Article by Ennis Davis, AICP
History of Grand Park
Looking north at the intersection of Division and Rickenbacker Streets.
Located just west of Moncrief Creek in Northwest Jacksonville, Grand Park is named for the nearby confluence of multiple railroad lines called Grand Crossing. The brainchild of the Jacksonville Development Company, sales in Grand Park began on February 13, 1906. Intended to take advantage of its proximity to nearby freight railroad yards and terminals under development, Grand Park was marketed as a white railroad suburb outside Jacksonville city limits with streets named for Confederate victories such as Henrietta, Olustee and Wylene and a lake called Juanita. Originally advertised as being a seven minute automobile ride from city hall, 50 foot by 100 foot lots sold for $50 each. Initially popular, 600 lots were sold by March 11, 1906. Its first settlers were primarily made up of families of railroad workers at nearby repair and maintenance yards at Grand Crossing.
Frame dwellings such as this once lined Kings Road in Grand Park. Today, the oldest collection of buildings in Grand Park are located within a triangular area shaped by Division Street, Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation railroad lines.
Annexed into Jacksonville in 1925, Grand Park remained a small community several decades with most of its development taking place along Kings Road, west of Division Street. Following World War 2, Grand Park’s railroad lines became a popular destination for industrial development, resulting in a mid-century housing boom. A working class neighborhood, it quickly became dominated with small brick and masonry ranch-style homes. However, developed in a low lying area, it became characterized by its chronic flooding problems.
Immediately adjacent to a large, growing historic African-American community, Grand Park was one of the first neighborhoods in Jacksonville to experience white flight. To provide a quick access and an alternative route for new suburban neighborhoods to bypass the city’s historic African American core and downtown, the 20th Street Expressway was built through the neighborhood in the 1960s. In 2001, along with the Haines Street Expressway, this limited-access route became the MLK, Jr. Parkway in honor of the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Seeking money to relieve its flooding problems since the 1970s, millions were invested in the neighborhood during the 1990s and early 2000s to replace its open drainage ditches with underground drains, curbs, sidewalks and stormwater ponds. Today, Grand Park is a historic community where a blend of industrial and mid-century architecture dominate a pedestrian friendly street grid with a mature landscape.
Historic Aerials of Grand Park
A 1943 aerial of Grand Park
A close up 1943 aerial of Grand Park. The first park within the neighborhood, also called Grand Park, was in the center of a circle split by Division Street and included a lake called Juanita.
A 1952 aerial of Grand Park
A 1971 aerial of Grand Park and view of the 20th Street Expressway (now MLK, Jr. Parkway)
A 1971 aerial showing Grand Park split by the 20th Street Expressway (now MLK, Jr. Parkway)
Next Page: Virtual Tour of Grand Park