The Ponce de Leon Shopping Center opened in 1955 as the first downtown shopping center in St. Augustine. It was designated by Morris Lapidus (1902-2001), Florida's most famous mid-twentieth century architect, and is the only example of his work in the Ancient City. It was anchored by a Woolworth's store on the west side (the door handles still say Woolworth's). On February 1, 1960, black college students in Greensboro, N.C. began a sit-in at their Woolworth's lunch counter to protest racial discrimination. Their example electrified the south, and just a few weeks later, students from Florida Memorial College in St. Augustine began sitting-in at this Woolworth's lunch counter.
In the summer of 1963, local black high school students sat-in here and were arrested. They refused when the judge wanted them to end their participation in the civil rights effort, and as a result spent the next six months in jail and reform school. The case of the St. Augustine Four—Audrey Nell Edwards, JoeAnn Anderson, Samuel White and Willie Carl Singleton—received national publicity as an example of injustice, and finally the governor and cabinet of Florida ordered them released in January 1964. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jackie Robinson hailed the St. Augustine Four as heroes of the civil rights movement.
This Historical Marker Presented this 2nd Day of July, 2007 by: Northrop Grumman