In our popular article series Jax Evolved, we discuss historic buildings in Jacksonville that have been repurposed into new uses and, as a result, are preserved and protected for the foreseeable future.
But for each of those buildings that find new life, there’s at least one historic property that continues to rot away. Whether it’s due to poor maintenance, structural issues, or lack of demand, many key historic properties in Jax – particularly in the urban core – continue to go unused.
And the longer they go unused, the worse their condition becomes, until eventually the city or the property owner opts to demolish them. It’s what’s happened to many properties over the years, decimating parts of the city’s history that could have been restored and lived on for years.
We’ve compiled a list of a few properties that would be great candidates for a Jax Evolved-style re-purposing, due to their historic value or their location – or both. For the purposes of this article, we left off buildings like the Laura Street Trio that have pending revival plans in the works.
The long-vacant Public School No. 4 building sits somewhat ominously next to Riverside Park, surrounded by a tall fence and shaded by the interstate overpass built practically on top of it.
The mostly-brick structure was designed in the neoclassical style by Rutledge Holmes and features large decorative columns. The building was originally home to Riverside Grammar School, which opened its doors to students in 1918.
The school was later renamed Annie Lytle Public School in honor of a local principal.
The school shut down in 1960 and the building was converted into office space, but by the ‘70s, it had been put up for sale.
It’s been vacant for decades now and is in pretty terrible shape, having survived vandalism, a fire, and years of neglect.
But it’s still standing. And it’s not going anywhere, as the building was designated as a landmark by the city in 2000 and has a small but vocal group of supporters that turn up any time demolition is discussed.
Finding a new use for the PS No. 4 building would be no small task, given the enormous amount of work it would take to repair years of damage and to properly restore what remains intact. It’s also allegedly haunted.
But it’s also located in a popular and growing Riverside neighborhood, next to one of the city’s most beautiful parks. The right developer – or even the city – may one day find this charmingly terrifying former school building perfect for their next project.