Downtown Jax Historic Architecture
Downtown Jacksonville’s iconic historic buildings tell the real story of Jax, one of the most progressive cities at the turn of the last century.
Downtown Jacksonville’s iconic historic buildings have really stood the test of time. These stylish century-old structures fill our streets re-purposed into modern office headquarters, elegant restaurants, museums, and even City Hall.
After burning down during The Great Fire of 1901 — the largest-ever urban fire in the Southeast — Downtown Jacksonville was rebuilt by some of the most talented architectures in America at the time. The fire lasted 8 hours and burned 146 city blocks, destroyed more than 2,000 buildings, and left almost 10,000 Jacksonville residents homeless.
Creative and innovative designers looking to make a name for themselves like New York City’s Henry J. Klutho, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, and M.H. Hubbard, flocked to the city for the opportunity to rebuild Downtown. The fire was the spark that caused major creativity in the minds of these architect, and filled our streets with buildings so unique they are definitely worth a visit!
This tour would not have been possible without the support and effort from Councilwoman Lori Boyer, the City of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Historical Society. Much of the information gathered from the book Jacksonville’s Architectural Heritage: Landmarks for the Future which was created by the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission and Written and Designed by Wayne W. Wood.
Atlantic National Bank
Built in 1909, 121 Atlantic Place was formerly the Atlantic National Bank building. This historic skyscraper was the tallest building in Jacksonville, and in Florida, from 1909 to 1912 and remains an office building today. Built by New York City architects Mowbray and Uffinger, the steel structure stands at 10 stories and features a white Sylacauga marble covering on the bottom two floors and white terra cotta on the top eight. The façade is what you’ll want to pay attention to and notice the “ANB” engraved above the door. Over the years, the Atlantic National Bank Building has merged with other banks and is now used as office space; it is now known as the Schultz Building. Its most prominent feature rests below ground where pedestrian tunnels were built to connect bank buildings at the turn of the last century. This is the only tunnel in Downtown Jacksonville still in use. Some portions of the tunnel are open to the public, but to get an extra sneak peek featuring a historic bank vault, take a tour with AdLib Tours. Location: Forsyth Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202
Bethel Baptist Church
First founded in 1838, the church also burned down during The Great Fire of 1901. Rebuilt by M.H. Hubbard on 1904, the impressive building combines elements of Greek Revival and Romanesque Revival architecture. The Church is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places since 1978. This is the oldest Baptist church in Jacksonville and continues to serve the community daily. Location: 1058 North Hogan Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202
Greenleaf & Crosby Building
This unique building was built in 1927 for the Greenleaf & Crosby Company, a jewelry store headquartered in Jacksonville. The architects, Marsh and Saxelbye, very well-known during this time, planned for a 6-story building, but the developer ended up with 12 stories on one side. The other side was to be completed when more funding was available, but it was never finished giving the building a lopsided look. As you look up, you’ll take note of the decorated terra-cotta panels depicting griffin’s, eagles, urns, and floral motifs. The lower façade is glorified with a grand two-story vaulted entrance. While the building is no longer the Greenleaf & Crosby jewelry store headquarters, the downstairs is the longtime home to another jeweler, Jacobs Jewelers. As you leave, stop to take a picture with the Historic Jacobs Jewelers clock, the 1901 timepiece and one of 12 remaining clocks manufactured by the Seth Thomas Clock Company of Connecticut. The 2.2-ton clock has been posted on this corner since 1930. Location: 208 N Laura Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202
St. Andrew's Church
This gothic church was built in 1888, and is the only major Downtown church to survive Jacksonville’s Great Fire of 1901. The church is now the Headquarter for the Jacksonville Historical Society. It is an impressive and beautiful building made of pressed brick laid in black mortar, with stone trimmings. Inside, the impressive woodwork is made of Florida pine, and the doors are made of solid mahogany. The tower rises 120 feet, at one time the tallest in the city. Location: 317 A. Philip Randolph Blvd. Jacksonville, FL 32202
The Barnett Bank
The 18-story building located on the corner of North Laura Street and West Adams Street has been settled in Downtown since 1926. It remained the city’s tallest skyscraper until 1954. The building was designed by Mowbray and Uffinger, an architectural partnership in New York City known for pre-World War II-era bank buildings. It was constructed by James Stewart and Company, at the time one of North America’s most accomplished and long-standing contractors, who went on to even construct Madison Square Garden in New York. The building’s “U”- shaped structure is perfectly-proportioned and reflects influences from the Italian Renaissance style. The building’s steel frame features a limestone-faced, two-story arcade at street level, a few lion head details above the third floor, and a parapet roof with obelisks. While the building has been abandoned for years, it is currently undergoing a $90 million redevelopment to infuse new life into this historic gem while preserving its grand design and history. Location: 112 West Adams Street Jacksonville, FL 32202
The Carling Hotel
Built in 1925, the 13-story building originally contained over 300 rooms and was designed by New York City architects, Thompson, Holmes & Converse in the Italian Renaissance Style. The three lower stories are faced with Indiana limestone. The upper, trimmed with terra-cotta. When built, The Carling was completely fireproof construction, and was one of Jacksonville’s finest hotels. You’ll notice that the placement of the hotel is unique because rather than built on a corner, it is situated in the middle of a block. In 1936, its name was changed to the Hotel Roosevelt for over 25 years. A two-story addition was added to the rear of the building to allow access from Monroe Street. During its time as the Hotel Roosevelt, a catastrophic fire in 1963 claimed 22 lives and forced the hotel to close. After being vacant for almost 20 years, the structure was turned into apartments for retirees until 1989. In 1991, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, but the building remained abandoned for 14 more years. In 2003, Jacksonville developer, Vestcor, began a historic preservation of The Carling, restoring many of its architectural features such as Palladian windows, terrazzo floors, and the dual grand marble staircases leading from the lobby to the second level, and turning it into apartment rentals. When visiting The Carling today, take a stand on the first step of the marble stair case and notice the dent in the marble. This original marble from decades of use had been dented by the various bellmen that stood there greeting guests when they arrived at the hotel. This dented staircase shows over 90 years of history, a shrilling realization as you feel it below your feet, and a real Jacksonville architectural gem. Location: 31 West Adams Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202
The Florida Theatre
This historic American movie theatre is one of only four remaining high-style movie palaces built in Florida during the Mediterranean Revival architectural boom of the 1920s. The Florida Theatre opened in 1927, and was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The theatre was built as a seven-story concrete fireproof building featuring a roof garden, with an emphasis on showing movies and live performances. The roof garden was eventually closed and converted into office space in 1938. The inside of the theatre is ornate and covered in beautiful details from the fabric on the chairs, to the tapestries on the walls and the intricate designs on the ceiling. On August 10-11, 1956 Elvis Presley played two shows at the Florida Theatre bringing it major attention as one of his first indoor concerts. You can still catch great concerts and shows at the Florida Theatre including the Florida Ballet, the annual Community Nutcracker and more than 200 music acts a year. Location: 128 East Forsyth Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202
The Laura Street Trio
Across the street from the Barnett Bank Building, the Trio is made up of three beautiful and historic buildings. It includes two perpendicular skyscrapers known as the Florida Life Building and the Bisbee Building. The third structure, the Old Florida National Bank, is framed by the other two creating this unique trio pattern. Currently, the buildings are in the middle of major restorations, yet their architectural features can still be appreciated from the outside. The oldest of the three buildings, built in 1902, is the Old Florida National Bank on the corner of Forsyth and Laura Street, and is called the Marble Bank because of its marbled exterior. Architect Edward H. Glidden designed it in the classical Revival Style. The Bisbee Building, built between 1908 and 1909, was designed by prominent architect Henry J. Klutho in the Prairie Style. This was the first concrete-reinforced high-rise throughout the Southern United States. The last of the three buildings, the Florida Life Building, came about between 1911 and 1912 and was also designed by Klutho. It stands 11 floors high and was Jacksonville’s, and Florida’s, tallest building at the time. This narrow, well-proportioned tower is one of Jacksonville’s purest statements of a ‘skyscraper’. Location: 100 N Laura St, Jacksonville, FL 32202
The St. James Building
Designed by prominent architect Henry J. Klutho and opened in 1912, it is considered Klutho’s masterpiece after The Great Fire of 1901. The historic building now houses City Hall, yet it was originally designed for the Cohen Bros. Department Store. The store closed in 1987 and City Hall reopened in 1997 in its place. Klutho took extra time on this beloved project of his, one of its most prominent features is the 75-foot octagonal glass dome which served as a skylight. The dome was moved to the fourth floor and can still be appreciated. The Jacksonville Historical Society describes the St. James Building as one of the most monumental works in Jacksonville and believes it to be one of the most beautiful City Halls in America. Location: 117 West Duval Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202
The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
This historic Catholic church was first destroyed during the Civil War, rebuilt in 1874, and then burned down during The Great Fire of 1901 with only its Virgin Mary statue remaining intact (the statue can still be found inside the church). The minor basilica was rebuilt in 1910 by architect M.H. Hubbard, and it’s one of Florida’s best examples of late gothic revival architecture. While the outside of the Basilica is remarkable, it is its altar inside, both beautiful and grand that is a must-see for followers of the faith and architectural lovers. In 1979 the Basilica received ‘solemn dedication’, meaning the structure cannot be demolished or converted to another purpose besides a church. Location: 121 E Duval St, Jacksonville, FL 32202
The Old St. Luke's Hospital
Built in 1878 this is one of Jacksonville’s oldest public buildings, and one only a handful of buildings to survive the 1901 fire. St. Luke’s established the first modern nursing school in Florida. Since then it has been a coffin factory and a warehouse. Currently, it is maintained by the Jacksonville Historical Society and open for guided tours. Location: 314 Palmetto Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202
The Ritz Theatre and Museum
This historic movie house in Jacksonville’s African American community of La Villa was built in 1929. Back then, the community was known as the “Harlem of the South” and The Ritz played host to some of the most iconic black entertainers of the time. Nowadays, The Ritz Theatre and Museum is no longer a movie house, instead it houses Jacksonville’s African American Heritage Museum as well as a theatre for concerts. The building has a beautiful façade with colorful art. Location: 829 N Davis St, Jacksonville, FL 32202
The Haydon Burns Library
Now the Jessie Ball duPont Center, the former library named for Haydon Burns, the longest-sitting mayor in Jacksonville's history, opened in November 1965. The 126,000-square-foot building is wrapped in hundreds of colorful tiles. The unique building was designed by Architect Taylor Hardwick. The exterior walls facing Ocean and Adams streets have 88 "fins" extending from the second floor to the roof, like the 88 keys on a piano. The fins catch the wind and cast shadows to help keep the building cool. The building recently underwent a major restoration, and now houses several Jacksonville nonprofits. Location: 40 E Adams St, Jacksonville, FL 32202