Jacksonville's Historic Neighborhoods first appeared in San Marco Magazine
Historic Jacksonville has a number of charming neighborhoods that evoke pace and balance of an earlier era. This was a time before rush hour and the rat race, and back when families and friends congregated and socialized on front porches and sidewalks. These neighborhoods still promote walking, exploring, and talking, and provide a comfortable social atmosphere. They are close to everything, but tucked away, protected from the hectic rush of the rest of the city. These are the qualities which have attracted residents for over 80 years, and the values which Jacksonville’s historic neighborhoods still enjoy today.
This first upscale neighborhood of Jacksonville was established in 1869, and had many grand Victorian and Queen Anne homes. It later developed examples of Arts and Crafts and Prairie style architecture, among others. Many had fallen into disrepair by the end of the last century, but the area has been going through a rebirth in the last 10 years. Jacksonville has been watching for the revitalization of Springfield, at least since the Springfield Neighborhood Plan was produced in 1977, but homes are now being restored at a phenomenal rate. According to Springfield Preservation and Revitalization (SPAR) Council President Louise DeSpain, more than a third of the 1,800 homes in the historic area have been renovated or restored. There are several dumpsters on every block, and historically inspired new homes have sprouted up on most streets. The Eighth Street commercial corridor has been transformed, and the restoration of Main Street is complete from First through Forth Streets, and is now continuing to Twelfth Street. Property values have soared since 2001, and the community is changing. Springfield has become the crown jewel of downtown’s rebirth. The reuse and restoration of this area is increasing the residential density of the urban core, and providing more housing opportunities for the increasing downtown job base.
The neighborhood we now know as San Marco takes its name from the most prominent (but much smaller) of the subdivisions developed from 1925-1940 on the Southbank. The area now includes Alexandria Park, Fletcher Park, Oklahoma, San Marco Place, Shadyside, and a number of other neighborhoods platted by Elizabeth Hendricks, Mary Landon, H.B. Phillips, Telfair Stockton and others we now only know from the streets which carry their names. The area marked the emergence of a new design in neighborhood fostered by the “National City Beautiful” movement in the early 20th century. The plans favored curved streets and natural landscaping, instead of the standard square grids common in urban residential areas, and included parks and a pavilion for political rallies. Much of the architecture was Mediterranean Revival, Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival, and the streets were given Spanish names. The Avondale Company began to take advance reservations for lots in San Marco on September 4, 1925, and sold out in a matter of hours. This broke all local records for single-day real estate transactions, and this area is still one of the most desirable in Jacksonville today.
San Marco Square is the vibrant focal point of the community, with its bustling shops, restaurants and theaters. The energy this town center creates reverberates through the schools, churches, homes and businesses in the area, providing a great social atmosphere. Unfortunately, the neighborhood is not protected on either the National or local historic registers, and a number of the homes cataloged in a 1990 survey have been demolished.
RIVERSIDE and AVONDALE
Riverside is best known to visitors for the colorful 5-points area, with its eclectic shops, restaurants, and nightlife. The neighborhood was originally a rural area until 1887, when the first surge of development began, with an initial surge of 2,500 residents. After the Great Fire of 1901, many prominent citizens migrated to Riverside, and established it as a solid upper-class neighborhood. Today it has the largest variety of architectural styles in Florida. Riverside has flourished in the past decade, seeing phenomenal appreciation of property values. Several commercial centers have been added to those already serving the area, making it a great neighborhood mix of prime residential property with lots of retail activity.
In 1920, the development of Avondale began, initially as a long thin tract just four and a half blocks wide from Roosevelt Boulevard to the St Johns river (from Seminole Road to Talbot Avenue). A number of other developments benefited from the Avondale mystique, and the area now includes the developments such as Windsor Place, Ingleside Heights, St Johns Heights, Shadowlawn, and Arden. Similar to Riverside, the neighborhood is peppered with parks, shops and restaurants, and remains one of the most popular neighborhoods in Jacksonville. In recognition of the unique architecture, both Riverside and Avondale were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, forming Jacksonville’s first Historic District.
Throughout historic Jacksonville, each of these neighborhoods has a different feel and personality. The charismatic architecture, tree-lined streets, greenspace, and water features, combine with specialty retail, dining, and entertainment in the village centers to create a pleasant living environment. Next quarter, this article will continue, featuring St Nicholas, Clifton, Ortega, and Murray Hill.
Jon Singleton is a Top Producing Realtor with Watson Realty and the 2008 Chair of the Downtown Neighborhood Council of Realtors. He also recently returned from a 12 month tour in Afghanistan with the Navy Reserve. He can be reached at email@example.com, (904)421-3580 or through www.JonSingleton.com