17 Reasons to LOVE Our Historic Neighborhoods

17 Reasons to LOVE Our Historic Neighborhoods

As everyone begins to embrace the spirit of love this month, let’s celebrate by turning our affections toward the heart of our community. It is a great time to reflect on the many reasons we’re lucky to live here – not just in Jacksonville, but in one of her historic neighborhoods. These communities have deep roots, made possible by residents committed to tending them. Sometimes, like when our city is turned into a (hilarious) running joke on television’s “The Good Place,” it’s easy to lose sight of the reasons we chose to come here and the reasons we choose to stay. Whether this is your first year in a historic neighborhood or you’ve loved your community for decades, we’re honoring our 17 years here with the 17 things we can all appreciate about the unique place we call home.

1. Water, Water Everywhere

photo of Ortega Bridge raising

Jacksonville is known as the River City, but that goes way beyond the St. Johns. Many rivers flow through the county, giving every resident a chance to enjoy views of the water, even on a trip to the grocery store. Water does more than hydrate our bodies – it soothes the soul. The city’s original planners grasped this, and residents of our historic neighborhoods enjoy the most exposure to our waterways. 

2. A Culinary Oddity

According to the New York Times, the camel rider (a pita stuffed with anything from lunch meats to tabbouleh) is Jacksonville’s most recognizable contribution to the American culinary landscape. Traditionally served with cherry limeade, Jaxsons can find these tasty lunch staples at many locations throughout our neighborhoods – from Pinegrove Market in Avondale, to Gina’s in Murray Hill, to the Sheik on the edge of San Marco. They’re delicious reminders of our vibrant Middle Eastern community.

3. The Dolphin Show

Who needs Sea World? For a taste of the life aquatic, head to the riverfront near downtown to view dolphins frolicking in the channel. They are most active during the warm months in the morning. Excellent viewing spots include the gardens of the Cummer Museum in Riverside and the South Bank Riverwalk in San Marco.

4. Food

In Jacksonville, the answer to “What’s for dinner?” is “Anything!” From fine dining to food trucks, there’s something to please every palette. Jacksonville’s ethnic diversity is showcased in its culinary offerings. Ethiopian? Got it. Caribbean? Check. Syrian? Thai? Turkish? Absolutely. But if you’re craving pizza, barbecue or seafood, we’ve got that covered too, with local restaurants to serve up whatever your heart desires.

5. Drink

From morning coffee to an evening cocktail or a Jaguars tailgate, your lips never have to taste a beverage made outside the city limits. Rise and grind at Brew in Five Points or Southern Grounds in San Marco. Crack open a cold Duval Light while you cheer the Jags at home, or mix up something special with spirits from Manifest. Murray Hill’s Fishweir Brewery and San Marco’s Aardwolf have become neighborhood gathering places for the happy hour crowd.

6. Neighborhood Character

Our neighborhoods don’t have strict borders, but you can almost feel the moment you cross from one into another. Each of our historic ‘hoods has a distinct flavor, from the quirky vibe of Murray Hill to the Spanish influences in San Marco. In some ways, Jacksonville feels like a collection of small towns, each with its own walkable commercial district.

7. Trees and Parks

photo of Memorial Park

Jacksonville has the largest urban park system in the country, and many of those parks are in our historic districts. From the understated elegance of Memorial Park to the wild beauty of Tillie Fowler Park or the hidden gem that is Inwood Park, Jaxsons can always find a place to relax. Many of our parks are right on the water, giving everyone access to our most beautiful resource. And most of our parks are dotted with beautiful shade-giving trees, providing respite from the heat in the endless summer.

8. Houses of Worship

Jacksonville has both long-standing worshiping communities as well as a fine collection of historically significant houses of worship. Congregation Ahavath Chesed, the oldest Jewish congregation in Florida, worships in a modern building in San Jose, while the recently rebranded Riverside Church at Park and King worships in a Mizner-designed sanctuary that appears on the National Register of Historic Places. These buildings serve as important gathering places for the neighborhoods in which they stand, as well as architectural landmarks that contribute to neighborhood character.

9. Unique architecture

After the Great Fire of 1901, Jacksonville drew the attention of many up-and-coming architects. Rather than seeing a charred devastation, they saw a golden opportunity. Luminaries like Henrietta Dozier and Henry Klutho blended architectural styles in ways that remain fresh and harmonious to this day. Dozier in particular kept her focus ferociously local.

“Every house should be designed for the climate and all materials should be suitable to this climate,” she said. “I believe, wherever it is possible, it is wisdom to use all Florida materials, also Florida labor. For the houses I build, all material is purchased right here in Jacksonville.”

10. Education Matters

The St. Nicholas neighborhood has the distinction of housing not one, but two of Jacksonville’s finest high schools: Episcopal and Bishop Kenny. However, every neighborhood offers a range of educational opportunities. Bolles, a top-ranked boarding school, brings students from all over the world to San Jose. New charter schools, like Jacksonville Classical Academy in Riverside, are offering even more choices to families. 

11. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Everyone who lives in Jacksonville’s historic neighborhoods has had the exquisite frustration of being held up by a train, either in San Marco or on Roosevelt Boulevard. But while these delays are aggravating, our neighborhoods just wouldn’t be the same without the railroad lines that cross them. The same is true for the air traffic from the Naval Air Station, especially when the Blue Angels are in town for the air show, which Ortega residents have affectionately dubbed “No Nap Weekend.”

12. Walkability…

While Jacksonville itself is too big to be walkable, each historic neighborhood functions as a small, walkable town. Our flat terrain and shady trees make walking or rolling easy for all ages and abilities. And that walkability extends to our four-legged residents! Many restaurants and shops are dog-friendly, and dogs seem to enjoy the weekly Riverside Arts Market as much as their humans do.

13.  …But Also, Driveability

As cozy and insulated as our historic neighborhoods seem, they are also conveniently located next to two major interstates. In as little as 20 minutes, historic neighborhood residents can get to Jacksonville International Airport, EverBank Field or the Jacksonville Zoo. Additionally, because our historic neighborhoods don’t have walls or limited access, there is always an alternate route to your destination.

14. Home Team Spirit

Whether you’re sipping a crisp sauvignon blanc at one of our country clubs or throwing back a domestic draft at one of our dive bars, one topic of conversation is sure to come up: How ‘bout those Jaguars? No matter if it’s a rebuilding year or a championship season, our hometown team dominates the discourse from August until February. Riverside Avondale Preservation schedules its annual Luminaria evening around the Jags schedule, and many a bride has breathlessly awaited the release of the NFL season to choose a wedding date. College loyalties have long divided Jacksonville, but the Jaguars are one thing we can all agree on (even if, for years, we only agreed they were terrible.)

15. Shop Small

photo of statue outside of The Write Touch shop

If your mission is to keep your shopping dollars local, you are in luck. Our historic neighborhoods each boast a great variety of small businesses to tempt you, from well-established shops like Underwood’s in Avondale, to Syrene, the new kid on the block in San Marco. Quirky Murray Hill has Bee Friends Farm, a beekeeping supply shop. And if you find yourself in need of sustenance, head somewhere like Mixed Fillings Pie Shop in Five Points, where the delicious pies come with delightful names.

16. To Protect and (Pre)Serve

Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP), and its southside counterpart, the San Marco Preservation Society, advocate strongly for their neighborhoods to retain their distinctive characters. San Marco has submitted a neighborhood action plan to the City Council to act as a blueprint for future growth that is sustainable and thoughtful. RAP hosts events like the Home Tour, Garden Tour and Riverside Arts Market that bring many Jacksonville residents into the neighborhood to experience for themselves the historic character of the area.

17. The Resident News

There is only one paper committed to exclusively covering Jacksonville’s historic neighborhoods – and you’re holding it in your hands right now. For the last 17 years, The Resident News has been a valuable resource for citizens of the city’s distinct communities. Every month, we bring you the stories of the people who make up the fabric of these neighborhoods, look to the past with humility and look to the future with enthusiasm.

By Windy Taylor
Resident Community News

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