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Lost Jacksonville. Downtown Hotels: The Grande Dames

Jacksonville Florida was once considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and its downtown was simultaneously home to one of the largest theater districts in America and an African American Cultural district in LaVilla whose vibrancy provided the genesis for the Harlem Renaissance. Visitors and tourists came from all over the world to visit its beautiful and unforgettable charm, and they were hosted in hotels that defined the downtown experience. Join MetroJacksonville as we revisit the Grande Dames of the Jacksonville Hotel District.

Published September 8, 2012 in Weekend Edition      87 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


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It would have been quite forgivable, at one point near the turn of the Century, to assume that the charming city of Jacksonville Florida existed for no other purpose than to be beautiful.

It was, after all, one of the most liberal cities in America, with a proud tradition of extremely forward thinking politics and Progressive instincts.

After the Civil War, it was as if the shackles had come off of the city and the excesses of the Gilded Age had left the gorgeous location unsullied by the either its crass materialism, its callous social darwinism or its fevered Great Awakening.

Blessed with gifted musicians and artists, a cultured citizenry, astonishing racial practices, and the leadership of intellectuals and a liberal minded business community it had become a mecca for travellers, the wealthy and a burgeoning creative community that would lead the country in experimentation and accomplishment for the first quarter of the 20th Century.

Visitors were flocking from every corner of the United States to be a part of the vibrant city culture, and its downtown was bursting at the seams with entertainment, music and a unique framework of structures and industries that perfectly served this phenomenon.  

The tourism was an onslaught of new money and ideas. The Clyde Line operated steamboats into Jacksonville from East Coast seaports, including New York City and after Henry B. Plant opened the “Waycross Short Line” in 1881, direct rail travel from the North took off.

The winter population grew to four times the number of its summer residents. During the 1884-85 season, 60,000 visitors overwhelmed its hotels, resulting in the construction of numerous elegant new resorts.

In 1889, the second Sub-Tropical Exposition opened and resuscitated the city’s reputation after a devastating yellow fever epidemic. It featured both Grover Cleveland and Frederick Douglass.

This massive explosion of creativity and energy was directly reflected in the density and number of the Grand Hotels that sprang up throughout the core.  In the first half of the last century, Jacksonville's downtown was not only home to scores of rooming houses, dozens of small inns and rooms-for-let, but it was also the proud court of no fewer than 21 grand hotels or Grand Dames. This is not including the gorgeously appointed Brothels and Sporting Houses of Houston Street and LaVilla.

These gracious institutions formed the backbone of the Jacksonville Society and were the cradle of the Golden Age of the City.  To begin with, a Grand Dame was more than just a place to sleep for rent--Each of them had some combination of the following:  

Formal Dining Rooms, for banquets and social functions.
Elegant Ballrooms for dances and nightlife.
Public Restaurants featuring full service fine dining.
Cocktail Lounges.
Concert Halls.
Lobbies or wrap around porches for socializing.
Many featured special sitting rooms for listening in on "Radio" or "Wireless Transmissions".

These Hotels were simply epic.  And Jacksonville's Downtown was one of the great places for them.  Not only would these brilliant establishments bring prosperity and tourism to the city, but they would eventually attract the attention of some of the great pioneers of the Hotel Industry, like the Robert Meyer Hotels Chain (an exquisite group of truly luxury hotels) which owned the luscious Windsor Hotel in Hemming Park and later the seemingly eponymous Robert Meyer Hotel of Civil Rights fame.

It would also give rise to a local Hotelier magnate---Robert Kloeppel, who owned and operated the legendary George Washington and Mayflower Hotels as well as his lesser known Hotel Jefferson.

Consider this map of the most famous of the Great Ladies of the Hotel Industry:



These Hotels were equipped with restaurants and public dining, but they were surrounded by concert halls and theaters that featured some of the most experimental and creative performances of their time--an era that spanned Vaudeville, the Little Theatre Movement, Jazz, Blues, Soul, and early film.

And keep in mind that the movie theaters in Jacksonville werent simply the motion picture houses of today.  Jacksonville was one of two places in which Film was being explored as a creative medium, and the movie palaces were actively in the process of developing the art form that would change the world.  It was no accident that Paramount would come to control so many of them, or that the company would open subsidiary offices in Jax...Films were being produced here, and Paramount was trying very hard to be able to control all distribution.

New York-based Kalem Studios was the first to open a permanent studio in Jacksonville in 1908. Over the course of the next decade, more than 30 silent film companies established studios in town, including Metro Pictures (later MGM), Edison Studios, Majestic Films, King Bee Film Company, Vim Comedy Company, Norman Studios, Gaumont Studios and Lubin Studios.

Our local theaters were showing films that were planned, written, shot and edited here in Jax, including the first Full Length Technicolor film, The Gulf Between, in 1917.

It was the custom of the era to eat dinner at one of the Hotel Dining Rooms and then go out to catch a show in the theater and entertainment districts.

Most people today are stunned when they see how many theaters were within walking distance in the downtown.  Consider this map of the major theaters (this doesnt include the private concert halls, or the many stages within the hotels themselves, just the houses specializing in entertainment:



In addition, Jacksonville had the privilege and good fortune to have an African American creative district of shocking vitality and explosive talent. A roll call of the contributions that came originally from Jacksonville or art forms that Jacksonville artists and performers were experimenting with---- often before the rest of the nation scarcely knew existed--is astounding.

Composers and musicians like John Rosamond Johnson and Eugene Francis Mikell; touring companies such as Patrick Chappelle’s Rabbit’s Foot Minstrels and Eph Williams’ Silas Greene from New Orleans Company; and vaudeville houses, such as Frank Crowd’s Globe Theater, are included among them. Nationally recognized figures, including Billy Kersands, “Ma” Rainey, and “Jelly Roll” Morton worked for a significant amount of time on LaVilla’s stages.

In fact, the earliest documented professional performance of the blues was in, of all places, Jacksonville, Florida, on a stage was at the Colored Airdome on Ashley Street---making Jacksonville the first professional Home of The Blues.

Civil Rights leaders, James Weldon Johnson and Asa Philip Randolph, whose money, fame, influence and leadership proved so pivotal to the Harlem Renaissance were here in Jacksonville before the Harlem Years (as was Zora Neale Hurston, John Betsch and so many others)

Contrary to popular assumptions, these stages were playing to mixed audiences, and there were just as many white faces in the crowds of LaVilla as there were brown.

Consider the map of the following legendary locations in LaVilla:  It is but a sample of what was going on this neigborhood, but it does include the places where actual history happened.



Now imagine what this city was like with all of the above maps combined.  The density and the sheer numbers of these establishments is breathtaking.  Keep in mind that all of the hotels in red are offering their own in house entertainment.  Not included are the opera houses, the bars, the private restaurants, the civic associations, the church venues with their frequent community music performances, or even the fact that the steamships themselves were equipped with nightclubs and restaurants that were also open to the public.




So imagine how the family of means spent a typical evening in Jacksonville in the mid teens to the 1920s.  Dinner was served Prix Fixe at one of the grand hotels.  Afterwards, one would stroll down the street to whichever theater, stage, concert hall or performance seemed best.

Even amongst the Great Ladies, there were four of them whose reputation stands out across the  decades, and they were considered the four corners of Jacksonville Society during the era:

Primary amongst them was the Windsor.  It was the most blue blooded and it catered to the uppercrust.

It was followed in esteem by the Mayflower.

Next on the totem pole was the George Washington, followed by the Carling/Roosevelt.

Here is a list of the Grand Dames of Jacksonville's Golden Age.  Several of them changed hands and names over the years (as is noted on the map provided above by the slashies).






The Hotel Jefferson
905 West Adams Street, Jacksonville, Florida - A Kloeppel Hotel
125 Rooms with combination tub and shower baths.  Modern as the best.  Electric eye door. Air Conditioned Lobby and Coffee Shop.  Garage connected with Lobby Entrance.
100% Air Conditioned...Free Room TV and Radio...A Modern Hotel featuring "Family Plan" Rates...(No Charge for Children under 14 in Room with Parents.)...Excellent Coffee Shop and Cocktail Lounge.



The Hotel George Washington, on the corner of Adams and Julia Streets in Jacksonville, Florida, was a 15-story luxury hotel that was in operation from 1926 to 1971. The local firm of Marsh and Saxelbye served as architects. In its later years, it was one of only two luxury hotels in the downtown area. By the 1960s, it was the only five-star hotel in the area after the demise of the Hotel Roosevelt.

On Armistice Day 1925, local businessman Robert Kloeppel announced to crowds in downtown Jacksonville that a luxury hotel would be built. Other investors built the Hotel Roosevelt (then called the Carling Hotel) to compete with Kloeppel, and both hotels were constructed throughout 1926. On December 15, the George Washington was complete. The mayor at the time, John Alsop, along with the current and former Florida governor, were on hand for ribbon-cutting ceremonies. Radios were installed in every one of the 350 rooms so visitors could listen to opening-day festivities, broadcast by radio station WJAX. Kloeppel spent $1.5 million dollars of his own money to construct the hotel. The "Hotel George Washington" sign, built on the rooftop, was the first neon sign in Jacksonville.

The Hotel George Washington, in its heyday, was the center of cultural activities in Jacksonville. The George Washington Auditorium, built in 1941, was the biggest concert hall in town at the time (replacing the Duval County Armory), big enough for classical music events and cotillions. The Hotel housed a steak house, a cocktail lounge, a dance hall called the Rainbow Room, a Rexall drugstore and a barber shop. Charles Lindbergh stayed at the George Washington while visiting Jacksonville.

The Beatles were scheduled to stay there, but due to a mix-up regarding hotel occupancy, they were denied rooms. On September 11th 1964, the Beatles flew from Montreal to Jacksonville, Florida, in a trip that had been time delayed due to recent and extensive hurricane damage along the Florida coast, affecting the Jacksonville area. When attempting their arrival into Jacksonville, the Beatles were detoured to Key West, and were booked into the Key Wester Motel. It was then learned that the Hotel George Washington in Jacksonville would be unable to provide them with rooms at the last second.

Not allowing the difficulties of their arrival and their stay to stop them, the Beatles still appeared for the press conference at the Hotel George Washington, and their concert at the Gator Bowl. With civil rights being a heated issue in America in 1964, the Beatles had refused to accept the booking at the Gator Bowl until they received assurance that the audience would not be segregated by race. While eating with the press, Ringo stated, "We usually eat in the room, but seeing the hotel's got no room for us, we have to eat here." Due to the damage from Hurricane Dora, approximately one quarter of the people who had already purchased tickets were unable to attend the concert.

In 1964, most of the businesses which operated from the Roosevelt's ground floor moved into the George Washington. Despite the new infusion of business, behind-the-scenes turnover caused the George Washington to fall into disrepair. In 1963, original owner Robert Kloeppel sold the George Washington to dog track magnate Bill Johnston, who in turn sold the hotel to other investors in 1969.

After 1969, one by one, the businesses inside the ground floor went out of business. The hotel was closed in 1971 and torn down in 1973. Currently, the site is occupied by the new federal court building in downtown Jacksonville.


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87 Comments

I-10east

July 06, 2010, 07:04:36 AM
There's something that's nostalgic and elegant about having a hotel's name start with 'Hotel' like many of these hotels listed were. Although many of those hotels were fireproof, unfortunately they weren't wrecking ball proof. Nice work Stephen.

Wacca Pilatka

July 06, 2010, 08:17:10 AM
This is a terrific record.  Any postcards or info on the former Plaza Hotel that's still standing on Forsyth?

finehoe

July 06, 2010, 10:06:13 AM
Fabulous piece!

Does anyone understand what "The word UP is not used at...Hotel Flagler" is supposed to mean?

aubureck

July 06, 2010, 10:51:52 AM
Excellent article, I love the map it really puts things into a visual perspective of the landscape of downtown at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Ron Mexico

July 06, 2010, 11:45:58 AM
I looked on the Internet for more photos of these great buildings and was stunned to see so many of the buildings had simply been demolished in the 70's and 80's...stunning.

Arlingtondude

July 06, 2010, 11:50:01 AM
Some of these hotels were built during the Gilded Age (mid 1870's to 1912)

Bill Ectric

July 06, 2010, 12:11:35 PM
Yeah, what fineho said. What does "The word UP not used at the Hotel Flagler" mean??

Wacca Pilatka

July 06, 2010, 01:16:04 PM
Fabulous piece!

Does anyone understand what "The word UP is not used at...Hotel Flagler" is supposed to mean?

I interpreted it as when they quoted a price they didn't mean "...and up," because the rest of the description concerned how the hotel was a good value?

Cliffs_Daughter

July 06, 2010, 02:00:47 PM
Wow, that postcard of the De Soto Hotel is amazing - you get a clear view of the old Acosta Bridge in the background without all the skyscrapers!!

Timkin

July 06, 2010, 08:23:24 PM
Nice presentation.. I recognized the old Acosta as well..

So today....am I correct that only two of these buildings still stand?

stjr

July 07, 2010, 12:01:16 AM
Great article.  Loss of these structures amounts to ripping much of the heart out of the City's downtown.  It's no wonder it stays in the doldrums.  Unfortunately, we continue to destroy our splendid past and replace it with a less-than-splendid present.

So today....am I correct that only two of these buildings still stand?

I think so.  Just the Roosevelt/Carling and the Ambassador.

Timkin

July 07, 2010, 12:03:30 AM
And my bet is that they will see demolition within 5 years.

Jaxson

July 07, 2010, 08:20:07 AM
And my bet is that they will see demolition within 5 years.

@Timkin - Now, the last thing that our city needs is encouragement to tear down more historic buildings!  ; )

stephendare

July 07, 2010, 08:40:55 AM
There is a statistic in the story that is pretty striking to me.

the population grew by 60 thousand people in the Winter, with tourists and people escaping the north.

They stayed in the hotels, steamboats resorts boarding houses and the like, downtown.

Could we accomodate 60 thousand people downtown today?

I highly doubt it.

tufsu1

July 07, 2010, 08:48:05 AM
And my bet is that they will see demolition within 5 years.

I hiughly doubt the Carling will be knocked down anytime soon

Jaxson

July 07, 2010, 08:56:28 AM
And my bet is that they will see demolition within 5 years.

I hiughly doubt the Carling will be knocked down anytime soon

I think that timkin was being sarcastic.  Based on how our city values historic buildings, it would be no surprise that our city leaders have a major boner for destroying more old buildings...

stephendare

July 07, 2010, 09:24:15 AM
There is a statistic in the story that is pretty striking to me.

the population grew by 60 thousand people in the Winter, with tourists and people escaping the north.

They stayed in the hotels, steamboats resorts boarding houses and the like, downtown.

Could we accomodate 60 thousand people downtown today?

I highly doubt it.

In fact I think this would provoke an actual housing crisis.  Wanna bet we would have to create tent cities?

finehoe

July 07, 2010, 11:29:58 AM
^^Or bring in cruise ships... ;)

Timkin

July 07, 2010, 01:16:09 PM
I was being sarcastic... In this city ...if its Historic .. and abandoned= condemned=ready for demolition.   I would never favor a historic building being demolished.. it simply is fact that so many of them have been razed...without a thought to what anyone else felt.

Seems there are two kinds of people when it comes to these places.. Those who care / want to see them spared , and those who do not care/ cannot wait to see them leveled.

urbanlibertarian

July 07, 2010, 03:18:02 PM
You don't have to love historic buildings to prefer an abandoned one to a parking lot or an empty lot.

urbanlibertarian

July 07, 2010, 03:19:10 PM
And...there are two kinds of people in this world: those who divide people into two groups and those who don't. ;D

Timkin

July 07, 2010, 03:54:51 PM
Urban.. you're right..and I suppose I could just remain silent.

Timkin

July 07, 2010, 04:00:00 PM
And my bet is that they will see demolition within 5 years.

@Timkin - Now, the last thing that our city needs is encouragement to tear down more historic buildings!  ; )

 I was entirely kidding ... I guess I have to really choose my words carefully :) or just say nothing at all . :)

JaxNative68

July 07, 2010, 05:36:22 PM
And we tore down the majority of it for "progress"?  Nice work Jacksonville!

thelakelander

July 07, 2010, 07:06:05 PM
Great article.  Loss of these structures amounts to ripping much of the heart out of the City's downtown.  It's no wonder it stays in the doldrums.  Unfortunately, we continue to destroy our splendid past and replace it with a less-than-splendid present.

So today....am I correct that only two of these buildings still stand?

I think so.  Just the Roosevelt/Carling and the Ambassador.

The old Richmond Hotel is still standing on the corner of Broad & Church Streets.  It doesn't get as much press because it was a luxury hotel build for blacks.



The Richmond Hotel was constructed in 1909 and was known as the finest hotel for  black citizens prior to desegregation. Guest over the years included Duke  Ellington, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. The three-story  hotel had 48 rooms and a tea room at street level. Today the upper floors are  boarded up and the first level is a furniture store.

thelakelander

July 07, 2010, 07:09:46 PM
Quote
Hotel DeSoto
Located in Springfield, on the corner of North Main and Phelps (today) Streets,  The Sunken Gardens south of the hotel is now known as Confederate Park.

The Hotel Desoto appears to be across the street from the terminal, along Bay Street.  The bridge in the foreground looks like the old Lee Street viaduct.  This area was known as "Railroad Row."

thelakelander

July 07, 2010, 07:20:55 PM
Here are a couple of great hotel images from an article we ran back in 2006.

Andrew Jackson


George Washington Hotel


Floridian Hotel in 1947


Seminole Hotel


Hotel Mason


The Roosevelt and Andrew Jackson Hotels


Windle Hotel


Hotel Aragon


Hotel Windsor & Hemming Park


The Robert Meyer and George Washington Hotels (the surface parking lot is now the Ed Ball Building.


brainstormer

July 07, 2010, 07:58:54 PM
I would love to see Hemming Plaza returned to a park with more green grass and less cement.

Ocklawaha

July 07, 2010, 09:01:40 PM
Quote
Hotel DeSoto
Located in Springfield, on the corner of North Main and Phelps (today) Streets,  The Sunken Gardens south of the hotel is now known as Confederate Park.

The Hotel Desoto appears to be across the street from the terminal, along Bay Street.  The bridge in the foreground looks like the old Lee Street viaduct.  This area was known as "Railroad Row."




Yup! This was in the days before "truth in advertising" and it IS a highly retouched photo that includes at least three separate scenes in Jacksonville.

The Foreground is indeed the location given...

The area of the bridge and beyond is taken from the corner of Lee and Bay, facing the FEC RY drawbridge. Even so the area to the left of the great sweeping curve into the bridge, is detailed with what appears to be Springfield Park! So from left to right one see's a North Main Street hotel, then Springfield park (someone removed about 8-9 blocks), and finally the terminal's sweeping curve away from town toward magical Miami...

You might find it interesting that there was NOT a street where they have "Water" Street coming off of the old Viaduct, however the Duval or Monroe's viaducts DID have such a turn, so they may have swapped the bridges, but the railings look like the Lee Street Viaduct, I believe Duval's and maybe Monroe's were an ornate solid side bridge-rail. BTW that classic bridge-rail on the bridge is the reason why I got excited over the new mini-bridge built over Hogan's Creek on East Bay... Somebody was paying attention and needs credit!

If this was supposed to be a view across Lee Street, everything across the street is wrong up to the railroad tracks. Even in the 1960's this area was still a sea of railroad track, industry and warehouses. The area where they have placed the park would have been the middle of the Terminal's East Throat... Spell that 32 tracks become TWO, and another couple of dozen cross over from right to left in the photo to reach docks and warehouses on the waterfront. Hardly the location for a city park, now or then!

This took a few takes to fully understand, a most cool photo, one would think they used "Photo Shop" but the cut and paste lines are pretty straight forward street edges, railroad track and bridge rails.


OCKLAWAHA

Timkin

July 07, 2010, 09:14:07 PM
Great article.  Loss of these structures amounts to ripping much of the heart out of the City's downtown.  It's no wonder it stays in the doldrums.  Unfortunately, we continue to destroy our splendid past and replace it with a less-than-splendid present.

The old Richmond Hotel is still standing on the corner of Broad & Church Streets.  It doesn't get as much press because it was a luxury hotel build for blacks.



The Richmond Hotel was constructed in 1909 and was known as the finest hotel for  black citizens prior to desegregation. Guest over the years included Duke  Ellington, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. The three-story  hotel had 48 rooms and a tea room at street level. Today the upper floors are  boarded up and the first level is a furniture store.

 I have seen this building many times.. never realized it was a Hotel.. But its good that it has so far, escaped the wrecking ball.  My point was in the sarcastic comment, that we should save the few we have REGARDLESS of cost of Renovation..the same goes with School Four and the Fire Station.. If we (meaning our fair (?) Mayor can OVERSPEND tremendously on a Courthouse I would argue we really did not need at this point), we should do the same for our Historic Landmarks...namely 2 Hotels in the Downtown area that clearly are not falling in, and can be spared.

 Just because someone is an Engineer for the City, does not mean Condemned=teardown.. The home I reside in now was condemned, meaning the owner had X amount of time to make the home comply, or pay to demolish it.  So I concur that a "Condemned" building does not equal "theres no turning back now, tear it down and fill another landfill with the contents"

Ocklawaha

July 07, 2010, 09:14:20 PM
You boys want to really make a point? Lay out those theaters and hotels on the old streetcar map... economic engine indeed!!

OCKLAWAHA

Timkin

July 07, 2010, 09:17:44 PM
So funny you would say that Ock.... We should "recreate" some of the destinations in the Downtown area that made Jacksonville, Florida  "THE PLACE TO BE" and get rid of vacant lots , parking meters, Create more living space... kind of take the City back to a few decades ago, as much as humanly possible.  IMO  THEN, you would have a vibrant Downtown area.

Jaxson

July 07, 2010, 09:19:55 PM
I would love to see Hemming Plaza returned to a park with more green grass and less cement.

I agree 100%.  The city tried too hard to turn Hemming Park into a mall...  We need to restore Hemming PARK!

Timkin

July 07, 2010, 09:22:08 PM
And we tore down the majority of it for "progress"?  Nice work Jacksonville!

 You mean , nice work, last 6 Mayors and City management, and Council.   Alot of these people are the main culprits of the "Better Jacksonville Plan" and other brilliant ideas (?) that razed alot of what is no longer in LaVilla, Brooklyn, Downtown,.   Hell.... Even Orlando's downtown, I believe has more Historic Buildings left than our downtown and by comparison it is a town...not a City... :)

Timkin

July 07, 2010, 09:23:49 PM
We need to do that , and Restore the adjacent areas to it as much as possible.  Hemming Park was at one time very beautiful.  It has been changed to another concrete monster.

Ocklawaha

July 07, 2010, 10:08:24 PM

DUKE


CAB


ELLA


BILLIE


RAY


BLIND BLAKE


Birdland South? Tuxedo Junction? Blue Note South? Sweet Lorraine's? Apollo Theater? This is our stop boys and girls!

Can you imagine the restored period streetcar aka: Heritage Streetcar, linking the "Streetcar Museum", with the "Ray Charles Restaurant-Club" and the "Richmond Jazz and Blues Hotel..."

"It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing..."



OCKLAWAHA

Timkin

July 07, 2010, 10:15:44 PM
" The ability to swing " :D

spuwho

July 08, 2010, 01:24:23 AM
I don't like seeing historic buildings come down anymore than anyone else, but many of these buildings are a significant cost to remediate and make usable again, especially with asbestos and lead.

Jacksonville's economy just doesn't support restoration of these buildings which herald an era that is long, long gone.

There is already much criticism of COJ and the use of tax dollars to help developers with older properties, and the Laura Trio and old Barnett are still standing empty even with incentives available.

Jacksonville got a lot of criticism back in the early 1960's for its run down buildings and shacks and left overs from the then obsolete wharves and rail yards. Some are still left over as the new roundabout hit an old wharf bulkhead this week!

So they did what the "new city of the South" thought they should do, they tore them down!

Until Jacksonville can rise up from its economic malaise that started in the post WWII era, they will always struggle retaining these old and historic buildings.

Fortunately, unlike Detroit, Chicago and some other older cities, Jax does not have a built in set of arsonists who get their thrills on watching these places get toasted. So they hang around until it falls down or someone uses it.

Timkin

July 08, 2010, 01:41:28 AM
Jacksonville does not have that many "Historic" Buildings left, particularly in the Downtown area.  To an extent I concur that the cost of rehabbing some of these buildings /removal of asbestos/etc may not seem "cost effective" , I argue that to demolish and haul away a building... lets use an example... The Ambassador Hotel  which one of the posters who says they they have the inside information on this ,now condemned building  that it is cost-prohibitive to repair/revitalize/renovate/take your pick of what you want to call it....

  I say... to wreck, Haul away to some Landfill forever , and to REPLICATE the same building with the same Wall Thickness, Construction , Etc of that building , as it was origonally designed, and to meet modern code  IMO would cost MORE... maybe SIGNIFICANTLY more than to save an old building.  I think the same is true of Many of the endangered buildings of the area.. When you wreck one of these , and slap up a structure that has a life expectancy of maybe 50-60 years before it either needs major repairs , or torn down and replaced, then you might just as well have spared the origonal Old building.  I am no expert.. but common sense makes this seem very logical to me. 

 Detroit has some really beautiful Old buildings that will go...and it is depressing because they simply do not, and probably will never have the funding to save these places.... It personally makes me sick to see such a once-vibrant city like Detroit fall apart.  I would not go so far as to say Jacksonville has quite reached the point of Detroit, nor would I argue that there probably were some buildings that truly were beyond repair..  But we have razed them to the point of practically no return... and I personally think we need to save what we have left , regardless of expense.. Over the long haul the investment would pay off , both in the life of the building , and the revitilization of the Urban Core.

thelakelander

July 08, 2010, 06:12:53 AM
Quote
I don't like seeing historic buildings come down anymore than anyone else, but many of these buildings are a significant cost to remediate and make usable again, especially with asbestos and lead.

Jacksonville's economy just doesn't support restoration of these buildings which herald an era that is long, long gone.

There is already much criticism of COJ and the use of tax dollars to help developers with older properties, and the Laura Trio and old Barnett are still standing empty even with incentives available.

There are a few things that can be done to preserve historic structures and Jacksonville's history.  We may want to look at changing our property taxing and code enforcement strategies that lead to many historic demolitions, the creation of a downtown historic district or tax abatement zone.

Jaxson

July 08, 2010, 08:28:16 AM
And my bet is that they will see demolition within 5 years.

@Timkin - Now, the last thing that our city needs is encouragement to tear down more historic buildings!  ; )

 I was entirely kidding ... I guess I have to really choose my words carefully :) or just say nothing at all . :)

I knew that you were kidding.  LOL! 

The shameful thing, however, is that there are quite a few folks in this city who would not care if downtown completely shut down - as long as they were insulated in their happy little suburbs.  This, Timkin, seems to be to trouble with Jacksonville.  We are cordoned off in our subdivisions, suburbs and neighborhoods with no real pride for the city that we share in common.  Yeah, we run downtown for fireworks displays or Christmas tree lightings, but otherwise, we are content with sprawling ourselves into obilvion.

duvaldude08

July 08, 2010, 10:18:46 AM
And my bet is that they will see demolition within 5 years.

@Timkin - Now, the last thing that our city needs is encouragement to tear down more historic buildings!  ; )

 I was entirely kidding ... I guess I have to really choose my words carefully :) or just say nothing at all . :)

I knew that you were kidding.  LOL! 

The shameful thing, however, is that there are quite a few folks in this city who would not care if downtown completely shut down - as long as they were insulated in their happy little suburbs.  This, Timkin, seems to be to trouble with Jacksonville.  We are cordoned off in our subdivisions, suburbs and neighborhoods with no real pride for the city that we share in common.  Yeah, we run downtown for fireworks displays or Christmas tree lightings, but otherwise, we are content with sprawling ourselves into obilvion.

I agree. I will always say that consilation killed our downtown more than any other city. We have more room to sprawl and spread out. Personally I want to see downtown vibrant. I actually wanted to move in the Carling but they were TOO pricey. Once the Trio becomes a reality, hopefully the prices are affordable and I will relocate to the core. And you are right, people in jacksonville dont have pride for the city at all. And I beleive that is our only problem. When you have pride for your city and a positive attitude, things will change for the better.

JaxNative68

July 08, 2010, 03:26:01 PM
There is a statistic in the story that is pretty striking to me.

the population grew by 60 thousand people in the Winter, with tourists and people escaping the north.

They stayed in the hotels, steamboats resorts boarding houses and the like, downtown.

Could we accomodate 60 thousand people downtown today?

I highly doubt it.

We'd have to bring back the cruise ships, just like the superbowl :)

JaxNative68

July 08, 2010, 03:27:51 PM
^ nothing like commenting on something before reading on, only to fine out the next post had your comment already posted . . . sorry finehoe

Jaxson

July 08, 2010, 03:31:35 PM
And my bet is that they will see demolition within 5 years.

@Timkin - Now, the last thing that our city needs is encouragement to tear down more historic buildings!  ; )

 I was entirely kidding ... I guess I have to really choose my words carefully :) or just say nothing at all . :)

I knew that you were kidding.  LOL!  

The shameful thing, however, is that there are quite a few folks in this city who would not care if downtown completely shut down - as long as they were insulated in their happy little suburbs.  This, Timkin, seems to be to trouble with Jacksonville.  We are cordoned off in our subdivisions, suburbs and neighborhoods with no real pride for the city that we share in common.  Yeah, we run downtown for fireworks displays or Christmas tree lightings, but otherwise, we are content with sprawling ourselves into obilvion.

I agree. I will always say that consilation killed our downtown more than any other city. We have more room to sprawl and spread out. Personally I want to see downtown vibrant. I actually wanted to move in the Carling but they were TOO pricey. Once the Trio becomes a reality, hopefully the prices are affordable and I will relocate to the core. And you are right, people in jacksonville dont have pride for the city at all. And I beleive that is our only problem. When you have pride for your city and a positive attitude, things will change for the better.

What troubles me most is how many folks in Jacksonville seem to believe that we can function without a healthy downtown.  IMHO, we cannot have a healthy economy for the entire city if we abandon our central city.  When looking to relocate to a new city, businesses look for the soul of a city.  I do not believe that heart lives on the periphery of a city.  They are merely branches of a tree that, in our case, is dying while our city leaders fiddle around...  

JaxNative68

July 08, 2010, 03:39:05 PM
I know many companies that have relocated to the suburbs of Jax without caring about the downtown situation.  With today’s e-business/remote log on consciousness, having a thriving downtown location isn’t as important anymore.  Comfort of life seems to over rule these days.

Jaxson

July 08, 2010, 05:49:25 PM
I know many companies that have relocated to the suburbs of Jax without caring about the downtown situation.  With today’s e-business/remote log on consciousness, having a thriving downtown location isn’t as important anymore.  Comfort of life seems to over rule these days.

I can understand how technology is decentralizing things for local economies, but do we see other cities with half-empty downtowns?  Just asking...

Timkin

July 08, 2010, 08:12:46 PM
None that I ever visited have the emptiness of Jacksonville.. no large cities that I have seen have the amount of void (surface parking and parking garages) that our downtown has. Where is the attraction in that. 

I guess if any city makes me feel more sad than Jacksonville's downtown , it would be all of the pictures I have seen on here of Detroit..and their incredible Historic Buildings, most of them in total rack and ruin.. For many of the masterpieces here it is way too late, in the minds of many.. for the few that remain unused, the mindset is ...Don't even THINK of saving them...tear them down.. you cannot save every old building ...and people we have not... we have not even saved 15% of the buildings... so you got your wish there..

 No appreciable residential downtown + No appreciable destinations downtown + very little Historic Fabric left in our Urban core (or any place else ,for that matter) = dying Downtown. :(

fieldafm

July 08, 2010, 11:30:11 PM
I know many companies that have relocated to the suburbs of Jax without caring about the downtown situation.  With today’s e-business/remote log on consciousness, having a thriving downtown location isn’t as important anymore.  Comfort of life seems to over rule these days.


Quote
Others couldn’t be persuaded. Delaney recalled when American General bought Gulf Life, pulling an icon out of what is now the Riverplace Tower on the Southbank.

“I was sitting there with that CEO begging him. He said, 'John, I can move anywhere there’s a phone jack and an electrical outlet.’ I knew it was over then,” Delaney said.


... via Times Union

spuwho

July 09, 2010, 06:55:08 PM
From after the Civil War until just following WWII, Jacksonville was at first a winter destination, a travel hub (ships at first, then rail) and then came the businesses.

Due to the influx of eastern money, this caused the rise of banks here and with that came the Federal Reserve and insurance companies.

However, winter travel moved south, rail, which at first replaced the ships, was now replaced by cars. The businesses of the early era, the banks, were the last to go through recent mergers. Insurance is still here (barely). The other industries, like mining and lumber have come and gone. All that is left is military, the ports and a few corporate HQ's.

Jacksonville is static because it doesn't lead in anything anymore.

In it's "glory years" spoken of in the article, they were full of glory because it was leading in something and that attracted people. Today, nada.

It is stuck in the middle between Atlanta and Orlando. You knew it was over for banks when the Federal Reserve moved it ops to Atlanta. Tourism goes to Orlando and Tampa.

When you ask people in the US what they know about Jacksonville, the answer is usually 'nothing'.

stjr

July 13, 2010, 06:36:19 PM
Jacksonville is static because it doesn't lead in anything anymore.

We could "lead" in quality of life but that would require investments in culture, education, and environment. We prefer to try and lead in low taxes and cheap housing.  You get what you pay for.

Timkin

July 13, 2010, 10:38:35 PM
We (Jacksonville) LEAD the world in the mindless razing of buildings ,just because.  I wonder how much in tax dollars has been spent in the last 4 decades, tearing down buildings , waiting for developments that never come to pass .....IE  Brooklyn Park .  We lead in mindless Government. Is  this what we pay for?

thelakelander

July 13, 2010, 11:45:53 PM
Jacksonville is static because it doesn't lead in anything anymore.

We could "lead" in quality of life but that would require investments in culture, education, and environment. We prefer to try and lead in low taxes and cheap housing.  You get what you pay for.

Great points!

urbanlibertarian

July 14, 2010, 01:06:03 PM
IMO, low taxes and cheap housing add to the quality of life and commerce contributes far more to our quality of life than government "investments" of our tax dollars.

Jaxson

July 14, 2010, 01:55:26 PM
IMO, low taxes and cheap housing add to the quality of life and commerce contributes far more to our quality of life than government "investments" of our tax dollars.

What other factors come into play when considering where to locate a business?  We don't have a state income tax, but we still lose out to other states (Alabama, South Carolina) when it comes to luring businesses.  And, what makes it so much more favorable for corporations to still have their headquarters in New York and other high-tax burden states and not move to places like Florida?  If being 'business-friendly' is such a good thing, why aren't more businesses friendly to us?

Wacca Pilatka

July 14, 2010, 02:09:24 PM

What troubles me most is how many folks in Jacksonville seem to believe that we can function without a healthy downtown.  

What troubles me is that in the 90s, according to one of Jim Crooks' books, Herb Peyton said this expressly.

urbanlibertarian

July 14, 2010, 03:56:56 PM
Jaxson wrote "What other factors come into play when considering where to locate a business?"

Regulations and other red tape ie. zoning, sign restrictions, licensing, insurance, etc.  Actually larger corporations are better equipped to handle this stuff than small businesses.  I'm sure stephendare, Rockstar and Jerry Moran could share some stories about dealing with COJ and the state while starting and running a business.

JaxNative68

July 14, 2010, 05:33:55 PM
I know many companies that have relocated to the suburbs of Jax without caring about the downtown situation.  With today’s e-business/remote log on consciousness, having a thriving downtown location isn’t as important anymore.  Comfort of life seems to over rule these days.

I can understand how technology is decentralizing things for local economies, but do we see other cities with half-empty downtowns?  Just asking...

many throughout the midwest.  technology isn't Jax's issue, mindset is.

Timkin

July 14, 2010, 05:42:47 PM
Agree JN.  mindset is a major issue.

stjr

July 14, 2010, 11:25:14 PM
When I talk with many out-of-town business personnel, they are amazed, overall, at how easy it is to do business here versus where they are moving from, especially if it is the Northeast, Midwest, or California.  While we may think it onerous, in a perverted way, our relative lack of regulatory discipline may actually be undermining our maintenance of higher standards associated with what many on MJ want to see for Jax such as historic preservation, frustration of urban sprawl, transit-oriented development, better zoning, more respect for the environment, etc.  As one man's trash may be another treasure, so what may be "good" regulation may be in the eye of the beholder.

What other factors come into play when considering where to locate a business?  

If it's a business with high paying execs and professionals involved, #1 almost always is QUALITY of EDUCATION, k through graduate school, not the tax burden or cost of housing (both of which we have forever been below the national average based on any articles I have seen).  By the way, people should consider the tuition they pay to private schools as an additional "tax" since they are substituting the private school for the already tax paid public school they are unhappy with. Then, maybe they would consider that paying something more in real taxes, but far less that private school tuition, to sustain superior public education would be much better value proposition, not to mention better for the entire community.

Jaxson

July 14, 2010, 11:43:00 PM
I guess that being a union-busting, right-to-work state isn't as much an incentive to business as our local leaders and community once thought!

stephendare

July 30, 2010, 10:15:26 PM


This tranquil scene shows the Northbank one night, circa 1960.  Most of these buildings are now ghosts.  Long gone are the Sears Department Store (closed in 1981 and torn down), the Hotel Mayflower (razed  in 1978), Hotel George Washington (demolished in 1976), Hotel Robert Meyer (imploded in 1998), and the Hotel Seminole (flattened in 1974).  The Bank of America Building occupies the Seminole's old site, the new Federal Courthouse stands at the spot of the Robert Meyer, and the Omni Hotel houses its guests where Sears once served its customers.
http://www.jaxhistory.com/Jacksonville%20Story/Picture%20of%20Sears%20at%20Night.htm

Timkin

July 30, 2010, 10:55:44 PM
This is the downtown I remember.. You should have seen it at Christmas.   Beautiful picture, Stephen...


 It makes me sad to look at it , and remember.....

uptowngirl

July 30, 2010, 11:14:54 PM
WOW, it is always shocking to me  to see how much Jacksonville has lost of it's past.

Timkin

July 30, 2010, 11:31:29 PM
Actually.... I see nothing in that picture that still stands today.. If it does,it must  be hidden by one of the hideous structures that replaced all these beauties.

stjr

July 31, 2010, 12:02:49 AM
AT & T building sits where the Mayflower and other assorted smaller buildings were.

Timkin

July 31, 2010, 12:21:45 AM
If I had it my way...Id prefer the 1960 Skyline... O well.. it was not up to me :(

Tomcatteralways

August 23, 2010, 07:54:25 PM
It always surprises me when people talk poorly of Jacksonville but now that I see what a great city it was, it makes me sad to think how great it would be today if we had our buildings! People love history... tourist love history. Which is why most people just drive through on their way to St. Augustine. =o(

stephendare

December 24, 2010, 05:50:05 PM


This tranquil scene shows the Northbank one night, circa 1960.  Most of these buildings are now ghosts.  Long gone are the Sears Department Store (closed in 1981 and torn down), the Hotel Mayflower (razed  in 1978), Hotel George Washington (demolished in 1976), Hotel Robert Meyer (imploded in 1998), and the Hotel Seminole (flattened in 1974).  The Bank of America Building occupies the Seminole's old site, the new Federal Courthouse stands at the spot of the Robert Meyer, and the Omni Hotel houses its guests where Sears once served its customers.
http://www.jaxhistory.com/Jacksonville%20Story/Picture%20of%20Sears%20at%20Night.htm

This is the downtown I remember.. You should have seen it at Christmas.   Beautiful picture, Stephen...


 It makes me sad to look at it , and remember.....

stephendare

December 24, 2010, 05:59:43 PM
Here is a better picture, all cleaned up.

stephendare

December 24, 2010, 06:21:37 PM


Here is a photo showing the actual construction of the Robert Meyer.

stephendare

December 24, 2010, 06:24:29 PM
In 1948, this is what San Marco looked like.  From across the River (about where Baptist Hospital is, you can see the hotels.

stjr

December 24, 2010, 07:08:22 PM
In 1948, this is what San Marco looked like.  From across the River (about where Baptist Hospital is, you can see the hotels.

Stephen, can you check that location?  This looks to be between the Main Street and the Acosta bridges.  That would mean this is where the (new) Prudential, Friendship Park, Mosh, and River City Brewing are.

stephendare

December 24, 2010, 07:19:39 PM
In 1948, this is what San Marco looked like.  From across the River (about where Baptist Hospital is, you can see the hotels.

Stephen, can you check that location?  This looks to be between the Main Street and the Acosta bridges.  That would mean this is where the (new) Prudential, Friendship Park, Mosh, and River City Brewing are.

  You are probably right, STJR, it just seems a bit further from the shoreline to my eye.

stjr

December 24, 2010, 07:25:06 PM
Quote
Quote

Stephen, can you check that location?  This looks to be between the Main Street and the Acosta bridges.  That would mean this is where the (new) Prudential, Friendship Park, Mosh, and River City Brewing are.

  You are probably right, STJR, it just seems a bit further from the shoreline to my eye.

From Baptist, I would expect to see this scene looking through the FEC bridge and underside of Acosta, both being to the right of the view.

Mike D

September 08, 2012, 05:34:49 PM
I also remember the downtown shown in Stephen's picture.  The giant neon signs on top of all the hotels were so striking at night and seemed to shine over a city that was alive and a place where things were happening. One of the criticisms of downtown back then was that there were so many old buildings in disrepair and "slumlike" conditions around the edge of the area.  But it makes your head spin to wonder what we could have today if even half of the demolished buildings were still here.

BackinJax05

September 08, 2012, 06:01:29 PM


Here is a photo showing the actual construction of the Robert Meyer.

I still say the old Robert Meyer would have made great condominiums. As a hotel, it had everything. And all of those amenities could have easily been converted for residential use.

I would have bought a Robert Meyer condo.

stephendare

September 08, 2012, 08:00:27 PM


This tranquil scene shows the Northbank one night, circa 1960.  Most of these buildings are now ghosts.  Long gone are the Sears Department Store (closed in 1981 and torn down), the Hotel Mayflower (razed  in 1978), Hotel George Washington (demolished in 1976), Hotel Robert Meyer (imploded in 1998), and the Hotel Seminole (flattened in 1974).  The Bank of America Building occupies the Seminole's old site, the new Federal Courthouse stands at the spot of the Robert Meyer, and the Omni Hotel houses its guests where Sears once served its customers.
http://www.jaxhistory.com/Jacksonville%20Story/Picture%20of%20Sears%20at%20Night.htm

ChriswUfGator

September 09, 2012, 12:07:32 AM
So we've systematically replaced everything that made money with non-taxable government offices, and we wonder why we're having problems. That's sure a difficult one. :rollseyes:

Debbie Thompson

September 09, 2012, 08:23:43 AM
I just looked at the Sprint article, which contained a skyline picture. When you compare it to this one, it looks positively skimpy.  And now we are adding yet another parking garage.  Sigh.

Keith-N-Jax

September 09, 2012, 11:57:52 AM
That 1960's pic is awesome!!

BackinJax05

September 09, 2012, 04:55:46 PM
I also remember the downtown shown in Stephen's picture.  The giant neon signs on top of all the hotels were so striking at night and seemed to shine over a city that was alive and a place where things were happening. One of the criticisms of downtown back then was that there were so many old buildings in disrepair and "slumlike" conditions around the edge of the area.  But it makes your head spin to wonder what we could have today if even half of the demolished buildings were still here.

The George Washington would have made a great boutique hotel, today (whatever that is). Or, possibly restored & added on to the way the Vinoy in St. Pete was.

The Robert Meyer would have made great condominiums. It had plenty of parking, an awesome pool, and meeting rooms & restaurants that could have easily been converted into a clubhouse.

As for the Seminole, Floridan, & Mayflower, I dont know. What would you do with them, Mike?
What would anyone here do with them? (this is gonna be good. the more creative the better!)

Now to get off topic for a minute, If I had my way, I would have incorporated the Rhodes Furniture building into the design of the main library somehow, rather than imploding it. The state blended old & new very well when the Capitol was built. Why couldnt the city have done the same thing with the public library?

BackinJax05

September 09, 2012, 05:53:45 PM
Something else to think about. Every time one of these hotels closed, dozens of people lost their jobs. I can only imagine what the ripple effect was. Former employees who had less less money to put back into the economy, suppliers (food service, linen, etc.) losing a valued account. In time I would think they would have to cut back, and so on, and so on.

Oh well. The hotels were in the way of vacant lots & parking garages so I suppose they had to go.

Timkin

September 15, 2012, 02:50:02 PM
Something else to think about. Every time one of these hotels closed, dozens of people lost their jobs. I can only imagine what the ripple effect was. Former employees who had less less money to put back into the economy, suppliers (food service, linen, etc.) losing a valued account. In time I would think they would have to cut back, and so on, and so on.

Oh well. The hotels were in the way of vacant lots & parking garages so I suppose they had to go.

amazing that most of the buildings in the picture Stephen posted are no longer.  Brilliant. just brilliant moves on past Administrations.   The Federal Courthouse could have occupied another space.  We had to take down a structurally very sound building to make way for that .

It would be funny how stupid these decisions were if it weren't so sad.

BackinJax05

September 15, 2012, 03:00:02 PM
Something else to think about. Every time one of these hotels closed, dozens of people lost their jobs. I can only imagine what the ripple effect was. Former employees who had less less money to put back into the economy, suppliers (food service, linen, etc.) losing a valued account. In time I would think they would have to cut back, and so on, and so on.

Oh well. The hotels were in the way of vacant lots & parking garages so I suppose they had to go.

amazing that most of the buildings in the picture Stephen posted are no longer.  Brilliant. just brilliant moves on past Administrations.   The Federal Courthouse could have occupied another space.  We had to take down a structurally very sound building to make way for that .

It would be funny how stupid these decisions were if it weren't so sad.

Amen to that! There was NOTHING wrong with the Robert Meyer building.

As I kid, I cheered when the Mayflower was imploded. Now I cringe whenever I see the pictures. Years later, from Tampa, a tear fell when I saw the Robert Meyer coming down on TV.

The irony about the Robert Meyer is it was a "modern" building. Im sure some old buildings were torn down so it could be built.

Wacca Pilatka

September 15, 2012, 06:24:11 PM
That's right.  The Robert Meyer, Penney's store, and Woolworth's were built on the site of the beautiful Windsor Hotel, which was torn down to make way for them.

BackinJax05

September 15, 2012, 08:05:56 PM
Wasnt the old Windsor part of the Robert Meyer chain?
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