Historic Properties in Jacksonville

October 2016

Old YMCA Building

407-9 N. Laura Street
Architect: Henry J. Klutho

Jacksonville’s first YMCA was founded in 1870. Thirty-seven years later, in 1907, members commissioned Henry John Klutho to design a seven-story headquarters building. This building

YMCA, Jacksonville, c. 1910s, after completion. It still stands at the northeast corner of Laura and Duval Streets and the Jake M. Godbold City Hall Annex. Jacksonville Historical Society Collection.
YMCA, Jacksonville, c. 1910s, after completion. It still stands at the northeast corner of Laura and Duval Streets and the Jake M. Godbold City Hall Annex. (Jacksonville Historical Society Collection)

marked the beginning of his commitment to an architectural movement that later became known as the “Prairie School.” Klutho’s own description of the building detailed the style’s architectural significance: “…the new building represents a style of architecture which is neither classic or Renaissance, but in line with a new style now being evolved in this country typifying the American character…the whole building is conspicuous for its simplicity and dignity.”

The building was Florida’s first large reinforced-concrete frame structure and an engineering feat for the times. It featured a running track suspended over the gymnasium by cantilevered concrete beams. A swimming pool was located in the basement.

To view the building in 1927, visit the Jacksonville Historical Society Online Collection or by clicking here. In 1929, the YMCA shared in the nation’s financial calamity; unable to meet the mortgage, the building was sold and remodeled for use as retail space.

In 1931, Haverty’s Furniture Company occupied the building and remained until the early 1980s. To view an image of the Haverty’s Building, visit Florida Memory, the online resource for the State Library and Archives of Florida.

The City of Jacksonville acquired the building in 2004 by eminent domain and gave it to the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund in lieu of certain pension fund money. Restorations began in 2006. After the renovations were complete, the pension fund leased the building back to the city.

The building was dedicated on June 27, 2009 and named the Jake M. Godbold City Hall Annex for the former Mayor of Jacksonville, Mayor Godbold, who was noted for leading downtown revitalization efforts during his administration. Born March 14, 1933, he passed away January 23, 2020.

To view the building in 1927, visit the Jacksonville Historical Society Online Collection or by clicking here.

September 2016

Drs. Love & McGinnis Office and Residence

2063 Oak Street

During the 1920s, Florida’s development and architecture began to reflect Mediterranean-Revival designs and styles.

Henry J. Klutho, Jacksonville’s architectural champion after the devastating 1901 Fire, was a master of Prairie School design. Although he much preferred commercial building architecture, in 1926 he created a unique Mediterranean-Revival design for two bachelor

Drs. Love and McGinnis offices and residence, 2063 Oak Street.

doctors in Riverside.

The doctors’ office and residence, located on Oak Street for Dr. James Love and Dr. Robert H. McGinnis, is considered one of Klutho’s “best” Mediterranean-Revival designs. It is divided into two symmetrical parts with the first floor allowing for separate office space and the second floor providing living quarters. Also included in the style were lotus motifs on the porch and balcony columns, cast-stone medallions and triple arched windows. Shaped in a polygon, it is considered one of Riverside’s most treasured buildings.

In 1983, the Jacksonville Historic Landmarks Commission ranked the building as as one the “100 most historically and architecturally significant in the county.”

The building today serves as the Law Offices of Pinkston and Pinkston.

Mediterranean-Revival Architectural Style, 1918-1939

Introduced to the United States in the 1920s (especially Florida’s real estate boom in the 1920s) and 1930s, this style incorporated  Spanish Renaissance, Spanish Colonial, Beaux Arts, Italian Renaissance, and Venetian Gothic style of architecture.

This style drew heavily from palaces and villas in Italy and Spain and were based on on a rectangular floor plan, featuring massive, symmetrical primary façades. Stuccoed walls, red tiled roofs, windows in the shape of arches or circles, one or two stories, wood or wrought iron balconies with window grilles, and articulated door surrounds are characteristic. Keystones were occasionally employed. Ornamentation may be simple or dramatic. Lush gardens often appear.

The style was most commonly applied to hotels, apartment buildings, commercial structures, and residences. Architects August Geiger and Addison Mizner were foremost in Florida,although they did not invent the style.

August 2016

John Gorrie Junior High: A school, a home

In 1923, the Duval County Public School system initiated a junior high school concept with the opening of John Gorrie Junior High, in the Riverside/Avondale area, and Kirby Smith Junior High, in Springfield. Duval’s original plan included 8-4, that is, eight years of elementary school and four years of high school. This was changed to a 6-3-3 system in 1923, six years of elementary, three years of junior high and three years of high school. JohnGorrieJrHigh

John Gorrie Junior High School was built in 1923 by Roy Benjamin and Mellen C. Greeley during their six-year partnership after World War I. The school features a Mediterranean style of architecture popular of the time. The John Gorrie is listed on both the local and National Register of Historic Landmarks.

Unoccupied since the 1970s, when enrollment declined, it was used as a Teacher Supply Depot until the Duval County School Board placed the building on the market in 2008.

In 2009, J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver purchased the building and turned it into The John Gorrie a condominium. According to the website, the John Gorrie “is a painstaking restoration and renovation of this historic landmark into luxury residences and a tribute to its important place in Jacksonville’s history.” The renovations were estimated to cost around $16 million.

The condominium boasts 68 residences, in one or two bedroom floor-plans and one or two-story home formats. The homes have 12-foot high ceilings and expansive windows.


Dr. John Gorrie was a physician, scientist, inventor and humanitarian. He was born in South Carolina in 1803, but moved to Florida soon after. He received his medical degree in 1833, and returned to Florida to practice medicine where he became interested in public health and sanitation problems. It was then that he invented an ice machine designed to cool hospital rooms housing feverish malarial patients. His original design for the first ice machine can still be seen in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. In 1844, Dr. Gorrie officially invented the first air conditioning system. He made a practical working model in 1850, but it was not produced due to non-believers at the time. Dr. Gorrie died in 1855.

On March 27, 1943, in honor of the famed Florida doctor and inventor, the St. Johns River Shipbuilding Company launched the second of 82 Liberty Ships for the war effort. At the launching ceremony for the S.S. John Gorrie, principal speaker J.E. Ross, chairman of the Duval County Board of Public Instruction, said, “I feel sure that many of the fine men who have attended John Gorrie Junior High School here have had a part in the construction of this fine ship…I sincerely hope that this ship will play…part in relieving the suffering of all humanity today, just as the invention of John Gorrie did many years ago” (Florida Times-Union, March 28, 1943).

July 2016

Fort George Mansion: The Neff House

Neff House NE- MC14.11.001
Neff House on Fort George Island. Photo from the Jacksonville Historical Society [Merrill Collection]

The Neff House, located at 11435 Fort George Road near Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island, was built by Jacksonville architect Mellen C. Greeley in 1927 as a winter home for Chicago  businessman Nettleton Neff. According to Greeley, the Neff family was struck by tragedy early, about six months into its construction, when Neff lost his wife, two small children and his older son. Neff himself died before the completion of the house and he never saw the finished version of his “castle-like” home.

The house sat vacant for many years until Kenneth Merrill, of Merrill Stevens Ship Building Co., the St. Johns River Shipbuilding Co., and the Merrill Dynamite Co., purchased the home as a holiday retreat for the Merrill family. The Merrills made no changes or additions to the basic structure and layout of the home. The Merrills owned the home until 1967 when they sold it to the Betz family.

The Betz family was the first family to occupy the home year round. Antoine Betz was a marine engineer and Gerri Betz was the president of a real estate and land development company. Two of their six children lived in the Neff House. The Betz family added a wing with a kitchen (a kitchen wing had never been built), a garage, a swimming pool and had the house rewired.

1622 - Neff House
The most outstanding part of the home’s design is the circular entry tower with its conical roof and semi-circular wrought iron balcony above the entry door. Jacksonville Historical Society Collection

During the Betz family’s occupation, the house contained an “aura of mystery.” According to Sandy Strickland’s article in the Jacksonville Journal in October 1975, one could hear “organ music in the seven-level, 21-room mansion, but no organ was found in the house; mysterious phone calls…voices and banging doors were heard in the house; and glass from closed cupboards would sometimes crash onto the floor.” Another very mysterious story that dealt with the Neff House and the Betz family was attached to a strange sphere located on the property in 1974.

In 1985, Fairfield Communities acquired the Neff House from the Betz family and used it as housing during archaeological projects. The Florida Park Service bought the property in 1989, and used the house as office space for park staff and a ranger residence. In 2002, the wing added by the Betz family was removed due to serious structural problems. The original house was then sealed and has remained unused to the present.

Greeley called it his “most unique home” but not his favorite design. It was built on the side of Mount Cornelia, the highest point of Fort George Island and the East Coast of the country south of New Jersey. It is an excellent example of the Tudor-Revival style – half timbering on the upper floor, combination of brick and stucco in the facade, a steeply pitched roof and a massive central chimney. The most outstanding feature is the circular entry tower with its conical roof and semi-circular wrought iron balcony above the entry door. The house is a wide V-shape with two wings flanking the entry tower and chimney stack.

June 2016

The Continental Hotel: Henry Flagler’s Unknown Hotel

The Continental Hotel advertised in a Florida East Coast Railway brochureAfter Henry Flagler bought the Jacksonville & Atlantic Railroad, integrated it to the Florida East Coast Railroad and extended its line from downtown Jacksonville to Mayport, he decided to build a hotel to accommodate all the wealthy vacationers that would be attracted to the Jacksonville Beaches. Flagler dreamt big and built even bigger.

On June 1st, 1901, only a month after Jacksonville’s Great Fire, Flagler opened the Continental Hotel at Atlantic Beach. The hotel originally boasted 186 rooms, later increased to 220, and 56 bathrooms, making it one of the largest wooden buildings in the south, 447-feet long and 47-feet wide! Its dining room could seat 350 people. The north and south wings of the hotel were four stories tall and it contained a six-story-tall central rotunda. It was painted yellow with green shutters, with beautifully landscaped grounds that included a railroad station. The color yellow used to paint the hotel would be later known as Flagler Yellow. It would be used throughout Florida to identify Flagler’s railroad buildings.

Unlike the rest of Flagler’s Florida East Coast hotels, the Continental was a summer only facility, its market primarily drawn from the Southeastern states. Never achieving the fame and status of the other Flagler hotels, it was sold in 1913 to Northern financiers. They changed the name to Atlantic Beach Hotel and built an adjacent golf course. The new owners eventually went bankrupt and Flagler purchased the Continental back at auction in 1917. He leased it to William H. Adams. Predictably, the large wooden structure burned in 1919.

April 2016

Jacksonville Parks

Good urban planning includes green spaces that allow the city to “breath” and open public spaces that allow the population to congregate. By 1857 Isaiah D. Hart, the founder of Jacksonville, had already designated a space as a park or a public space. Mr. Hart’s decision to designate this space as a town square was probably influenced by urban planning dating back to Medieval Europe where cities were planned around plazas.

The City of Jacksonville owns and manages over 400 parks; below is a list of some of the historic parks in Jacksonville:

If we have not listed your favorite park, let us here from you!