With a long history of razing downtown buildings, this building is the latest that could be demolished by the church.
Despite public pushback, the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville desires to demolish the historic Sunday school building, a 6-story contributing structure to the Downtown Jacksonville Historic District. First Baptist has proposed building a new entrance to the Hobson Auditorium building, planned to become the church’s main sanctuary once it completes the sale of 9 blocks of its downtown property.
First Baptist Church wants to demolish the Sunday school building for a new entrance to the Hobson Auditorium.
This isn’t the first time the church has viewed demolition of historic structures as a first option in the development of its downtown campus. Here are six examples of other structures – churches, synagogues, and historic commercial buildings – razed for a complex of parking garages and buildings not adequately integrated with the neighborhood surrounding them. These examples offer a reminder of how incremental demolitions add up to diminish vibrancy. All together, this lost section of downtown once had architecture, history, and density of the kind that draws thousands to cities like Savannah and Charleston.
1. Congregation Ahavath Chesed
The Congregation Ahavath Chesed building at Laura and Ashley streets. (Courtesy of Congregation Ahavath Chesed)
Formally chartered in 1882, Congregation Ahavath Chesed is the oldest synagogue in Jacksonville and one of the oldest in Florida. The congregation built this structure at the intersection of Laura and Ashley streets in 1910. It was constructed as a replacement for an oldern, smaller synagogue that stood at the intersection of Laura and Union streets. In 1927, the growing congregation relocated from downtown to Riverside. Since the 1970s, the Congregation Ahavath Chesed has been located in Mandarin. This building was razed decades ago. Today the site is occupied by the First Baptist Church Middle School Building.
The First Baptist Church Middle School Building
2. Jacksonville Journal
The Jacksonville Journal building highlighted in red. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
Founded as the Metropolis in 1887, the Jacksonville Journal was an early rival to The Florida Times-Union. In 1922, the Journal was acquired by John H. Perry, who also owned the Palm Beach Post and who once proposed changing the city’s name to “Jackson” because “ville” was too disparaging to a growing metropolis. In 1926, the Jacksonville Journal established its offices in a 3-story brick building situated at the northwest corner of Laura and Church streets. In 1959, the Journal was acquired by The Florida Times-Union’s parent company. The building was razed decades ago for surface parking. Riding the megachurch phenomenon of the 1980s, the church constructed a parking garage on the site in 1985.
Completed in 1985, the garage at the far right of this photo occupies the site of where the Jacksonville Journal building once stood.
3. First Unitarian Congregational Church
The First Unitarian Congregational Church at the intersection of Hogan and Union streets. (Courtesy of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville)
Founded by former Jacksonville mayor and future U.S. Senator Duncan Fletcher in 1906, the First Unitarian Congregational Church’s first building was completed in 1909 at the intersection of Union and Hogan streets. In 1931, the property was leased to the Jacksonville Unity Center and the parsonage was rented out. In 1943 the building was sold to the Central Church of the Nazarene for $12,000. In 1958, the Central Church of the Nazarene constructed a new, larger building in Arlington. By 1995, the First Baptist Church had acquired and razed all remaining buildings on the 1.53-acre block bounded by Hogan, Union, Laura and Beaver streets to construct a new 10,000-seat Worship Center.
The FBC Sanctuary was completed in 1995.
Next page: More buildings razed for First Baptist Church’s campus