Metro Jacksonville visits a Southside neighborhood whose residential district includes a number of older homes and several apartment complexes, primarily tucked between Emerson Street, Philips Highway and Beach Boulevard: Spring Park.
About Spring Park
Looking east on Emerson Street from Old St. Augustine Road on May 7, 1953. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/104592
The neighborhood of Spring Park is the result of several historically predominately rural African American communities being engulfed by the outward growth of Jacksonville during the 20th century.
Philips, may have been the area's most prominent 19th century community. Named after the owner of the Red Bank Plantation and Duval County's sheriff from 1833-1839, Albert Gallatin Philips, the Philips community grew up around a railway station near Red Bank in the vicinity of the present day intersection of Old St. Augustine Road and Philips Highway.
The freed slave community of Philips was named after the owner of the nearby Red Bank Plantation, Albert Gallatin Philips (1803-1874). Image courtesy of http://minorcan.smugmug.com/People/Philips/116130_Ts6xnt/4205476_TvfCGqm#!i=4205476&k=TvfCGqm
For years, the area that would become Spring Park was situated on the outskirts of the City of South Jacksonville. In 1932, South Jacksonville merged with Jacksonville, spliting the community between the City of Jacksonville and Duval County. This situation would remain until consolidation. Remnants of this former border remain in the pattern of Ripley Avenue and Sheridan Roads and the disconnected street network between Holmes Street and Lamee Avenue.
Two WPA projects laid the foundation for the eventual infill development of Spring Park. The first project was the construction of the new Bayard Highway in 1934. Now known as Philips Highway, this roadway was intended to be a short cut between South Jacksonville and Bayard. In 1937, the right-of-way for what would become Beach Boulevard was acquired from the Florida East Coast Railway for $8,500. The WPA project started in 1938 but ceased in 1941 because of World War II. Beach Boulevard was finally completed in 1949.
Philips Highway was named after Judge Henry B. Philips, the son of Albert Gallatin Philips. He studied law at Vanderbilt University and served as county judge for Duval County for 20 years. Later, Governor Cary Hardee appointed Philips as a member of the State Road Board and he would serve as chairman 1921-1925. Image courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/153046
As these projects moved forward, the rural setting of the area was engulfed by new development catering to the growing popularity of the automobile. Soon, subdivisions such as Spring Park Manor, St. Nicholas Spring, and Home Park would rise. Spring Park was the epicenter of Southside growth and development in 1957. That year, Beach Boulevard's Southgate Shopping Center opened becoming one of the Southside's first suburban shopping centers and the Koger Center, the nation's first suburban office park, was completed near the neighborhood's eastern boundary.
Phillips Highway Plaza under construction in 1960. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/167662
On November 16, 1957, Food Fair Properties announced their intentions to build Jacksonville's first enclosed shopping mall and largest in the Southeast in Spring Park. In 1960, the 400,000-square-foot Phillips Highway Plaza opened at the intersection of Philips Highway and Emerson Street. Initial anchors for the 43.5-acre mall included Montgomery Ward, Food Fair Stores and a movie cinema. Soon, the vibrant suburban area around the mall and new interstate became known as "The Miracle Mile." The 1960s would also result in the extension of Interstate 95 and upgrades to Emerson Street through the area.
A 1960s Sanborn Map illustrating the floor plan of Philips Mall, the first enclosed shopping mall in Jacksonville.
In the later half of the 20th century, like many neighborhoods across the country, as the neighborhood aged, the need for revitalization and concern about crime and blight became critical concerns. This led to the establishment of the Spring Park Neighborhood Association in the late 1990s. Since then, amenities have been added in area parks, sidewalks installed and the neighborhood has successfully fought to keep its elementary school open.
Today, the Spring Park community continues its efforts to revitalize. However, its residential setting and street pattern are a vivid reminders of a 19th century rural setting engulfed by outward growth of Jacksonville after World War II.
Next Page: Spring Park Photo Tour