It’s 1903 at the Merrill House

Walk into Downtown Jacksonville’s Merrill House and step back in time to the year 1903

It is as though the residents have left for the day and you are experiencing a behind the scenes look into the lives of the Merrill family. The Jacksonville Historical Society maintains the house and does an awesome job interpreting history from the period.

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.

The interior furnishings represent what would have been common for a middle class Jacksonville family in 1903. Artifacts from the day help tell the story of visiting U.S. Presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt. There is even a painting which has small holes from the burning embers that scorched it during the 1901 Great Fire. Take the entertaining tour with a trained docent to learn Jacksonville’s connection with the America’s Cup, the oldest international sporting trophy and many other fun facts.

The Merrill House is open for tours by appointment 48 hours in advance, with a suggested $10/person donation to the Jacksonville Historical Society. Check out the house tour schedule, here.

Starting on Tuesday July 7th, a discounted combo tour will be offered for $20/p (regular $30/p). The combo Tuesday tour will be the Downtown “Top to Bottom” walking tour from 10am – 11:50am and the Merrill House tour from 1pm – 2pm. Mr. Merrill’s valuable stock certificates can be seen on the morning tour inside the secret vault and then later you see his other personal items at his house. To make reservations for the special history tour combination, call 904-827-1845. Groups of 10 or more can make reservations on other days during the week.

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