Relocated civil rights landmark with ties to Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated with Juneteenth ribbon cutting

Canright House famously firebombed, shot at during pivotal moment in civil rights movement

Canright House dedicated as museum in West Augustine on Juneteenth. (WJXT)

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A civil rights landmark in West Augustine with a new home was dedicated Wednesday with a ribbon cutting that coincided with Juneteenth.

The “Canright House” was moved in May to Collier-Blocker-Puryear Park on North Holmes Boulevard after decades at Butler Beach.

Recommended Videos

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was supposed to stay at the home in 1964 during the Southern Christian Leadership Conference -- until the home was firebombed and shot at by segregationists who were trying to kill King.

King was famously photographed pointing at a bullet hole in the home.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. points at a bullet hole in a St. Johns County home in 1964. (Image courtesy of Florida archives) (WJXT)

Those who attended Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony want the landmark’s name to reflect its moment in history. They want to call it the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beach House.

The home is open for people to visit and get an understanding of what happened in the house from burn marks where the home was firebombed to the bullet holes that still remain.

Marks from the firebombing attack at the Canright House in 1964. (WJXT)

Lifelong West Augustine native Sonee Carswell felt she needed to be at the ribbon cutting to witness the moment.

“This is history in the making, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Carswell said.

The historic moment was made possible by county commissioners and groups like the West Augustine Community Redevelopment Agency and parks and recreation.

Commissioners and groups like the West Augustine Community Redevelopment Agencyand parks and recreation were vital in making this a reality.

Greg White, founder of the West Augustine Historical CDC, said this moment is evidence of preserving and honoring history.

“You cannot bury history. We have to endorse the good, the bad and the ugly,” White said.

The house is part of a bigger plan to showcase Black history in St. Augustine.

The Canright House is now a museum open to the public in West Augustine. (WJXT)

It will eventually share the area with the expected site of the new Florida Black History Museum less than a block away after a state task force voted for St. Johns County to be the location of the new museum.

“It almost makes it like a campus feel. People can come out to the site and enjoy both museums simultaneously,” said St. Johns County Parks and Recreation Director Ryan Kane.

Dwala Willis with West Augustine CRA said this sets the table for generations to come.

“We never asked for a handout. But a hand up. I think this is the tone for what we want people to come out and view,” Willis said. “We want them to view the rich history of West Augustine and the Black American history of West Augustine.”

Representatives from the task force are taking a closer look at the new site and plan to wrap up their work on July 1.

The former owners bought the Cangright House in 2021 and originally planned to build it into the design of a new house but were limited because of its history, so they decided to donate it to the county to better preserve that history.

The county then got a grant from the state to relocate the building to the park.

A historic house linked to Martin Luther King was successfully moved to a new location in St. Augustine. (Copyright 2024 by WJXT News4JAX - All rights reserved.)

Recommended Videos