East Church Street

East Church Street, between Liberty and Washington Street contains the largest remaining intact collection of early 20th century “missing middle” residential structures in downtown Jacksonville.

This compact cluster of duplexes, two-family flats and quads, helped fuel the economic growth of Jacksonville’s urban core during reconstruction efforts following the fire. These buildings also offered inexpensive and convenient boarding options for employees of both small and large businesses throughout downtown.

The restoration of four multifamily properties are underway at 505 North Liberty Street after being acquired for $365,000 in April 2020. Constructed in 1909 and 1910, these buildings will be used as short term rentals marketed on AirBnB.

Ashley Street Apartments

JWB Real Estate Capital recently completed construction on the $1.7 million retrofit of 18 shipping containers into 320-square-foot apartments. Construction costs for each container apartment were around $90,000. A fully furnished 320-square-foot model unit on the site features a full washer and dryer, a galley kitchen with granite countertops, a full bathroom with a shower and a separate bedroom and living space. In addition, 9 of the 18 apartments are short-term rentals.

Old Police Headquarters

For much of Jacksonville’s history 711 North Liberty Street was the Jacksonville Police Headquarters. The old police headquarters opened its doors in September 1926. A project of Mayor John T. Alsop, this building was constructed on the outskirts of town to replace an older location in the heart of downtown that was destined to become a movie theater.

Built at the cost of $300,000, the Second Renaissance revival style structure served as the police headquarters until being replaced by downtown’s Police Memorial Building on Bay Street in the mid-1970s. In 1985, it was converted into the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s regional crime laboratory. Today, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office occupies the property, using it for units falling under the investigations and homeland security departments.

Duval County Armory

Located at 851 North Market Street and sandwiched between Hogans Creek and State Street, the Gothic Revival-style Duval County Armory was completed in 1916. Constructed at the cost of $150,000 to replace an armory destroyed in the Great Fire of 1901, the building was designed by Wilbur B. Talley. One of the founders of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Florida.

In addition to serving the military reserve force, it became the city’s primary destination for dances, cultural events, high school graduations and concerts after its completion. A social beehive of activity, the Armory’s spaces included a kitchen, mess hall, band room, billiard room, rifle range, swimming pool and bowling alley. It was also the state’s largest drill hall.

Major events at the Armory included a 1936 speech by First lady Eleanor Roosevelt, performances by Duke Ellington, James Brown and Ray Charles in the 1950s and 60s, the debut concert by the Allman Brothers on March 30, 1969 and one of the final concerts by Janis Joplin in early 1970. It was also where Marian Anderson, one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century, made Florida civil rights history. In town for a February 1952 performance, Anderson refused to sing in front of a segregated seating arrangement at the Duval County Armory. As a result, Jim Crow took a night off with the famed contralto singer putting on a show for an interracial crowd of 2,200, making it the first concert in modern Florida history performed in front of an integrated audience. Anderson would go on to sing at the March on Washington in 1963 and be the recipient of several awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, the Congressional Gold Medal in 1977, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991.

Despite hosting major events through 1970, the venue’s usage steadily declined with the openings of larger venues in downtown. From 1973 to 2010, the building became the City of Jacksonville’s parks and recreation department.

After a decade of abandonment, plans emerged in 2020 for Ft. Lauderdale-based REVA Development Corporation to transform the former 115 year old armory into a mixed use building featuring art studios, galleries, co-work and event space centered around a food hall with space for 12 food and beverage vendors. Utilizing Place Architecture, designer of Tampa’s Armature Works, as the architect, the project is anticipated to cost $18 million and will include a second phase featuring 100 apartment units. Renovation on the long vacant property is expected to take two years to complete after construction begins.

Mount Zion AME Church

The Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church was founded on July 28, 1866 by formerly enslaved who organized a society for the purpose of religious worship. Acquiring land at the intersection of Beaver and Newnan Streets before emancipation, the church had built a 1,500-seat sanctuary prior to the Great Fire of 1901. The current Romanesque Revival structure was built between 1901 and 1905 to replace what the fire destroyed. It was designed by J.B. Carr & Co of Birmingham, AL and Francis J. Norton of Chicago.

For many years, a famed musician worshiped at Mt. Zion. Solomon Charles Waterford, known as Crown Prince Waterford, was a jazz and blues musician who recorded in the 1940s and 1950s. Born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Waterford was regularly performing in Chicago nightclubs during the 1940s. As new musical styles developed, “The Crown Prince Of The Blues” retired from the business and was ordained as the Rev. Solomon Charles Waterford in 1965. In Jacksonville, he recorded the gospel album, The Reverend Waterford Sings. One of his last performances at the age of 85, was the Springing The Blues festival in Jacksonville Beach in 2002.

Ashley Square Apartments

Construction has begun to transform a 1.02-acre surface parking lot at the northwest corner of East Ashley and Newnan Streets into an affordable housing development for residents aged 62 years old and up. A joint venture between Tampa-based Blue Sky Communities, LLC. and Aging True, the $15 million Ashley Square Apartments project will include the construction of a six-story, 120 unit residential structure and 160-space parking garage.

Stevens Duval Senior Housing Apartments

This 52-unit apartment building at 605 Ocean Street was originally built in 1907 as the Duval High School or Public School #1. It’s one of the grand examples of adaptive reuse of historic building stock in the Cathedral District. Jacksonville’s oldest public high school, it graduated its last class of 264 students in 1927. It was then replaced by Jackson, Lee and Landon High Schools, all of which opened on opposites sides of the city. It was used as a junior high school from 1946 to 1949 and as school administrative offices until June 1971. Declared surplus in 1977, it was acquired by the Ida M. Stevens Charitable Foundation and retrofitted into the Stevens Duval senior housing apartments in 1980.