South Jacksonville Historic Buildings – A Center of Activity

South Jacksonville Historic Buildings – A Center of Activity

Aardwolf_BreweryEditor’s Note: A story in the March issue of The Resident News incorrectly identified property under redevelopment as the San Marco Train Station. Astute readers brought the error to our attention so The Resident reached out to a local historian to set the record straight.

South Jacksonville is taking on a new life. Two of three historic South Jacksonville city government buildings have been renovated and put to new uses. The third building is in the process of renovation and will soon be a bustling retail center.

The City of South Jacksonville was founded in 1907 with a population of 600. Its original City Hall was a small frame structure. By 1913, with the population growing, the City Council realized they needed a larger, more substantial building for their City Hall as well as adequate facilities to provide utilities for its residents. The voters approved a bond in the amount of $65,000 to build the City Hall and utilities building. The property surrounding the intersection of Hendricks Avenue and Cedar Street became the center of the city government.
The South Jacksonville City Hall (SJCH), originally built in 1915, was renovated by the San Marco Preservation Society in early 2008. A celebration of South Jacksonville’s centennial was held in conjunction with a grand opening of the building. Many family members and descendants of South Jacksonville City officials attended the event, sharing stories and photographs, fleshing out the history of the city. Some residents had not realized that there was a city of South Jacksonville separate from Jacksonville. The SJCH was then put to good use as the offices for San Marco Preservation Society and Greenscape of Jacksonville.

The South Jacksonville Utilities Building, located across the street from South Jacksonville City Hall, was recently renovated by owners Zim and Terry Boulos and Keith and Joyce Kimball, preparing the building for a new use while ensuring that the facade retained its historical appearance. The Aardwolf Brewery Company also put a lot of money and muscle into the new enterprise that now occupies the building. It is well worth a visit to the brewery to view the inside of the structure.

SMPS Office

SMPS Office

The South Jacksonville Municipal Power Plant, built in 1930, sat vacant for many years. Now it is exciting to see that work has begun on renovating the building and developing the property in a manner highlighting the historic structure with its variety of arched windows, both large and small. Ed Ash purchased the property six years ago and worked with the City and SMPS to come up with a suitable plan for the development to be called San Marco Station. Panera Bread will be located on the property in a separate building. The outdoor area in front of the power plant will feature outdoor restaurant seating with umbrellas, trees and plantings. The public eagerly anticipates the future opening of the retail development.

South Jacksonville was very important to the development of the East Coast of Florida. It was from here that a large railroad yard served the needs of trains traveling south. There were passenger trains for tourists and freight trains carrying supplies, both of which fueled the Florida Land Boom of the 1920’s. Roads and highways to beach areas and places to the south had their beginnings in South Jacksonville. A road to the beach, Atlantic Boulevard, was completed in 1910 and is recognized as the beginning of the highway system in Florida. The ultimate connection through South Jacksonville in the development of the east coast came with the construction of the St. Johns River Bridge (now known as the Acosta Bridge) in 1921. This enabled vehicular traffic to make the trip south without having to utilize a ferry. South Jacksonville remained a city for 25 years until its merger with Jacksonville in 1932.
The renovated buildings with their new uses bring welcome revitalization to an area of San Marco where it was much-needed. The hope is that this core of retail and business space will encourage other owners to upgrade their properties and renew businesses in the area.

SoJaxCityHallBy Robin Robinson
Historian, San Marco Preservation Society

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