Located in historic downtown Fernandina Beach, the Amelia Schoolhouse Inn was built in 1886 as the local school for Amelia Island. Completely renovated in 2018, the 17-room boutique hotel has been certified as a National Historic structure and combines top-of-the-line modern amenities with professional restoration of much of the original building. With an emphasis on customer service, the Inn also has a high-end bar along with a courtyard with putting green that is open to the public.
Sleeping in a Schoolhouse
Even the bathroom in our suite held souvenirs of the Inn’s previous life as an educational institution.
And on the landing outside our door, antique school furniture, the desk with a circular hole to hold an inkwell and one seat with hinges that pushed up.
Imagine! The Principal’s Office has become a bar, complete with a dunce cap above the liquor cabinet, left over from the Inn’s previous life as a schoolhouse. Or, found online!
The Setting: Fernandina Beach
Feeling the need to “get away,” we made the 60-minute car trip straight north to take in the sights of the historic coastal town in Nassau County, visiting Fernandina Beach in early October.
The Timucuan Indians were the first to inhabit Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. Since 1562, the town is the only municipality in the United States that has flown eight different national flags: France, Spain, Great Britain, the Patriots of Amelia Island, the Green Cross of Florida, Mexico the Confederate States of American, and finally, the United States of America.
Centre Street in Historic Downtown
Cedar Trees arching the sidewalk
Can you see the imaginary white-eyed bird, beak open wide?
Historic Hoyt House, now a Bed & Breakfast, decked out for Hallowe’en
Snooping in Bookstores, especially those independently owned
Banner inside the Story and Song Books, which sponsors author events, both celebrity writers and local authors.
Story and Song also offers a bistro inviting al fresco dining and an intriguing mural on the wall.
I met two of the congenial staff, Connor, the media manager and buyer, along with Dearsha, the children’s department specialist. When I visited, both were behind the counter, serving the lunch-time crowd. During a brief lull, they both seemed interested in turning the pages of my book, noting original illustrations.
Another book store, the Book Loft, which bills itself as “old-fashioned” and “charming,” invites with open door. I met Cathy behind the desk, who eagerly checked out my memoir, Mennonite Daughter.
Drum roll please! Announcing the winner of Turtle Heart by Lucinda Kinsinger:
Congratulations to Linda Marie Washington!
Please email me to confirm your mailing address.
Have you visited a place you’d recommend for other visitors?
What independent book stores do you patronize in your area?
Good morning, Marian! It looks like a fun getaway. I’ve been in classrooms that still had the place for the ink, but never with a dunce cap! It made me look up dunce cap, and I found it was originally seen as a sort of cap of honor and intelligence. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-dunce-cap-wasnt-always-so-stupid Beaches, beautiful trees, books–it looks like a lovely place.
An early bird with an inquisitive mind; that’s you, Merril. And thanks for providing the website for the changing meaning of “dunce.” I used to tell students that early meanings of words we commonly use began meaning just the opposite. For instance, originally the Latin meaning of “nice” meant ignorant. In early French, it was silly or foolish.
You’d feel right at home in Fernandina Beach where lots of visual artists and authors make their home. Thanks for getting us going again this morning! 😀
You’re welcome, Marian!
I wondered if dunce caps were real or just legend, so I had to look it up. 😀
Thank you for sharing the article about the history of the dunce cap. I just read it. I remember one of my elementary school teacheres who used the dunce’s corner. The offending boy had to stand in the corner with his nose touching the wall. The teacher would reprimand him if he let his nose leave the wall. Needless to say, Enosburg Falls Elementary did not leave me with happy school day memories.
What a tragic story. It certainly illustrates one way to make a student hate school, maybe even develop low self-esteem. Society was adult-centered then, not child-centered, Liz. :-/
I developed school phobia that year and had to be taken to a psychiatrist. My mother felt guilty about subjecting my brother and me to that school system until the end of her life. It certainly makes no sense to expect children to behave in ways that do not align with their developmental stage–and then punish them when they don’t!
You’re welcome, Liz. I wanted to make sure the dunce’s cap was a real thing. 😀
The dunce cap does have the aura of legend about it.
Legend? Yes, indeedy!
Wonderful photos Marian! I’d be very happy there browsing all bookstores and eateries. And inns in which the principal’s office is the bar! And murals and message! I love those steps. Clearly, a good time was had by all.
I’m glad you enjoyed the visit vicariously. Yes, you’d love it there. The historic part of the town invites lingering–with a book or an ice cream cone. Thanks, Susan!
Susan, I’d enjoy escorting you around this part of Fernandina Beach. In addition to the bookshops and restaurant, all the attractions of the historic district are in a very concentrated walking area. Thanks for your enthusiastic comment! 😀
Thanks for taking us along on your tour, Marian. I would love to visit or stay in all of these establishments…but I might never leave! I love the old photo with the writing on the chalkboard. What a deterrent that was, at least for me.
You’re welcome, Jill. I can’t believe you’re old enough to remember teachers asking students to write repetitive sentences on the chalkboard. You say it was a deterrent for you, but I don’t think it’s considered good pedagogy these days. 😀
Wonderful to see this preservation and BOOKS!
Jack, I know you love books–and interesting architecture. You’d find it all in Fernandina Beach. 😀
Amelia Island is on my bucket list. I know a couple who goes there nearly every winter (not last year) and my former boss, who has a daughter named Amelia, visited there. That story is cute: She has two daughters, Grace and Amelia, and Amelia as a preschooler was troubled that “Grace” was mentioned almost every Sunday at church and her name was never mentioned! The loving parents felt that visiting an entire island with her name might appease the frustration for dear Amelia. She loved it of course and they have that story and memory to treasure! I thought you might enjoy it too. It really does look like a lovely place.
What a great family story!
Melodie, what a fantastic story, “Amelia and Grace Discover an Island”!
If Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach are on your bucket list, you must visit. We are about an hour’s drive from the area, so you’d have a chauffeur. 😀
What a nice trip you had. I’d love to visit this town, and the inn, and the bookstores, and the…. Hmmm, will add to my bucket list. The photo of the Dunce cap had me squirming, thinking of how teachers once used such a thing to chastise students. Now, it seems, we’ve gone totally the other side of the pendulum. Interesting facts from Merril in how the use of Dunce cap changed over the years. We own one of those antique school desks. It’s in our guest/grandkid room, with children’s books stacked on the front seat. Pretty neat! And lastly, did any of the bookstores take your book to sell? You’re, again, so courageous to approach them. I think your book would be perfect in these independent book stores.
I love the idea of an antique school desk at home in your house, a perfect place to display books.
To answer your last question, indie bookstores on the island are deluged with dozens of authors who want to promote their books in this venue. I visited the stores, so the staff could associate my book with a smiling face. We’ll see what happens! Independent bookstores in Jacksonville have offered my book for sale at times, so I’m venturing out. Thanks, Pam!
Congrats on scoring the Jacksonville indie bookstores. We have several Indie bookstores here in NE and a few are like you say, lots of local authors so the bookstores are very VERY slow in accepting indie books. 🙁
I’m sure you have first-hand experience in this department, Pam. It’s a tough balance, indie authors promoting their books with indie bookstores who have to compete with the big-boxers. Thanks for the follow-up here. 😀
I love that they turned the old schoolhouse into a hotel but left some of the items in it. We stayed in an old house in Port Townsend, Washington, once. It felt like sleeping in a museum. Towns with lots of independent bookstores are the best! I hope they stock your books.
Darlene, we like houses with history too, one reason we stayed at Schoolhouse Inn. I did approach the bookstore personnel with a copy of my book; we’ll see what happens.
Yay!!! Thank you so much, Marian! I was going to comment on the lovely photos when I found my name at the end! Woo hoo!
What a great theme for an inn. Also, small town bookstores are just the best. I love roaming through them and making literary discoveries.
Wooooooooo! Thank you again! Will email.
Congratulations, Linda Marie! Yours was the winning ticket. I’ll get your book in the mail by the end of the week, if not sooner. Yes, I did receive your email message with current address. Enjoy! 😀
Marian — Oh, what a FUN getaway! I especially enjoyed seeing the photograph of the painted stairs.
You and Len would love this place. I believe the town even has a small airport – ha! And I’m glad you enjoyed the photos, including the odd one. 😀
I also cringed at the dunce cap. (quite interesting to read Merril’s comment from above to learn that it used to be viewed as a cap of honor.) I had a teacher in junior high who used to wing chalkboard erasers at students who weren’t paying attention. Thank goodness education got rid of some of these old forms of discipline.
Your post’s title made me recall times when we used to spend the night at school with our students near the end of the year as a school reward for those who had read so many books. (What were we thinking—in terms of the perception this created and our sanity?) We played outdoor games with them, had pizza, and watched a movie together—the boys and the girls in separate rooms. What followed was a rather sleepless night with a bunch of kids talking in their sleep and having to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. The worst part (I can’t recall why, but everything about this sounds ridiculous as I write it.) was that we held this on Thursday night, so the following morning we had to feed them breakfast and then get ready to teach. I can remember thinking as I was washing my hair in the sink, “I’m never going to ever volunteer to do this again.”🥱
Reward for the students, punishment for the teachers?
Pete, I did cringe at the chalkboard eraser even though it didn’t hit me. ;-/
And I did a rapid-read of your “slumber party at school” experience because I was eager to find out what happened. It sounds as though the concept was more exciting (at least for the students) than it was for the teachers. Lesson learned, right? Thanks for another enlightening comment.
Thanks for the virtual trip, Miriam, I enjoyed the photos and commentary.
Welcome, John! Virtual trips are free and don’t require very little time or energy! I’m glad you enjoyed mine. 😀
That looks like such a fun getaway!
What a lovely place for artists and teachers to visit! Just loved the stairs made to look like book spines! The dunce cap not so much! We’ve come a long way and I hope we never go back to that!
Elfrieda, you are the second reader to comment on the stairs. I didn’t view them as book spines, but maybe so. 😀
About the dunce caps, I hope we won’t go back to that either, but the pendulum as swung too far the other way, teachers having to contend sometimes with unruly students and unsupportive parents. One photo I didn’t post here was of a schoolmaster flogging a student with what looked like a horsewhip, other students looking on.
What a beautiful place ro stop for a break, but I don’t think much of the Dunce hat: that would be child abuse these days!
Thanks for tuning in, Maria Fatima! Dunce caps would never fly these days, probably considered child abuse, and whipping in the classroom would be a definite No-No too although it was done not too many decades ago at least in the US. I remember the teacher’s ruler smacking a hand too, often done in days of yore.
This is so fun. I love how authentic the B&B looks. My mother had a friend who bought a schoolhouse, renovated it, then lived in it. Her home wasn’t quite so *authentic* as this inn but it was a cool place. As for independent bookstores, I can only think of one left in this city– and it’s nowhere near where we live, sadly.
Fun. . . yes! This inn was renovated in 2016, and although the authentic look was preserved, the Inn didn’t lack luxury, even extra-fuzzy bathrobes in the closet. Thanks, Ally!
As so indie bookstores. I think to thrive they must have an “angle” of some sort. One offered special author “events” in a special place with a bistro downstairs. The other was located downtown in the historic section. 😀
HI Marian, thank you for this wonderful post. I enjoyed your pictures and commentary very much. The dunce’s hat sounds too dreadful. I remember a teacher banging my elbow on the top of my wooden desk because I made mistakes in my Afrikaans reading. It put me off learning Afrikaans completely and I never learned it as I could have. Nice to see a thriving bookstore too.
Robbie, your experience with learning Afrikaans (or not) would fit on the page “What NOT to Do” in a teacher instruction manual. Sorry about that; the teacher of long ago didn’t realize the damage done to the wonderful author & poet in the making.
I’m glad you enjoyed this post. 😀
Thank you for this informative post and photos, Marian. You took me along your trip. What an amazing visit. I’ve visited several old school houses converted into shops with a theater. It’s terrible to learn about the old ways of punishment from home and school. My sister adopted a girl when she was three. It took my sister years to undo the her fear and learn that she was loved. 🙂
Every blogger’s dream: taking you “long on your trip.”
The schoolhouses that have been converted often have a more pleasant atmosphere than the school rooms of olden days. On another note: How generous of your sister to give her adopted daughter a better life, especially since she had to overcome the little girl’s fear. Thank you for tuning in today, Miriam. 😀
You’re welcome, Marian. My niece is grown into a beautiful young lady and happily married now. 🙂
Thanks for the tour, Marian! 😍
You’re very welcome, Bette! 😀
Hi, Marian! Amelia Island has a wonderful book festival every year (at least before Covid). I attended one a couple years ago. The way the community fosters a love of reading in their students is impressive. The next time, I’ll make time to explore this lovely district with the independent bookstores. It would be fun to stay at that Inn. Thank you for sharing your delightful experiences with us! I do hope they’ll carry your book!
Hi, Patty. Yes, about two years ago we attended the Amelia Island Book Festival with my husband’s children’s book, The Boy Who Grew Too Small. I haven’t attended since because of the pandemic. Maybe next year! If you do visit Fernandina Beach in the new year, let me know. It would be fun to meet you face to face, a nice change. Thanks for tuning in! 😀
Good morning Marian, I’m so sorry the weeks are running away with me at the moment and I’ve missed you .
What a delightful place you’re at . I do understand your need to get away , I feel like that , right now too. It has to said , I know it’s history but the dunce cap is quite disgusting, don’t you think? …can you believe a teacher could humiliate a child like that 🙈.
We have a wonderful town on the border of England and Wales called Hay -On -Wye and it’s stuffed full of book shops . Almost every shop is a book shop in fact . I have met a friend there many times for lunch and been to their wonderful annual book festival …amazing !
Can I give you loads of congrats for your new book , so pleased for you 😘
Hello, Cherry. Your reference to Hay-On-Wye, Wales, really piqued my interest, so I looked it up. Here is the listing of the top 10 booksellers, so maybe there are dozens. https://theculturetrip.com/europe/united-kingdom/wales/articles/hay-on-wye-s-amazing-world-of-books-top-10-must-visit-bookshops/ The Welsh are quite a reading lot–impressive!
My new book is a work in progress, just in the beginning stages right now. I must get busy in November. It’s so, so good to hear from you “across the pond” as they say. 😀
That looks like so much fun. I love the schoolhouse pillows on the bed! 🙂 I recently read that someone in a neighbouring town to my hometown just bought a 1960’s public school and is renovating it into their home, with the possibility of turning into a B&B. Apparently the kids love riding their bikes and roller blading in the long hallways! lol
I thought the schoolhouse bed pillows were cute too. You are the first to mention them.
It will be interesting to observe the school house becoming a home in a town close by. I didn’t observe long hallways in this Inn, but the bar was large enough so that bikes could do wheelies. Not allowed, I’m sure.
Thanks for tuning in, Jenn!
What a nice trip, Marian – how great to get away. We recently went away for 3 nights and had a great time – we hadn’t taken a mini vacation since before covid. I like that little schoolhouse. Who thought dunce caps were a good idea? That would never work in today’s schools – do you think kids were traumatized by them? They were before my time, but I remember the idea. Although we did have old wooden desks with inkwell holders and hinged tops. Thanks for sharing all your pictures – I hope you are doing well!
Yes, I’m doing well, Barbara–just finished a Pilates class via ZOOM. I hope you are perking along well too.
I wonder also who thought dunce caps were a good idea. One photo I didn’t publish was of a schoolmaster smacking the daylights out of a boy student with what looked like a horsewhip.
Thanks for swinging by. Happy reading! 😀
Sounds like it’s a lovely place for a visit. I like small, quiet places like that.
Quiet is THE word, Joan. We don’t hear noise on our street, but a half-mile away there’s lots of hustle and bustle. It was delightful to get away to a small, picturesque town. You’d enjoy it, Joan. 😀
Fantastic. That brought back memories. My mother was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. On our farm we used to have some of the old desks with the inkwells – we bought them at auction when the school converted to a private home. My brothers and I used to “play school” at them. Haven’t thought about that in years!
I’m glad this post prompted pleasant inkwell-desk memories. As you know from my memoir, I attended a two-room school with a belfry. Have a great weekend, Arlene! 😀
What a lovely visit, Marian. Such an authentic place to stay. I’m glad you got away for a little break. Did you return home “refreshed”? 🙂 And, isn’t it wonderful to be received with open arms (or at least some interest) at those bookstores? Did any of them agree to sell your book? No independent bookstore around where we camp – on federal land in the middle of nowhere.
I didn’t come back refreshed, Liesbet. We stayed over only one night.
The owners of both bookstores were gone, out of town or just stepped out. I left my book at one bookstore, whose assistant seemed intrigued. The owner of the other emailed me back to say he’ll consider me for an event in the new year. Competition is fierce at these “boutique” bookstores because dozens of authors beg for recognition. Both were booked through 2021. If it’s supposed to happen, it will happen. I’ve done my part. Thanks for asking! 😀
Thanks for sharing the wonderful little pitstops you took at these creative bookstores and cafes. What a fun trip that had to be! 🙂 x
Yes, I wish we could have been buddies hobnobbing hither and yon. You’d enjoy the cuisine too: Italian, Mexican, Asian–others too. Thanks, Debby! 😀
Sounds delish! 🙂
What a fun get-away, Marian! And I discover another thing we have in common-snooping in independent book stores! Whenever I have been in a new city, I try to find the book store most well known there. Have been in some great ones. This summer we visited our grandson who recently moved to Nashville. Don’t miss Parnassus Books if you are ever there. It is owned by Ann Patchett and I just missed seeing her! We heard her speak at a lecture series in Pittsburgh and she was delightful. I am now on her email list and getting reviews of newly released books from Ann and her staff. Wish I lived closer to that one! Unfortunately, there is a dearth of Indies on my area. However, I highly recommend your local libraries’ used book sales. Many gems to be found! John & I have volunteered for ours for years.
Carol, you kicked my knowledge of Ann Patchett up a notch here. If we ever get back to Nashville again, I’ll be sure to check out Parnassus Books.
Kudos to you for volunteering at used book sales at your library. Libraries are starting to sponsor more events these days as the pandemic seems to be on the wane. You are always so enthusiastic about things I enjoy too: books and libraries. How I wish we had gotten to know each other better in high school! Enjoy your weekend! 😀
Hi Marian. I sure love the feel of a small, historic town where you can browse the shops, especially the bookstores! I also love that they fully support/sponsor local authors. I hope that you get a signing event at one of them. And your B&B story! Someone has a good sense of humor to turn the previous Principal’s office into a bar; that made me laugh. 🙂 Your smiles in the photos show how much you enjoyed getting away, even if it was brief.
Browsing bookstores, especially in fall is so much fun, now that the torrid heat is gone. Thanks for your good wishes about a book signing in one of them. It will probably happen in the new year.
About the Schoolhouse Inn. Outside the bar on the patio I met a couple who invited me to their table. After some chit-chat, they discovered I’m an author and bought my memoir. 😀
A fun tour of your trip…love the steps and that tree is magnificent 🙂
I spend almost more time looking at the tree than at anything else. You are the first to mention the magnificence of the tree. Thanks, Carol!
Wonderful post about my sweet town. Wizard’s hats were signs of great intelligence and even magical abilities but somewhere they changed.
I found this which might explain some of hat’s origins. I am not sure how reliable this site is but the story is interesting. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-dunce-cap-wasnt-always-so-stupid
I checked out the link and believe it’s factual. As you recall from teaching reading (word origins) many of our word’s have changed dramatically; for example, the word nice used to have the connotation of meanness
By the way, I will be coming with a friend on Friday to see Jacque Pepin at The Book Loft. Maybe we could meetup if you are stopping by. 😀
Ah, yes, the dunce cap is shaped like a wizard hat. Thanks for pointing that out, Suzanne. 😀
Oh the places you’ll see–and the places your friends will miss. I check through your blog once in a while to see if I’ve missed anything and I’d missed this. I’m drawn to the green as the grasses brown here and light snow flies. I’m drawn to the beauty of the historic site and how well it’s tended and honored. Finally, I’m drawn to the sweetness of you and Cliff having a little get-away together and exploring a place you’ve never been before. I hope one of those stores carries your book now. And what a tree and how much history it’s seen! A lovely fun post, Marian. Thank you.
When I read your comments here, it feels as though you are right beside me, having a conversation in real time. That’s the magic of your writing style, Elaine. Thanks for tending to my words too; I’m touched that you care about my life so very much. Huge hugs! ((( )))
P.S. I returned to the Book Loft with a friend where I met Jacques Pepin signing a cookbook he and his grand-daughter wrote together. We’ll see what happens. Indie bookstores tend to promote books with well-known authors I suppose because they have narrow profit margins. Thanks for the good wishes.