Neighborhoods: San Jose's Skinner's Pasture

October 4, 2013 12 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville takes a look into the development of an portion of San Jose that was known as Skinner's Pasture for most of the 20th Century.

In 1899, Richard Green Skinner relocated to Jacksonville in search of pine trees needed in the production of turpentine for his naval store supply business. He eventually ended up in the possession of over 40,000 acres by the time he died of pneumonia in 1905.  Much of this land was located a few miles southeast of Jacksonville. After his death, the property was left to his seven sons who divided it among themselves after the Florida real estate boom burst in the late 1920s.

A map illustrating Richard Green Skinner's property (highlighted in green) during the early 20th century. Courtesy of the Jacksonville Public Library Special Collections Department.

Sons, Arthur Chester Skinner and Richard Green Skinner received the largest tracts because they agreed to take the least accessible land located farthest from downtown Jacksonville. Arthur Chester Skinner's land was the farthest east. For much of the early 20th century, a portion of this property in the vicinity of St. Augustine Road and Old Kings Road became a dairy owned by A. Chester's son's, A. Chester, Jr. and Charles Brightman called Meadowbrook Farms. Located at 6769 St. Augustine Road, just east of the 1926 development San Jose Eastates, Meadowbrook Farms focused on the refrigerated home delivery of pure Jersey Milk.  In relation to their San Jose dairy, at one point, Meadowbrook Farms operated branch stores at 1088 Arlington Road, 6506 Beach Boulevard, and 5405 Norwood Avenue.

One of the retail stores operated by Meadowbrook Farms. July, 1960. Courtesy of the University of Florida at

The San Jose land associated with the Meadowbrook Farms dairy became known as Skinner's Pasture.  By the 1950s, milk had become the third largest agricultural product in Florida with as much as 180,000 dairy cows spread across the state on 1,200 dairy farms. In 1953, Skinner's Meadowbrook Farms recieved acclaim by the Florida Dairy Association for being classified for breed type, rating 33 animals Very Good, 33 Good Plus and 6 Good and the overall herd showing an average score of 84.38% on 72 animals.

While the dairy business was profitable, Jacksonville's growth patterns were rapidly changing.  Fueled by investments in new superhighways, new neighborhoods were popping up like mushrooms further and further away from Jacksonville.  Soon, remote property being utilized for agriculture found Jacksonville's outward expansion knocking at its door.

In August 1962, the Skinners successfully had 205 acres of "Skinner's Pasture" rezoned for commercial, industrial and residential uses by the Duval County Zoning Board. At one point, neighboring residents opposed the project.  However, after learning no industrial or commercial uses were being sought for the sections of land adjacent to their homes, objections were removed.

A 1950s subdivision map illustrating the street grid of San Jose Estates.  The Meadowbrook Farms dairy and associated pasture was located just east and is labled "Dixie Farms". Courtesy of the Jacksonville Public Library Special Collections Department.

In a development strategy still utilized by many landowners today, land was deeded for a 3,000 student high school was earmarked in the center of the rezoned property.  To make the school and every other development parcel accessible, an 80-foot-wide, mile long strip of right-of-way was donated for a road to connect with Lone Grove Road (University Boulevard) on the north and Old Kings Road to the south. The high school opened in 1965 and was named for Samuel W. Wolfson. Following the opening of the school, most of the surrounding property was developed into multi-family residential.  The right-of-way donated through the center of the property became known as Powers Road.  With Powers Road providing vehicular access through most of the former pasture, several industrial and commercial uses were developed between the roadway and Florida East Coast Railway's Bowden Yard.

Samuel W. Wolfson High School under construction. Courtesy of the Jacksonville Public Library Special Collections Department.

Here is a tour of development that sits on this San Jose site that was once known as Skinner's Prairie.

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