The Times-Union greets the 20th century

The Florida Times-Union and Citizen on Bay and Laura streets in 1898. This building was used by the Florida Times-Union and Citizen from 1881 to 1900.

In 1896 the Florida East Coast Railway, Seaboard Air Line Railway and the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad jointly owned the Florida Publishing Company which in turn owned The Florida Times-Union. The paper remained under this ownership for 95 years. In 1967 the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and Seaboard Air Line Railroad merged to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. Because The Florida Times-Union was owned by a railroad company it would usually not report on railroad accidents on its front page.

The paper’s headquarters were in the Astor Building at the corner of Bay and Hogan from 1900 to 1911. The building was completed in 1878 and was financed by William Astor.

The Florida Times-Union and Citizen on the corner of Bay and Hogan in the Astor building. A parking garage now occupies the former site of the Astor building.

*Linotype machines in operation in the 1900s. Courtesy of The Florida Times-Union.

*The newsroom in the 1900s. Courtesy of The Florida Times-Union.

The Jacksonville Journal and new ownership

*During the 1960s, both The Florida Times-Union and rival Jacksonville Journal were under the same ownership and located together in this building at 400 Adams St. The Florida Times-Union had moved here in 1911. The location is across from the present-day Duval County Courthouse.

In 1959, the Florida Publishing Company purchased the Jacksonville Journal, an afternoon paper and major rival to The Florida Times-Union that had been in print since 1887. The company moved the Journal staff into the Times-Union headquarters at 400 Adams Street, but both papers continued in print. In 1967, the company moved both papers into a new headquarters at 1 Riverside Avenue. The Jacksonville Journal ceased publication in 1988.

In 1983, Augusta, Georgia-based Morris Communications acquired the Florida Publishing Company and the headquarters at 1 Riverside Avenue from Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. Morris Communications owned several newspapers including the St. Augustine Record, Augusta Chronicle and the Juneau Empire. Morris Communications was founded by William Morris Jr. in 1975 and is still owned and operated by the Morris family. In 1995 The Florida Times-Union donated $3 million toward renovations of the Civic Auditorium and secured the naming rights; the facility was renamed the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts.

The Florida Times-Union construction at 1 Riverside Avenue in 1966.

Florida Publishing Company, the present-day Florida Times-Union building, on 1 Riverside Avenue in the 1960s. Courtesy of The Florida Times-Union.

The Florida Times-Union today

The Florida Times-Union moved out of the 1 Riverside Avenue building in April 2019 to the Wells Fargo Center. 1 Riverside Avenue is still owned by the Morris family despite selling the Florida Times-Union in 2017.

The Florida Times-Union was owned by Morris Communications for 34 years until selling it to New Media Investment Group, doing business under its newspaper brand Gatehouse Media, in 2017 for $120 million. It was the acquisition by Gatehouse Media that started to change The Florida Times-Union. Now owned by an outside corporate company it began the disconnect from its hometown of Jacksonville. To further compound the disconnect there was a corporate merger in 2019 with Gannett, the owner of Newsquest, USA Today and over 100 newspapers. The Florida Times-Union building and the 18.8 acre property on 1 Riverside Avenue are still owned by the Morris family. There are discussions on what to do with the former Florida Times-Union building and property, including renovating it for commercial use.

If Jacksonville were to lose the Florida Times-Union then it would lose a vital piece of history. New York has The New York Times. Los Angeles has the Los Angeles Times. Atlanta has The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. And Jacksonville has The Florida Times-Union. What consumers should keep in mind is that newspapers need subscribers to stay in business. Like many other papers, The Florida Times-Union has struggled in the current media landscape, where many readers expect their news for free. Despite its struggles over the last several years, the Times-Union and its intrepid staff provide a perspective and depth of coverage that no one else can, and that won’t be replaced once it’s gone.

Subscribe to The Florida Times-Union and help save this 15 decade old institution.

Article by Andrew R. Nicholas. Follow Andrew on Twitter at arn21589.