Red Bank Plantation House
1230 Greenridge Road
Located in the middle the Colonial Manor subdivison, the former Red Bank Plantation house is the second oldest building in the city still being used as a residence. The house was built by planter Albert Gallatin Philips between 1854 and 1857. Originally established during the late 18th century, this 450 acre plantation’s list of owners includes William Craig (namesake of Craig Creek), Isaiah D. Hart (the founder of Jacksonville), Issac Hendricks (namesake of Hendricks Avenue), and Albert Gallatin Philips (Duval County Sheriff and father of Henry B. Philips, for whom Philips Highway is named). After the Civil War, the house remained in the family’s control while the surrounding plantation land was sold and developed into the historic residential neighborhood that remains today.
Francis Richard III Residence
1300 Oak Haven Road
At the age of 20 in August 1766, Joseph Louis Francois of Florence, Italy stepped on a young lady’s dress and was challenged to a duel by her companion. After winning the duel, he fled the country to avoid being prosecuted for murder. Settling in Saint Domingue, he owned a plantation cultivating coffee and sugar and became referred to as Sir Joseph Louis Francois dit Richard.
On the eve of the Haitian Revolution, he departed Saint Domingue and landed in Charleston, South Carolina in August 1791. Anglicized to Francis Richard I, with 22 enslaved and in need of land to cultivate, Richard headed to Spanish East Florida, signing an oath of allegiance to the king of Spain in order to apply for a 400-acre land grant. By 1819, along with his two oldest sons, Richard had acquired over 22,000 acres throughout present day Duval, St. Johns and Putnam counties. Another son owned land in Alachua County and Glynn and Camden counties in Georgia.
Oldest son, Francis Richard II’s 16,000-acre mill grant stretched from the mouth of the Arlington River to present day Baymeadows Road by 1817. A water-powered sawmill was built in the vicinity of Strawberry Creek and Red Bay Branch. A cotton gin and grist mill for the grinding of corn was also built. A prominent planter, Francis Richard II would father several children with enslaved women. His namesake Francis Richard III constructed this house along the Arlington River between 1837 and 1848. Today, it is the oldest continuously occupied house in Jacksonville.
John S. Sammis Residence (Strawberry Plantation)
207 Noble Circle West
Built by John S. Sammis and located just south of the Mathews Bridge, this Strawberry Mills and Plantation house in Arlington dates back to the 1850s. Born in 1807 in New York, Sammis moved to Florida to work for Zephaniah Kingsley. He married Mary Kingsley, the youngest daughter of Zephaniah and Anna Jai Kingsley, and eventually became one of Duval County’s largest owners of the enslaved.
Here on the banks of the St. Johns River and Pottsburg Creek in the area now know as Clifton, the 8,000 acre Strawberry Plantation produced Sea Island cotton, rice and provision crops. The plantation also included a lumber mill, cotton gin, gristmill for grinding corn and a brickyard. In fact, much of antebellum buildings in downtown were constructed of brick manufactured by the enslaved at Strawberry.
Sammis eventually moved away from slavery, freeing some of his enslaved workers and selling others in New Orleans in 1860. Father to a mixed race family, Sammis became an outspoken advocate for the Union during the Civil War. Sammis disposed of the Strawberry Plantation in 1873, leading to the development of the neighborhood surrounding the old home today. The family continued to bury their dead at the old plantation cemetery. On July 10, 1979, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at email@example.com