Renovations planned to historic Olmstead landmark

Renovations planned to historic Olmstead landmark

Through an Adopt-a-Park agreement with the City of Jacksonville, the Memorial Park Association plans to give Riverside’s historic Memorial Park the “spit-shine it rightfully deserves.”
The nonprofit group that has been preserving and protecting the Olmstead Brothers-designed park for the past 30 years aims to mobilize and engage the community during its planning process. The undertaking is one of the first major refurbishments to the park in many years, and organizers are looking for input from all park users. Project designers also hope to incorporate more of the original design vision, established by Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr.
“Despite the combined efforts of the City of Jacksonville and The Memorial Park Association, the years have taken their toll on the park,” said Jake Ingram, MPA president. “So our group is recommitting efforts to upgrade and enhance one of the city’s true historical
treasures.”
Construction and renovations timelines for the park refurbishment are still unknown at this stage, according to Ingram. He said several variables would affect the timing, namely fundraising efforts and thorough research of the park’s historical context.
“It would be nice if we could get it all done at once,” said Ingram, when asked about phases of the project. He said funding would become a major project focus.
The group hired a landscape architecture firm specializing in historic park and open space design to manage the project. David Sacks RLA Landscape Architecture, based in Avondale Estates, Ga., will lead the planning process and develop a master plan for the park. The firm has worked on Bok Tower Gardens, the Ringling Estate and Museum, the McKee Botanical Garden and many others during its 24-year history.
The MPA held a kick-off meeting at the Community Foundation in Jacksonville’s Riverside Avenue headquarters last month to launch community conversation about the park. Included in the meeting were representatives from the City of Jacksonville Parks Department, longtime MPA board members,  Riverside Avondale Preservation representatives — as well as Holly Keris, curator of The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens.
The mid-September meeting marked the beginning of Sacks’ information-gathering stage of design that includes historical research, stakeholder input and an understanding of the park’s relevance to the Riverside area.
One of the gaps in the group’s archives is the period of time between 1924 and 1960s as the group is actively working on a compilation of historic treasures. A community meeting is slated for Monday, Oct. 22, 5:30 pm. For further questions and information, contact [email protected]
To help link the park’s historical record…
The Resident is asking readers to submit
photos or memories of the park — particularly records from 1924-1960. Submissions can be mailed to The Resident Community News Group at 1650-302 Margaret Street, Suite 310, Jacksonville, FL 32205 or via email to [email protected]

 

Park history and design

With the encouragement of the Rotary Club of Jacksonville, the city purchased land for the park in 1919.
Designed by the illustrious Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, MA, the park is today recognized by scholars as the finest Olmsted-designed public park of its size and scale in the country.
Critical to the classic formal design of the park is the ‘Life’ sculpture by Charles Adrian Pillars, the centerpiece of the riverfront plaza on the park’s main central axis.  Installed in the early 1920’s, it has been an enduring symbol of the Riverside Historic District which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.  The Park memorializes the 1,200 Floridians who made the supreme sacrifice for their country in World War I.  The names of those citizens are buried beneath a brass plaque in the plaza at the base of the ‘Life’ sculpture.
The Memorial Park Association, Inc. is local non-profit founded in 1986 by Mrs. Anne Wright Freeman, and organized to preserve, restore and enhance Memorial Park.

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