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This Place Matters: Saving Norman Studios

A National Trust for Historic Preservation contest could provide Jacksonville with $25,000 to help convert Arlington's historic Norman Studios complex into a silent film museum.

Published September 6, 2010 in News      19 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


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About This Place Matters Community Challenge
 
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The National Trust for Historic Preservation  has created a This Place Matters Community Challenge to help non-profit organizations across the country start a conversation about places that matter in the communities that they work in.  The organization that receives the most votes on their site wins $25,000. Voting period runs through September 15th, 2010.


About Norman Studios



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It was the early 1900s and Northeast Florida was experiencing its "Glided Age" as a winter playground for the nation's wealthiest and most famous including the biggest stars of the silver screen.  The frigid temperatures of New York and Chicago, where the nation's film business originated, damaged film stock and dismayed starlets.  As luck would have it, the New York-to-Florida railroad track provided a straight shot from the Big Apple to the Sunshine State.  And so was born Northeast Florida's status as the "Winter Film Capital of the World."

By 1916, Jacksonville telephone directories listed more than 30 motion picture companies.  Among them was the Eagle Studios, a five-building complex built in 1916 in the heart of Jacksonville's Arlington district.  By 1920, the property changed hands and became Norman Laboratories, specializing in motion pictures and "talking picture equipment."  The complex became the home and creative center of Richard Norman, who between 1920 and 1928 made six feature films and scores of shorts.  He also made history as one of a handful of filmmakers brave enough to break the racial barrier in the motion picture industry just a few years following the release of D.W. Griffith's still controversial "Birth of a Nation."

"My father was disheartened about the state of race relations at the time, both in real life and in the movies," says Capt. Richard Norman, Jr., the filmmaker's son. "He set out to help give the black community a stronger place on film, behind the cameras and in the theatres."

Norman was among the first, along with filmmaker Oscar Micheaux and the Lincoln Motion Picture Co., to make "race films." These movies defied the mainstream by starring black actors in positive roles and giving black crewmembers well-paying jobs.  Thus began a movement to establish an independent black cinema at a time when blacks were stereotyped and demeaned in mainstream movies.  In Norman films black characters were heros and heroines, leaders and lovers.

In 2002, after a passionate campaign, the city of Jacksonville purchased four of the five Norman buildings, including the main production building where Norman developed and screened his films, the generator shed, the wardrobe cottage, and the prop storage garage.  Our 501(c)3 organization was formed to protect and preserve the Norman property and its history.  Long term plans for the complex include a silent film museum, a venue for independent filmmakers to screen their projects, industry-related workshops, and a summer camp designed to teach children about film career choices.  Join us in preserving this unique snapshot of motion picture history.
http://my.preservationnation.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=9463&security=2862&s_interest=3169



Norman Studios - Before & After

To vote and for more information

http://my.preservationnation.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=9463&security=2862&s_interest=3169







19 Comments

JeffreyS

September 06, 2010, 09:54:01 AM
Do you have a map of it's location.

thelakelander

September 06, 2010, 09:58:03 AM
No map but it's located on the NE corner of Arlington Road and Westdale Dr, between Cesery and Rogero.

billy

September 06, 2010, 10:12:07 AM
any of the films available anywhere?

Bativac

September 07, 2010, 12:46:37 PM
Did anyone catch the "Film In Jacksonville" short documentary on one of the PBS stations this weekend? Short but informative. It featured an interview with Mr. Norman's son.

Timkin

September 11, 2010, 04:03:01 AM
Nice job on the restoration of this Building, though I think much if it was replaced.

duvaldude08

October 12, 2010, 11:27:34 AM
I dont like this buildings location. If it does open as a museum, how successful would it be all the way in arlington? Maybe if it can be moved and intergrated into downtown it may work better. Or possibaly if can be located near the Ritz, since they have a museum as well.

Ethylene

October 12, 2010, 01:03:51 PM
I dont like this buildings location. If it does open as a museum, how successful would it be all the way in arlington? Maybe if it can be moved and intergrated into downtown it may work better. Or possibaly if can be located near the Ritz, since they have a museum as well.

Can't and should not happen! Why the antiseptic cleansing approach? No benefit can be realized by "moving" Norman Studios, good grief! Downtown Jacksonville does not work now, you know! Moving a building, at who knows what expense, will have no effect, zero, nada!

billy

October 12, 2010, 01:16:24 PM
I agree, recognizing history also means acknowledging a specific locale,
otherwise the significance of what took place diminishes.

Timkin

October 14, 2010, 07:09:49 PM
I dont like this buildings location. If it does open as a museum, how successful would it be all the way in arlington? Maybe if it can be moved and intergrated into downtown it may work better. Or possibaly if can be located near the Ritz, since they have a museum as well.
Can't and should not happen! Why the antiseptic cleansing approach? No benefit can be realized by "moving" Norman Studios, good grief! Downtown Jacksonville does not work now, you know! Moving a building, at who knows what expense, will have no effect, zero, nada!

 It would be less expensive to build an exact replicate of the building if that was the idea. This building would not survive a move to the Ritz theatre...nor could it get across the Matthews . nice thought.  Wont work.. Id say put the museum in the building's present location.  Arlington could use some new points of interest.

duvaldude08

October 21, 2010, 12:51:16 PM
Hey it was just a thought (geez isnt this what the forums are for?) yes arlington could use some new points of interest, however if the city does not make known it exisits, then no one will visit. For example, most people in this city does not even know there is a museum in the Ritz thearte, nor do they know there is a Museum at the Clara white mission. Jacksonville has been very sucessful at ignoring its African American history. Being that the Clara White Mission and Ritz Thearte are right up the street from each other, I said it WOULD be nice IF the building could be move in that general area.  I know that I was a bit far feched, but it was just a thought. I still dont understand how the city will heavily promote the MOCA, MOSH and CUMMER, but ignore the africian american musuems. But hey, we all know that's was never their priority, they showed that by razing and destorying Lavilla. UGh sorry guys just had to vent.  :P

Timkin

October 22, 2010, 01:07:57 PM
It was a good thought Duval. :) not venting :)

Timkin

October 22, 2010, 01:09:45 PM
actually I made a booboo in my quoting

Wacca Pilatka

October 22, 2010, 01:44:59 PM
Hey it was just a thought (geez isnt this what the forums are for?) yes arlington could use some new points of interest, however if the city does not make known it exisits, then no one will visit. For example, most people in this city does not even know there is a museum in the Ritz thearte, nor do they know there is a Museum at the Clara white mission. Jacksonville has been very sucessful at ignoring its African American history. Being that the Clara White Mission and Ritz Thearte are right up the street from each other, I said it WOULD be nice IF the building could be move in that general area.  I know that I was a bit far feched, but it was just a thought. I still dont understand how the city will heavily promote the MOCA, MOSH and CUMMER, but ignore the africian american musuems. But hey, we all know that's was never their priority, they showed that by razing and destorying Lavilla. UGh sorry guys just had to vent.  :P

I've also written to the CVB about their not mentioning the Karpeles at all.  Doesn't seem to have done much good.

stephendare

October 22, 2010, 01:52:04 PM
no kidding.  The Karpeles is an amazing asset.

Bativac

October 25, 2010, 10:08:01 AM
no kidding.  The Karpeles is an amazing asset.

The Karpeles Museum is such a cool place that I am always surprised to be the only person in there anytime I visit. It's nice to have it all to myself but it'd be great if it got a little more exposure.

tayana42

November 23, 2010, 10:07:31 PM
Unfortunately, Visit Jacksonville, the organization funded by the Tourist Development Council and by member dues, promotes those attractions that are members.  By not providing information on every attraction in the city, they lose their credibility with the result that most travelers turn to TripAdvisor.com or similar open source websites.

Ocklawaha

November 23, 2010, 10:33:11 PM
actually I made a booboo in my quoting

Fixed it Tim.

Why not Arlington? Lot's of cool history in that area and the community is really embracing it... Any tourist on the way to the beach is just as likely to take Arlington Expressway as they are Atlantic - Beach or JTB, so why not a nice big brown (the official state type) sign pointing out the exit for historic Arlington and the Norman Studios? The city has plenty of signs, but far too few that assist visitors along their path. Our War of Yankee Aggression sites alone could account for thousands of visitors each year but does anyone know where they are?


OCKLAWAHA

ricker

December 22, 2010, 07:26:18 AM
Amen, OCK!

btw- what's the CVB?
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