4. The Ritz-Woller Flats
The Ritz-Woller Flats building is highlighted in yellow. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
The sons of an English immigrant, Alexander and Oliver Ritz-Woller operated the Ritz-Woller Brothers shoe store on West Bay Street during the first decade of the 20th century. After the Great Fire of 1901, the Ritz-Woller Flats apartment building was constructed at the intersection of Beaver and Laura streets. Along with the First Unitarian Congregational Church site, the Ritz-Woller was one of several structures on the block where the First Baptist Church Worship Center stands today.
The corner where the Ritz-Woller Flats was once located is now a solid wall for the Worship Center.
5. St. John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church
(Courtesy of St. John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church)
Originally constructed for Congregation Ahavath Chesed, this building with a blend of Eastern and Greek Revival styles was the first house of worship to be rebuilt in downtown after the Great Fire of 1901. When the growing congregation moved to a new building at Laura and Ashley streets in 1910, the structure was taken over by First Church of Christian Scientist. On April 17, 1919, it was purchased by the St. John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church. The history of this parish dates back to the first Greek immigrants to Jacksonville. The first Greeks arrived in Jacksonville at the end of the 19th century and came in significant numbers from approximately 1905 until U.S. immigration laws became restrictive in the late 1920s.
West elevation of the St. John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church at 723 Laura Street. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
The congregation relocated to a new, larger religious facility on Beach Boulevard in 1968. Today, St. John the Divine is the third oldest Greek Orthodox parish in Florida, behind only Tarpon Springs and Pensacola. However, the downtown church is no more. It was razed along with other buildings on the block bounded by Laura, Union, Main and Beaver to pave the way for a parking garage that was completed around 1988.
This parking garage occupies the block where the first religious structure built after the Great Fire of 1901 in Jacksonville once stood.
6. St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church**
Laura Street looking north towards St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (highlighted) in 1909. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
The oldest Lutheran church in Jacksonville and second oldest in Florida, the St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church was established by a group of German immigrants around 1878. For decades, the church now located in Springfield held services in a brick building situated at the northeast corner of Laura and Ashley Streets. This and other buildings on this block were demolished for surface parking. In 2002, a Welcome Center and Children’s Sunday School building was constructed on the block.
The Children’s Building and Welcome Center
Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at email@example.com