Then and Now - Progress in Downtown Jacksonville

May 10, 2007 29 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Preserving history - such a simple concept, apparently so difficult to execute. When a historic building is demolished, some people say, That's progress. Yes, that's true, but is all progress good?

Progress  has shown us that it is possible to see the horizon from parts of LaVilla.   Progress  has shown us that it's silly to maintain an older building that one might own, when it's much more cost effective to dynamite it and plant grass. Most importantly,  Progress  has shown us that while people might like looking at older buildings, they would much rather park on it's foundation.Today, takes a look at some of the  Progress  that we have made over the last 30 years.

This is the Hotel Flagler, that once stood at the corner of West Adams and Davis Streets.  This was just one of the many hotels that Downtown Jacksonville had.  This was, at one time, a part of the LaVilla landscape, a landscape that was once known as the "Harlem of the South".  Today, this is the site of the Hotel Flagler:

Next up is the Hotel George Washington, another one of Downtown's grand hotels.  This was another victim of "progress", demolished shortly after it closed around 1980.  Today, the "progress" of Downtown Jacksonville has turned the site of the Hotel George Washington to this:

(Perhaps someday this will be part of the county courthouse)


The corner of North Laura and West Adams Streets was once part of a thriving retail district Downtown.  However, over the years, as retail flocked to the suburbs, the buildings downtown were neglected and thanks to that neglect, this is what we have:

This is East Forsyth, looking west from North Ocean, at one time the heart of the Great White Way, Jacksonville's great theater district.  In the photo above, you can see the Palace and Imperial theaters, two of the fourteen theaters that lined the streets of Downtown Jacksonville.  Over the years, people determined that this strip of theaters was not needed, and should be replaced by a parking garage - an architectural gem of one at that.  Judge for yourself below:


Finally, one more example - this one again from West Forsyth Street.  Over the years the buildings fell into neglect, so we did what apparently was the only sensible thing - dynamite the buildings.  Thanks to that logical decision, this is what that same street looks like today:

Downtown is not the only neighborhood that has lost some great structures - examples of this also exist in other urban neighborhoods, such as Springfield, which just lost Lampru Court just weeks ago.  We need to take a stand against demolition, particularly demolition through neglect, which was the case with many of the structures mentioned here.

These issues never cease to exist.  Right now, KBJ Archtects was able to convice the Jacksonville City Council that the First Christian Church Building that they own is not historic (even after the Jacksonville Historical Commission - the alleged experts - said that it was).  They have owned the bulding for the past 26 years, and they say that it would cost too much to bring up to code.  If anyone could explain to me how this is not a case of demolition through neglect, I'm all ears.

This paves the way for them to demolish the building to create a surface parking lot (its not like we have very many of those downtown).  At this point, only the Downtown Design Review Committee stands in their way.

How can you help?  Tell the Downtown Design Review Committee that the last thing that we need to be doing downtown is demolishing buildings to create surface parking lots.  Here are their email addresses:

Chairman: Roland Udenze
Haskell Architects and Engineers

James F. Bailey Jr.
Bailey Publishing and Communications, Inc.

Oliver J. Barakat
Senior Associate
C. B. Richard Ellis

Rose Zurawski
JSA Architects, Inc.
Architects, Interiors & Designers

Jonathon Garza
Project Engineer
W. G. Mills, Inc.

Eric Lindstrom
Senior Project Manager

William Alfred (Trip) Stanly

Andy W. Sikes
Baptist Health, Jacksonville Florida

Chris Flagg
Flagg Design Studio, LLC