Colonel Raymond C. Turck (left) and a 1940 aerial of a half completed Venetia (right). Courtesy of University of Florida George A Smathers Libraries Digital Collections.
Located just north of NAS Jacksonville, the neighborhood of Venetia was developed by Colonel Raymond Custer Turck during the 1920s. Born in 1874 in Ithaca, Michigan, Turck was the son Captain William S. Turck, a union army veteran and banking firm founder who spent his winters in Florida. Relocating to Jacksonville in 1905, he served as the Chief Surgeon of St. Luke’s Hospital between 1910 and 1916. Rising to the rank of Colonel during World War I, he was awarded Silver Star, Purple Heart and University Palms medals. Appointed State Health Officer in 1921, Turck hired West Palm Beach architect Marion Sims Wyeth to design a new Mediterranean Revival riverfront mansion in 1924 in Ortega.
A yacht and country club member, Turck led the Consolidated Development and Engineering Corporation of Jacksonville, which had developed the Woodlawn neighborhood in St. Petersburg. Acquiring 500 acres of mostly swampland in 1925, plans for the site included a $1.5 million resort hotel, railroad station, yacht basin and Venice-like canals with gondolas and gondoliers.
In the midst of the Florida land boom and state’s first real estate bubble, Turck named the new neighborhood after the Venetia region in northeast Italy. Located along a streetcar line that connected World War I mobilization and training center Camp Joseph E. Johnston to downtown, Architect Mellon Greeley was hired to plan the neighborhood that was designed with complete utilities, paved streets, curbs, sidewalks, and lamp posts. Covenants restricted all buildings to an “Italian” or Mediterranean Revival style of architecture, which peaked in popularity throughout the state during the 1920s land boom. Much of 1925 was spent creating the yacht basin and constructing infrastructure. Despite $2 million in home sales in 1925, plans for the resort hotel were scrapped that year due to the developer not being able to secure financing.
In 1927, the Florida Yacht Club relocated from Riverside, taking over Venetia’s yacht basin. However, Florida’s real estate bubble had already burst by the end of 1926. The stock market crash of 1929, sending the country into the Great Depression, did not help the development’s fortunes. As a result, Turck’s original vision for Venetia would never materialize and the development was foreclosed on in 1930-31. At the time, only fifteen Mediterranean Revival residences had been completed.
After nearly 15 years of limited development, Venetia’s economic fortunes recovered with the 1940 opening of Naval Air Station Jacksonville on the former site of Camp Joseph E. Johnston. During World War II, more than 10,000 pilots and 11,000 airmen would come through NAS Jacksonville, triggering a building boom throughout the westside of Duval County. Around this time, the Ortega Company replatted the western half of Venetia as Timuquana Manor. In 1968, Venetia officially became a part of the City of Jacksonville with the merger of the city and county governments on October 1, 1968. Today, with its major waves of development taking place over a 30 year period, Venetia has matured into a quaint neighborhoods characterized with mix of architectural styles including Mediterranean Revival, Georgian Revival, Tudor Revival and American Ranch.
Next page: Photo tour of Venetia