6 buildings Jacksonville should have saved

It can be argued that Jacksonville is a city that has lost much of its historical identity over the years. Here are six downtown buildings that should have never been allowed to be demolished. Take a look and let us know if you agree or if there are others you would suggest.

6. Atlantic & East Coast Terminal Company

A photograph of the Atlantic Coast Line offices in the Atlantic & East Coast Terminal building in 1939. (Florida State Archives)

This image captures the offices of the Atlantic & East Coast Terminal Company’s freight depot at the intersection of Jefferson and Forsyth Street. The photograph below captures a portrait of Florida East Coast Railway staff, taken inside the freight depot. Standing on the left is John W. Martin. Martin would become 24th Governor of Florida, in office from 1925 to 1929.

A portrait of Florida East Coast Railway warehouse staff taken between 1901 and 1910. Standing on left is John W. Martin, later Florida governor. Standing on right is foreman John E. Bryan. (Florida State Archives)

Completed in 1910 and anchoring LaVilla’s once vibrant Railroad Row District, this three-block-long structure was demolished in 1979 following a relocation of its operations. Jointly owned by the Atlantic Coast Line and the Florida East Coast railroads, this freight depot also included 1.48 miles of trackage, just north of West Bay Street and in the center of Houston Street between Myrtle Avenue and Jefferson Street. If it had remained, it would have been the perfect facility for a use like a public market within walking vicinity of the heart of the Northbank. Similar structures in Savannah and Charleston have been preserved and converted into tourist centers and educational facilities for the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD).

This scene captures a water main being laid down Bay Street on November 30, 1914. Like a scene resembling today’s Pittsburgh Strip District, West Bay Street was dominated by the Atlantic & East Coast Terminal Company’s railroad freight depot, bounded by Bay, Jefferson, Forsyth, and Lee Street. By 1925, the leading industries in Jacksonville were ship building, lumber, and cigar manufacturing. The port, which was the deepest on the South Atlantic Coast at the time, specialized in lumber, cotton, phosphate, cigars, sugars, fruits and vegetables. Companies operating along the West Bay Street strip included Crane Company Plumbing Supplies, Cudahy Packaging Company, Swift & Company, Dixie Warehouse Company, and the Atlantic Distribution Company Beverage Depot. (Florida State Archives)

This 1913 Sanborn Map illustrates the location of the Atlantic & East Coast Terminal Company’s depot and the building density surrounding it in the vicinity of Jefferson Street. (University of Florida Map and Imagery Library)

5. Florida Sub-Tropical Exposition

The Subtropical Exposition in 1887. (Florida State Archives)

Developed to lure tourists to Florida, the Sub-Tropical Exposition was one of the most spectacular structures ever built in the city. Built in Waterworks Park between downtown and Springfield, the enormous hall was designed by a local firm owned by Alfred McClure and Robert Ellis, called Ellis & McClure.

The Sub-Tropical Exposition opened its doors to the public on January 12, 1888. Famed guests included President Grover Cleveland, Frederick Douglass, and railroad magnate Henry Plant. Perhaps impressed, Plant opened an elaborate Moorish Revival building of his own, the Tampa Bay Hotel, in 1891.

The Subtropical Exposition in 1887. (Florida State Archives)

Rising 100 feet above Main Street and topped by towers and minarets, it contained an electrically-lit fountain of stone and coral with a pond containing rare fish, a Seminole Indian camp, displays of Florida products, an art gallery, two artificial lakes, and a zoo. Other exhibits included products from the Bahamas, Mexico, West Indies, and Central America.

The exposition was held January to May, 1888, and showcased Florida’s agriculture and agricultural products from counties, communities, and businesses. (Florida State Archives)

While it opened to great fanfare, a yellow fever outbreak the same year hampered its ability to draw tourists to the city. The Sub-Tropical Exposition never reopened after a fire damaged the structure in 1891. In 1897, the building was torn down to make way for a new reservoir.

Fruit and vegetable display at the Subtropical Exposition in 1887. (Florida State Archives)