Jacksonville has such an interesting and important history! And while St. Augustine has claimed its history as its identity, our stories remain untold and unknown even to our residents. As a small step toward sharing several unique elements of our past, I asked the Jacksonville Historical Society to coordinate the placement of several historical exhibits in the St James building (City Hall) windows facing Hemming Park. You may recall the building was once a department store and a number of the display windows remain intact, just unused. The window displays were created by members of the Jacksonville History Consortium and each window interprets a different aspect of Jacksonville’s past.
The westernmost window, nearest to the corner of Hogan Street, was created by the Jacksonville Historical Society to illustrate French explorer Jean Ribault’s sixteenth-century encounters with Florida’s Timucuan people. Artifacts on display include a replica of the Ribault Monument, and an actual Timucuan canoe section.
Moving east along Duval Street, the next window display is by the Mandarin Museum and Historical Society, illustrating the area’s nineteenth century citrus economy, its early schoolhouse (now preserved in Mandarin), and its nationally prominent citizen, abolitionist and author Harriet Beecher Stowe.
The next window to the east represents Springfield, Jacksonville’s first streetcar suburb. The Springfield Improvement Association and Archive has placed on display actual streetcar rail sections, and related images depicting the community’s pioneering expansion to the north of nineteenth century downtown Jacksonville.
Moving toward City Hall’s front entrance, the next exhibit is devoted to the turn-of-the-century Dixieland Park, established in 1907 on Jacksonville’s Southbank in what was then the City of South Jacksonville. Dixieland foreshadowed Florida’s entertainment parks that eventually culminated with Disney World. The Dixieland Park window was created by the San Marco Preservation Society (SMPS).
The window closest to the new City Hall entrance represents the Durkeeville Historical Society, whose goal is education about Jacksonville’s historic African American community. In this display, the Society captures the excitement of professional baseball in Jacksonville, including artifacts and images of prominent players and games played at J.P. Small Memorial Stadium on Myrtle Avenue.
“We are so fortunate to live in a city with such a rich and robust history,” said Mayor Lenny Curry. “Our history is a part of who we are as a community, and a foundation for our future. I am thrilled that City Hall, in partnership with the Jacksonville Historical Society, is sharing some of our history with Jacksonville citizens through the window exhibits currently on display. I encourage visitors to take a moment to stop by and learn more about our great city.”
For more information, contact the Jacksonville Historical Society at 904-665-0064, or go to www.jaxhistory.org