Founded in 1890 as a farming community to supply the hotels of railroad magnate Henry Flagler with fresh potatoes, cabbage and other vegetables, the small town of Hastings proudly proclaimed itself the “Potato Capital of Florida.”
With a population hovering around 600, its heyday was in the 50s and 60s. Since then, the potato fields have been supplanted by sod farms and the once-bustling downtown is nothing but empty stores and vacant lots along Main Street.
The downtown area is dominated by the white two-story WPA-era building that served at Hastings’ town hall, community center, and library. It sits across the street from a large vacant lot where a fire destroyed many of the businesses back in 1980s.
Not only does it dominate the downtown area, but it also the largest building in the town, aside from the current city hall which is housed in the former Hastings High School. After city hall was moved, the Red Cross moved into the old community center, making it part of the St. Johns River Area Chapter which served Putnam county.
The building has been empty since at least 2002, when the Red Cross merged chapters to form the Northeast Chapter. The building is nothing but a shell today; there are no windows or doors, the interior is overgrown, and only a part of the ceiling remains. The city planned on demolishing it in 2007, but it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places instead. There are currently no plans for it, but it is up for sale.