Urban Neighborhoods: St. Nicholas

March 23, 2010 30 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville explores the historic Southbank neighborhood of St. Nicholas.

St. Nicholas is located where Atlantic and Beach Boulevards intersect just east of San Marco and Interstate 95.

History of St. Nicholas

The northern bank of the St. Johns River at the narrow crossing point called "Cow Ford" by the British and "Pass de San Nicolas" by the Spanish, became the site of the town of Jacksonville in 1822.  The southern bank retained the Spanish designation San Nicolas.  The Spanish considered building a fort on this southern shore as early as 1740, when British General James Oglethorpe of Georgia (founder of Savannah) was preparing to invade the region. Actual construction did not occur until after 1783, when the Spanish regained the territory following twenty years of British control.  The King's Road had been built during the British occupation and had become a major north-south transportation route from the St. Mary's River to St. Augustine.  Later the Spanish fortified San Nicolas adjacent to the King's Road, making it a strategic battery for guarding the river crossing, as well as an important northerly point of defense for St. Augustine.

American adventurers, Creek Indians, bands of criminals, and French Republicans all sought to invade the newly re-established Spanish province of East Florida.  In 1793, a number of Floridians rebelled against Spanish rule, declared their loyalty to the United States, and fled to Georgia.  Among them was Richard Lang, for the previous five years the magistrate for the St. Johns region.  Don Juan McQueen, who replaced Lang as magistrate, directed a strengthening of the fortifications at San Nicolas in 1794, anticipating an attack by the French.  The following year, a band of rebels led by ex-magistrate Richard Lang attacked Fort San Nicolas and occupied it for several days before fleeing back to Georgia.

The simple triangular battery at San Nicolas was extended in 1802. A description of the fort in 1811, indicates that it had grown to over one hundred feet in length and width and had been surrounded by a log palisade and a moat.  Following another invasion in 1817, however, the Spanish abandoned the fort for the final time.

In 1820, the Spanish governor rejected a petition from citizens living around the Cow Ford to form a municipality called San Nicolas. Had it been accepted, the city of Jacksonville might be named St. Nicholas today.  Within a year after Florida was ceded to the United States in 1821, the name Jacksonville was given to the settlement north of the Cow Ford.

The area south of the river near the former fort has continued to be known as St. Nicholas (the Anglicized equivalent of "San Nicolas"). After the Civil War and through the late 1800's, the area from the ferry landing (the former JEA Southside Generation Station site) to the Arlington River, including Empire Point, was referred to as "the village of St. Nicholas."  Property ownership in this sparsely populated settlement stemmed from two Spanish land grants, one to Francis Bagley and the other to Reuben Hogans.

After Bagley's death, his grant passed on to his widow, Anna Hogans.  This property consisted of three hundred acres and extended from Isaac Hendricks' property on the west to just beyond Miller's Creek on the east.  The Bagley grant was later divided up among Anna Hogans' five children, and it is this area, west of Miller's Creek, which is called St. Nicholas today.
Source: Jacksonville's Architectural Heritage, Page 229-230

Historic St. Nicholas Town Center

The St. Nicholas Town Center is home to a diverse business mix that ranges from car washes and thrift stores to hardware shops, sports bars and ethnic restaurants.

St. Nicholas Train Station Park

Even before the City of Jacksonville was chartered in 1822, the cannon at Fort St. Nicholas on the Southbank watched over passing ships. A hard-to-find marker beside Atlantic Boulevard points to the fort’s location along the river. This 19th-century frontier fortification provided the name for the 20th century residential development known as St. Nicholas.

In 2005, the city relocated a small building to what is now known as St. Nicholas Train Station Park, located on the south side of Atlantic Boulevard west of the overpass. Previously located on Linden Avenue, it’s the old St. Nicholas train depot.

Around 1900, Florida East Coast Railroad extended a rail line from south Jacksonville to the beach and north to Mayport with five or six small depots, including the one at St. Nicholas. In the1920s, the Florida East Coast Railroad abandoned the line. The county, then, bought the right of way and created Beach Boulevard

St. Nicholas Apartment District

The St. Nicholas Apartment District is located between the historic St. Nicholas Town Center and St. Nicholas Playground.  This convenient location of high density residential living helps make St. Nicholas a walkable community where residents can actually live, work and play.

St. Nicholas Playground

Located at 2260 Spring Park Road, this active recreational area is within short walking distance of the St. Nicholas Town Center.

St. Nicholas Playground is located adjacent to Spring Park Road in the St. Nicholas/Spring Park section of Jacksonville. Following City land purchases in 1936 and 1937, the park was created and originally named Spring Park, and was expanded by additional land acquisitions in 1944. The St. Nicholas Park and Home Park subdivisions were developed near the park in the late 1930's to meet the housing needs of Jacksonville's growing middle class, and the Spring Park Elementary School opened adjacent to the park in 1942. The playground became a popular site for games of the City's baseball leagues. In recent years the Spring Park Neighborhood Association and St. Nicholas Area Preservation have taken an active role in the maintenance and welfare of the facility, which contains a walking/jogging trail completed in 1999.

With homes priced in the mid $100,000s south of Atlantic Boulevard, north of St. Nicholas Playground and within walking distance of the town center, St. Nicholas offers a range of housing options for a variety of income levels.

Bishop Kenny High School

In 1952, Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley, with the help of the Catholic Community in Jacksonville, initiated the consolidation of three Catholic high schools to form one diocesan high school. Named Central Catholic High School, the school was re-dedicated in 1953 in honor of Bishop William J. Kenny, the first American-born bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine.

The location of Bishop Kenny High School was once the site of a Spanish fortress. In more modern times the property served as a shipyard during World War I. After coming into the hands of the Diocese of St. Augustine, it was determined that it would be the ideal site for a Catholic High School designed to serve approximately 400 students from Jacksonville and surrounding areas. The original facilities were expanded during the school's first year of operation with the construction of the library and cafetorium. As enrollment continued to grow it was decided that the construction of a girl's wing was warranted. In 1960, ground was broken and the facility now referred to as the West building was begun. The project was completed in 1964.

The gymnasium, which has since been renamed in honor of Coach John Baldwin, was completed and dedicated in October of 1961. At the time of its opening it was lauded as "The largest high school gymnasium in the city and one of the best in the state". The 1970's also saw growth on the Bishop Kenny campus with the addition of the William Johnston football stadium, bleachers, press box, concession stands, classroom air conditioning, and enhanced library. As the computer era was ushered into the classroom, a computer lab and updated curriculum were added to the school.

In 1989, Father Michael Houle was named President of the school after having served as the Director of Development at the Pontifical College Josephinum for three years. Father Houle, who himself is a Bishop Kenny graduate of the class of 1971, had also previously served as a member of the BK religion faculty for seven years. Under his leadership the school has undergone dramatic changes and additions which continue even today.

The first capital campaign of the 1990's was the Bishop Kenny Renovation and Expansion Fund, which resulted in the construction of the Fine Arts building, which was dedicated in 1992. This was the first major building constructed on campus since the completion of the west wing in 1964. At the same time major renovations were made to existing buildings. Today virtually every corner of the campus has been renovated and four more major buildings have been added. They are the 400, 500, 600 buildings and the jewel of all of the projects completed since 1989, the Bishop Paul F. Tanner Chapel, which sits prominently at the entrance to the campus. In all, more than 8.5 million dollars have been raised and invested in improvements at the school over the past ten years.

Reed's Subdivision

The small neighborhood, west of Bishop Kenny High School, was named for its developer, Harrison Reed, who served as governor of Florida from 1868-1873.  This area was originally a section of the City of South Jacksonville, which merged with Jacksonville in 1932.

A remnant of the old rail spur that once ran to the JEA Southside Generation Station.

Marjenhoff Park

Marjenhoff Park is situated in Reed's Subdivision, just east of the City's San Marco area. The neighborhood was named for its developer, Harrison Reed, who served as governor of Florida from 1868-1873. From 1907 to 1932, South Jacksonville was a separate municipality, to which Lilla M. White conveyed the land for the park in 1923. The site remained little more than a swamp until Alex D. Marjenhoff, a resident who lived near the site and also served on the South Jacksonville City Council from 1928 to 1932, initiated efforts to develop the park in 1929. The City filled in the marsh, created a small lake with an island, and with the help of the neighborhood residents, planted trees and other plants to beautify the grounds. At the residents’ request, the City named the park in honor of Mr. Marjenhoff in October 1931. Today, the park is a favorite spot for small group picnics and quiet relaxation.

Palmer Terrace

The neighborhood containing Palmer Terrace is located between Bishop Kenny High School, Atlantic Boulevard, Millers Creek and the St. Johns River.

The McIver Residence at 1108 Palmer Terrace.

The area known today as St. Nicholas corresponds to a Spanish land grant to Francis Bagley that was passed on to his widow, Anna Hogans.  In 1839, the property was divided into five 80- to 90-acre lots among Anna Hogans' five children, one of whom was Eliza Miller.  Five grandchildren of Eliza and her husband, David L. Palmer, were members of the Holmes family and inherited Lot #2 of the original grant.  Four houses owned by Holmes family relatives and in-laws still remain at the foot of Palmer Terrace on this same property, forming an interesting grouping. This riverfront house at 1108 Palmer Terrace is the newest of the group, built for Dr. and Mrs. Robert McIver.  Mrs. McIver is the great, great granddaugter of Anna Hogans; Palmer Terrace is named for her grandfather.  The house reflects the Tudor Revival style, highlighted by half-timbering and a three-story tower containing a circular staircase.
Source: Jacksonville's Architectural Heritage, Page 232

1117 Palmer Terrace

This imposing riverfront residence exhibits an interesting blend of styles: the asymmetrical massing is typical of the Queen Anne style; the portico with massive Corinthian columns reflects the Colonial Revival style; and the polygonal bays, paired brackets, quoins; and arched windows demonstrate an Italianate influence.  The property was purchased in December 1885, by Loula C. Clifton, a cousin of Mrs. Edwin Holmes.  This house was presumably completed in 1886, and it had a separate kitchen as well as a swimming pool.  The interior of the house features eight fireplaces, one of which has a mantel of solid iron.  A music room with a stage for performances of the harp and zither was part of the original design.  This is one of Jacksonville's most elaborate riverfront mansions remaining from the last century.
Source: Jacksonville's Architectural Heritage, Page 234

1210 Palmer Terrace

Following the death of David L. Palmer's wife Emma in 1887, this property was inherited by the Palmer's eldest granddaughter, Augusta Holmes.  She married William DeLacy, and the couple had this house constructed in 1888.
Source: Jacksonville's Architectural Heritage, Page 234

1230 Palmer Terrace

The marriage of Rhydon Mays Call to Ida Holmes in 1887 bought together two prominent families.  Call came to Jacksonville in 1880 and began practicing law.  He was a member of the City Council for six years, Circuit Judge and then U.S. District Judge for fourteen years.  His grandfather, Richard K. Call, was a personal aide to General Andrew Jackson and twice served as territorial Governor of Florida.  Ida Holmes was a descendent of Anna Hogans, D.S.H. Miller, and David Palmer, all prominent Jacksonville pioneers.  Her brother was George O. Holmes, one of the leading architects of the city, who married Anna Mays, a cousin of Judge Call.  Upon their marrigage, Judge and Mrs. Call moved into this one-and-a-half-story house which features a full veranda, three dormers, and ornamental wooden shingles on the side gables.
Source: Jacksonville's Architectural Heritage, Page 234

Palmer Terrace Park

This park is a parcel of land located at the end of Palmer Terrace. In 2007 it was reallocated from Streets and Drainage at the request of the neighbors.

Historic St. Nicholas Cemetery

The historic St. Nicholas Cemetery is located at the intersection of Olive and Houston Streets, just north of Altantic Blvd near Miller Creek.

Midtown Centre Office Park

In the midst of metropolitan Jacksonville, located between two major thoroughfares, Midtown Centre truly is at the center of it all.  This landmark office development presents a vibrant, yet professional, atmosphere for its occupants, including engineering, accounting and law firms.

Midtown Centre was originally developed Ira M. Koger. Koger is credited with creating the suburban office park concept.  The St. Nicholas office complex was one of the first suburban office complexes to be constructed in the country.

Ira M. Koger

Ira Koger has enjoyed success in many endeavors, but real estate development has brought him fame and fortune and the opportunity to serve the communities he has called home.  
He is credited with creating the office park concept and, since 1957, he has designed, built, financed, and leased more than 30 office parks in the Southwest and Southeast, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and El Paso, Texas, to Norfolk, Virginia, and Miami, Florida. The office parks embrace more than 300 buildings, producing about $150 million in annual rent.
Ira McKissick Koger was born December 5, 1912, in Charleston, a son of Ira M. and Bessie Evans McMillan Koger. His father was a well-to-do food broker. Koger attended Mount Pleasant Academy and graduated from Boys High School in Charleston. During summers, he worked for his father and enjoyed sailing his own boat in Charleston Harbor.  
Koger began his business career as an advertising executive and broadcaster, but his eventual success in real estate gained him wealth and his firm a listing on the New York Stock Exchange. A patron of the arts, he is nationally known as a connoisseur and collector of American impressionist paintings, English and American furniture, and ancient Chinese ceramics.
As a young Charlestonian, he wanted to be a writer or musician, but when he graduated from the College of Charleston in 1933, he was persuaded to go to the University of South Carolina law school.  
At USC he became involved with the campus Young Democrats. He liked politics and, at the age of 21, ran successfully for the state Legislature from Charleston, serving during 1935 and 1936. At the time, he was the youngest member ever to serve in the House of Representatives. He was also one of the youngest authors of South Carolina's first workmen's compensation law.
Koger dropped out of law school after two years and his term in the Legislature and sought a career in broadcasting. He went to work at WIS radio in Columbia. He had fallen in love with a local girl, Nancy Tedder, and wanted to marry her, but young lawyers in those days didn't make much money. They couldn't afford to get married until 1937.  
Koger moved from WIS to WTOC in Savannah and back to WIS. He went to Jacksonville, Florida, to serve as advertising manager for an afternoon newspaper, and then moved to a local radio station there. In 1944, he entered the Navy as an ensign and left it in 1946 as a lieutenant, junior grade. He returned to Jacksonville to resume his broadcasting career.
Shortly thereafter, he was hired by his wife's great-uncle, O. P. Woodcock, to help operate Woodcock's Jacksonville construction company. Koger recalled, "He was in his 80s and his construction company needed new management, and he had a lot of property . . . . He was very anxious to have somebody look after his property."  
That was the turning point for Ira Koger. The company thrived and spread its business throughout the Southeast. After Woodcock's death in 1953, Koger bought the company and began investing in real estate. In 1957, he envisioned and built a landscaped office complex in a suburban area of Jacksonville as an alternative for businessmen to downtown, high-rise offices. It caught on, and during the ensuing years, Koger's office parks spread throughout the Southwest and Southeast.

Ira Koger served as chairman and chief executive officer of Koger Properties, originator of the suburban office park, and served as chairman and chief executive officer of Koger Equity. Koger Properties was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, while Koger Equity was listed on the American Stock Exchange.  
He also served as a director of Florida National Bank, as vice chairman of Security Federal Savings and Loan, and director of Florida Trust Company in Winter Haven, a trust organization owned by North Carolina National Bank, forerunner of NationsBank of Florida.  
Koger is widely respected as a patron of the arts and devotes himself to cultural developments and events. Ira and Nancy Koger contributed the key millions to the $15 million performing arts center at the University of South Carolina, which was also funded by the City of Columbia and Richland County. The facility is named for the Kogers. The Kogers also funded a Distinguished Professorship in Music, now held by Donald Portnoy, conductor of the University of South Carolina Symphony Orchestra. In August 1998, they gave a concert grand Bosendorfer piano to the Koger Center.
Ira Koger believes the quality of a community's cultural life will attract business, so businessmen should not regard the arts and music as "frills." But Koger is motivated by his own enjoyment of the arts. "Your sensitivity to art will give you a thousand experiences you wouldn't have if you didn't open your eyes and ears," he once told an interviewer.  
The Kogers, who reside in Atlantic Beach, Florida, had two daughters, Celeste, who died April 1, 1998, and Pamela, now Mrs. William J. Moore, Jr.
Ira Koger was inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame in 1989.
http://www.knowitall.org/legacy/laureates/Ira M. Koger.html

The former Koger Gallery and Gardens Building in Midtown Centre.

Koger Gallery and Gardens Museum gets rehabilitated with the help of interior design junior studio

December 03, 2009

The interior design junior studio is collaborating with a soon-to-be-formed non-profit group to rehabilitate and adaptively use the former Koger Gallery and Gardens Museum in Jacksonville as a Community Arts Center and Living Arts Alternative School. Constructed in the 1960s, the original building and later addition were designed by Robert Broward, a well-known modernist architect who studied with Frank Lloyd Wright. The building was initially an art museum for the city of Jacksonville and was then converted to a private gallery featuring the Asian art collection of the Koger family.

The mission of the proposed art and design center is to expand local and regional learning opportunities and to broaden the practice of the arts and design disciplines with an emphasis on well-being, while the alternative school is primarily for those with different learning styles, including students with mild to moderate special needs, and high functioning autism.

Students and faculty visited the former Koger Gallery and Gardens on Oct. 30, where they toured the building and interviewed representatives from the non-profit, including DCP alumni Cynthia Walburn who is helping spearhead the creation of the arts center and school. The students then visited the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville to study the galleries and public education spaces as precedents for their own design. The mid-project review was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Nov. 20.


St. Nicholas is home to two of Jacksonville's oldest restaurants, Beach Road Chicken Dinners and Lou Bono's Real Pit BBQ.

Located at 4132 Atlantic Blvd, Beach Road Chicken Dinners is Jacksonville's oldest restaurant.

2009 Florida Dining Hall of Fame
in the September 2009 issue of Jacksonville Magazine.

Welcome to Jacksonville's oldest restaurant!

This hometown favorite has been in the same location since 1939 when Atlantic Blvd. was the only accessible road to the beach. Thus, the name Beach Road Chicken Dinners. Back then, chickens were homegrown and "take-out" was a novelty.

Today we're still cookin' up the best Southern fried chicken and fixin's you've ever eaten.

Thanks to all the good folks who voted us Best Fried Chicken in the December 2007 issue of Jacksonville Magazine.

We were also selected Best Fried Chicken in the South in the October 1999 issue of Southern Living Magazine.

Barbecue is America's only true indigenous food. Native Americans cooked their meats over pits and history tells us that George Washington attended a barbecue. Americans light up their grills more than 2.9 billion times a year. Barbecue is also society's great equalizer; drive by a barbecue restaurant and it's not unusual to find pick-ups next to luxury cars next to motorcycles.

Great bar-b-q will do that.

We don't know if Lou Bono understood all this, but one thing's for sure: he knew how to cook authentic southern bar-b-q.

When Lou Bono fired up the pits of his first restaurant in Jacksonville back in 1949, little did he know that his food would one day be celebrated as the quintessential southern style Bar-B-Q. This was not just another barbecue joint, Lou cooked his meats the traditional way; in specially designed pits over wood, and watched carefully by a Pit Boss. Thanks to Lou's tireless efforts and a smoky sauce that out-zinged the competition, Bono's became an immediate success.

Bono's has never changed its authentic bar-b-q and today, under the leadership of Joe Adeeb and daughters Kirsten Martino and Katie Colley, it's grown from a small, local operation to a successful enterprise of more than twenty restaurants. Bono's restaurants are now located throughout Florida as well as Colorado.

Millers Creek separates St. Nicholas from the neighborhood of Empire Point. Millers Creek was named after David Solomon Hill Miller. An Englishman, Miller first settled in the area in 1799 and married Anna Hogans Bagley, widow, owner of a Spanish land grant of 300 acres west of this creek.

D.S.H. Miller served Spain as Captain, Rural Militia of the St. Johns River, San Nicholas District and as Deputy Surveyor.  He surveyed the streets of Jacksonville when it was founded in June 1822.
Jacksonville Historical Society

For more information visit:

SNBA is a non-profit merchants’ organization that promotes policies and programs that enhance the revitalization of the business district through aesthetic improvements and community involvement while protecting the integrity of the residential neighborhoods in Historic St. Nicholas.

* Foster the interests of Historic St. Nicholas merchants by lobbying government officials through active participation in zoning and other government matters that affect our business district

* Increase membership through promotion of SNBA by holding general membership meetings every quarter, providing informative news, maintaining our website, and unifying businesses and residents to create an effective and persuasive voice

* Promote merchant member social events

* Restore and maintain the character of Historic St. Nicholas

* Maintain and enhance park areas, recreational facilities, and other communal areas


Article and Images by Ennis Davis