JAMM Session: Historical Society moves forward on plans for music museum and venue

JAMM Session: Historical Society moves forward on plans for music museum and venue
A conceptual rendering of JAMM’s exterior (though not the final design). Rendering courtesy of DooWell Design and Consulting

The Jacksonville Historical Society is moving forward with plans to transform the Florida Casket Company building into a music museum and venue. The working title for this future space is the Jacksonville Area Music Museum (JAMM).

The Jacksonville Downtown Development Review Board (DDRB) granted conceptual approval for JHS’s plans for the museum in June.

“This has been a long climb, but it continues to gain traction, it continues to stimulate interest and engagement from a large number of people across the community and beyond,” said JHS CEO Dr. Alan Bliss. “…We see it as an asset to stimulating this east side sports and entertainment district. We see it as an asset to stimulating downtown Jacksonville. We see it as an asset to our heritage and cultural tourism in Northeast Florida more broadly.”

JHS first acquired the Florida Casket Company building — along with its current headquarters  in the Old St. Luke’s Hospital building — in 2012. Since then, the 102-year-old brick building has sat idle, Bliss explained, save for storage use. In 2019, JHS emptied the building and began the interior demolition, launching a fundraising campaign for its future plans for the museum.

At the time of interview, Bliss said JHS has “presently either on hand or reliably pledged approximately $700,000.” The total budget for the museum, including buildout and interior furnishing, is estimated around $3 million.

“We have money yet to raise but we feel confident that we have the resources to proceed with the building renovations for sure,” Bliss said.

In these last four years of fundraising, JHS has garnered support not only from the community but the City as well. In total, the City of Jacksonville has provided $50,000 in funds for JAMM’s creation. These funds consist of a $15,000 pledge by At-Large City Councilman Matt Carlucci on behalf of the City Council and a $35,000 pledge from the Mayor’s Office, received by JHS in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

Carlucci has been actively involved with JHS since 1994. He’s served as a past president and board member and today, he says he continues to help the historical society whenever possible through his role as council member.

“But at the end of the day, I’m involved with it because I love history, I love Jacksonville’s history, I love making history, I love learning history and I like to start at the ground floor, which is my hometown and then I like to expand it into American history,” he said.

Jacksonville has a rich music history and is the birthplace of several renowned bands, singers, musicians and genres. The Allman Brothers Band has its roots here in Jacksonville: A historical marker before the “Gray House” at 2844 Riverside Avenue — a private residence — tells the story of the band’s formation, although other accounts place that now-legendary first jam session at the “Green House,” another private residence just steps down the street where the band members and their families lived before. Later, after the Allman Brothers vacated the Green House, members of Lynyrd Skynyrd moved into it.

James Weldon Johnson and his brother John Rosamond Johnson — lyricist and composer, respectively, of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” — were born in Jacksonville and grew up in LaVilla. James first penned it as a poem in 1900. After his brother created the accompanying music, a choir of 500 schoolchildren from Stanton School, where James was principal, performed the song in public for the first time on Feb. 12, 1900.“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” was later adopted by the NAACP and has become widely recognized as the Black National Anthem.

Currently, JHS has completed the interior demolition of the Florida Casket Company building and is confident in moving forward to the next steps of this project.

“We are excited about the way that this project fits in with sort of the organic vision of the future of Downtown Jacksonville in particular and the city at large,” Bliss added. “We see it as a really key part of the broad storytelling project of engaging with Jacksonville’s local public history.”

By Michele Leivas
Resident Community News

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