Neighborhoods: Spring Park

Metro Jacksonville visits a Southside neighborhood whose residential district includes a number of older homes and several apartment complexes, primarily tucked between Emerson Street, Philips Highway and Beach Boulevard: Spring Park.

Published April 5, 2013 in Neighborhoods -

About Spring Park

Looking east on Emerson Street from Old St. Augustine Road on May 7, 1953. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

The neighborhood of Spring Park is the result of several historically predominately rural African American communities being engulfed by the outward growth of Jacksonville during the 20th century.

Philips, may have been the area's most prominent 19th century community. Named after the owner of the Red Bank Plantation and Duval County's sheriff from 1833-1839, Albert Gallatin Philips, the Philips community grew up around a railway station near Red Bank in the vicinity of the present day intersection of Old St. Augustine Road and Philips Highway.  

The freed slave community of Philips was named after the owner of the nearby Red Bank Plantation, Albert Gallatin Philips (1803-1874). Image courtesy of!i=4205476&k=TvfCGqm

For years, the area that would become Spring Park was situated on the outskirts of the City of South Jacksonville.  In 1932, South Jacksonville merged with Jacksonville, spliting the community between the City of Jacksonville and Duval County. This situation would remain until consolidation. Remnants of this former border remain in the pattern of Ripley Avenue and Sheridan Roads and the disconnected street network between Holmes Street and Lamee Avenue.

Two WPA projects laid the foundation for the eventual infill development of Spring Park.  The first project was the construction of the new Bayard Highway in 1934.  Now known as Philips Highway, this roadway was intended to be a short cut between South Jacksonville and Bayard.  In 1937, the right-of-way for what would become Beach Boulevard was acquired from the Florida East Coast Railway for $8,500.  The WPA project started in 1938 but ceased in 1941 because of World War II.  Beach Boulevard was finally completed in 1949.  

Philips Highway was named after Judge Henry B. Philips, the son of Albert Gallatin Philips. He studied law at Vanderbilt University and served as county judge for Duval County for 20 years. Later, Governor Cary Hardee appointed Philips as a member of the State Road Board and he would serve as chairman 1921-1925. Image courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

As these projects moved forward, the rural setting of the area was engulfed by new development catering to the growing popularity of the automobile. Soon, subdivisions such as Spring Park Manor, St. Nicholas Spring, and Home Park would rise. Spring Park was the epicenter of Southside growth and development in 1957. That year, Beach Boulevard's Southgate Shopping Center opened becoming one of the Southside's first suburban shopping centers and the Koger Center, the nation's first suburban office park, was completed near the neighborhood's eastern boundary.

Phillips Highway Plaza under construction in 1960. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

On November 16, 1957, Food Fair Properties announced their intentions to build Jacksonville's first enclosed shopping mall and largest in the Southeast in Spring Park.  In 1960, the 400,000-square-foot Phillips Highway Plaza opened at the intersection of Philips Highway and Emerson Street. Initial anchors for the 43.5-acre mall included Montgomery Ward, Food Fair Stores and a movie cinema.  Soon, the vibrant suburban area around the mall and new interstate became known as "The Miracle Mile." The 1960s would also result in the extension of Interstate 95 and upgrades to Emerson Street through the area.

A 1960s Sanborn Map illustrating the floor plan of Philips Mall, the first enclosed shopping mall in Jacksonville.

In the later half of the 20th century, like many neighborhoods across the country, as the neighborhood aged, the need for revitalization and concern about crime and blight became critical concerns.  This led to the establishment of the Spring Park Neighborhood Association in the late 1990s. Since then, amenities have been added in area parks, sidewalks installed and the neighborhood has successfully fought to keep its elementary school open.

Today, the Spring Park community continues its efforts to revitalize.  However, its residential setting and street pattern are a vivid reminders of a 19th century rural setting engulfed by outward growth of Jacksonville after World War II.

Next Page: Spring Park Photo Tour

Douglas Anderson School of the Arts opened as public school 107 in 1922.  It served as an elementary, junior and high school for African Americans living south and east of the St. Johns River.  It was renamed in honor of Douglas Anderson (1884-1936) in 1941.  For many years, Anderson operated the only buses serving the black communities of Duval County. During the 1960s, it was the San Diego campus of Florida Junior College.  Of interesting note, Douglas Anderson's father, Samuel, served as a representative to the Florida Legislature. He introduced a Bill that later was accepted to fence railroad tracks to prevent the slaughtering of cattle by passing trains.

Completed in 1957, Southgate Shopping Center was one of the first suburban shopping centers constructed in the Southside.  At the time, it was known as South Gate Plaza and its tenant list included W.T. Grant, F.W. Woolworth, Winn-Dixie, Toy Town and Morrison's Cafeteria. A major intention of the recently debated 2030 Mobility Plan and Fee is to encourage the reuse and redevelopment of aging commercial properties and sites such as Southgate.

Spring Park's residential setting and street pattern are an unique blend of architectural styles and ages, ranging from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century.

The Metro Square office park was originally constructed as the Philips Highway Plaza, Jacksonville's first enclosed mall, in 1960.  The two story building that houses Wells Fargo was originally Montgomery Ward.

St. Nicholas Bethel Baptist Church was established in 1880 on San Diego Road, 1/4 mile from Kings Avenue in South Jacksonville. Courtesy of Florida State Archives at

The St. Nicholas Bethel Baptist Church on San Diego Road today.

St. Nicholas Playground was originally named Spring Park when it opened after the City acquired the property in 1936 and 1937.  At the time, the nearby St. Nicholas Park and Home Park subdivisions were developed to cater to the Southside's growing population. In 1942, the Spring Park Elementary School opened adjacent to the playground. Soon, the park became a popular site for games of the City's baseball leagues. In the 1990s, before neighborhood opposition to save the neighborhood school, the Duval County School Board's first choice for performing arts middle school was to convert Spring Park Elementary because of its proximity to Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.  As a result of community opposition, Spring Park's elementary school was saved and the new performing arts middle school was constructed in LaVilla. Today, the playground continues to serve as the main public space for Spring Park and the adjacent neigborhood of St. Nicholas.

Just north of Spring Park Elementary School and the St. Nicholas Playground, the neighborhood seamlessly blends into adjoining St. Nicholas' apartment district. Adjacent to the historic St. Nicholas Town Center, this convenient location of high density residential living provides the community with a walkable node where residents can actually live, work and play.

The Children's Home Society of Florida was established in Jacksonville on November 17, 1902 with a staff of two. Now based out of Winter Park, FL, it has a staff of more than 1,800 serving every community throughout the State of Florida.  Their Buckner Division, located at the intersection of San Diego Road and Spring Park Road, helps more than 9,000 Northeast Florida kids and families annually. Prior to their operation, this site was the Louise Barrett Memorial Home for Boys.

Huguenot Park is located at Nain Road and Hunter Circle. It's one of only two public parks in Spring Park.

Emerson Street (State Road 126) serves as Spring Park's southern border.  In 1967, a short divided freeway segment known as the Emerson Expressway (originally the Emerson Leg of the Hart Bridge Expressway) opened, connecting Spring Park with the Hart Bridge Expressway and Interstate 95.

The triangular area between Emerson Street, Beach/Atlantic Boulevards and Philips Highway is known as Spring Park.

Neighborhood tour by Ennis Davis. Contact Ennis at

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Metro Jacksonville