Interior photograph of the old Duval County Armory by Bullet of Abandoned Florida.
1. Brooklyn’s Last Post-Civil War Cottage 328 Chelsea Street - Buffalo Soldier’s House
During much of the Civil War, Jacksonville was occupied by the Union Army. A large portion of the Union’s soldiers were freedmen who had joined the cause to fight the confederacy in order to provide freedom for their loved ones. After the end of the war, many stuck around and settled in the northwestern portion of Brooklyn, establishing the community as a reconstruction era African-American community.
Failing in its 2013 request to become recognized as a local historic district, much of the storied Gullah Geechee neighborhood has been erased from existence with the recent emergence of Brooklyn as a popular location for urban living. With gentrification in full effect, this boarded up and abandoned post civil war cottage (also known as the Buffalo Soldier’s House) is the last still standing, providing a direct link with the city’s Reconstruction era past.
2. Claude Nolan Cadillac Building and Garage 937 North Main Street
Designed by Henry J. Klutho and completed in 1912, this building was originally constructed as a car dealership for Claude Nolan Cadillac. According to Jacksonville’s Architectural Heritage by Wayne W. Wood, Nolan is credited for being the first automobile dealer to sell cars on installments in 1910, which is now an industry-wide standard. In addition, Nolan was the first native Floridian to fly over the state in an airplane and first person to drive from Miami to Key West. Altered beyond recognition, the future of this Prairie-style Klutho structure could be in danger due to contamination issues involving the nearby Hogans Creek and the site’s past history as a coal gasification plant.
3. Duval County Armory 851 North Market Street
Completed in 1916 and designed by famed Lakeland, Florida architect W.B. Talley, the old Duval County Armory is one of downtown’s most architecturally unique buildings with a cultural history full of significant civil rights, jazz, blues and southern rock era events. In February 1952, Marian Anderson, one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century, made civil rights history in Jacksonville. In town for a performance, Anderson refused to sing in front of a segregated seating arrangement at the Duval County Armory. As a result, Jim Crow took a night off with the famed contralto singer putting on a show for an interracial crowd of 2,200, making it the first concert in modern Florida history performed in front of an integrated audience. Other events at the Armory included a 1936 speech by First lady Eleanor Roosevelt, performances by Duke Ellington and Ray Charles in the 1950s and 60s , the debut concert by the Allman Brothers Ban on March 30, 1969 and one of the final concerts by Janis Joplin in early 1970.
A victim of repeated Hogans Creek flooding, the city-owned and has not had and ideas presented for reuse since controversial proposals in 2012 and 2013, calling for its conversion into a homeless shelter and a Sons of Confederacy museum. Of city owned properties in the downtown area that should be disposed of and placed on the tax rolls via the RFP process, this property should be high up on that list.