uses, focus on preservation and interpretation of the American Beach National Historic District, and restoration of native vegetation.

Evans Rendezvous TodayIn 2018, County staff formed an Evans Rendezvous Task Force with staff from the Planning and Economic Opportunity Department and the County’s Facilities Director, and several members of the American Beach community, including representatives of the American Beach Property Owners’ Association (ABPOA), Friends of American Beach (FOAB), and the adjacent property owner. The Task Force has met several times to determine a process for continuing progress and moving forward to see the Evans’ brought back to life. The Task Force determined that because the management plan outlines the future use of the structure, the next best step was to proceed with architectural and engineering construction documents.

Nassau County submitted a grant application to have the architectural and engineering documents completed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2019, but was unfortunately not selected for the grant. The County has resubmitted a Letter of Intent to the National Trust to try again for funding in 2020. Additionally, the County submitted a grant application to the National Park Service in December 2019 to have a historic structure report completed for Evans. Both applications are pending as of February 2020.