Here. where the St Johns River turns east to make its final run to the Atlantic Ocean, the channel narrows enough that cattle were swim across the stream. The Spanish constructed a fort they Called St. Nicholas to guard the crossing in 1740 but to the English the area was always Cowford. After the Americans took control of Florida a section of Cowford on the north bank of the St. Johns River was named in honor of General Andrew Jackson, the first Territorial Governor. Jackson made it to the $20 bill but never made it to the small community that carried his name. Not many people did. Although streets were laid out by pioneers Isaiah Hart and Zachariah Hogan the population grew slowly.
Steamships began arriving in numbers in the late 1830s and by the Civil War Jacksonville was important enough for Union troops to lay siege to the town and sack it. Jacksonville built itself up after the war as a tourist destination but for the most part this would develop as a working town. Jacksonville claimed the largest naval-stores yard and largest wholesale lumber market on the Atlantic Coast. Although Tampa came to be called the “Cigar Capital of the World” the world’s largest cigar factory under one roof, producing 10% of all American cigars, was in Jacksonville. The state’s most important banks clustered here and the city, while excluded from the Florida land boom of the 1920s for the most part also missed the bust.
Today’s Jacksonville streetscape dates to a single day - May 3, 1901. that afternoon, around lunchtime, a fire broke out in a mattress factory where bedding was stuffed with sun-dried Spanish moss. Workers discovered the fire quickly and assumed a few buckets of water would extinguish the flames and did not even bother to sound an alarm. But dry and windy conditions quickly pushed the fire beyond their control and out the front door. Before nightfall the blaze had consumed 146 city blocks, destroyed more than 2,000 buildings and left almost 10,000 people homeless, although there were only seven deaths reported. Jacksonville’s 1901 Fire remains the most destructive burning of a Southern city in United States history.
Rebuilding of the city began in earnest. It is estimated that 13,000 new buildings were constructed between 1901 and 1912 in Jacksonville. New York City architect Henry John Klutho was responsible for many of the major construction projects in the city at that time. Klutho blended the new “Prairie Style” of architecture then being popularized in the American Midwest with Florida traditions that brought Jacksonville a fresh look for a new start in a new century.
Our walking tour of Florida’s largest city (by population) and America’s largest city (by land area) will find some of Klutho’s work still standing and we will begin in the shadow of his most ambitious work...
West Duval, North Laura, West Monroe and North Hogan streets
This square of greenspace went by assorted names in the 19th century - it was called City Park and St. James Park, for the adjoining hotel. Since 1898 it has been known as Hemming Park in recognition of the Confederate Monument donated by Charles Cornelius Hemming. Hemming was born in Jacksonville in 1844 and enlisted in Company A, 3rd Florida Regiment to fight for the Confederacy before his 18th birthday. Hemming fought in several major engagements, was wounded, captured, spent a year in a prisoner of war camp, escaped to Canada, engaged in daring missions of espionage until the last days of the Civil War. After the war ended Hemming boarded a train for Texas where he made a fortune as a banker. In the 1890s he fulfilled a personal pledge to erect a major monument to his Confederate comrades, investing $20,000 and staging a nationwide design competition. He had no firm site in mind for the memorial but after Jacksonville officials promised to replace an elaborate fountain in St. James Park with the statue he and his wife Lucy decided to award the monument to Jacksonville. Charles Hemming made no demands to have the park named after him, knew nothing about it and had no mention of his name attached to the memorial. Not desiring any recognition, he did not even attend the unveiling on June 16, 1898. During the Great Fire of 1901 the park and its renowned live oaks were devoured by the flames and only the Confederate Monument survived, its base glowing red from the heat. Charles Hemming would die in 1916 in Colorado Springs where he was involved in the largest cattle ranch in Colorado history.
WALK OVER TO THE NORTH SIDE OF THE PARK, FACING THE BLOCK-LONG BUILDING THAT IS...
St. James Building (City Hall)
117 West Duval Street
This space was occupied by Jacksonville’s premier guest house of the late 1800s, the St. James Hotel. There was lodging for 500 guests and included a laundry, barbershop, wine room, telegraph office and reading rooms. The luxurious St. James burned with the rest of the city in 1901. Owner J.R. Campbell did not have the cash to rebuild in the same style and when the rival Windsor Hotel quickly rebuilt it also purchased Campbell’s land to stifle any possible competition. The Windsor people in turn sold the land to Jacob and Morris Cohen it was with the stipulation that no hotel could be built. The Cohens had in mind a department store and hired go-to Jacksonville architect H.J. Klutho to design one. Dutifully, Klutho submitted designs for a modest two-story store but he hand grander ideas for the lot. Klutho saw the prominent location as his opportunity to create his crowning glory. He proposed not a two-story building but a four-story one and a structure that would stretch the entire block. The Cohens would have their department store on the second floor, small retail shops would occupy the ground floor and offices would be up top. Klutho sold his vision to the Cohens and, acting as construction manager, started building as he still put the finishing touches on his design. The project was finished in less than a year and a half, using 200 skilled tradesmen, and opened in 1912. Klutho saved an office for himself in the St. James Building from which he was to storm out in 1927 after the removal of a 75-foot octagonal glass dome, supported by an honor guard of heroic statues, was removed. The Cohens operated the store until 1958 and it remained a retail operation until 1987. The City of Jacksonville purchased the unused building in 1993 and restored it to its original splendor. The glass dome came back, albeit above the fourth floor rather than between the second and third floors where it originally illuminated retail space only. The city government moved into one of America’s most magnificent City Halls in 1997.
ACROSS THE INTERSECTION, TO YOUR LEFT, IS...
Old YMCA Building
407 North Laura Street
This building by Henry John Klutho marked a design shift away from the exuberant ornamentation of the Victorian and Renaissance Revival styles and towards the nascent Prairie School of architecture beginning to be championed by midwesterners Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan. The seven-story pioneering building displays the sharp lines and horizontal emphasis that came to emblematic of the Prairie School. The YMCA took root in Jacksonville in 1870 and was prosperous enough by 1908 to hire Klutho to create their new home. Unfortunately the organization lost the building during the Depression.
ON THE OPPOSITE CORNER, ACROSS FROM HEMMING PARK, IS...
Western Union Telegraph Company Building
333 North Laura Street
After operating from Bay Street for 36 years, Western Union settled into their new $500,000 home in 1931. March & Saxelbye designed the five-story headquarters in a restrained Art Deco style and slathered the entire affair in cream-colored terra cotta tiles. In the 1970s it became one of the first mixed-use office buildings and in 2003 the home of the Museum of Contemporary Art. All that remains of Western Union’s legacy are the winged globes on the raised corner of the roof, the corporate symbol of the iconic telegraph company.
TURN RIGHT ON LAURA STREET.
Jacksonville Public Library-Main Library
303 North Laura Street
This is the third public library to serve Jacksonville since the first books were checked out in 1902. Opened November 12, 2005 the Main Library is over 300,000 square feet in size and is the largest public library in the state. The design is the handiwork of Robert A.M. Stern Architects, a New York firm with projects across the globe.
Snyder Memorial Methodist Church
226 North Laura Street
This Methodist congregation organized in 1870 as Trinity Methodist and lost their church in the Great Fire of 1901. New York architect J.H.W. Hawkins came to town to participate in the rebuilding aftermath and contributed this Gothic Revival sanctuary to the Jacksonville streetscape. Hawkins used gray granite stone trimmed in light limestone for the church that was said to cost $31,000 to build. A crenelated corner bell tower steps forward towards Hemming Park. The new church was renamed for E.B. Snyder, a former pastor whose children were instrumental in getting the church back on its feet. There would be no such helping hand in the 1970s when the church was deconsecrated. It later served as the headquarters for the St. Johns River City Band and has been owned by the city, and unoccupied, since 2004.
Greenleaf & Crosby Building
208 North Laura Street at Adams Street
Damon Greenleaf arrived in Jacksonville from New York City in 1867 and started selling jewelry from a storefront on Bay Street. In 1880 J.H. Crosby came on board and for the the next 50 years Greenleaf & Crosby was a fixture in Jacksonville retailing. In 1927 the jewelers moved off Bay Street and into this richly decorated 12-story tower, designed by Marsh & Saxelbye. Look up to see terra cotta griffins and eagles and urns dancing across the facade. In 1930 Greenleaf and Crosby sold the business to V.E. Jacobs, which continue to this day.
TURN RIGHT ON ADAMS STREET.
Barnett National Bank Building
112 West Adams Street at Laura Street
If there is one universal glue, it may be a distaste for bank fees. In the case of the Bank of Jacksonville it built an empire. William Boyd Barnett was a merchant and banker in Kansas in 1875 when he traveled east to visit his oldest son in Jacksonville. During his visit he experienced an upturn in his health that was so dramatic he returned to the Sunflower State, liquidated all his assets and moved to the Sunshine State. His son Bion, despite being in his senior year at the University of Kansas, withdrew from school to follow the family. On May 7, 1877 Barnett’s Bank of Jacksonville took its first deposits but in a small town with three established banks it was a rough slog for the newcomer. One day Bion Barnett learned that the county tax collector, Henry L’Engle, was disgruntled by a $6.25 transfer fee his bank charged him every time he sent money to New York City banks. Barnett offered to wave the fee and the Duval County money came over to the Barnetts’ bank. Within a year L’Engle was appointed Treasurer for the State of Florida and the state money was deposited in the Bank of Jacksonville as well. Flush with capital the Barnetts received a national charter to become the National Bank of Jacksonville. After William Boyd Bennett died in 1903, Bion renamed the business the Barnett Bank in his father’s honor. Barnett Bank would weather the Great Depression and by the time Bion Bennett passed away at the age of 101 it was known as “Florida’s Bank.” it remained in business until 1997 when it was acquired by Charlottte-based NationsBank. As befitting Florida’s largest bank, Bion Bennett built Jacksonville’s tallest tower in 1926. He brought in renowned New York City bank architects Louis Montayne Mowbray and Justin Maximo Uffinger to design the structure and James Stewart Co., which constructed Madison Square Garden, to build it. The lower floors are dominated by an oversized arched arcade of limestone and the tower is topped by a parapet studded with stunted obelisks. Look up to see a parade of lion heads before the limestone gives way to tan brick. The 18-story Barnett Bank Building reigned over the city skyline until 1954.
Atlantic National Bank Building Annex (Schultz Building)
118 West Adams Street
Look up past the altered street level to see the decorative flourishes applied to the white glazed terra-cotta facade of this ten-story tower, built in 1926. Designed by the esteemed firm of Marsh & Saxelbye, the ornate high-rise was built as an annex to the Atlantic National Bank, although it didn’t carry the price tag of an add-on - $400,000.
126 West Adams Street
The south side of Adams Street steps down from the corner today although the streetscape did not proceed chronologically. This seven-story office tower dates to 1914, a decade before its two loftier neighbors were raised. Rutledge Holmes used continuous vertical rows of bricks to emphasize verticality and decorative brickwork on the horizontal bands.
TURN AND RETRACE YOUR STEPS ON ADAMS STREET AND CROSS LAURA STREET.
Elks Club Building
207 North Laura Street at Adams Street
The Jacksonville Elks, Lodge 221, organized in 1891, becoming the Mother Lodge of Florida. This was the third lodge for the fraternal organization on this site, an arcaded Mediterranean Style two-story building crafted by Roy Benjamin in 1925. A Florida native, Benjamin was best known for his work on theaters but his eclectic client roster included Memorial Park and the Jacksonville Zoo. The first floor was designed to feature retail shops while the meeting space and banquet rooms were up top. The Elks have since moved from downtown.
33 West Adams Street
This 13-story center city hotel was a project developed by the Applebrook Hotel Company in 1926. New York architects Thompson, Holmes & Converse executed their Italian Renaissance tower with red brick and terra cotta trim above a classical three-story base faced with Indiana limestone. The property was acquired shortly thereafter by Carling Dinkler, head of the venerable Southern chain of hotels. Louis Jacob Dinkler was born in Nashville in the 1861 and worked as a baker before opening his first hotel in Macon, Georgia at the age of 50. His son Carling joined the business and aggressively promoted the acquisition of additional properties - by the end of the 1920s Carling Dinkler owned or managed 22 hotels throughout the Southeast. Most retained their traditional names; this one he put his name on. It became the Hotel Roosevelt in 1936 and operated until December 1963 when a catastrophic fire claimed the lives of 22 people. After that it remained vacant for many years and then operated for a while as a retirement home. After a $29 million renovation in 2005 the renamed Carling has been an upscale apartment building.
TURN AND WALK BACK TO LAURA STREET AND TURN LEFT. WALK TO THE NEXT CORNER. ON THE OPPOSITE CORNER, ON THE RIGHT IS...
Bank of America Tower
50 North Laura Street
Here is Jacksonville’s tallest building at 617 feet. It is the tallest building in Florida outside of Miami. Completed in 1990 for the then Barnett Bank, the building is the 42-floor glass tower was designed by German-American architect Helmut Jahn, and is constructed of reinforced concrete. At night four of the eight triangular panels that form the tower’s peak are illuminated.
TURN LEFT ON FORSYTH STREET.
Old Florida National Bank (Marble Bank)
51 West Forsyth Street at Laura Street
This Noeclassical vault was designed in 1902 by Edward H. Glidden for the Mercantile Exchange Bank. Three years later Florida Bank & Trust, the newly established ancestor of the Florida National Bank, moved in and doubled its size while keeping its classical look. The entire building is clad in marble, earning it the moniker of the “Marble Bank.” The six fluted Ionic columns along Forsyth Street are also crafted of marble. Today the Marble Bank is the cornerstone of “The Laura Street Trio” that includes the 1908 Bisbee Building (next0 and the 1911 Florida Life Building, towers that frame the old bank by Henry John Klutho.
47 West Forsyth Street
The Bisbee family traces its roots to the original settlers in Massachusetts in the 1630s. William A. Bisbee’s father, Cyrus, left Massachusetts to become one of the earliest settlers in Jacksonville and he was born in the town on December 13, 1861. Young William began his business career as a clerk but soon made his mark in the real estate business. In 1899 he established an independent telephone company in Savannah to take on powerful Bell Telephone. His Georgia Telephone & Telegraph Company was the only underground system south of the Mason and Dixon Line and had 3,000 customers when he sold out in 1907. In 1908 Bisbee set out to build Jacksonville’s first skyscraper. Architect Henry John Klutho delivered plans for a narrow 26-foot tower designed to emphasize the building’s “dramatic” height. When Bisbee rented all existing space before construction was complete, he directed Klutho to double the size to the building seen today. It follows the tradition of the day established in Chicago to build high-rises in the image of a classical Greek column with a defined base (the two-story entrance bays) a shaft (the relatively unadorned central stories) and a capital (the projecting copper cornice). Klutho used a reinforced concrete frame that was so radical in the South that the architect claimed the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company would not issue a construction loan until their own architect inspected the site. He finished his structure in polished limestone and white terra cotta. William Bisbee lived scarcely long enough to see his landmark completed; he died in 1911 before the age of 50.
102-110 North Main Street
Frank W. Woolworth’s nickel and dime juggernaut came to Jacksonville in 1917 and moved into this two-story emporium on one of the town’s busiest shopping corners at the time. The white terra cotta panels on the second floor are original; the first floor was rebuilt in a 1980s renovation to try and match the stylish upper half. Since the nickel-and-dime retailer departed the building has done duty as offices, including a life insurance business, but has also spent several years vacant.
11 East Forsyth Street
Stephen Andrew Lynch grew up in Asheville, North Carolina where his exploits as a baseball player earned him the nickname “Diamond Lynch.” He was coaching and managing professionally in his early 20s when he cast his eye to a new form of entertainment - motion pictures. In 1909, at the age of 27, Lynch bought a stake in and began managing one of the first movie houses in Asheville. Over the next few years he began buying theaters all over the South and scored a 25-year deal to distribute Paramount motion pictures in 11 southern states exclusively. In 1922 Paramount bought out Lynch and his theater chain - then over 200 strong - for $5.7 million. Lynch took his money to Miami Beach to race yachts and become a player in the Florida land boom. He built this 17-story tower - the town’s second tallest by a whisker - in 1926 for a reported $1,000,000. The building is L-shaped to give office a chance at fresh air in the days before air conditioning. Look up to see brightly colored terra cotta panels between every window on the Main and Forsyth street facades.
TURN RIGHT ON MAIN STREET.
1 Independence Square between Main Street and Laura Street
This was the tallest building in Florida when it was completed in 1974. The design of the 535-foot tower by KBJ Architects of Jacksonville featured a sloping base and large corner frames to provide a distinctive profile. The adjacent 23-story SunTrust Tower was erected in 1989.
CONTINUE STRAIGHT INTO THE ENTERTAINMENT COMPLEX KNOWN AS “THE LANDING” AND MAKE YOUR WAY DOWN TO THE WATERFRONT.
2 West Independent Drive
The Rouse Company, founded by James Rouse in 1939, pioneered the development of outdoor festival marketplaces, typically at water’s edge, in the 1980s. Jacksonville Landing on the north bank of the St. Johns River was one of its prized projects with 125,000 square feet of shopping and dining space. There was a weeklong celebration when “The Landing” opened its doors on June 25, 1987.
Main Street Bridge
Main Street at St. Johns River
Eight bridges span the St. Johns River, Florida’s longest waterway, at Jacksonville; all of them allow tall ships to pass. This lift bridge opened in 1941. It’s official name is the John T. Alsop Jr. Bridge, carrying the name of one of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders who returned to Jacksonville after the Spanish-American War and logged nearly twenty years as mayor.
WHEN YOU ARE THROUGH EXPLORING THE ST. JOHNS RIVER WATERFRONT - YOU CAN EVEN CROSS THE MAIN STREET BRIDGE TO THE SOUTH BANK - WALK BACK UP MAIN STREET TO BAY STREET AND TURN RIGHT.
101 East Bay Street
The First National Bank, organized in 1874 as Florida’s first bank, constructed a bank on this site in 1880. After the Great Fire of 1901 they rapidly rebuilt on plans drawn by J.H.W. Hawkins, who had cut his architectural teeth in Lincoln, Nebraska and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania after graduating from Cornell University in 1877. Hawkins used pressed gray Roman brick trimmed in limestone to create the classically-inspired building with arched openings and a metal cornice. Actually Hawkins only designed 60% of the building you see today; a seamless 1919 addition expanded the space along Bay Street. Today the 1902 bank stands boarded up, hoping for a structural overhaul and adaptive reinvention. Since the 1990s the boards have been painted as if a restless jaguar were trapped inside. Actually the building has not served as a bank for well over 80 years and its record as a house of finance borders on the tragic. The First National Bank failed within a year. It was replaced by the Guaranty and Trust Savings Bank which failed in 1922. The next bank that moved in, the Brotherhood State Bank, collapsed in 1924 and head cashier Thomas R. Hendricks committed suicide in his office. The only bright spot for money men in this building came in 1931 wen W.M. Bostwick, Jr. repaid all of his depositors who lost money when the Guaranty and Trust Savings Bank was forced to shutter years earlier. The Bostwick family has owned the building since the 1930s.
107-117 East Bay Street
You will have to look up above the awning to see some of Jacksonville’s finest brick work from a century ago. Tan brick is used to accentuate the widow openings and rooftop parapet against the building’s orange brick. George Olaf Holmes ran a real estate office here before the Great Fire of 1901. Another tenant was Alfred. E. McClure, a Civil War veteran who had been practicing architecture in Jacksonville since the early 1870s. McClure urged his young friend to take up architecture and in the aftermath of the fire the two formed a partnership that lasted until McClure’s death in 1912 at the age of 76. This was one of their earliest projects. In 1915, Holmes was elected as the first president of the Florida Association of Architects.
Herkimer Block (Baywater Square)
136 East Bay Street
Here is another downtown property that dates to the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1901. israel Putnam developed the property for retail and office space. The busy J.H.W. Hawkins gave the three-story corner commercial building a distinctive facade - look up to see stepped gables fronting a phalanx of rooftop dormers. The second floor office windows are all arched while the ground floor retail space sports larger square windows.
TURN LEFT ON NEWMAN STREET.
128 East Forsyth Street at Newman Street
There were 14 movie houses in Jacksonville prior to the Florida Theatre raising its curtain on April 8, 1927 but movie-goer had never experienced anything like this. It was a classic “atmospheric” movie palace of the day, designed to place patrons in an exotic locale for a night. Inside the Florida Theatre was a Moorish courtyard, dripping with statuary and fountains and succulent gardens. The building required one million bricks and masons laid them at a rate of 50,000 a day using the first ready-mixed mortar in the South. And the masons didn’t just lay the bricks; the facade was textured by extending the headers out. Further decoration was contributed by multi-chromatic terra cotta panels. Like most of its downtown movie palace cousins the Florida Theatre was killed by suburban malls and television. But it was one of the lucky ones - rather than meeting a wrecking ball it was restored as a performing arts center in 1983.
TURN RIGHT ON FORSYTH STREET.
Title & Trust Company of Florida Building
200 East Forsyth Street
English-born Harold Frederick Saxelbye sailed for New York City in 1904 to practice architecture while still in his teens. He moved to Jacksonville in 1913 and six years later established a practice with William Mulford Marsh that lasted until Marsh’s death in 1946 at the age of 57. The Marsh and Saxelbye shop was the busiest in town during the Florida land boom of the 1920s and this was on of their creations, a two-story Neoclassical office rendered in brick and limestone. The entrance boasts a pair of engaged Ionic columns pointing towards a rooftop pediment.
McMurray Livery, Sale & Transfer Company
220 East Forsyth Street
Look at this restored building and see a Jacksonville of dirt streets and horse-drawn vehicles. The brick building was constructed in 1906 as a stable and carriage showroom by Thomas McMurray who had been in the business since 1880. Although it has long been an office building, a 1970s makeover revealed the building’s original form. Look even further into the past and you can and imagine a Jacksonville when founder Isaiah D. Hart built his log cabin here when he came to the area in 1821.
231 East Forsyth Street
The first Duval County courthouse rose on this site in the 1840s; it was burned during the Civil War. The second court building was erected on the same spot in 1886 and it too lasted only about 15 years before it also burned, in the Great Fire of 1901. As it was constructed with exceptionally thick brick walls, the walls were the only ones in the burned out city remaining largely intact. The replacement courthouse, designed by Rutledge Holmes, was constructed on this block in 1902 while the old brick walls were outfitted with artificial stone and turned into an armory. The militia moved on in 1916 to more spacious digs and this Neoclassical annex to the courthouse was ready by 1918. In 1960 Holmes’ courthouse from 1902 was sacrificed for a parking lot and this building began duty as a bank, which brought the odd row of windows beneath the Ionic colonnade. It is now a government office building named for Claude Yates, who spearheaded the consolidation of Duval County’ government in the 1960s.
TURN AND RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO NEWMAN STREET AND TURN RIGHT.
219 North Newman Street
H.J. Klutho blended Egyptian Revival themes onto midwestern Prairie School massing for this three-story Shrine temple in 1911, the largest temple in the state for the organization. Klutho gave the temple square cornices that emphasized the building’s horizontal aspect but they were removed in a 1950s renovation. The second floor boasted a 1,500-seat auditorium, the largest in Jacksonville for many years. President William Howard Taft spoke here and so did Theodore Roosevelt. The Shriners moved to the suburbs in 1984 and the building was renovated for use as office space, retaining much of the Egyptian symbols in terra cotta on the facade and inside.
TURN LEFT ON ADAMS STREET.
Jacksonville Free Public Library
101 East Adams Street
After selling his steel company for $400 million and becoming the world’s richest man, Scottish-born industrialist set out to give away all his money. One of his pet projects was public libraries. He funded over 2,500 of them around the world, although not every community greeted Carnegie’s largesse with open arms. In a citywide referendum the Jacksonville citizenry narrowly voted to accept a $50,000 Carnegie grant to erect a library in 1902. Henry John Klutho won a design competition with this splendidly proportioned Neoclassical building. The library is fronted by a quartet of fluted Corinthian columns and if you look closely you can see the faces of Aristotle, Plato and Shakespeare nestled in the capitals. The limestone and copper building served as the town’s main library until 1965.
TURN RIGHT ON OCEAN STREET.
First Presbyterian Church
118 East Monroe Street at Ocean Street
The Presbyterians have worshiped on this site for over 160 years. First Presbyterian Church dates its founding even earlier, to March 2, 1840, with its charter as the Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville by the Territorial Legislature of Florida. Obadiah Conger, a retired New England sea captain, carried the charter by horseback back to Jacksonville. The congregation split over the Civil War and did not re-unite until 1900. The next year their church went up in flames. The new Gothic stone church, dominated by lancet windows, gargoyles and rooftop pinnacles was holding services by June 1, 1902.
Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
121 East Duval Street at Ocean Street
Circuit-riding priests arrived periodically on horseback to minister to Jacksonville’s small collection of Catholics from the 1820s until a small wooden church was erected on the corner of Ocean and Duval streets. The current sanctuary dates to 1910 and stands as one of Florida’s finest Gothic Revival churches. Architect Melvin H. Hubbard trained as a draftsman in the legendary shop of McKim, Mead & White in New York City and opened his own practice in Utica, New York. He specialized in the design of churches and is credited with the creation of over 400. For a few years, this was the tallest structure in town. In 1979, the church became one of a small number of Catholic churches in America to be “solemnly dedicated,” meaning that it cannot ever be purposefully torn down or used for anything but a church.
TURN RIGHT ON DUVAL STREET.
122 East Duval Street
If you were walking around Jacksonville a hundred years ago you would have seen scores of similar boarding houses but the Elena Flats is one of the last survivors. Although the two-story building is in deteriorating condition you can still see hints of a stylish pedigree - a remaining Ionic capital clinging to a porch column and decorative enhancements to the upper story facade.
First United Methodist Church
225 East Duval Street
Tracing its roots to 1823 when a circuit-riding preacher set up shop to conduct services on the second floor of a dry goods store, the First United Methodist Church lays claim to being the oldest organized church in the city. The Methodist church did not escape the Great Fire of 1901 but two brick wall survived upon which a new sanctuary was constructed. The Colonial Revival church boasts slender Doric columns and a three-part steeple.
TURN LEFT ON MARKET STREET.
St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral
256 East Church Street at Market Street
The congregation was founded in 1834 as St. John’s Parish and is one of the seven original parishes when the Diocese of Florida was received into union with the General Convention in 1838. The first St. John’s Church was built in 1842 and was burned in the Civil War. Edward Tuckerman Potter, Mark Twain’s architect and a champion of the polychromatic High Victorian Gothic style designed a new church for the congregation in 1877 but it was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1901. St. John’s called again on Potter, then in his seventies, and he would not live to see his cruciform shaped Gothic plans executed. The building, clad in Indiana limestone and covered with a slate roof, is awash in religious symbols including winged gargoyles, Celtic crosses and the eagles of St. John. The price tag was $90,000 and it hasn’t gotten cheaper over the years to maintain this city landmark - a renovation in the 1980s used almost $2 million and another $5 has been spent in the 21st century.
TURN LEFT ON CHURCH STREET AND CONTINUE UNTIL YOU CROSS LAURA STREET.
First Baptist Church Sunday School Building
125 West Church Street
When the First Baptist Church constructed this six-story building in 1927 it was hailed as the second largest Sunday School building in the world. In 1938 the church was sold to the Gulf Life Insurance Company which operated here until 1967. The property is once again owned by the church. Look up to see patterned brickwork and terra-cotta ornamentation around arched windows.
First Baptist Church
133 West Church Street
This congregation, some 28,000 strong, traces its roots back to the Bethel Baptist Church, established in 1838 with six members. This building of rough-faced limestone was erected after the Great Fire of 1901, based on Romanesque-styled designs by Reverend W. A. Hobson. His sketches were turned over to uber-architect Henry John Klutho who executed the construction.
Old Federal Reserve Bank Buildin
424 North Hogan Street at Church Street
With $280,000 of funds from the federal treasury, Atlanta architect A. Ten Eyck Brown was able to use limestone to construct this balustraded Neoclassical vault and use copper for his wide, bracketed eave. Brown used Henrietta Dozier, Jacksonville’s first female architect, as his on-site supervisor. The building’s imposing appearance remains virtually unchanged since its completion in 1924, minus the Skyway Express looming over its front door, of course.
Florida Baptist Convention Building
218 West Church Street
his shell of a building stands as the last in downtown Jacksonville designed by influential architect Henry John Klutho, completed in 1925. You can still appreciate the balanced proportions and if you look out you can make out a date stamp in the parapet and the building’s original owner, the Florida Baptists. The congregation was the first in America to finance the construction of its own convention facility.
TURN RIGHT ON JULIA STREET.
Thomas V. Porter House
510 Julia Street
After the Great Fire of 1901 Thomas Porter, who made his money wholesaling groceries and then developing land, settled into, what was at the time, the toniest neighborhood in town. His immediate neighbors included United States Senator James P. Taliaferro and Mayor Duncan Upshaw Fletcher, who was soon to become the longest serving U.S. Senator in Florida’s history. Porter hired Henry J. Klutho, one of the 28-year old architect’s first major commissions after the crippling conflagration. Klutho delivered what he referred to as a “Classic Colonial” mansion highlighted by a grand two-story Corinthian portico. After Porter died in 1915 his wife Clementine moved out and the house was purchased in 1925 by the First Christian Church which turned it ninety degrees from its original orientation facing Church Street and used it for offices and classrooms. The 1902 mansion was purchased by KBJ Architects in 1981 and given an award-winning restoration; it continues to be used as their corporate office.
TURN AND RETRACE YOUR STEPS ON JULIA STREET, CROSSING OVER CHURCH STREET.
310 West Church Street Apartments
310 West Church Street at Julia Street
It is often the case that classic downtown hotels get converted into apartments. Here, the 310 West Church Street Apartments, opened in 1924, were converted into the Three-Ten Hotel in 1944. Three name changes later it became the Ambassador Hotel in 1955, the name that survives out front of the building that was condemned in 1998. In its youth the six-story brick apartment complex trimmed in limestone cost over a quarter-million dollars to construct. The celebrated Atlanta architectural firm of Hentz, Reid and Adler designed the building so each apartment could enjoy a corner window and there was full occupancy.
United States Post Office and Courthouse
311 West Monroe Street at Julia Street
The first mail in Jacksonville was delivered in 1824 from bags slung over the back of a horse. For the next 70 years Jacksonville residents found their mail in the home or shop of whomever was serving as postmaster. The first dedicated federal building, with the town’s highest tower at 178 feet, arrived in 1895. Although it escaped the Great Fire of 1901 it was outdated by 1930 when plans were hatched for two new post offices to serve Jacksonville. The original post office was torn down in 1948. The Monroe Street post office, which occupies an entire block, still handles mail. Designed in the geometrical Art Deco style of the 1930s popular for government buildings, the historical modes of postal transportation - stagecoach, ship, train and airplane - can be seen depicted in the main entrances.
TURN LEFT ON MONROE STREET.
Edward Ball Building
214 North Hogan Street at Monroe Street
When the Florida National Bank was threatened with insolvency during the Great Depression, majority owner Alfred I. duPont propped up the bank with $15 million of his own money. After duPont died in 1935 his brother-in-law, Edward Ball, assumed control of the duPont Trust that controlled the bank. Under his guidance Florida National Bank grew into the state’s second largest bank. In 1961 Ball directed the construction of this tower for the Florida National Bank. Ever mindful of the bottom line, Ball used only building materials he knew would appreciate in value such as marble and granite while dispensing with such frivolities as executive washrooms and hot water. The City purchased the building, renamed for Edward Ball after his death in 1981, for $23 million as office space in 2006.
TURN LEFT ON HOGAN STREET.
400 North Hogan Street at Duval Street
This white Colonial Revival-flavored building was constructed as a clubhouse for the Seminole Club, founded in 1887 as Florida’s first social club - men only. This is actually the club’s third gathering place; each of its earlier clubhouses burnt to the ground. Architects Rutledge Holmes and ArthurGilkes, working with a budget of $25,000, designed the building with a rooftop garden that was later converted into a dormered third floor. The Seminole Club operated here until 1990.
TURN RIGHT ON DUVAL STREET AND WALK UNDER THE SKYWAY EXPRESS TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT IN HEMMING PARK.