Article by Ennis Davis, AICP
Pearl Street’s Streetcar Story
An early 20th century photograph showing the Pearl Street streetcar line in the background as a grassy median. (State Archives of Florida)
The push for an extension of downtown’s Hogan Street streetcar line to the Trout River along Pearl Street dates as far back as 1910. At the time, Springfield had emerged as a popular residential destination following the Great Fire of 1901. With the construction of the streetcar line north of downtown, a new bridge was constructed over Hogans Creek through Springfield Park, linking previously unconnected segments of Pearl Street in Hansontown and Springfield. Completed in 1916, the Hogan-Pearl Street streetcar line operated in a grassy median on Pearl Street, north of Springfield Park.
The intersection of West 8th Street and Pearl Street during the 1940s. (State Archives of Florida)
While the fixed transit system never made it north of Springfield it was successful in stimulating mixed-use infill development along its path. By the early 1920s, mixed-use storefronts appeared at the intersections of Pearl and West 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th streets. Bounded by Pearl, West 9th, 10th and Silver Streets, Clark’s Park was replaced with a mix of residential uses, including a small bungalow court, single family homes and two family flats by the end of the Florida land boom.
Zoned a business district as a part of the city’s first zoning ordinance in 1925, Pearl Street also emerged as an early location for gas stations. At the intersection of Pearl and West 6th Street, the Texas Oil Company, Standard Oil Company and Shell Oil Company all opened filling stations between 1927 and 1931.
Developing during the midst of a housing shortage as the city’s population increased from 28,429 in 1900 to 129,549 in 1930, many of Pearl Street’s residential units were built as “missing middle” multifamily dwellings. When streetcar operations ceased in favor of buses in December 1936, Springfield was largely already built out along the Pearl Street line. While Pearl Street no longer has the grassy median the streetcar once ran on, it’s mixed-use historic built environment remains and is an important part of the Springfield Historic District’s unique sense of place.