Avondale Historic District
Originally advertised as “Riverside’s Residential Ideal”, Avondale was platted by Telfair Stockton’s Avondale Company, on the site of a failed 19th century development called Edgewood. Acquired at a cost of over $500,000 in 1920, the 220-acre tract’s general boundaries were the St. Johns River, West Avenue, Demere Street (Roosevelt Boulevard), and Talbot Avenue and served by a streetcar line to Ortega that was completed in 1908. Conceived during the height of the Great Florida Land Boom, the 4.5 block wide, mile long development was envisioned to become an upscale covenant restricted community that Jacksonville had not witnessed before. The name “Avondale” came from James R. Challen’s former home in Cincinnati, OH. Challen was the former owner of Edgewood.
The Avondale Company added another Ohio link by hiring William Chase Pitkin, Jr., a well-known Cleveland-based landscape architect to design the project. Influenced by the City Beautiful Movement and previous projects like Columbus, OH’s Upper Arlington, unlike the rigid grids associated with older streetcar suburbs, Pitkin designed a community featuring curvilinear streets, paved streets, larger residential lots, sixteen parks and access to water, sewer, gas and electricity. Similar to its older neighbor Murray Hill, Avondale’s properties were also built to include detached garages, accommodating the growing popularity of the automobile during the 1920s.
Popular from the very beginning, initial buyers were attracted to properties between the riverfront and the Ortega car line. Within two years, 402 of the subdivision’s 720 lots had been sold and nearly 200 houses completed, with a large portion being designed in the Mediterranean Revival style. By the time the Florida land boom fizzled, virtually all of Avondale had been developed.
On July 6, 1989, the Avondale Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Along with neighboring Riverside, the American Planning Association named Avondale as one of the country’s top neighborhoods in 2010. A century after Stockton’s purchase, Avondale remains as popular today as it was during the Florida Land Boom.
Downtown Jacksonville Historic District
Platted by Isaiah D. Hart in 1822, the Northbank of Downtown Jacksonville developed at the north side of a ferry crossing that was located at the narrowest part of the St. Johns River. The ferry served the Old Kings Road that connected St. Augustine with St. Mary’s, Georgia. Incorporated ten years later, the plat was a result of Isaiah D. Hart proposing a town and convincing his neighbors to donate additional land for the venture. The settlement was named “Jacksonville” after Andrew Jackson, who had become popular among many Floridians for his actions in the First Seminole War.
The physical layout of the town features a standard grid of blocks divided into 105-foot x 105-foot square lots, with some blocks having eight square lots. This original street grid has been maintained with the only deviations being North Market Street terminating at the parcel of land occupied by the St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral and 21st century modifications to West Monroe Street in order to accommodate the new Duval County Courthouse.
Listed to the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 2016 as the Downtown Jacksonville Historic District, the Northbank’s Period of Significance is identified as extending from the Great Fire of 1901 through 1965. Encompassing 56 blocks, the 158-acre historic district contains 176 contributing buildings, one contributing site and two contributing objects. As a result of the rebuilding effort following the Great Fire of 1901, the Downtown Jacksonville Historic District is characterized by a rich mixture of residences, churches, schools, office and commercial buildings, government buildings and architectural styles.
Durkee Gardens Historic District
Durkee Gardens was added to the National Register on March 16, 2020. This accomplishment makes it the first historic African American neighborhood in Jacksonville to be recognized as a National Register Historic District. Generally bounded by Myrtle Avenue, McConihe Street, Payne Avenue and 13th Street, the Durkee Gardens Historic District encompasses 49 acres and includes 209 contributing buildings completed between 1934 and 1969. Platted between 1934 and 1944, the district is dominated by the Minimal Traditional architectural style and a lasting reminder of the quality work of African-American architects and builders.
The larger community of Durkeeville largely owes its existence to the establishment of the North Jacksonville Street Railway, Town and Improvement Company in 1902. Called the “Colored Man’s Railroad,” this Black-owned streetcar system connected Northwest Jacksonville with downtown. Opening ceremonies were held on August 24, 1903 with several dignitaries, including Mayor George M. Nolan and former Mayor Duncan U. Fletcher, giving speeches. The streetcar routes grew to be one of the city’s most used, stimulating African-American oriented transit oriented development along their path through the northwest side of town. By the end of the Florida Land Boom, both LaVilla and Sugar Hill were largely built out.
At the time, a significant plot of nearby land was owned by Dr. Jay H. Durkee. Durkee was a prominent real estate developer and son of Union military officer Joseph Harvey Durkee. Originally from New York, Durkee settled in Jacksonville after the Civil War. The Durkee family initially envisioned their property being used for industrial and railroad related uses adjacent to the new Seaboard Air Line (SAL) Railroad. At one point, to stimulate industrial growth, a rail spur was extended to Myrtle Avenue just south of West 13th Street. After those plans failed to materialize, much of the property was developed to accommodate Jacksonville’s African American professionals and businessmen.