Jacksonville Historical Society releases ‘Most Endangered Buildings’ list

The Jacksonville Historical Society’s annual list of “most endangered buildings” included 22 businesses and residences as well as an entire historic district.

The list, presented by Dr. Wayne Wood at Old St. Andrew’s, a Gothic church located next to the Jacksonville baseball stadium, includes significant historical structures that are in danger of being lost because of neglect, development pressures and/or demolition.

Each year, the society selects the most imperiled structures to increase the public’s awareness of the need for the preservation of Jacksonville historic landmarks.

Jacksonville Historical Society Executive Director Emily Lisska, Board Member Dr. Wayne Wood, Board Secretary Maggie Means

Jacksonville Historical Society Executive Director Emily Lisska, Board Member Dr. Wayne Wood, Board Secretary Maggie Means

This year, the historical society included the San Marco Historic District 1925-1938. The recent razing of a Tudor home, built during San Marco’s early years on River Road, in order to clear a lot for a brand-new home raised the ire of some residents and drew the attention of Wood and JHS.

The entire San Marco Historic District is on the endangered list because there were two dozen buildings that have been destroyed in one neighborhood over the past five or six years, according to Wood.

“Many of these great old mansions are being torn down to build slightly bigger mansions, and the architectural character of the neighborhood is in danger being lost…just because of the value of the riverfront property,” said Wood. “We urge San Marco to consider adopting a historic preservation district ordinance like we have in Riverside, Avondale and Springfield, which have saved countless numbers of buildings.”

Another San Marco structure that made the list for the first time is the Chart House Restaurant on the Southbank. Built in 1982 by internationally-known architect Kendrick Bangs Kellogg, it is one of Florida’s best examples of modern organic architecture, said Wood. The building was named one of the state’s top 100 buildings by the American Institute of Architects.

“This astonishing building has almost no perpendicular angles in the entire structure,” said Wood. “It’s flowing organic design is typical of Kellogg’s work. From the river, it almost looks like a scuttling crab.”

The building is not in danger due to any disrepair, however, it was purchased by a South Florida investor, Ramon Llorens, as part of a 6.14-acre site where Llorens is planning a high-rise development. Wood said the society is concerned about Llorens’ plans for the restaurant. “This building must be saved. It is internationally significant and known throughout the world.”

Llorens also purchased the Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant on Wamboldt Street, which also made the 2017 endangered buildings list. The 200-foot by 800-foot structure built in 1924 is one of the largest industrial buildings in Jacksonville.

“It’s being used for storage. At one time it was proposed as a cruise ship terminal but that fell through,” said Wood. “It’s beautifully designed and the windows and skylights lit the building for the workers to manufacture Model T Ford cars.”

Of note in the Brooklyn/Riverside area on the “most endangered buildings list” is the Annie Lytle Elementary School, built in 1917 and recently purchased by FIG Capital Investments, LLC, a “pooled capital investments” firm which, although listed as a New Orleans company, has nine employees in a Jacksonville office.

The society also added Fire Station No. 5, at 347 Riverside Ave. Closed since 2008, the building was built in 1910 and was acquired in 2010 by Fidelity National Financial as part of a “land swap” to give the City of Jacksonville more land for the Northbank Riverwalk and the Sid Gefen Riverfront Park. There are currently no plans to restore it and it is officially on a list to be torn down, said Wood.

Also in Brooklyn, the former Trophy Center building at 339 Park St. made the list.

“This hidden gem is probably the best example of Art Deco architecture remaining in Jacksonville,” said Wood. “The entrance to the building has a wonderful flourish of Art Deco design.” It was closed in 2011 and purchased by NAI Hallmark Partners, with plans to tear it down eventually. “Our hopes are that the building would be found worthy of finding another use for it.”

While most of the buildings added to the list are located in Downtown Jacksonville, there are also some in Springfield, and the Westminster Woods (formerly Wesley Manor) senior residence in Julington Creek, which made the list. This structure was designed by local architect Robert C. Broward in 1964, one of his most innovative designs and the largest commission of his career.

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