Urban Neighborhoods: Fletcher Park

October 21, 2009 9 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Now fully integrated into San Marco, the neighborhood of Fletcher Park is one of Jacksonville's early transit oriented developments.

The community of Fletcher Park was constructed in 1918 to provide housing for nearby shipyard workers. With Atlantic Boulevard at the community's center, a trolley line along this corridor was installed to give the residents of the area access to the rest of the city via transit.

The former streetcar routes are highlighted in purple.  The Atlantic Avenue line was installed to connect Fletcher Park (highlighted in green) with the Hendricks Avenue line, which provided direct access into downtown Jacksonville.

Following the United States' entry into World War I on April 6, 1917, one of the government's top priorities was the building of ships to transport troops overseas.  A national Shipping Board was established to accelerate construction of naval vessels.  Its success can be judged by the two million American troops who arrived on the European shore within a year and a half.  

This urgent need produced large government contracts for the Merrill-Stevens shipbuilding company, but it also caused a critical housing shortage for the hundreds of ship construction workers needed at the South Jacksonville plant.  In the summer of 1918, a forty-eight-acre site along Atlantic Boulevard was purchased by the US Shipping Board for a $750,000 housing project, named for Senator Duncan U. Fletcher.  

Over five hundred workmen were employed by contractor W.P. Richardson to speed its completion.  Architect H.J. Klutho recalled Mark & Sheftall to his office, and enlisted the help of Mellen Greenley to draw the necessary plans quickly.  Construction began in July of 1918; four months later, the first house was completed.  

By April of 1919, all of the 158 houses had been finished.  Richardson described it as "a model town" with paved streets, a trolley line, sewers, lights, gas, water, concrete sidewalks, and parks.  Originally, five stores and two large boarding houses were planned, but the end of the war in November 1918 caused these plans to be scrapped.  

The houses are mainly bungalows, although some have two stories.  Unlike many government housing projects, each house was individually designed by an architect, and there is quite a variety among the four basic designs.  Most have wide overhanging roofs.  Although none of the 98 remaining houses is particularly significant by itself, collectively they represent a unique architectural project and are a reminder of Jacksonville's important shipbuilding role in World War I.

Source: Jacksonville's Architectural Heritage Landmarks for the Future

West Fletcher Park

This is the area of the development west of the FEC railroad corridor.  Centered around Delote Green, now Fletcher Park, there were once 64 homes.  Today, three remain near the corner of Julia Avenue and Alford Place.  The majority of this area was demolished for commercial development over the years and is now the proposed site of East San Marco.

Fletcher Park (formerly Belote Green)

Fletcher Park is located along Atlantic Boulevard, in the San Marco section of South Jacksonville, which from 1907-1932 was a separate municipality. First known as Belote Green, for prominent South Jacksonville politician William Belote, the park was established in 1918 (during World War I) as part of Fletcher Park, a federal housing development created to provide homes for workers that were building naval ships at the nearby Merrill Stevens Shipyard. Prominent architect Henry Klutho designed Fletcher Park, which was named for Florida’s U. S. Senator Duncan U. Fletcher (1859-1936), a Jacksonville resident who served continuously for 27 years. Later, the park also became known as Fletcher Park, which has seen many improvements since the San Marco Preservation Society formed in 1975, such as re-location of the old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church building to the grounds in 1994 and the Stockton Cottage in 2003.

East Fletcher Park

East of the railroad corridor, this area is still the home of a significant amount of war era housing stock.  It includes a dense collection of residential and commercial uses on gridded streets along with two public spaces; Fulton Green and Farragut Green.

Fulton Green

This small park on the corner of Kings Avenue and Atlantic Blvd. was originally known as Fulton Green.  Despite an elevated portion of I-95 now dominated the east side of the space, it still contains an aura of tranquility.

For a city still trying to grasp the concept of transit oriented development and connectivity, Fletcher Park offers a real life example of how neighborhoods can be developed to integrate with their surroundings.

Article by Ennis Davis