The lost impact of streetcar lines on Riverside

Largely viewed as a city built for the automobile, things were not always this way in Jacksonville. Eight decades have passed since buses replaced streetcars as the city's primary mode of public transportation. As time has moved on, the idea of a sunbelt city being built and developed to accommodate the automobile has become common amongst its population. However, the reality of Jacksonville's situation is that for much of first century of its development, the autombile was not a dominant mode of travel.

Completed in 1919, Frances Court is one of several multi-family structures built along the Riverside car line.

Residential architecture in streetcar suburbs was generally positioned on narrow lots with limited setbacks and in many cases, no driveways or garages. In Riverside, lot sizes within walking distance of the former streetcar lines generally range between 35 and 50 feet. In addition, although Jacksonville isn’t a city known for having rowhouses, significant transit oriented growth during the Florida land boom did result in much of the housing stock in Riverside being developed as duplexes and quadruplexes on those 35 to 50 foot parcels. Reflecting the popularity of the streetcar, residences closer in proximity to streetcar routes were generally built prior to those further away as well.

A row of quadruplexes on 50’ wide lots within walking distance of the former Riverside car line.

Furthermore, the surge of development following the 1908 and 1914 penetration of streetcar lines through Riverside fueled significant commercial growth throughout the neighborhood during the Florida land boom. While interurban railroad suburbs stimulated pockets of commercial activity around stations, streetcar oriented commercial development usually ended up near intersecting streetcar lines and along heavily traveled routes.

742 Dellwood was completed shortly after the extension of the Murray Hill car line into Riverside.

These districts housed shops such as bakeries, meat markets and pharmacies to provide residents with convenient shopping needs. In many cases, retail buildings were designed with apartments on upper floors. While Riverside’s lines did not intersect, shopping districts like Stockton Shops and Dellwood and Margaret quickly popped up along the Murray Hill car line where the route transitioned to different streets.

This row of commercial buildings on Oak Street was completed in 1923 along the busy Riverside car line.

Along the busy Riverside car line, a string of commercial development dating back to the 1910s remains, seamlessly mixed with residential development of similar age along Oak Street.

Five Points blossomed as a commercial district between the Murray Hill and Riverside car lines during the early 1920s.

Although Riverside’s streetcar lines did not intersect, they ran parallel five blocks apart and a third line to Lackawanna was positioned in similar proximity north of the Murray Hill car line, meaning the entire neighborhood east of King Street was less than a quarter-mile walk from high frequency public transit corridors. The centralized development of Five Points, King Street and the CoRK Arts District are side effects of the parallel streetcar lines. Located between parallel routes, streets like King and Margaret Street offered consumers easy access to multiple areas. Last, early 20th century streetcar suburbs generally featured gridiron street patterns. Like the electric streetcar systems themselves, the grid was a popular street pattern throughout the country until the growth of autocentric suburbia after World War II. Characterized by a street grid network following the river, Riverside is no exception to this rule.

Today, Riverside is engulfed in a battle between public officials, planners, residents and business owners who all define vibrancy, historic character and the mix of land uses differently. Nevertheless, regardless of what one’s perspective is of the neighborhood, it doesn’t hurt to share a little history and insight to how the unique neighborhood we all love, came to exist in the first place.

<h1>Riverside Car Line Photo Tour</h1>

<h1>Murray Hill Car Line Photo Tour</h1>

<h1>John Noble Cummings Stockton</h1>