4. Florida Baptist Academy

The Florida Baptist Academy was located in the Eastside between Harrison and Franklin Streets in 1903.

In 1892, the Florida Baptist Academy was established by Reverend Matthew Gilbert, Reverend J.T. Brown, and Sarah Ann Blocker. The school was originally located in the Eastside on Cleveland Street (E 6th Street) between Harrison and Franklin Streets.

The purpose of the institution was to espouse industrial education, domestic arts, teacher education, agricultural education, mechanical education, and religious training. Here, brothers James Weldon and John Rosamond Johnson, wrote “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” in 1900. John Rosamond Johnson was a noted faculty member of the school, recruited by college President Nathan White Collier.

After her mother’s death in 1904, Zora Neale Hurston’s father remarried and sent her to Jacksonville to attend the school. Eventually, she was expelled after her father stopped paying her tuition. Nevertheless, she went on in life to become a internationally known folklorist, anthropologist, author, and key figure of the Harlem Renaissance. While in Jacksonville, Florida Baptist Academy received financial support from the Rockefeller General Education Board, Baptist organizations, the Bethany Association, and the American Home Mission Society.

In 1918, the Florida Baptist Academy relocated the Old Homes Plantation in St. Augustine. Prior to the Civil War, the site was known as one of the largest slave plantations in the state. The school also changed its name to the Florida Normal and Industrial Institute. In 1941, the school merged with Live Oak’s Florida Baptist Institute, changing from a junior college into a four-year liberal arts. Here, Zora Neale Hurston spent some time as a part-time professor, while completing her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road.

1963 brought another name change–this time, Florida Memorial College. They would relocate to a 44-acre site in Northwest Miami 5 years later. In 2006, Florida Memorial College changed its name to Florida Memorial University. With an enrollment of 1,800, today it remains a private, coeducational university that is 1 of 39 member institutions of the United Negro College Fund. The school is ranked 9th in the country for graduating African America teachers. Back in Jacksonville, the original campus location is the site of Matthew Gilbert Middle School.

5. Trinity Baptist College

Former McDuff Avenue campuse of Trinity Baptist College.

Established in Lackawanna in 1915, Trinity Baptist Church grew from a small neighborhood church into a megachurch after Robert C. Gray became the congregation’s pastor in 1954. Gray credited the church’s expansion with the completion of the Jacksonville expressway system, which enabled it to spread its ministry countywide.

In 1962, Trinity established the Trinity Rescue Mission on Bay Street in downtown Jacksonville. In 1967, it launched its bus ministry, which grew to become the second-largest bus ministry in the nation, carrying more than 2,400 to church each Sunday during the 1970s.

By this time, the church had outgrown its 6.5-acre McDuff Avenue campus. In 1972, to facilitate additional growth, Trinity moved to a 148-acre tract on Hammond Boulevard off Interstate 10 in Marietta. Two years later, it opened the Trinity Baptist College on its former 426 South McDuff Avenue location. Only allowed to admit 320 students, Trinity Baptist College was a fixture in Jacksonville’s urban core until 1998.

A few years earlier, college officials placed the campus up for sale, due to plans to relocate the school for preachers and Christian workers to a site that could accommodate additional growth, put the campus up for sale. That site was the Hammond Road campus in West Jacksonville that the church had relocated to in 1972. This move was made possible after receipt of a $5 million gift from an anonymous donor.

In 1996, Christian Recovery Ministries agreed to purchase Trinity’s McDuff Avenue campus. Christian Recovery’s plans called for using the college’s residential facilities, chapel and library as a facility to house women, children and its social services programs. The purchase was officially completed in 1998. Today, Trinity Baptist College remains on Jacksonville’s westside. The campus is home to 377 undergraduates and 28 full-time administrative staff.

Article by Kristen Pickrell and Ennis Davis, AICP. Article originally published on MetroJacksonville.com on October 22, 2015. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com