Named for General Duncan Lamont Clinch, a prominent figure of the Second Seminole War, construction of Fort Clinch began in 1847. It is one of a series of masonry forts constructed between 1816 and 1867 known as the Third System Fortifications. The fort was built at the mouth of the St. Mary’s River to protect the natural deep-water port of Fernandina, the eastern link of Florida’s only cross-state railroad. Never completed fully, the fort served as a military post during the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War II and became one of the state’s first parks in 1935. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began restoring the buildings in 1936 and in 1937; the CCC began building roads and campgrounds, with the park opening to the public in 1938. Today, visitors can see how the fort may have looked in 1864.
The concession building at Fort Clinch State Park has gone through many transitions. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built the structure during the mid-1930s while the park was being developed. It has served as a food concession, picnic shelter, gift shop and currently a museum. It is one of several buildings original to the park when it opened to the public in 1938.
Living history interpretation began at Fort Clinch during the 1970s. Staff and volunteers in period Civil War uniforms depict daily life in the fort allowing visitors to step back in time. This program has grown and evolved over the past 30 years and is still available on a daily basis.