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Old August 8th, 2010, 04:21 AM   #1
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Jacksonville FL: Riverside and Avondale, FL's Largest Historic District

My first thread detailed the old and wealthy neighborhood of Ortega, so see that first (link at bottom). Also, if you have the time, Jacksonville's history is pretty fascinating, so read what you can before you view the pictures and read the captions for information about what you are seeing. Nobody knows anything about Jacksonville anymore, but that should change.

The name of the neighborhood in roughly the first 2/3 of the photos is Avondale and in the last 1/3 is Riverside. Together, they make up the largest historic district in the state of FL and one of the largest in the South. They are located across the Ortega/St. Johns River from Ortega, and are also havens for old money or people looking for nice urban environments.

Some history on Riverside and Avondale:

After the Revolutionary War, the Spanish government, which owned all the land currently occupied by the Florida Peninsula, wanted to attract inhabitants to present day Jacksonville (St. Augustine was already very well inhabited, and is 30 miles south). They broke the land on the west side of the river into 2 tracts, and one went to Phillip Dell, the other to Robert Hutcheson. After trading hands and being broken down further, the bottom 500 acres were purchased by an agent for Boston millionaire John Murray Forbes, who named it Riverside. There were plantations on the land all throughout the area.

The area remained rural until 1887, when a streetcar was built to the area from downtown and a surge of residents followed. Following the Great Fire of 1901 (one of the largest in US history), many prominent residents started anew and built mansions along present day Riverside Avenue, and the stretch became known as “The Row” because of all the mansions. Deeper away from the river, middle class families built bungalows and 2 story houses, almost all of which exist today and make the area very charming.

The Fire brought down so many famous architects from New York who ended up living here, and on the residential side Riverside became a national experiment for architects and developers, and still has the largest variety of architectural styles in FL.

Avondale, further south, was developed by Telfair Stockton as a wealthy street car suburb. Sidewalks, sewage, city water, gas, electricity, and phone lines were installed in a grid pattern before lots were even sold. 16 parks were designed and laid out by OH landscape architect William Pitkin, and homes were constructed to high standards and uniform tastes (kind of similar to gated communities today). Most of the homes are 2 story Mediterranean Revival inland, and a mix on the water.

There are 3 commercial strips in Avondale, and one of them is quite upscale with great restaurants…recently featured in Southern Living magazine. Riverside has 5 points, and is a very walkable neighborhood by Sunbelt city standards.

On to photos, and some will have their own captions.

This is a redevelopment site. As soon as the economy picks back up, this site will be completely redone. There were significant plans that almost went through before 2008. If nobody does anything with the site, I certainly will find a way with my empty pockets to do something with it. Few sites in the South have as much potential as this.

Fairfax Manor separates Avondale from Ortega via the Ortega Bridge. The best place for the public to take pictures of the skyline and water scenes is Baker Park next to the NW end of the Ortega Bridge.

House and river guest house, built just after 1900. The owner has quite a car collection, too, of old Aston Martins and Rolls Royces (and Jags, loves British cars and boats).

Old William Stockton residence built in 1915.

Residence built for Edward Lane in 1927 and designed by Marsh & Saxelbye. Edward Lane founded Atlantic National Bank and his wife demanded a home like the one that they stayed in England. This house is purely Avondale.

Less than 2 decades old.

Also relatively new.

Home built in 1925 and designed by Marsh & Saxelbye.

A member of the family that runs the large REIT Regency Centers lives in the house on the left (an old house that has been added onto by architect Richard Skinner). Another family home can be seen in the first thread about Ortega.

This looks very much like stereotypical Florida to me, but I like it, a lot.

A major hedge fund manager lives here. I have definitely partied a fair amount here hehe.

1922 home.

New home on left and old home on right.

Former executive of Charter. Still owns some refineries in the Bahamas.

This definitely epitomizes the neighborhood, I think.

1922 home

Looking north towards Riverside and Downtown. It was very windy/choppy when I took these pictures.

This and the house next door were built in 1913. There was a well publicized feud between the two neighbors (Simms and McDuff) and one of them built a 15 ft. wall between the two houses. The house that is photographed has some of the best gardens/landscaping I have ever seen, and you cannot even see it from the road; you have to drift by in a boat.

Average age: 75+

This looks like French country to me, and the canal that goes back there is beautiful. I have to get some pictures of the neighborhood from street level soon.

1924 home built as part of Willow Branch Terrace.

Note the modern interpretation of the prairie school of architecture in the building at left. Jacksonville has the largest collection of Prairie Style architecture outside of the major cities in the Midwest, and to this day people still design buildings with interpretations of Prairie Style.

St. Vincent’s Hospital. It marks the divide between Riverside and Avondale, and this area is very walkable with bars, restaurants, and shops, as well as the only church designed by famed Palm Beach architect Addison Mizner.

VillaRiva condos. Pretty pricey.

1928 Jacobethan Revival home built by Leon Cheek, the first head of Maxwell House Coffee, which was started in Jacksonville and still operates its main coffee production from the city near downtown. The smell of roasting coffee beans permeates the air in the morning and smells great (as well as accentuates the coffee you are probably already drinking).

Riverside peeking above the tree line.

Riverside is a little denser than Avondale.

Notice the 1924 house at left, designed by a lady (which was odd for back in the day, but she also designed Jacksonville’s grand Federal Reserve Building, which is unoccupied today).

Park Lane Apartments, constructed in 1926 at the height of the FL Land Boom/Building Boom. Original “co-op” units went for $12,000 and up! Heh, and this building is the forerunner to FL’s high rise condo craze.

Memorial Park. In the 1890s, a $500,000 hotel was planned for the site (that’s like a 750 room hotel in today’s dollar equivalency). The land was bought by the city in 1919, and a local heiress and gardener, Mrs. Arthur Cummer, commissioned the Olmsted Brothers (sons of Frederick Law Olmsted…i.e. Central Park, Buffalo, etc) to design the park and make it serve as a memorial to those fallen in WWI. The park reflects the 19th century romantic style with a large open space bordered by an oval promenade with shaded seating areas around the periphery. The bronze statue visible in the foreground depicts the “winged figure of youth rising above the mad maelstrom of earthly passions.” It was sculpted by C. Adrian Pillars, a well known Florida sculptor. The park was ravaged by a tornado in 1997 that coincidentally hit my house as well, 4 miles away, and tore glass/roofing off of my dad’s office building near downtown. Most of the centuries old oaks were uprooted.

Late 1800s or early 1900s house. Not on the riverfront, but in the area there are a good number of homes dating from between 1850 and 1900.

The Woman’s Club of Jacksonville, recently purchased by the Cummer Museum for event space. Built in 1927, it is currently under renovation.

Cummer Museum and Gardens, the latter of which date back to 1910. Ninah Cummer was a philanthropist, horticulturist, and art collector. The current museum is one of the top art galleries in the south and features rooms of the old Cummer mansion, their collections, and their gardens, which form the “backyard.” The museum has the largest collection of Meissen Porcelain in the world, I believe (maybe 2nd largest).

This is where I-95 passes over the river. Underneath is the weekly Riverside Arts Market. Currently expanding all the way to Riverside Park and adding a dock so that the River Taxi can make a stop there. It is a highly successful art/farmers market, and Riverside and Jacksonville as a whole is a very artsy area. There is talk to extend the riverwalk from the Art Market past the Cummer to Memorial Park. Currently the Northbank Riverwalk starts on the opposite end of downtown and treks 2 miles south to the Art Market.

This stretch of Riverside Avenue extending into downtown is what business leaders hope will become our version of Brickell Avenue. It better be because the city bulldozed the entire neighborhood so it could widen the street and put in tropical landscaping. Companies headquartered here include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Fidelity Information Services, Fidelity National Financial, the Dupont Trust (set up by the Dupont family which wintered in Jacksonville and ended up living here), Everbank (the largest bank in FL and just received naming rights to the Jaguars Stadium), St. Joe (the largest landowner in FL…just relocated to the Panhandle where they own large tracts of undeveloped land), Haskell Company, and the Florida Times Union. There are currently more offices and some condos that are about to go up.

Let me know what you guys think!

Here is my other thread:
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Old August 8th, 2010, 11:11 AM   #2
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Very nice, amazing photos from Jacksonville
Urban Showcase: Athens Kalamata Trikala Thessaloniki
Cityscapes: Paris Barcelona Dubai, U.A.E. Monte Carlo, Monaco
General photography: Castles of France - Chateau de France and, since May of '08: Greece!
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