Ft. George Island presents a cross-section of the Florida story. Timucuan Indians inhabited this island when French explorer Jean Ribault landed nearby in 1562. A Spanish mission was established here before 1600 to serve the Timucuans. Known to the Spanish as "San Juan," this island was renamed "St. George" by Georgia Governor James Oglethorpe. He built a fort- Ft. George- here in the 1730's during a British invasion of Spanish Florida. During the 2nd Spanish Period (1783-1821), three American planters in succession owned this island: Don Juan McQueen, John Houstoun McIntosh and Zephaniah Kingsley. Two plantation houses and the ruins of slave dwellings which remain from that period are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Shortly after the Civil War, Ft. George Island was acquired by John F. Rollins of New Hampshire. He remodeled the Kingsley Plantation main house and called his new Florida residence the "Homestead." As postmaster, Rollins had the area's post office removed to nearby Batten Island to take advantage of river traffic on the ST. Johns. Although Ft. George Island could be reached only by boat, it became a popular tourist resort during the 1880's. There were new year-round residents as well. The construction in 1881 of St. George's Episcopal church signified the growth of the island's population. But by about 1890, the extension of the railroad along Florida's east coast combined with a yellow fever epidemic and destructive fire to end the tourist era on Ft. George Island. Later, during the Florida "Boom" of the 1920's, the island experienced new prosperity. Two fashionable clubs opened there, and a road - Hecksher Drive - built by New York millionaire August Hecksher brought the automobile to the island. After World War II, part of Ft. George Island became a state park, and tourists once again were attracted to this historic island.