5. Riverside Park

Address: 753 Park Street Year Established: 1869 Total Park Acreage in 1930: 14 Acres

Riverside Park in 1900. (State Archives of Florida)

Riverside Park is the second oldest park in the city. Boston’s John Murray Forbes and Florida Times-Union editor Edward M. Cheney reserved space for the park in their 1869 plat of Riverside. The developers acquired the land for ten thousand in gold in 1868. The park was connected to downtown by mule drawn streetcar in 1886. During the 1890s, landscaping, stone bridges, carriage lane and walking paths were added. By 1907, it was known as one of the prettiest parks in the south. Other improvements over the years included the construction of a tennis court, a band stand, and a Camilla garden.

4. Brentwood Park

Address: 551 W. 25th Street Year Established: 1929 Total Park Acreage in 1930: 20 Acres

Brentwood Park is a large public park that is located just north of Springfield, in the neighborhood of Brentwood. Also, known as Catherine Hester McNair Park, the public space was establised on twenty acres, stretching between West 21st Street and West 28th Street. Today, the park features baseball and softball fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, shuffleboard and a playground. It is best known for its bandstand. Designed by Jacksonville architect Roy A. Benjamin in 1932, the Parthenon-like structure is an extremely rare example of Neoclassical Greek revival architecture in Jacksonville.

3. Hollybrook Park

Address: 319 Cherokee Street Year Established: 1922 Total Park Acreage in 1930: 21 Acres

Serving as the boundary between the neighborhoods of Lackawanna and North Riverside, Hollybrook Park is a large public space in West Jacksonville. The site was dedicated as a public park in 1922 by the developers of the adjacent Hollybrook subdivision plat. Expanded to 21 acres by 1926, the park winds in a north-south direction, following Westbrook and McCoys Creeks. Hollybrook Park is one of several historic public spaces within the city’s urban core that will be upgraded as a part of Groundwork Jacksonville’s Emerald Trail project.

2. Boone Park

Address: 3700 Park Street Year Established: 1926 Total Park Acreage in 1930: 29 Acres

Located near the Shoppes of Avondale, Boone Park is a large park named after William Elijah Boone. Boone was an industrialist that bought and then rebuilt locomotives, leasing them to local industries in North Florida and South Georgia. In 1926, the city acquired most of the park property from Boone and four other owners. After the addition of tennis courts in 1946 and a clubhouse in 1950, the park hosted major public tennis tournaments for decades. Today, Boone Park remains a popular urban core destination and is well known for its wooded scenery, tennis courts, playscapes and trails.

1. Springfield Park

Address: 204 West Third Street Year Established: 1899 Total Park Acreage in 1930: 43 Acres

Springfield Park shortly after the completion of the Hogans Creek Improvement Project. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

Famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted said every city should have a large park for ‘unbending of the faculties.’ Notable urban parks across the country offering respite from the hustle and bustle of the city include New York’s 843-acre Central Park, Savannah’s 30-acre Forsythe Park, and Boston’s 40-acre Common. In Jacksonville, Springfield Park has historically served as the urban core’s most revered large scale recreational grounds.

Dating back to 1898, Springfield Park was created and developed on low lying land and marsh donated by the Springfield Company. Straddling Hogans Creek between Downtown and Springfield, the flood prone park contained the Great Fire of 1901 from spreading north. In addition, in 1914 it became the original home of the city’s first zoo. In an attempt to beautiful and landscape and control its tendency to flood, the park was significantly altered with the completion of the Hogans Creek Improvement Project in 1929.

Today, urban Jacksonville’s grand recreational grounds are recognized as a series of connecting parks including Springfield, H.J. Klutho, W.W. Schell and McPherson Park. It is also a major focus of plans to enhance existing green spaces as a part of the Emerald Trail system and and restoration of Hogans Creek.

Editorial by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com