The Ghosts of Jacksonville's Past II

November 4, 2010 15 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Arguing the merits of historic preservation can be a difficult task in a city that does not value its history. However, they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

The Delcher Brothers Storage Company operated from 1913 to 1981.  In the late 1980s, it was considered as a possible site for downtown housing but the height and thickness of its concrete ceilings made the cost of a loft conversion astronomical.  Instead, the state ended up paying $761,575 to purchase and demolish the building to widen Riverside Avenue.

Before self- storage centers sprung up all over Jacksonville, there was the Delcher Building.

The seven-story storage facility at 262 Riverside Ave., one of the earliest in the city, dates back to the early 1900s.

For a few more weeks, that is.

The red-brick warehouse is being torn down to make room for the eventual widening of Riverside Avenue from the Acosta Bridge south to Forest Street.

Demolition is expected to start Monday and last 45 days.

The 81,655-square-foot facility is the biggest of 26 buildings that will have been razed by the end of 2001. Nine have been torn down so far.

It was built like a fortress to safeguard the household goods that were stored there.

Ninety-one years ago, The Florida Times-Union reported that the Delcher Brothers were constructing a reinforced concrete building that would be fireproof with three-inch hollow tile walls and steel doors.

It would contain three safety deposit vaults for silverware and valuables, as well as a basement.

Noted architects Mellen Greeley and Roy Benjamin designed the building, with construction beginning in 1911. It was expanded over the next decade.

Historian, author and optometrist Wayne Wood recalls driving around Riverside with Greeley, who died at age 101 in 1981.

One of their stops was the Delcher Building.

"When he designed the building, he insisted the facade be covered with paving bricks, which are a great deal larger than regular-sized bricks," Wood said.

Wood said Greeley told him the workmen shouted curses at him during construction because the bricks were so heavy.

" Delcher was a moving company, and I assume the larger bricks were chosen to give a sense of solidity and a fortress-like feel for the people who stored their household goods there," Wood said.

It remained a storage facility until closing years ago.

Source: Project forces razing of historic building, Florida Times-Union 3/31/01

Main Street wasn't always as desolate as it is today.  At one time it lived up to its name, featuring a streetcar line surrounded by miles of walkable retail, entertainment and residential uses, connecting downtown to Springfield and Panama Park in the process.  The six story ghost of the Standard Furniture Building can seen in the background at the intersection of Main & Monroe Streets.  Standard Furniture was established in 1910 by R.L. Jones, as a rival to his older brother's Jones Brother's Furniture Company on Hogan Street.  In 1964, the two companies would merge bringing an end to a 54 year old sibling rivalry.  We won't have to worry about this building being in the middle of another family rivalry since it has now been leveled to facilitate a new use... surface parking.

Now the location of Region's Bank, the scene around the Old Bisbee Building building has changed since it was completed in 1901.  Now surrounded by skyscrapers, parking garages and surface lots, this German Renaissance style structure was designed by Gottfried L. Norman, Atlanta's most prominent late 19th century architect.

This building on the corner of Hogan and Adams Streets wasn't always covered with stucco.  At one time, this structure's facade included brick and canopies over the street level store front openings of Rosenblum's Clothiers.  Rosenblum's Clothiers was established in 1898 by Frank Rosenblum.  During downtown's heyday, Roseblum's dressed some of the area's most powerful residents, mayors and governors from this building at the intersection of Adams & Hogan Streets.  Rosenblum's has since fled downtown to the Southside, like many others, leaving this space in need of a new use.

Ever wonder what Main Street would look like today if we had not torn down all of its buildings in the name of progress?  This image at the intersection of Main & Monroe Streets gives us a little insight.  A walk down Main Street today shows us what happens to an urban environment when one replaces interactive pedestrian level uses with solid walls, parking garages and lots.

Unfortunately, we can't turn back the clock to bring many of these lost architecturally unique structures back.  However, we can use these images to illustrate the importance of historic building fabric and preservation as an essential element of a virbant pedestrian oriented atmosphere.

The Ghosts of Jacksonville's Past I

Graphics by Ennis Davis