450 Years of Fort Caroline and Florida's French Past

Lee Adams' Ribault Painting

In 1562, 452 years ago, French settlers landed and explored Florida’s northeast coast and traveled up the St. Johns River into present-day Jacksonville. Like many Florida visitors, they returned.  Two years later, on June 29, 1564, French colonists led by Captain René Goulaine de Laudonnière (1529-74) constructed one of the first European forts in what we know today as the United States of America. This year will see the 450 year anniversary of the Fort Caroline settlement.

French Captain, René Goulaine de Laudonnière also recorded a Thanksgiving feast on June 30, 1564, which was celebrated with the local indigenous Timucuan people and is considered one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in America, predating the Plymouth Colony by 57 years. 

In observance of the 450 year anniversary of the construction of the French founded Fort Caroline, The Florida Department of State is proud to announce activities scheduled with Viva Florida partners at the French Consulate in Miami, The French – American Chamber of Commerce in Florida, the City of Jacksonville, Visit Jacksonville, the Museum of Science and History (MOSH) and the National Park Service who will bring commemorative and educational events to the general public during 2014.  The commemoration of 450 years of the French in Florida is a signature event of Viva Florida, which promotes Florida’s history and cultural heritage.  

Statewide Events and activities

Unveiling of the French - Florida Cultural Office
Jacksonville - June 30, 2014 | 10 a.m.

In recognition of the 450th anniversary, Visit Jacksonville along with dignitaries from France and Florida, will unveil the plaque announcing Jacksonville’s France – Florida cultural office. Located at the downtown Visit Jacksonville offices at 208 North Laura Street, Suite 102.


Laudonniére Luncheon at Orsay Restaurant - for reservations contact Jason@Orsay.com

Jacksonville, June 30 | 11:15 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Join us at Orsay French Bistro and Wine Spectator Award winner at 3630 Park Street at 11:15 for a special lunch and international toast with French and Floridian friends in commemoration of this historic sesquiquadricentennial of Fort Caroline and the first thanksgiving. $49 Prix fix menu only.

Theodore deBry image

Jacksonville Historical Society Program and Exhibition at City Hall
Jacksonville, June 30 | 6 - 8 p.m.

Join with the Jacksonville historical society and Jacksonville city officials on this exciting night. The exhibit "Portraits from La Caroline" is on view prior to and during the 6 p.m. reception. At 6:45 p.m., a brief ceremony with city officials takes place at the reception. The 7 p.m. program with speakers Robert Thunen, Ph.D. and Keith Ashley, Ph. D. highlights a week-long Jacksonville Historical Society exhibit.. A small selection of “never before locally exhibited,” artifacts from the Ribault wrecked fleet survivors’ camps is also on view.

Portraits from La Caroline: Modern Interpretations and Firsthand Accounts
Jacksonville, June 30 - July 3, 2014

The native Floridians, as viewed by the French and described in firsthand French accounts, are featured in 20th and 21st century artwork on exhibit in Jacksonville City Hall.

French in Florida Exhibit at the Museum of Science and History (MOSH)
Jacksonville -Through July 7, 2014

French in Florida is a celebration of the 450th anniversary of Fort Caroline and is presented in complement to another MOSH exhibit, Uncovering the Past: New Archaeological Discoveries of Northeast Florida.

French in Florida is comprised of 42 digital reproductions of historic Jacques Le Moyne and Theodore de Bry engravings of 16th century Florida. The reproductions chronicle the French attempt to establish a settlement in Florida and their experiences with the Timucua Indians.

MOSH Summer Camp logo

Kid’s Summer Camp at MOSH: The Age of Discovery
Jacksonville, June 30 - July 3, 2014

MOSH is hosting a kid’s summer camp about European explorers who influenced Florida’s history in recognition of the 450th anniversary of Fort Caroline. For more information and to register visit TheMOSH.org/Summer_Camp.html

La Caroline Rock Opera Graphic

La Caroline Rock Opera at MOSH
Jacksonville, October 17 - 18, 2014

MOSH is excited to host La Caroline, a ground-breaking and dynamic rock opera written by Jacksonville musician and playwright Jennifer Chase with original music by John Citrone. Gala Finale scheduled for October 24, 2014 at 8 p.m.

Miami French Weeks
Miami, October 23 - November 13, 2014

Miami will host a series of cultural and business events that highlight the significant contributions of France.