Historical society releases list of endangered structures

Historical society releases list of endangered structures
Genovars Hall, a former jazz club, is new to the list of endangered buildings.

Twelve buildings are on the Jacksonville Historical Society’s 2019 Endangered Properties list, which includes two new structures. New to the list are Snyder Memorial Methodist Church, 226 N. Laura St., built in 1903 and a refuge in the early 1960s for victims of the Axe Handle Saturday attack on civil rights demonstrators; and Genovars Hall, 644 W. Ashley St., built in 1895 and served as a jazz club where Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Billie Holiday once performed.

Dr. Alan Bliss, executive director of the Jacksonville Historical Society
Dr. Alan Bliss, executive director of the Jacksonville Historical Society

The other 10 properties include the 101-year-old Annie Lytle Public School, 1011 Peninsular Place, condemned in 1971; Fire Station No. 5, 347 Riverside Ave., built in 1910 and shuttered since 2008; the Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant on Wambolt Street, built in 1924; Moulton & Kyle Funeral Home, 17 W. Union St., built in 1914 and abandoned in 2013; the Florida Baptist Convention Building, 218 W. Church St., designed by Henry J. Klutho in 1924 and empty since the early 1990s; the Old  Duval County Armory, 851 N. Market St., built in 1916 and abandoned in 2010; Claude Nolan Cadillac, 937 N. Main St., another Klutho design, built in 1912; Dr. Horace Drew residence, built circa 1909 at 245 W. Third St.; three LaVilla Shotgun Houses, on Ashley Street, survived the Great Fire of 1901; the Universal Marion Building, 21 W. Church St., built in 1963 and most recently the JEA headquarters.

Compiled by the JHS Historic Sites Committee, the list was announced June 14 at a press conference and luncheon at the Society’s 1888 Old St. Andrews Church property. After JHS Executive Director Dr. Alan Bliss spoke about each structure, he was joined by experts and stakeholders Harry Reagan, Jim McCarthy and Joel McEachin in a discussion on successful rehabilitations and best practices for preserving historic buildings. 

Snyder Memorial Methodist Church made the list of endangered buildings for the first time.
Snyder Memorial Methodist Church made the list of endangered buildings for the first time.

McEachin, former City of Jacksonville Senior Planner of the Community Planning Division, Historic Preservation Section, spent more than 40 years digging into and preserving history, including 30 years with the City. Reagan is a JHS board member, JHS Historic Sites Committee member, career investigative reporter with WJXT, and a Friends of Jacksonville Library leader. McCarthy, president of North Florida Land Trust since 2014 and long-time community advocate, oversaw the restoration of the Old Brewster Hospital in LaVilla for the NFLT’s new headquarters.

According to Wayne Wood, local historian, in the 1920s the LaVilla area became a mecca for jazz musicians, and about 1931 Wynn’s Hotel opened in the upper two stories of Genovars Hall. “It was a favorite lodging place for entertainers such as Louis Armstrong, who brought the first ‘big band’ to play at the Knights of Pythias Hall at 733 W. Ashley in the 1930s,” said Wood. “Armstrong preferred the Wynn Hotel, although not as fancy as the Richmond Hotel because it was on ‘the street where the action was. In the early 1940s this spot was known as the ‘rail of hope,’ where waiters and musicians would hang out, waiting for a job.  One of the frequent occupants of the rail was R. C. Robinson, a blind piano player who had attended the Deaf and Blind School in St. Augustine before coming to live with a relative at 633 W. Church St., one block away. He developed his talents playing as side-man for some of the well-known performers and later rose to stardom himself under the name of Ray Charles.”

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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