10 Prairie School commercial buildings in downtown

Originating in Chicago, Prairie School was attempt in creating an indigenous North American style of architecture related to the ideas and aesthetics of the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. Characterized by horizontal lines, windows grouped in horizontal bands, and flat or hipped roofs with broad overhanging eaves, the architectural style came to Jacksonville when young architects influenced by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan, moved to the city to help rebuild after the Great Fire of 1901. Many commercial examples of the architectural style can be found all over Jacksonville's urban core today. Here are a few in and around Downtown Jacksonville.

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP

Bisbee Building (1909)

47 West Forsyth Street

Designed by Henry John Klutho, the 10-story Bisbee Building was Florida’s first skyscraper when it was completed in 1909. Developed by William A. Bisbee, the building was also Florida’s first reinforced concrete frame high-rise tower. Currently vacant, future plans for the structure involve its adaptive reuse into a Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

City Engineers Building (1912)

904 North Main Street

The City Engineers Building was completed along the banks of Hogans Creek in 1912. The building was constructed by the W.P. Richardson & Company. Today, the building is home to the Government and Veterans Services, Military and Veterans Service Center at Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Downtown Campus.

Claude Nolan Cadillac Building (1912)

937 North Main Street

Designed by Henry John Klutho and completed in 1912, 937 North Main Street was built for the Claude Nolan Cadillac Building. Established in 1907 Claude Nolan is the city’s oldest automobile business. In 1948, the Prairie School style building was altered beyond recognition. However, a missing section of the facade reveals the old Prairie School style design may still largely remain intact.

The original Prairie School style Claude Nolan Cadillac building facade. (State Archives of Florida)

Florida Life Insurance Company Building (1912)

117 North Laura Street

Designed by Henry John Klutho, the 11-story Florida Life Building was the tallest building in the city for less than a year. After the Florida Life Insurance Company closed in 1915, the building was used as a part of the headquarters for the Florida National Bank. Currently vacant, future plans for the structure involve its adaptive reuse into a Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

The Laura Street Trio with the Florida Life Building on the left. (State Archives of Florida)

Masonic Temple (1916)

410 Broad Street

The Masonic Temple at 410 Broad Street was envisioned to serve as a meeting center for the black community. After a decade of fundraising, the five-story Prairie School building was completed in 1913. Designed by architects Earl Mark and Leeroy Sheftall, the first floor was for retail space, the second and third for offices and the fourth and fifth for the Most Worshipful Grand Union Lodge. Early upper level occupants consisted of African American physicians, attorneys, insurance agents and dentists. In 1926, the Negro Blue Book described it as one of the finest buildings owned by Blacks in the world.