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Jacksonville's Next Historic District: Brooklyn?

One of Jacksonville's oldest African-American urban neighborhoods, Brooklyn was platted shortly after the Civil War by Miles Price, a Confederate veteran, in 1868. Unfortunately, with its buildings coming down one by one, it's slowly disappearing from existence. Now, if the Jacksonville Historic Commission has their way, a few blocks of the neighborhood will become Jacksonville's next historic district.

Published September 4, 2013 in Neighborhoods      43 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article




Connectivity to Brooklyn throughout the opening of the Myrtle Avenue underpass in 1909 and the Lee Street Viaduct in 1921 led to a change in character of Brooklyn's built environment. Designed to help relieve congestion on the Riverside Viaduct, the underpass and viaduct stimulated commercial and industrial development along Myrtle Avenue and Park Street.


Newly completed McCoys Creek bulkhead and Riverside Avenue culvert in 1930.

Brooklyn began to decline in the years following World War II. This decline was exacerbated with the construction of I-95 and the decline of the Jacksonville Terminal as a multimodal economic engine.

However, the last 30 years have taken a toll on this historic neighborhood.  What was once a very dense neighborhood has evolved into Jacksonville's version of Detroit's Eastside as several urban renewal strategies have led to hundreds of demolitions.  For example, 550 residents were displaced and 183 houses were demolished in a HUD funded redevelopment plan during the early 1980s.  Significant chunks of the neighborhood's commercial fabric were lost due to demolitions resulting from Florida Department of Transportation's widening of Riverside Avenue and Forest Street.  Additional blocks of residential and religious structures between Riverside Avenue and Park Street were then demolished to make way for a failed redevelopment project called Brooklyn Park.


Spruce Street after failed urban renewal efforts.

Today, not much remains of this historic African-American neighborhood. Outside of Park Street, there are more vacant overgrown lots and abandoned building foundations than occupied structures. Furthermore, Brooklyn's 2013 population is less than its 1870 population.  With this in mind, the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission has identified a 6-acre, 2.5 block section of the neighborhood as meeting the criteria to become the city's next historic district.

This section of Brooklyn captures the only remaining cluster of historic residences and churches still standing in the storied neighborhood.  

Here is a look at what makes up the Brooklyn Historic District.



The Evolution of Brooklyn



The proposed 2.5 block historic district contains 18 buildings, 16 of which are considered historical contributing stuctures.  At one time, this section of Brooklyn was a high density community.  A series of Sanborn Maps helps us illustrate the change in the neighborhood's character over the last century. Historic buildings still surviving today are highlighted in green. The historic district's borders are shown in red.


1913 Aerial



A decade after the Great Fire of 1901, the majority of Brooklyn consisted of small frame residential structures.


1951 Aerial



30 years after the opening of the Lee Street viaduct, Park Street has transformed into commerical and industrial corridor.  Additional frame residences have also been built throughout the neighborhood.


2013 Aerial



Time and failed urban renewal projects have taken a toll on the neighborhood.  The majority of the neighborhood no longer exists except for a few clusters of historic development.



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43 Comments

JeffreyS

September 04, 2013, 06:57:22 AM
Probably a good thing given our addiction to demolition.  I worry about the way historic areas are dealt with in Jax like a picture in a book that just stays the same instead of letting an area live respectful of the past. Such as the Jacksonville historical society not letting the skyway interact with the Jacksonville terminal (Prime Osborn ).

Jumpinjack

September 04, 2013, 07:23:25 AM
Shameful that we didn't try to promote protection of this neighborhood before most of it was demolished. Now that there is so much public infatuation for new, bigger, upscale plaza and shopping, how much of a chance is there for small decaying and poorer homes and community buildings.

strider

September 04, 2013, 07:53:15 AM
Frankly, as long as the Chief of Municipal Code Compliance is Kimberly Scott or one of like mind, it makes little difference whether it has a historic designation or not.  In fact, the designation may make it worse if it brings federal funding that she can use "to remove blight" by demolishing the structures.

thelakelander

September 04, 2013, 08:34:28 AM
Most of the buildings that make up this historic district aren't in good shape. For many, the remaining architecture also isn't on the level of what one would find in early upscale neighborhoods like Riverside/Avondale, Springfield and San Marco.  It would be scary if federal funds could be used to take out the rest of what remains.

Ocklawaha

September 04, 2013, 09:14:51 AM
Perfect choice for the 'NEXT' Jacksonville Historic District, considering 98% of it has already been blown to atoms.






You have to wonder how the small remaining commercial strip along the old Myrtle Avenue streetcar line between the subway (Dennis Street) and Price Street missed this plan? Absolutely some of the best old building stock in the city in those few blocks.

thelakelander

September 04, 2013, 09:26:35 AM
^It probably missed because it's on the other side of McCoys Creek with a couple of blocks of nothing in between.  Unfortunately, so much has already been destroyed that it's pretty hard to pull together a cluster of historic structures within a compact setting to create a historic district.

John P

September 04, 2013, 10:03:46 AM
This needs property owners permission right?

Jumpinjack

September 04, 2013, 10:56:23 AM
^ As I remember, not too long ago many property owners in the area were very upset with the plans to demo most of their community. Anyone know how those community meetings were resolved or was it just a lost cause from the beginning?

thelakelander

September 04, 2013, 11:12:36 AM
I'm not sure but I do remember residents mentioning their concerns around the time of the Riverside Avenue widening. Looking back, I'd say it was a lost cause on one hand because most of Brooklyn is gone today. However, the grassroots advocacy for preservation has grown, which will ultimately lead to the preservation of other areas.

Ocklawaha

September 04, 2013, 11:20:56 AM
Seems like pushing Dora across the creek to Myrtle near Swan Street would open up a whole bunch of possibilities.

Brooklyn Park expansion along McCoy's Creek
Tie the historic fabric together
A bit of historic streetscape
Preservation of the little market at 1023 Dora
Potential Heritage Streetcar route

thelakelander

September 04, 2013, 12:08:29 PM
I believe the proposed boundary started off larger and was reduced to its current size. I suspect that was done to make it fit district criteria while also getting it approved.

GoldenEst82

September 04, 2013, 12:50:46 PM
*sigh*
Every time I drive down myrtle, past those buildings, I dream of them for a week.
The building in the second pic is my dream restoration!

But, you know.... Money.

Steve Ducharme

September 04, 2013, 02:10:13 PM
Just so we're clear here what you are wanting to preserve is the architecture and structures (which is fine I guess).  No one wanting to save these places actually gives a hoot about the people who live(d) there.  It's all just potential backdrop for restaurants ans coffee shops.

stephendare

September 04, 2013, 02:19:03 PM
Just so we're clear here what you are wanting to preserve is the architecture and structures (which is fine I guess).  No one wanting to save these places actually gives a hoot about the people who live(d) there.  It's all just potential backdrop for restaurants ans coffee shops.

wow.  is that what you took away from this?

What are you using for reading glasses?  Crystal balls?

GoldenEst82

September 04, 2013, 02:20:32 PM
I really would not care about who lived there before I did- or what it was before- it would be mine.
I would renovate it to use as a family home on the top floor, and for my SO to have his auto business on the bottom.
If there was room left- a studio/storage space for myself.

We could work and live in the same building- keeping our overhead down.
This is a dream of mine- but awesome buildings like there are disappearing, and I fear that by the time I am in a position to do this- it will all be gone.

jaxbeachguy

September 04, 2013, 03:17:05 PM
Just so we're clear here what you are wanting to preserve is the architecture and structures (which is fine I guess).  No one wanting to save these places actually gives a hoot about the people who live(d) there.  It's all just potential backdrop for restaurants ans coffee shops.

You aren't alone, crystal ball eyes guy.

A group of folks got together and said, "Hey, these old buildings are worth saving."  Regardless of the reason, the market seems to be out-of-step with their assessment.

It's called gentrification.   I'd love nothing more than to see those lots razed and rebuilt, bringing in new people to the community, and new revenue to the city.  The new construction can certainly give a nod to the past.

xian1118

September 04, 2013, 03:30:52 PM
There is no way these residential structures could be attract $ for renovations. A better plan would be to rebuild new structures with the same architecture and style. The problem with some of the commercial structures on Park Street is density. Who wouldn't want two-story along Park Street? Improving that area would increase property values > improve the quality of services around the area.

strider

September 04, 2013, 05:33:03 PM
Just so we're clear here what you are wanting to preserve is the architecture and structures (which is fine I guess).  No one wanting to save these places actually gives a hoot about the people who live(d) there.  It's all just potential backdrop for restaurants ans coffee shops.

You aren't alone, crystal ball eyes guy.

A group of folks got together and said, "Hey, these old buildings are worth saving."  Regardless of the reason, the market seems to be out-of-step with their assessment.

It's called gentrification.   I'd love nothing more than to see those lots razed and rebuilt, bringing in new people to the community, and new revenue to the city.  The new construction can certainly give a nod to the past.

There is no way these residential structures could be attract $ for renovations. A better plan would be to rebuild new structures with the same architecture and style. The problem with some of the commercial structures on Park Street is density. Who wouldn't want two-story along Park Street? Improving that area would increase property values > improve the quality of services around the area.

The reason we have historic districts is to preserve a type of housing style that is not built today.  By doing so, you also give a nod to the people who built them and lived in them.  How they were built, how the residents lived is an important part of the reason we are trying to preserve the historic structures.  New construction should not try to mimic the old but rather set the standard for today so that in 100 years, that 2013 house is the historic house being preserved.  No, not all structures should be preserved but certainly when only a few remain, perhaps it is past time to at least consider their preservation.  Of course, today's financial reality is that people "need" master baths and new modern kitchens so that to preserve the old we often must make them at least partly new.  But that is also the reason to save what is there and restore it rather than tear it down and try to duplicate it.  Some of the old must remain or why bother at all?

sheclown

September 04, 2013, 06:41:53 PM
Love that the commissioners and Joel and doing this.

JeffreyS

September 04, 2013, 07:02:37 PM
Razed and Rebuilt ha ha in Jax he he   Sometimes posters without a clue are so funny.

Existing building stock makes it much more likely to have ecconomic activity in the area. Basing an ecconomy around new construction to any large extent is fools gold it's the reason sprawl doesn't work.

tufsu1

September 04, 2013, 10:51:01 PM
^ great video avatar Jeffrey...Touchdown Warrick Dunn!

thelakelander

September 04, 2013, 11:00:41 PM
I really don't know how any outsider could be opposed to an attempt to save two blocks of century old structures in the westside of Brooklyn.  This doesn't limit the possibility of new infill.  Seriously, most of the neighborhood is overgrown lots.  If the area is successfully brought back to life, it would be an environment that would offer a mix of old and new. An authentic setting we have very little of in Jax.

iloveionia

September 05, 2013, 01:14:05 AM
gentrification?
Uh, preservation.
Too much has been lost in Jax.
Big plans that failed leaving overgrown empty lots.
I applaud this effort.
(Like that's a surprise.)

DDC

September 09, 2013, 07:30:58 PM
Of this 2.5 block area, how many owners are there? Dozens? Ten? A hundred? Don't know why i am asking. One of my " if I win the lottery" ideas. Is this too outside of the box for an entity to develop/restore this area with infill, attractions, parks, museum, Bed and Breakfasts....?

Redbaron616

September 10, 2013, 06:37:38 PM
All historic districts do is take control of other people's property and telling them exactly how to keep it. Maybe we should make the whole city an historic area and as of today, no changes can be made. Everything must stay the way it is. Why not? It is silly to call one area historic, while allowing other areas to be bulldozed. At least shoot for consistency.

thelakelander

September 10, 2013, 07:40:12 PM
Zoning pretty much controls what you can and can't do with your property. Houston is the closest city I can think of where you can go to have everything your way.

grimss

September 24, 2013, 08:30:42 PM
Great article. This area needs new life.

thelakelander

September 24, 2013, 08:36:06 PM
Thanks grimss!

Ocklawaha

September 24, 2013, 08:57:54 PM
All historic districts do is take control of other people's property and telling them exactly how to keep it. Maybe we should make the whole city an historic area and as of today, no changes can be made. Everything must stay the way it is. Why not? It is silly to call one area historic, while allowing other areas to be bulldozed. At least shoot for consistency.

So you see equal nostalgic attraction, one of the largest drivers of tourism, in the BOA tower and the JACKSONVILLE TERMINAL? They should have never allowed LaVilla, Brooklyn or Fairfield to be bulldozed... and drawing that half circle around the downtown core, the next and only surviving targets would be East Side and Springfield. I'd love to show you that 29 tracks in the old Terminal, tell you where Roosevelt detrained and walk you all through the streetcar barn, we could finish the night over at the hall where Ray Charles first played... Oh wait, this is Jacksonville and a great portion of it is gone.

wordswithenemies

October 31, 2013, 09:50:31 AM
Does anyone else cringe when they hear people talking about "Brooklyn" in Jacksonville  just because it draws comparison to "other" Brooklyn in NYC?

Tacachale

October 31, 2013, 12:12:55 PM
No.

thelakelander

October 31, 2013, 12:20:54 PM
No. Just about every neighborhood in Jax happens to be a neighborhood name in a number of other cities across the country and vise versa.

Scrub Palmetto

October 31, 2013, 02:21:23 PM
What are the protections offered by this designation, assuming this is to be a local historic district? I'm mostly familiar with the National Register, which mostly offers incentives and protects against threats using federal funds, but local level designation can be anything from merely honorific to even more protective than federal, and I'm not particularly familiar with where on the spectrum Jax's local historic districts/landmarks lie.

JaxUnicorn

November 05, 2013, 08:59:21 AM
What are the protections offered by this designation, assuming this is to be a local historic district? I'm mostly familiar with the National Register, which mostly offers incentives and protects against threats using federal funds, but local level designation can be anything from merely honorific to even more protective than federal, and I'm not particularly familiar with where on the spectrum Jax's local historic districts/landmarks lie.
Well if the protection is anything like what Springfield has been afforded, nothing.  Springfield has lost well over 400 historic structures since becoming a Nationally recognized Historic District.

loadking

November 07, 2013, 01:26:24 AM
This historic idea for Brooklyn is all being done to satisfy one or two homeowners who do not want to see their houses demolished in favor of new construction ,......... Now I do understand they have a long history while being there but ,    time changes everthing and it is simple this area is already 99% demolished already , just let it turn commercial and sell the property for a million dollars and go buy another house and live a comfortable life ,.........Memories never go away

thelakelander

November 07, 2013, 05:46:30 AM
To be honest, the area they carved out is so small (two blocks), it shouldn't have much impact on new development. The mix of old and new could end up being a pretty cool result.

sheclown

November 07, 2013, 06:42:24 AM
What are the protections offered by this designation, assuming this is to be a local historic district? I'm mostly familiar with the National Register, which mostly offers incentives and protects against threats using federal funds, but local level designation can be anything from merely honorific to even more protective than federal, and I'm not particularly familiar with where on the spectrum Jax's local historic districts/landmarks lie.

Joel spoke to this at Monday night's Urban Core CPAC meeting.  Apparently, the local designation is where the certificate of appropriateness requirement comes in.




sheclown

December 11, 2013, 06:16:50 AM
The residents of Brooklyn voted against the designation.  Results were discussed at last night's HPC meeting.  I wasn't there, but perhaps someone can give more details.

thelakelander

December 11, 2013, 06:19:19 AM
Interesting. I know this should make a few developers in the area happy.

strider

December 11, 2013, 08:18:45 AM
From memory, there something like 30 to 40 ballots sent out to property owners.  Only 19 were returned to be counted.  Many were not received by the owners, possibly due to incorrect addresses in the data base.  Of the 19 counted, 8 were for the designation and 11 against.  Under ordinance, that meant the process stopped and the HPC simply accepted the vote by property owners with the majority saying no to the designation. 

Unfortunate, but not really surprising.  Most do not understand the meaning of being in a historic District and just see the issue of being told what to do with your land.  I guess it could be brought up for a vote again, but it will take some time and a more organized effort to get passed. Like people will have to correct addresses with the city as from what I was told about the CPAC meeting, more than enough wanted this, it was probably more a lack of organization and knowledge of how the process worked that caused the failure.  But just my opinion based on the info I have been given.

MEGATRON

December 11, 2013, 09:04:12 AM
Most do not understand the meaning of being in a historic District and just see the issue of being told what to do with your land.
Their understanding is somewhat accurate.

Coolyfett

December 11, 2013, 09:15:27 AM
Does anyone else cringe when they hear people talking about "Brooklyn" in Jacksonville  just because it draws comparison to "other" Brooklyn in NYC?
ummmm What?

TheCat

December 11, 2013, 10:25:00 AM
Does anyone else cringe when they hear people talking about "Brooklyn" in Jacksonville  just because it draws comparison to "other" Brooklyn in NYC?

ummmm What?
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