In 2022 the St. Augustine Beach Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Located next to the St. Augustine Beach Pier since 1940, the Hotel has been a witness to this and many social and environmental changes that have shaped the region and the nation. Explore these changes in the Waves of Change exhibition, online here or at the St. Augustine Beach Hotel. From here you can:

This project was produced by the St. Johns Cultural Council and funded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Telling the Full History Preservation Fund, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Trust or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Additional funding has been provided by the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council.


Gallery of Historical Photos & Video

Civil Rights Demonstrations

Butler’s Beach


Pier park 1940-1980

Additional Resources & Information

Courtesy of Peter Willot, St. Augustine Record

National Register

The St. Augustine Beach Hotel and Beachfront were added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 11, 2022 for its national importance as part of the Civil Rights movement known as the St. Augustine Campaign.

On June 25, 1964, the property saw one of the largest and most violent wade-in demonstrations in the Civil Rights Era and the images of uniformed Florida Highway Patrol breaking up the riot in the water are among the most circulated of the movement.

Click the link below to read the full National Register nomination.


In 1958 Larry and Pamela Leonard, professional dancers from Miami, leased the two-story portion of the St. Augustine Beach Hotel building and opened Leonard’s Ballet Theater. The dance studio was on the first floor, and the couple lived on the second floor.

Click the link below to learn more about the Leonards and the first ballet studio in
St. Augustine Beach.

Environmental Challenges

As storms get stronger and sea levels continue to rise, properties on Anastasia Island are threatened, including historic buildings like the St. Augustine Beach Hotel. In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew skirted Florida’s coast and significantly eroded the beach around the Pier.

Sea turtles nest their eggs on Florida’s coast. When hatchlings emerge from their shells and nests, they rely on sunlight from the horizon to find their way to the ocean. They are easily disoriented by lights from the shore which leads them further inland to die of dehydration, threatening the already dwindling population that return to ever crowded beaches each year. The The Sea Turtle Hospital at University of Florida Whitney Laboratory in Marineland, 15 miles south of St. Augustine Beach, works to rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles found in need along northeast Florida’s beaches.

Community volunteers take action to protect sea turtles by patrolling our local beaches before sunrise from April through October to fill holes, mark nests, count hatchlings, and remind beachgoers to turn lights off.

Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve conserves over 76,000 acres of land in Northeast Florida and is one of thirty around the country that focuses on research, education, and stewardship. Click the link below to learn more about the importance of sea turtles, local research, and how you can volunteer through GTM’s Adopt A Nest program.

Surf Culture

After finding an article in the St. Augustine Record dated 1915 that references surfing, the St. Augustine Historical Society realized that one of our favorite pastimes was far older than we thought.

In 2019, the Historical Society conducted and recorded oral history interviews with various local surfers, collecting dozens of narratives and hundreds of surf stories. Interviewees began offering their photographs, art, surfboards, trophies, decals, and more. Soon, there was more than enough material to design a museum dedicated solely to St. Augustine surf culture and history.

The St. Augustine Surf Culture Museum opened in May 2021 at the Tovar House on Historical Society grounds and is a permanent display. Click here to see the St. Augustine Surf Archive.