For many decades before its consolidation with Jacksonville in the 1960s, Mandarin was its own, separate community that grew along the banks of the St. Johns River. It had its own churches, schools, and even a general store.
That general store at 12471 Mandarin Road, which also served as the community’s post office, opened in 1911 as The Mandarin Store and Post Office and became an integral part of life in early Mandarin. The store was constructed in 1911 by local builder William Monson, who then leased it to Walter Jones.
Jones, who lived on a nearby stretch of land along Mandarin Road, had been appointed as Mandarin’s postmaster five years earlier and had previously operated an older general store closer to the river.
The new store, which was located across the street from the site of noted author and civil rights advocate Harriet Beecher Stowe’s winter home, operated within a one-story, four-room building. The large main room housed the general store. Two rooms were utilized for post office operations; the post office also had its own front entrance door. The fourth room was a feed room.
Jones’ store sold all kinds of goods, including meat, fish, animal feed, and soda. In addition to serving as postmaster and operating the general store, Jones served as the inaugural president of the Mandarin Community Club, which was founded in 1923.
Jones operated the store, and the post office, until his death in 1928 – at which point his daughter, Agnes, took over as both the store manager and community postmaster.
Under Agnes’ leadership, the store stayed in operation until 1964. The family acquired the store and its property in the late ‘50s, and after the store closed, it leased the building for office, retail, and residential uses over the course of three decades.
In the ‘90s, the building was restored by the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society with the help of a government grant. The historic “WALTER JONES” sign atop the building was preserved, and benches were reconstructed on its front porch based on old photographs.
By 1998, the general store had reopened as a museum featuring many of the original furnishings from the store and post office.
The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001 – just a year after Jones’ former homestead up the street became a historic park.
Today, the museum continues to operate under the direction of MMHS. You can learn more about the museum, including how to visit, on the MMHS website. (NOTE: The museum’s interior is currently closed due to COVID-19.)