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Urban Parks: Memorial Park

Surrounded by compact residential and commercial uses, Memorial Park is one of Jacksonville's most popular urban park spaces.

Published June 23, 2008 in Neighborhoods      12 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article



About Memorial Park

The 5.85-acre Memorial Park lies nestled between Riverside Avenue and the St. Johns River. In 1918, the Jacksonville Rotary Club proposed the idea for a park to honor the 1200 Floridians who perished in WWI, and the City purchased the property in 1919. Thirty-one civic groups worked in planning and raising funds for the park, which was dedicated Christmas Day 1924. The park soon became the scenic focal point of Riverside. Designed by the renowned Olmsted Brothers firm, the park features the bronze sculpture Life, created by the celebrated Charles Adrian Pillars (1870-1937). A local resident for 26 years, he also created Florida’s two statues residing in National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. In 1986, Anne Freeman founded the Memorial Park Association, which along with the City has worked steadfastly to restore and preserve this historic landmark, particularly after a tornado devastated the grounds in 1997.

Who are the Olmstead Brothers?

The Olmsted Brothers company was an influential landscape design firm in the United States, formed in 1898 by stepbrothers John Charles Olmsted (1852-1920) and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (1870-1957), who had inherited the nation's first landscape architecture business from their father, Frederick Law Olmsted. This firm was a successor to the earlier firm of Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot after the untimely death of their gifted partner Charles Eliot. The two brothers were also among the founding members of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and played an influential role in creating the National Park Service.

The Olmsted Brothers completed numerous high-profile projects, many of which remain popular to this day, including park systems, universities, exposition grounds, libraries, hospitals, residential neighborhoods and state capitols. Notable commissions include the United States Capitol and White House Grounds, Great Smoky Mountains and Acadia National Parks, Yosemite Valley, New York's Central Park, Atlanta's Piedmont Park, a residential neighborhood in Oak Bay, British Columbia, Canada and entire park systems in cities such as Seattle, Boston and Louisville. (Please note that this list includes the works of both the Olmsted Brothers and their father.)

























To this day, Memorial Park remains a popular location for outdoor activities and a central focal point for the Five Points community.  Memorial Park is located on the corner of Riverside Avenue and Margaret Street, on the St. Johns River.

Article written by Ennis Davis



June 23, 2008, 08:53:18 AM
The best park in the city, in my judgment. The layout is good. The park has two focal points: the statue, centered on the river view and the historic apartments on riverside ave. This helps integrate the neighborhood into the park. The oaks along the circular walkway provide shade, while the large open space is a great place for sports or a picnic. It is a special place.


June 23, 2008, 09:48:25 AM
I could see the Park Lane from across the river at my Grandmother's house.
It was freakin' Gatsbyesque .....


June 23, 2008, 10:19:37 AM
absolutely the best park in the city.  Beautiful sculpture, nice access to the river and well maintained grounds


June 23, 2008, 12:13:54 PM
It really is the best park in the city.. great views, great design, great sculpture.. It just fits right into the neighborhood.  It's like Riverside's little "Central Park".


June 23, 2008, 03:07:51 PM
My absolute favorite place in the city of Jacksonville. Nothing tops a cool Saturday morning in the fall, a hot beverage from the Starbucks across the street, and the New York Times or a good book to read in the park. If Jacksonville had five or six more areas as urban and pedestrian friendly as Memorial Park and the surrounding area, we'd be a whole lot better off.


June 23, 2008, 03:20:41 PM
So what makes Memorial Park special (is it being on the riverfront, the layout, maintenance, dense housing/retail nearby, etc.)?  I wonder if those special elements could be carried over to existing public spaces like Hemming Plaza or Confederate Park?


June 23, 2008, 03:33:41 PM
One of the subtle, but important, aspects of the park is way the pathway guides you through the park. The ultimate destination is the river, I suppose - but the sidewalk brings you back to the entrance. So, in that sense, the park has a "narrative". The green space is also, importantly, at the center of the park, rather than being buried away in a corner like many of our parks. So people just strolling through become part of the activity going on in the green space. Finally, you have people doing a bit of casual fishing. I would guess there are people that dislike that to some extent, but I think it adds interest and character to the park and layers on another kind of social interaction. So, ultimately, there are two critical things going on: 1) a diverse set of activities going on in a beautiful setting, and 2) a pedestrian layout that guides visitors through each of those areas of activity.


June 24, 2008, 12:25:45 AM
I think alot of things make this place special..

-Proximity to retail, especially carry out food places.  Lunch in the park is great.

-The river views.

-The historic feel of the park, with the sculpture, the entryways, the railing along the river, etc..

-The layout of the park.  How many of us have jogged around the circular sidewalk?  Its just beautifully planned out... Very well thought out.

-The surrounding dense residential neighborhood that is pedestrian friendly.

-The relative lack of crime/panhandling.

-The relative GOOD upkeep of the park, someone actually trims the hedges, plants flowers, cuts the grass, etc..

Relating all of this to Hemming Plaza, one would have to increase the residential population within 5 blocks about 10 fold, rip up all those stupid pavers and put in some grass, completely rid the park of vagrants, and keep the place clean.  Hemming Plaza could be Jacksonville's "Campus Martius", the downtown square that Detroit has.  Add a freestanding Au Bon Pain and a band shell, hold big events there, concerts, etc... police it well, and get rid of the panhandlers and it just might work.  Create DESTINATION events in Hemming, not just some guy singing bad Elvis covers for a few hours on a Friday for the benefit of the few office workers that dare venture into the park.

All in all, I guess the point Im trying to make is that the parks reflect the areas that surround it.  Hemming is dying (or already dead) due to the vagrants and poor planning and the fact that downtown is a no-go zone after 5pm.


August 12, 2008, 08:24:25 AM
Memorial Park is also a great place to fly & crash your r/c helicopter. I'm thankful it exist, the downside of living in such a dense area is you don't have many places to fly your toys.

I may have already posted these photos before, but here's some pics of the park at night:


August 16, 2008, 08:27:01 AM
That is the retirement home I am going to put my parents in just so I can visit.


October 22, 2012, 11:19:57 PM
I am always looking for old (pre-1960) photographs of the park to give a sense of what the park was like before its dedication in 1924 and the mid sixties. 


October 22, 2012, 11:52:04 PM

Memorial Park during the 1920s. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Memorial Park during the 1920s. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Easter Service in 1947. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

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