Mini-golf course was first desegregated public facility

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla -- Race relations within the St. Augustine city government may have started with a mini golf course.

A bit of unexpected history was uncovered in St. Augustine while researching the mini golf course on the bayfront by the Bridge of Lions.

Tourists for decades have tried their best at the mini golf course, but plans have been tossed around for a couple years to change or alter the site.

So researchers and city staff wanted to know what is the history behind the holes.

"Before the city agreed to any physical changes to the site, we needed to confirm whether it was a historic significant resource," Jenny Wolfe said. She is the city's Historic Preservation and Special Projects Planner. She said based on research by Paul Weaver, president of Historic Property Associates, the mini golf course in St. Augustine may be the oldest in Florida.

The course was built in 1949, and it was a hit with tourists who came to Florida and St. Augustine during the post-World War II era.

Researchers also found most of it is intact and made of coquina which is a significant and common building material unique to St. Augustine.

However, researchers did not expect to find that the course was the first desegregated city facility. Wolfe explained Weaver uncovered that in 1963, African Americans were denied access to the mini golf course.

"So the city came out with a declaration that public facilities are desegregated and open to the public, all public," she noted.

That was in 1963 and only for city-owned properties. A year later, civil rights demonstrations in St. Augustine made worldwide headlines when African Americans were still denied access to private establishments.

This discovery of the course being the first desegregated city facility may help push the city's application to get the golf course on the National Register of Historic Places.

"This definitely adds a different social and cultural part to our historic record," Wolfe smiled.


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