The Underappreciated Side of Riverside - Part II

February 2, 2010 20 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The Riverside/Avondale Historic District is well known for its diverse mix of architecture and urban parks. However, it can be argued that the dense integration of non single family building fabric is what gives the district its true unique charm and vibrancy.

* Due to the geographic size of the Riverside/Avondale Historic District, this article only focuses on the area between King Street and Seminole Road (the original northern boundary of Avondale).  The rest of the historic district will be featured in future "Underappreciated" series articles in 2010.

Bold City Brewery

Bold City Brewery is locally owned and operated by Brian and Susan Miller (no relation to the Miller Brewing Company, although the money would be nice). They are supported by the rest of the Miller family who all have a hand in the operations whether it be marketing, distributing, ordering supplies, cleaning tanks or doing what's most important, brewing beer. Brian, the Brewmaster started with home brewing in 2002. He was a member of the Local Home Brewers club here in Jacksonville prior to opening the brewery. His mother, Susan, left her job in management at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida to join the beer biz. She is primarily responsible for managing the on-site Tavern.

The concept of opening a business, any business, can be a scary one, but at some point, you have to allow yourself to dream about what could be and push forward with your aspirations. There has been a lot of long hours and hard work, but we've been blessed with good times and a bundle of fun along the way.

Our city has a very large craft brew following and it’s our honor to create Jacksonville’s own selection of Craft Beer. We hope to see you soon!

Park & King District

The eclectic Park King Retail District sits in the heart of the Riverside/Avondale Historic District at the intersection of Park King Streets.  Park Street serves as the main centralized north/south thoroughfare for the Riverside/Avondale Historic District.  The Park Street commercial strip stretches 1,300 feet between Acosta Street (north) and James Street (south).

The building housing the Carter's Park & King Pharmacy was originally the Lane Drug Company in 1942.  Based out of Atlanta, Lane Drug was the first large drugstore chain in the city with over 12 different locations at one point.

King Street was named after August King.  The street serves as a major pedestrian friendly connection between North Riverside, the CSX "A" Line corridor, and St. Vincent's Medical Center.  A potential rail station on King Street would instantly create a walkable destination currently containing a 2,600 foot long stretch of mix of retail, neighborhood services, multi-family and dining uses.  A connection with a starter rail line would only bring more wealth, investment and redevelopment infill potential to the commercial district.

Whiteway Corner

The buildings known as Whiteway Corner, were constructed by the Nasrallah brothers.  The one story yellow brick building was completed in 1927 with 10 storefronts. The Nasrallahs also installed a row of white electric street lamps (a new technology in the 1920s) around the building.  The name "Whiteway Corner" evolved from this special exterior feature.

Whiteway Corner's original tenants were Hoyt Music Shop, Blitch's Red Front Store, Whiteway Realty office, Whiteway Deli, Bennett Drug and Pharmacy, Shoe Repair, Haft Ice Cream and Purity Bakery.  Following a resurgence in local prosperity after World War II, the Nasrallahs expanded the retail complex with a two-story office/retail building in 1949.  Today, the buildings contain 13 retail shops, cafes and restaurants.

European Street Cafe's building was originally the Orange State Oil Company service station.  The Art Deco/Moderne style station opened its doors in 1941.

A Former Streetcar Suburb

As Jacksonville considers bringing back the streetcar, dense urban neighborhoods like Riverside/Avondale can serve as ridership anchors for new rail systems.  The density this community possess is a direct result of it originally being a streetcar suburb.

Early growth in Riverside/Avondale was fueled by two streetcar lines.  In this section of the neighborhood, the north line ran along College Street & Dellwood Avenue to Murray Hill.

The southern line utilized primarily Oak Street and Riverside Avenue on its way to Avondale, Ortega and NAS Jax.  The commercial strip known as Park & King was anchored on both ends by these streetcar lines.  Like Park & King, this section of the Riverside/Avondale Historic District is dominated by a dense mix of uses and architectural styles.

The Metro Entertainment Complex has been serving the GLBT community for 17 years and has been the highlight for everyone to come and have a good time. Voted #1 by readers of Out in the City and Folio Weekly for years. This one of a kind nightclub experience plays host to Lesbo-A-Go-Go, monthly Tea Dances, special quest performers, the nation's best female impersonators, and features a total of 7 different venues under one roof to choose from.

Identical to Andrew Jackson High School in Brentwood, Riverside's Robert E. Lee High School was completed in 1927 at 1200 McDuff Avenue South.

Church on McDuff

These Prairie School Style apartment buildings at 1620-1632 Donald Street were designed by Mark & Sheftall Architects in 1915.

Although the porches and balconies have been removed from these two adjacent U-shaped wooden apartment buildings, they still retain their dramatic cantilevered canopies. These are quite similar to the two other apartment buildings designed by Mark & Sheftall at 2114-20 Herschel Street and 349-355 West Fifth Street.

Aberdeen Street

Before World War I, the southern Riverside streetcar line ended at Aberdeen Street.  After the war, the streetcar line was extended to Ortega and NAS Jacksonville.

Although the rails no longer remain, the old track locations can clearly be identified in the brick street.

Willowbranch Park is located in the Riverside area, along the course of Willowbranch Creek. Former City Councilman John J. Griffin led the drive to create the park, and development began in 1916. Additional acreage was acquired southeast of Park Street between 1921 and 1925. Dr. Harold Hume donated 1700 azalea bushes around 1924 to beautify a portion of the grounds, while the Willowbranch Library opened at the park in 1930; and the creek was straightened and bulkheaded in 1934.

Eventually four other small City parks/gardens were created from the park property – one south and one north of St. Johns Avenue and two along Park Street (in the 1950’s). Since its creation in 1974, Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP) has worked to preserve and improve the park, along with the Willowbranch Park Improvement Committee that formed in 1999.

Through the years it has remained one of the City’s most picturesque parks. At the instigation of Councilman Jim Overton in 2002, a bronze memorial plaque honoring Patricia Austin, the deceased wife of former mayor Ed Austin, was installed at the park in 2004. An immense live oak tree canopies two benches provided for the relaxation of visitors.

The Gothic style Riverside Christian Church was designed by Marsh & Saxelbye Architects and completed in 1922.

West Riverside Elementary School has been a fixture in the community since 1911.

This structure was constructed in 1938 as a part of the Martha Washington Hotel.  The name was chosen to capitalize on the fame of the George Washington Hotel downtown and to denote that this was a hotel for women.  The hotel closed in 1977 and was saved from demolition by Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP).

Photographs by Ennis Davis