Classic cars are arrayed under cannons that ring Fort Clinch during the annual fundraising car show.Classic cars are arrayed under cannons that ring Fort Clinch during the annual fundraising car show.

Historic cars and historic fort unite for fundraiser

Published on September 18, 2023 at 7:00 am

Many cars that will line the parade grounds inside Fernandina Beach’s historic Fort Clinch on Saturday are old, no doubt about that.

But the brick walls that have guarded the St. Marys River and Cumberland South entrance to Florida and Georgia are way older — 176 years to be exact.

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Visitors will flock to the state park Saturday to see an estimated 60 vintage and classic cars inside the fort at 2601 Atlantic Ave. The event will support the preservation of the recreational and educational opportunities at Fort Clinch State Park, said Tom Linley, head of Friends of Fort Clinch. The nonprofit group supports special events and educational programming at the park and raises funds for restoration projects and equipment to assist park rangers.

Last year’s car show netted $5,000 in proceeds, Linley said.

A rare 1966 Sunbeam Tiger race car sits in front of a 1992 Maxton Roller Skate at the 2021 Cars and Cannons show inside Fort Clinch. | Dan Scanlan WJCT News 89.9

“That’s what the Friends are all about — benefiting the park and the fort,” Linley said. “The funds that are raised go into projects of the fort and the park itself. Sometimes we are buying equipment like a log splitter or an all-terrain vehicle so they can access the beach areas for management or sea turtle nests and other resource management monitoring. All the finds that come into this do benefit the park directly.”

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More than 60 vintage and classic cars are scheduled to be displayed inside the fort from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The fort is part of a 1,400-acre state park at 2601 Atlantic Ave., where its brick walls overlook Cumberland Sound and the St. Marys River from Fernandina Beach on land intertwined with paths through arching live oaks and campsites.

Construction of Fort Clinch began in 1847 to protect the coast of southern Georgia. At the start of the Civil War, the still-incomplete fort came under Confederate control until Union troops arrived in early 1862. Construction resumed when Union soldiers took it over near the end of the Civil War, but it still wasn’t done as hostilities ceased, and it was left empty in 1869.

This is the main entrance to Fort Clinch, facing woodlands along the St. Mary’s River. | Dan Scanlan WJCT News 89.9

In 1898, Fort Clinch was used as a U.S. Army barracks and ammunition depot, then sold in 1926, and the Civilian Conservation Corps built its museum, campground and park roads. Its final military use was during World War II, as a joint operations center for surveillance and communications before it reverted to a park at war’s end.

Visitors can tour its bastions, guard rooms, prison, barracks, hospital, kitchens and blacksmith’s shop inside the brickwork walls, furnished as they would have been during the Civil War and Union occupation.

On Saturday, the fort will be the site of classic and special interest cars, with food trucks and live music from Laid Back and The 2Js. Keep Nassau Beautiful will have free drinking water.

Classic British roadsters and some American muscle cars line one corner of Fort Clinch at the 2021 Cars and Cannons Vintage Car Show. | Dan Scanlan WJCT News 89.9

“We celebrate history of all eras, and on the first Saturday of every month. We give garrison weekends where we represent certain periods of time,” Linley said. “In this case, we are representing a kind of modern and vintage auto era if you will. We have cars as young as 1998, and as old as 1930s. So really it all about celebrating history, and cars are part of our history, so having them in the fort just seemed like a natural event to have.”

Admission to the car show is the regular park entry fee of $6 per vehicle (two to eight people) or $4 per single-occupant vehicle, plus $2.50 per person for fort admission. The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset daily. The fort is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Go to fortclinch.org for more information.


author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.
author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.