Shotgun houses exemplify a type of working class residential dwelling style that was common in Black urban neighborhoods during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The shotgun is a representation of the Folk Victorian Style of architecture, which was popular between 1870 and 1910. This style is defined by the application of Victorian decorative detailing on simple frame structures in an attempt to mimic the popular high Victorian architecture of the era. Many scholars believe that shotgun houses reflect African building traditions that entered the American Southeast via the transatlantic slave trade through the Caribbean Islands, starting in New Orleans and brought to cities like Jacksonville by migrating Black freedmen.

Predominately found in the urban South, shotgun houses tend to be narrow across the front in order to maximize the number of units on each residential property. Rooms were typically arranged one behind the other connected by a long hallway. Because this long hall usually ran the entire length of the house, the name derived from the possibility of firing a round from the front door through the back door without hitting any part of the house.

Sanborn maps indicate LaVilla’s Jefferson Street shotgun houses were constructed between 1903 and 1912. They were originally located at 612, 614, and 616 Lee Street, which was a part of McIntosh & Reed’s Addition to LaVilla. Due to early public directories leaving out historic Black neighborhoods in the city, the first directory listing for these residences took place in 1919. At the time, 612 Lee Street was occupied by Columbia H. Boger, a widow. 614 Lee Street was occupied by Daniel Redmon, who was employed as a porter. The last residence, 616 Lee Street, was occupied by Thomas Taylor, who was employed as a driver.

Privately occupied until the City’s River City Renaissance Program, which resulted in the removal of LaVilla’s residents and its ultimate destruction, these three houses were acquired by the City and relocated to the present site. At the time, the City’s intent was to rehabilitate them for educational purposes as an example of a vanishing but popular housing type found in many urban black neighborhoods during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Currently, the three LaVilla shotgun houses are being rehabilitated by the Downtown Investment Authority. One house was recently relocated to the future Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park. Here are a few photographs of the restoration project taken during the last week of September 2023.