Hemming Plaza is located across from City Hall in the heart of downtown Jacksonville. First established as a public square by the Citys founder Isaiah D. Hart around 1857, it is Jacksonvilles oldest park. Known first as City Park and then St. James Park, it was renamed Hemming Park in 1899 to honor Civil War veteran Charles C. Hemming, who donated the parks Confederate monument (the Citys oldest and tallest) the previous year.
At various times the park contained bandstands, fountains, comfort stations, and Tourist and Convention Bureau buildings, along with many beautiful trees. In 1978, the City converted the park into a brick-paved plaza, and completed additional work in 1986 that transformed the area into a single-level, pedestrian-oriented mall. Due to its centralized location, the plaza has long been a part of the downtown experiences for both tourists and local citizens.
Hemming Plaza: Images From The Past
†Axe Handle Saturday - August 27, 1960
1960 was the year of the lunch counter sit-in. Determined to break the rule of Jim Crow custom that prevented them from using the same water fountains or rest rooms or restaurants as white folk, blacks began staging nonviolent protests at lunch counters in various Southern cities.
In Jacksonville, two weeks of sit-ins climaxed on Saturday, Aug. 27, when the Ku Klux Klan chose to invade the heart of the city armed with clubs.
Most of the kids found sanctuary in the Historic Snyder Memorial, then a Methodist church. The cops didn't move in until a gang of black youths who called themselves the Boomerangs counterattacked, Yates said.
As it turned out, some good may have come of Axe Handle Saturday. Yates said it was a turning point that "good people who had sat on the sidelines, got involved" in the Civil Rights movement.
Hemming Plaza: Today
Hemming Plaza is located in the heart of Downtown Jacksonville on the block bounded by Laura, Duval, Hogan and Monroe Streets.