We take great pride in preserving and protecting some of our city’s most significant historical structures by identifying endangered buildings and, where possible, acquiring and renovating those structures for new uses.
Old St. Luke’s Hospital and the Florida Casket Company
Constructed in 1878, this hospital–one of the city’s oldest public buildings–played a prominent role in caring for Jacksonville’s citizens stricken by the yellow fever epidemic in 1888, the typhoid epidemic 10 years later, and the Great Fire of 1901. In 1885, St. Luke’s established the first modern nursing school in Florida. In 1914, the hospital moved to a larger complex in Springfield. (We invite you to read more about the hospital’s earliest years here.)
In succeeding years, the old building served as a coffin factory and a warehouse, before standing vacant for several years. Numerous appeals were made to save Old St. Luke’s, but it was not until the north and south wings were demolished in 1975 that a nonprofit group, Old St. Luke’s Restoration, Inc., was able to purchase the property and preserve the central structure.
In 2012, the Jacksonville Historical Society purchased St. Luke’s Hospital and the adjacent Florida Casket Company building, built circa 1920, with the intention of creating a new center for Jacksonville’s history. The purchase allowed the Society to consolidate its large and scattered archives collection, and to provide the public with a wide range of document preservation programs and materials for the preservation, exhibition and study of all aspects of the history of Jacksonville. The offices of the Society are located in Old St. Luke’s.
Our Palmetto Street campus has exciting potential and sobering challenges. By all measures–organizational, management, financial and potential–it is larger than anything we have ever done before. It is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Historical Society to provide the community with one central location to study all aspects of local history.
Currently, the Society is conducting a capital campaign to raise funds to renovate the second floor of the Casket Factory to serve as an archival processing and storage facility to house our many sensitive collections in a secure, stable environment. Additionally, the Society announced plans to create a music history museum, which may be located on the first floor, and a performance venue on the third floor of the building.
Old St. Andrew’s Church
This towering Gothic church, which once served as the Jacksonville Historical Society headquarters, was constructed in 1888, and was the only major church to survive Jacksonville’s Great Fire of 1901.
It is built of pressed brick laid in black mortar, with stone trimmings. The ground plan is cruciform, with the vestry-room on one side and the organ-chamber on the other forming the transepts. The chancel and nave are separated by three arches of masonry. The interior woodwork of the building is Florida pine, and the doors are made of solid mahogany. The ceiling is paneled with yellow pine. The tower rises to a height of 120 feet, at one time the tallest in the city.
By the 1970s, however, the once populous residential area around the church had faded, the congregation had moved to a new church in Arlington, and the building had fallen into disuse and disrepair. Vacant for over a decade, the building was one of the most perplexing challenges facing local preservationists. Ironically, the Jacksonville Jaguars helped save it.
With the coming of the NFL football team in 1993, the city government purchased much of the land around the newly-constructed stadium, including the Old St. Andrew’s site. The Jacksonville Historical Society was given the rights to the building if it could restore it. Thanks to the city’s cooperation and a challenge grant from the J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Foundation, JHS was able to raise a million dollars to complete the restoration of the old church to use as its headquarters. Old St. Andrew’s stands proudly today as one of the finest specimens of 19th-century architecture in Duval County, and it is a popular spot for meetings, weddings and other civic events.
Did you know Old St. Andrew’s is available for wedding and event rentals?
Click here to book your rental consultation appointment for Old St. Andrew’s.
The Merrill House
The Merrill residence is the largest and most architecturally interesting of the 19th-century houses remaining in East Jacksonville.
In about 1875, James E. Merrill started a small iron works in Jacksonville after learning the black-smithing trade from his father. Known as the Merrill-Stevens Engineering Co., by the late 1880s the iron works became one of the largest shipbuilding companies in the South. In 1886 Merrill built this house at 229 Lafayette Street, just a short walk from his iron works on East Bay Street. It exemplifies the Queen Anne style, with a square tower on the southwest corner and an elaborate vergeboard in the north gable. The porch posts, brackets, and spindles reflect the Eastlake style. In recent years it suffered lamentable deterioration. The Jacksonville Historical Society, in cooperation with the Mayor’s Office of the City of Jacksonville, undertook the saving of this house in 2000. The building was moved to 311 A. Philip Randolph Blvd. next to Old St. Andrew’s Church, where its restoration was begun.
In March 2002, the Merrill House was moved again, to be better situated further from the construction of the new baseball stadium. Its new location is one block to the north. With the completion of the renovation in December 2005, it served as an annex to the Jacksonville Historical Society’s headquarters, then housed in Old St. Andrew’s Church, and now solely as a house museum celebrating the American Victorian period in Jacksonville.
Please phone the Jacksonville Historical Society office, 904.665.0064, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a Merrill House Tour! (Note: Tours are currently not available during this time of the pandemic.)
Due to the size of the rooms, up to 30 people are allowed in a group per tour. Tours will be held by reservation ONLY.
We suggest a $10 donation for the tour. For members of the Jacksonville Historical Society, admission is free.