Why 1903? Consider this year the start of a glory period for Jacksonville two years after the Great Fire. On May 3rd, 1901, the city burned to the ground after the Cleveland Fiber Factory caught fire. It was a dry, windy day when the fire started. By the time it ended 8 hours later, 146 city blocks were destroyed. The Merrill House survived since it was on the East side of Hogans Creek which acted as a natural barrier. By 1903, the city had rebounded and was the financial powerhouse for the state.
James Merrill and Alonzo Stevens teamed up to form Merrill-Stevens Engineering in the 1880’s. The company built both passenger and cargo ships as well as tug boats. James Merrill’s house was not very far from the shipyard along Bay Street. The house was saved from demolition in 2000 and moved to its present location between the Veterans Memorial Arena and the Baseball Grounds at 319 A. Philip Randolph Blvd.
The Merrill House is a fine example of the Queen Ann style of architecture with an elaborate verge board in the north gable and a three-story tower. The Eastlake style can be seen in the front porch posts, brackets, and spindles.